Category Archives: Nicaragua

Michael Parenti: Is Nicaragua More Democratic Than the United States?

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[From: Covert Action Information Bulletin, Number 26, Summer 1986]

To justify the policies of attack, encirclement, embargo, and destabilization directed against Nicaragua, the Reagan administration has charged that the Sandinista government is on the road to totalitarianism, that it denies religious and political freedom and is a threat to the security of its neighbors. The goal of U.S. policy, claims President Reagan, is to bring about a pluralistic open society in Nicaragua, a goal that never loomed very large during the fifty years of the Somoza dictatorship. More recently in a book on the Nicaraguan revolution. journalist Shirley Christian echoed this line, arguing that the contra war was a justifiable attempt ”to force the Sandinista Front into accepting major structural changes toward an open political society.”

In response to this position, supporters of the Sandinista revolution have argued that Nicaragua does have a pluralistic society, is attempting to make a better life for its people, has no aggressive designs upon its neighbors, and instead is itself being invaded along two of it borders. Others have shown that by every standard, Nicaragua’s elections have been more open and democratic than El Salvador’s and its society more humane than most others in Latin America.

Indeed it can be further argued that by every standard Nicaragua is a more democratic society than the one waging aggression against — and I do not mean Honduras. By every major democratic criterion, Nicaragua comes off looking better than the United States. Let us begin with a comparison of the national elections held in November 1984 in both the United States and Nicaragua [1]

Popular Participation

One crucial measure of an open political system is the degree of popular participation. Most voting studies in the United States and elsewhere find that nonvoters show a high degree of alienation from the political process; they believe voting is not a means of effecting changes, and they often fail to see a meaningful choice in the candidates presented to them. (This is the view also of a surprisingly large number of persons who vote in the United States.) Therefore a comparison of the respective rates of turnouts in the Nicaraguan and U.S. election might be worth pondering for a moment.

The turnout in the United States in the 1984 election was little less than 53 percent of the eligible voters, one of the lowest of any western nation. Yet the press took little note of this and instead treated Reagan’s reelection as a landslide victory and democratic mandate. In contrast, voter turnout was nearly 82 percent in Managua and 75.4 percent in Nicaragua as a whole. Yet this turnout was described in the U.S. press as “disappointing” because the Sandinistas had hoped for an 80 percent national turnout. (Left unmentioned was the fact that in Nicaragua the voting was voluntary, unlike most Latin American countries.)

Range of Political Choice

Elections that offer little choice are said to be wanting in democratic standards. The choice in Nicaragua was noticeably wider and more democratic than in the United States. Seven parties ran for seats in the national assembly and for the presidency, representing a broad ideological range: from those on the far left (who damned the FSLN for its moderate policies and for allegedly betraying the workers and peasants) to those on the center and right (who accused the FSLN of exercising a rigid control over the country, wrecking the economy and leading Nicaragua to war). All these charges and countercharges were reported and debated extensively in the public and private press in Nicaragua.

In the United States the choice was limited largely to Democrats and Republicans, who in many races are often hard to tell apart. True, there were a variety of minor parties but these were not accorded the same opportunity for participation as were the various opposition parties in Nicaragua, as we shall see.

Access to the Ballot

A variety of parties may compete in an election but if they are denied roughly equal conditions of competition or access to the ballot or shoved to the side of the political arena, it cannot be said that democratic competition exist. In the U.S. all fifty states have laws, written and enforced by Republican and Democratic officials, regulating party access to the ballot — often in ways restrictive enough to keep smaller parties from participating, thus depriving the electorate of the freedom to choose someone other than a Democrat or a Republican. Minor parties are often required to gather a large number of signatures on nominating petitions in a limited time. Thus in Pennsylvania third-party state-wide candidates must collect 36,000 signature in a three-week period; in Maryland candidates are required to collect over 55,000 signatures in a short time. Sometimes a 5 percent requirement for signatures has been interpreted to mean 5 percent of voters from every district within the state — an impossible task for a third party whose base might he confined to a few urban areas.

In some states votes who are registered with the major parties are not allowed to sign or circulate minor-party nominating petition. Petitions are sometimes thrown out by hostile officials on trivial and sometimes unlawful technicalities. (as happened to the Communist Party in Illinois and Connecticut in recent elections) compelling minor parties to pursue expensive court battles that further drain their financial resources.

In some states minor parties must pay exorbitant filing fees: $5,000 Louisiana for an independent candidate. To get on the ballot in all 50 states, a third party would have to expend an estimated $750,000 in filing fees and other expenses and collect 1.2 million signatures, a feat accomplished in 1984 by no third party. And the trend is toward less and less ballot access: in the last 12 years, sixteen states have tightened the restrictions. Between 1980 and 1984, for example, the states of Indiana and North Dakota quadrupled the number of signatures required to get on the ballot.

In Nicaragua, in striking contrast, the electoral law favors the smaller political parties. In 1984 any party could register to field candidates by merely presenting a national directorate and two representatives from each of the country’s nine regions. One of the parties that so registered, the Independent Liberal Party (PLI) asked to withdraw from the contest four days before election day. The Electoral Council ruled that it was too late for a party to pull out but that individual candidates could withdraw their names if they chose. None did so.

Accessibility to the Electorate

Being on the ballot does little good if the bulk of the voters have never heard of you or never hear *from* you. Third parties in the United States are given almost no national media coverage during campaigns. News media focus exclusively on the two major parties, failing even to report the votes that third parties get on election day (usually between one and two million all together), thus treating the minor parties as if they do not exist. Lacking the huge sums available to the major parties, especially the Republicans, the smaller parties are unable to buy major media time and space of their own. The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1974 finances the major parties, giving each tens of millions of dollars for their presidential campaigns, but the smaller parties can obtain federal funds only after they glean 5 percent of the national vote (about 4 million votes for any one party) In sum, they cannot get the money until they get the 5 percent, but they cannot yet the percent until they get the money.

In contrast, the Nicaraguan electoral law provided public financing of 9 million cordobas ($321,000) for each participating party *regardless of size* and guaranteed an equal amount of time each day on the state-run radio stations and television channels. Each party was also permitted to receive unlimited funds from private donors, including people and organizations outside Nicaragua, a provision that worked to the advantage of the centrist and rightist parties. As the campaign got under complaints from the participating parties led to changes in the electoral law, including an increase in radio and television time, an additional 3 million cordobas in government campaign funds for each party, and a lengthening of the campaign period. Parties were also guaranteed access to products in short supply in Nicaragua: paper. printing facilities, transportation and gasoline. The various parties also produced their own party newspapers, together with leaflets and billboards.

Absence of Coercion

Instances of coercion and harassment of candidates have not been an unusual occurrence in U.S. elections. In the United States third-party candidates especially those of a pronouncedly leftist hue have run into difficulties of this sort. Harassment may not be confined to the candidates themselves but may include their supporters and canvassers. In 1972 in Vermont persons who merely signed Communist Party ballot petitions found their names publicized by town clerks in an effort to embarrass them into withdrawing their signatures. Generally though, in modern times American elections have not been marked by violence nor by any serious degree of threat against candidates. The coercions are largely of the legal kind noted earlier which work well enough against third parties. In regard to individual voters, however, it should be noted that not every American citizen has the right to an uncoerced vote, as testified by the continuing need for a Civil Rights Voting Act, the renewal of which President Reagan opposed.

Turning to Nicaragua, we find there were serious acts of violence and murder in the 1984 election — all committed by the force supported by the Reagan administration. The contras killed the presidents of two polling stations and two volunteer workers involved in registration. In the Jinotega mountains, one polling station worker’s throat was cut by the contras in front of his wife and family. On election day a member of the electoral police was shot to death by contras in La Tronica. In all, twelve election workers lost their lives in assaults by counterrevolutionaries .

The election was less than flawless in its procedures, but the overall performance was one that the Nicaraguan democracy can be proud of. There was free and open campaigning in every area of the country except in some war zones. According to estimates by the Supreme Electoral Council, there were some 250 public rallies. In general the election was characterized by untrammeled and vigorous political debate. If the FSLN was instituting a totalitarian regime, it was going about it in the wrong way.

About five of the public rallies were marred by incidents of violence but no serious injuries were reported. During the first months of the campaign a number of parties also reported that their campaign workers had been harassed by members of the FSLN, or that their posters had been destroyed. The Sandinista leadership denounced these incidents and they seemed to diminish thereafter. In addition, several rallies held by the Nicaraguan Democratic Coordinating Committee (CDN). a coalition of conservative business-oriented parties that abstained from the election, were disrupted by fights between CDN supporters and Sandinista counterdemonstrators. These rallies were technically illegal since the CDN had refused to participate in the election and indeed spent its time during the campaign attacking the electoral system itself. Once the CDN decided to conduct what seemed like a sabotage of the electoral effort (in the eyes of FSLN supporters), clashes with counterdemonstrators were difficult to avoid.

Because of these incidents, Arturo Cruz claimed that he was attacked by ‘mobs’ and that free electoral competition did not exist. It should be recalled that the country is at war and that Cruz openly identified with the enemy and was not at any time functioning as a legal or serious candidate. When Cruz, a banker in Wellington, arrived in Managua five months before the election, the CDN suddenly announced he would be their unified presidential candidate. Without officially registering as a candidate, Cruz toured the country for several days, drawing small crowds As suddenly as he arrived, he left, announcing he would not run under the prevailing electoral conditions. Throughout this period the U.S. media and the U.S. government described him as the “major opposition candidate” and treated his nonparticipation as evidence that the election was an unfair and meaningless exercise. In conflict with this view is the one expressed in the report, cited herein, by U.S. citizens in Nicaragua:

In general, our perception of the electoral campaign period is that the harassment and fistfights were scattered incidents that did not affect the generally free atmosphere of the electoral process. We found our neighbors and co-workers unafraid to voice their opinions, and heard and read virulent criticism of the FSLN. We know of no pressure on Nicaraguan to vote for the Sandinista Front. In particular, we found no truth in the charge made by _La Prensa_ that the cards which entitle families to receive subsidized food allotments were controlled in a concerted effort to influence Nicaraguans” votes. We conclude that the electoral campaign provided Nicaraguans with abundant information on which to base a free decision about their vote.

A similar conclusion was reached by the 460 official observers from all over the world who were free to check out all aspects of the voting process and ballot counting. None of the eleven participating parties filed any charges of fraud.

System of Representation

The FSLN won 64.9% of the vote, a victory that was only a few percentage points higher than the one enjoyed by Ronald Reagan in 1984. The two runner-up parties, both center-rightist, won 13% and 9% respectively. The National Assembly seats were allocated according to proportional representation so that minority parties were assured of 35 of the 96 seats (including six seats that under the electoral law are allotted to the losing presidential candidates of each party). All this was dismissed by Reagan as “an electoral farce without any meaningful political opposition.”

In contrast, the single-member-district electoral system used in the United States is much less representative and therefore less democratic. The party that polls a plurality of the vote, be it 40, 50 or 60 percent, wins 100 percent of a district’s representation, while smaller parties, regardless of their vote, receive zero representation. Proportional representation provides a party with legislative seats roughly in accordance with the percentage of votes it wins, thus assuring minor parties of some parliamentary presence. But the single-member, winner-take-all system magnifies the strength of the major parties and leaves the minor parties with a percentage of seats (if any) that is far lower than its percentage of votes. The winner-take-all system deprives third parties not only of representation but eventually of voters too, since not many citizens wish to “waste” their ballots on a party that seems incapable of establishing a legislative presence

Minorities

There are other criteria by which the American and Nicaraguan democracies might he compared. For instance, there is the treatment of minorities. Much is made of the Sandinistas’ forced relocation of Miskito Indians during a time of serious border attack, a policy that quickly proved not only wrong but in some instances wrongful. Today Managua is now trying to undo its previous policy and resettle the Miskito on their lands, an approach that compares favorably with the U.S. treatment of Native American Indians, to say the least, and with the forced relocation of the Japanese into concentration camps during World War II, uprooting them from California communities, that — unlike Nicaragua — were never threatened by enemy invasion. Nor did the U.S. government ever compensate the Japanese for the losses they sustained in the way of homes, businesses and farms

Political Dissent

There is the more general question of Freedom of communication for dissenting ideas. La Prensa is not the only opposition voice in Nicaragua. About half of the radio and television stations in the country are privately owned and most of these give the government a daily ideological pounding that makes National Public Radio look like the tepid establishment mouthpiece it is. The various political parties also produced their own newspapers during the campaign. There is a war going on in Nicaragua. The country is encircled by hostile forces. has endured invasions on both of its borders and has suffered much loss of life and destruction of property. Yet the censorship imposed is no worse and probably less restrictive than what the U.S. government imposed during World War II, and Managua’s treatment of dissenters and collaborators has been far more tolerant and liberal than the treatment accorded Tory sympathizers during and immediately after the American revolution or dissenters who received long prison terms during World War I.

In the United States, dissenting views that go beyond the mainstream. or even much left of center, are rarely allowed time or space in the major media, but are consigned to small-circulation magazines that teeter on the edge of insolvency. In short, there is a greater plurality of ideas, ideologies, and debate in Nicaragua than in the United States. On this score Nicaragua is a more open, more pluralistic society. It may not always remain so however. Subject to enough threat and siege, assault and murder, the Nicaraguans will start tightening up, choosing security over dissent, survival over pluralism. Indeed, it is miraculous that they haven’t already done so. The signs are there; President Daniel Ortega has said: “In the hardest moments we have to convert the defeats into more ideological unity, more political unity … [and] more organization.” (Miami Herald, August 4, 1985).

If the U.S. Government were really interested in encouraging pluralistic dissent in Nicaragua it would pursue a policy quite the opposite of the one now in the saddle, offering Managua friendship and support and the hope for peaceful independence and security. Democracy is a delicate flower that does not do well when repeatedly stomped upon.

Religious Freedom

The Reagan administration has charged that there is religious persecution in Nicaragua. But the Catholic church is alive and well. Elements of its clergy and laity can be found playing prominent roles on both sides within Nicaragua, struggling hard to build — or destroy — the revolution. Religious practice is not interfered with. The Rev. Miguel Gray, a Nicaraguan Baptist minister, hailed the religious freedom enjoyed in that country and pointed to the building of 19 additional churches since 1979 in a desperately poor country where not too many buildings of any kind are going up.

The level of religious tolerance in the United States today is as good as might be found anywhere. But in recent years the disturbing intolerance manifested by such groups as the Moral Majority, and the President’s open association with the religious Right, including his announcement that “ours is a Christian nation,” might cause us to give more attention to the question of religious tolerance here at home.

Human Needs

If democracy means more than a set of procedures but implies something, about the substantive conditions of life, then here too poor Nicaragua looks better than rich America in the era of Ronald Reagan. Decades of colonialism, Somocista pillaging, earthquake, revolution and counterrevolution, have left Nicaragua with a legacy of extreme poverty, yet the very worst is not happening to the poor citizens of that country as it is to the poor on the streets in Washington D.C.; no one is starving and no one has been tossed aside like so much human refuse.

Finally, in comparing Nicaragua with the United States. we might consider the degree to which each country is interfering with the political development and security of the other. As Reagan himself aptly put it: “Democracies do not spend a lot of money on arms, build large armies or invade or destabilize their neighbors.” With typical Orwellian inversion he was aiming this remark at Nicaragua but it applies most perfectly to hi own administration, which spends more money on arms and more time destabilizing and invading neighbors than we could ever imagine Nicaragua doing. The truth is also inverted when Reagan calls the Sandinistas “terrorists.” To be sure, there is plenty of terrorism going on in Nicaragua and plenty being exported to other countries in Central America, but it is conducted by contra mercenaries and Honduran, Guatemalan, and Salvadoran death squads and military, all financed and advised by the U.S.

Those “democratic socialist” critics on the left, who give qualified and skittish support to Nicaragua, who are quick to point out how they have “problems” with some of the things the Sandinistas are doing, who impose flawless democratic standards upon a tiny country that is under mortal siege from the Yankee Colossus, those critics might want to consider the realities of the situation. It is the United States which should be the object of their professedly democratic concerns; it is the U.S. which falls so dismally short of practicing the democratic pluralism it preaches to others, exporting violence and terrorism and pummeling a smaller neighbor that is trying to develop a democratic society of its own.

If one criterion of democracy is that a country not act like a thug and aggressor in its dealings with another country even to the point of refusing to show up in (world) court to defend itself when so charged — then United States under Reagan comes off looking tar less fair, less open, and less democratic than Nicaragua.

(*) Michael Parenti writes and lectures frequently on U.S. domestic and foreign politics. His most recent book is _Inventing Reality: The Politics of the Mass Media_ (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1986).

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Michael Parenti: The Costs of Counterrevolution: Must We Ignore Imperialism?

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The following are excerpts from the book “The Sword and the Dollar: Imperialism, Revolution, and the Arms Race” by Michael Parenti, published by St. Martin’s Press, 1989.

The Costs of Counterrevolution

Throughout the 1980s, the counterrevolutionary mercenaries who have waged war against such countries as Nicaragua, Angola, and Mozambique, were described as “guerrillas.” In fact, they won little support from the people of those countries, which explains why they remained so utterly dependent upon aid from the United States and South Africa. In an attempt to destroy the revolutionary economy and thus increase popular distress and discontent, these counterrevolutionaries attacked farms, health workers, technicians, schools, and civilians. Unlike a guerrilla army that works with and draws support from the people, the counterrevolutionary mercenaries kidnap, rape, kill and in other ways terrorize the civilian population. These tactics have been termed “self-defeating,” but they have a logic symptomatic of the underlying class politics. Since the intent of the counterrevolutionaries is to destroy the revolution, and since the bulk of the people support the revolution, then the mercenaries target the people.

In Mozambique, for example, over a period of eight years the South African-financed rebels laid waste to croplands, reducing the nation’s cereal production enough to put almost 4 million people in danger of starvation. The rebels destroyed factories, rail and road links, and marketing posts, causing a sharp drop in Mozambique’s production and exports. They destroyed 40 percent of the rural schools and over 500 of the 1,222 rural health clinics built by the Marxist government. And they killed hundreds of unarmed men, women, and children. But they set up no “liberated” areas and introduced no program for the country; nor did they purport to have any ideology or social goals.

Likewise, the mercenary rebel force in Angola, financially supported throughout the 1980s by the apartheid regime in South Africa and looked favorably upon by the Reagan administration, devastated much of the Angolan economy, kidnapping and killing innocent civilians, displacing about 600,000 persons and causing widespread hunger and malnutrition. Assisted by White South African troops, the rebels destroyed at least half of Angola’s hospitals and clinics. White South African military forces, aided by jet fighters, engaged in direct combat on the side of the counterrevolutionaries. The rebel leader, Jonas Savimbi, offered no social program for Angola but was lavish in his praise of the apartheid rulers in Pretoria and critical of Black South African leaders.

So with the contra forces that repeatedly attacked Nicaragua from Honduras for some seven years. In all that time they were unable to secure a “liberated” zone nor any substantial support from the people. They represented a mercenary army that amounted to nothing much without US money-and nothing much with it, having failed to launch a significant military offensive for years at a time. Like other counterrevolutionary “guerrillas” they were quite good at trying to destabilize the existing system by hitting soft targets like schools and farm cooperatives and killing large numbers of civilians, including children. (While the US news media unfailingly reported that the Nicaraguans or Cubans had “Soviet-made weapons,” they said nothing about the American, British, and Israeli arms used by counterrevolutionaries to kill Angolans, Namibians, Black South Africans, Western Saharans, Nicaraguans, Guatemalans, and Salvadorans.)

Like counterrevolutionaries in other countries, the Nicaraguan contras put forth no economic innovations or social programs other than some vague slogans. As the New York Times reported, when asked about “the importance of political action in the insurgency” the contra leaders “did not seem to assign this element of revolutionary warfare a high priority.” They did not because they were not waging a “revolution” but a counterrevolution. What kind of a program can counterrevolutionaries present? If they publicize their real agenda, which is to open the country once more to the domination of foreign investors and rich owners, they would reveal their imperialist hand.

Like most of the Third World, Nicaragua during the Somoza dictatorship was one of imperialism’s ecological disasters, with its unrestricted industrial and agribusiness pollution and deforestation. Upon coming to power, the Sandinistas initiated rain forest and wildlife conservation measures and alternative energy programs. The new government also adopted methods of cutting pesticides to a minimum, prohibiting the use of the deadlier organochlorides commonly applied in other countries. Nicaragua’s environmental efforts stand in marked contrast to its neighboring states. But throughout the 1980s, the program was severely hampered by contra attacks that killed more than thirty employees of Nicaragua’s environmental and state forestry agencies, and destroyed agricultural centers and reclamation projects.

The US government is ready to accept just about anyone who emigrates from a Communist country. In contrast, the hundreds of millions of Third World refugees from capitalism, who would like to come to this country because the conditions of their lives are so hopeless, are not allowed to come in …

*

Must We Ignore Imperialism?

Woodrow Wilson, 1907

Since trade ignores national boundaries and the manufacturer insists on having the world as a market, the flag of his nation must follow him, and the doors of the nations which are closed against him must be battered down. Concessions obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process. Colonies must be obtained or planted, in order that no useful corner of the world may be overlooked or left unused.

Ronald Reagan

What I want to see above all else is that this country remains a country where someone can always be rich. That’s the thing we have that must be preserved.

Jeff McMahan

U.S. reasons for wanting to control the third world are to some extent circular. Thus third world resources are required in part to guarantee military production, and increased military production is required in part to maintain and expand U.S. control over third world resources …. Instrumental goals eventually come to be seen as ends in themselves. Initially the pursuit of overseas bases is justified by the need to maintain stability, defend friendly countries from communist aggression, and so on-in other words, to subjugate and control the third world; but eventually the need to establish and maintain overseas bases becomes one of the reasons for wanting to subjugate and control the third world.

Henry Kissinger, June 27, 1970 about Chile

I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go Communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people.

*

Against Imperialism

The people who make US foreign policy are known to us – and they are well known to each other. Top policymakers and advisors are drawn predominantly from the major corporations and from policy groups like the Council on Foreign Relations, the Committee for Economic Development, the Trilateral Commission, the Business Roundtable, and the Business Council. Membership in these groups consists of financiers, business executives, and corporate lawyers. Some also have a sprinkling of foundation directors, news editors, university presidents, and academicians.

Most prominent is the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Incorporated in 1921, the CFR numbered among its founders big financiers such as John D. Rockefeller, Nelson Aldrich, and J. P. Morgan. Since World War II, CFR members have included David Rockefeller, chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank (and erstwhile CFR president); Allen Dulles, Wall Street lawyer and longtime director of the CIA; and, in the 1970s, all the directors of Morgan Guaranty Trust; nine directors of Banker’s Trust; five directors of Tri-Continental holding company; eight directors of Chase Manhattan; and directors from each of the following: Mellon National Bank, Bank of America, General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Standard Oil of New Jersey, General Electric, General Dynamics, Union Carbide, IBM, AT&T, ITT, and the New York Times (a partial listing).

One member of the Kennedy administration, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., described the decision-making establishment as “an arsenal of talent which had so long furnished a steady supply of always orthodox and often able people to Democratic as well as Republican administrations. President Kennedy’s secretary of state was Dean Rusk, president of the Rockefeller Foundation and member of the CFR; his secretary of defense was Robert McNamara, president of Ford Motor Company; his secretary of the treasury was C. Douglas Dillon, head of a prominent Wall Street banking firm and member of the CFR. Nixon’s secretary of state was Henry Kissinger, a Nelson Rockefeller protégé who also served as President Ford’s secretary of state. Ford appointed fourteen CFR members to his administration. Seventeen top members of Carter’s administration were participants of the Rockefeller-created Trilateral Commission, including Carter himself and Vice President Walter Mondale. Carter’s secretary of state was Cyrus Vance, Wall Street lawyer, director of several corporations, trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation, and member of the CFR.

Reagan’s first secretary of state was Alexander Haig, former general and aide to President Nixon, president of United Technologies, director of several corporations including Rockefeller’s Chase Manhattan Bank, and member of the CFR. Reagan’s next secretary of state was George Shultz, president of Bechtel Corporation, director of Morgan Guaranty Trust, director of the CFR, and advisor of the Committee for Economic Development (CED). Reagan’s secretary of defense was Caspar Weinberger, vice president of Bechtel, director of other large corporations, and member of the Trilateral Commission. The secretary of treasury and later chief of staff was Donald Regan, chief executive officer of Merrill, Lynch, trustee of the CED, member of the CFR and of the Business Roundtable. Reagan’s CIA director, William Casey, was director of the ExportImport Bank, head of the Securities and Exchange Commission under Nixon, and partner in a prominent Wall Street law firm. At least a dozen of Reagan’s top administrators and some thirty advisors were CFR members.

Members of groups like the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission have served in just about every top executive position, including most cabinet and subcabinet slots, and have at times virtually monopolized the membership of the National Security Council, the nation’s highest official policymaking body.’ The reader can decide whether they compose (1) a conspiratorial elite, (2) the politically active members of a ruling class, or (3) a selection of policy experts and specialists in the service of pluralistic democracy.

These policymakers are drawn from overlapping corporate circles and policy groups that have a capacity unmatched by any other interest groups in the United States to fill top government posts with persons from their ranks. While supposedly selected to serve in government because they are experts and specialists, they really are usually amateurs and “generalists.” Being president of a giant construction firm and director of a bank did not qualify George Shultz to be Nixon’s secretary of labor nor his secretary of the treasury. Nor did Shultz bring years of expert experience in foreign affairs to his subsequent position as Reagan’s secretary of state. But he did bring a proven capacity to serve well the common interests of corporate America.

Rather than acting as special-interest lobbies for particular firms, policy groups look after the class-wide concerns of the capitalist system. This is in keeping with the function of the capitalist state itself. While not indifferent to the fate of the overseas operations of particular US firms, the state’s primary task is to protect capitalism as a system, bolstering client states and opposing revolutionary or radically reformist ones.

Far from being powerless, the pressure of democratic opinion in this country and abroad has been about the only thing that has restrained US leaders from using nuclear weapons in Vietnam, and intervening with US forces in Angola, Nicaragua, and elsewhere. How best to pursue policies that lack popular support is a constant preoccupation of White House policymakers. President Reagan’s refusal to negotiate with the Soviets in the early 1980s provoked the largest peace demonstrations in the history of the United States. Eventually he had to offer an appearance of peace by agreeing to negotiate. To give this appearance credibility, he actually had to negotiate and even reluctantly arrive at unavoidable agreement on some issues, including the 1987 INF treaty.

Evidence of the importance of mass democratic opinion is found in the remarkable fact that the United States has not invaded Nicaragua. Even though the US had a firepower and striking force many times more powerful than the ones used in the previous eleven invasions of Nicaragua, and a president (Reagan) more eager than any previous president to invade, the invasion did not happen. Not because it would have been too costly in lives but because it would have been politically too costly. President Reagan would not have balked at killing tens of thousands of Nicaraguans and losing say 5,000 Americans to smash the Red Menace in Central America. When Marines were blown away in one afternoon in Lebanon, Reagan was ready to escalate his involvement in that country. Only the pressure of democratic forces in the USA and elsewhere caused him to leave Lebanon and refrain from invading Nicaragua. He did not have the political support to do otherwise. Invasion was politically too costly because it was militarily too costly even though logistically possible. It would have caused too much of an uproar at home and throughout Latin America and would have lost him, his party, and his policies I too much support.

The policies pursued by US leaders have delivered misfortune upon countless innocents, generating wrongs more horrendous than any they allegedly combat. The people of this country and other nations are becoming increasingly aware of this. The people know that nuclear weapons bring no security to anyone and that interventions on the side of privileged autocracies and reactionary governments bring no justice. They also seem to know that they pay most of the costs of the arms race and many of the costs of imperialism. From South Korea to South Africa, from Central America to the Western Sahara, from Europe to North America, people are fighting back, some because they have no choice, others because they would choose no other course but the one that leads to peace and justice.

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ICMLPO (Unity & Struggle): Statement of the Meeting of Marxist-Leninist Parties of Latin America and the Caribbean: The Awakening of the Struggle of the Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean Demands a Revolutionary Leadership

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Latin America is the scene of a new wave of social protest. It is the response that the workers, the youth and the peoples are making to the unfulfilled promises, the anti-popular policies, the rampant corruption in the upper echelons of governments, the handing over of the natural resources to foreign capital, in short, to the old and new economic and political programmes that seek to affirm the rule of capital.

The current struggle overcomes the temporary state of decreased level of struggle of the peoples that occurred, particularly in those countries in which the so-called “progressive” governments emerged that generated expectations and hopes that things would change in favour of the workers and peoples, but after a few years we are witnessing processes that show them to be instruments in the service of one or another bourgeois faction and of foreign capital.

Not surprisingly, we find a kind of political agreement among virtually all governments in the region in key aspects of economic and political management as well as on the implementation of tax measures that punish the working classes with direct and indirect taxes, the support of extractive industry as the way to obtain economic resources, the implementation of reforms in various spheres such as labour that aim to legalize mechanisms of capitalist super-exploitation and to affect the right of the workers to free trade union organization.

They also agree on the implementation of measures of social control, through judicial reforms and the adoption and implementation of laws that, in the name of public security, essentially aim at the criminalization of social protest.

Through clearly neo-liberal programmes in some cases, and through “progressives” social programmes that even speak of revolution and socialism in others, the bourgeois factions in power are interested in pursuing a process of capitalist modernization in the region that would allow them to obtain higher levels of accumulation, and to count on better resources to intervene in the world capitalist market. In this process, we note the loss of political space by U.S. imperialism, which has traditionally considered Latin America and the Caribbean as its back yard, and we find the aggressive penetration of Chinese imperialist capital. Thus, in several countries, we are faced with a kind of renegotiation of foreign dependence.

In the midst of a severe economic crisis that shook the global economy, the countries in this region were able to avoid some of its effects due to high prices of raw materials produced here, as well as certain established tax policies that have allowed most of the governments to count on sufficient economic resources to develop a social and material project that, in the minds of broad sectors of the population, have created the fiction that we are indeed living in times of change, putting their spirit of protests and struggle to sleep.

However, this situation is changing. The repressed dissatisfaction and the desire for change in millions of workers, youths, women, peasants, etc. are making themselves felt and breaking out.

The struggle that the Brazilian youths and people have been carrying out these days, which in two weeks brought more than 2 million people into the streets and won victories in several states, shows us this. It is not the 20 cents [the increase in bus fare that sparked the Brazilian protests – translator’s note] that stimulates this whole fight! The people are fed up with corruption, low wages and the handing over of the oil resources to foreign capital; they want hospitals, jobs, schools and decent housing; they reject the policy of privatization; they repudiate the spending of millions of dollars on the World Cup from which small local groups and various foreign monopolies will reap huge profits. The youth took to the streets overcoming repression and the supposedly conciliatory discourse of the government and the warning to be careful because protest can lead to a coup and the right, by means of which the government wanted to prevent the right to protest.

For months, Chilean youth have been carrying on a massive and militant struggle. They are raising concrete demands around educational issues and at the same time they are clashing with the government of Sebastian Pinera. This fight has motivated other social sectors to fight for their own demands, causing a political crisis that forecasts the loss by the forces that are now in the government in the upcoming presidential election.

In Argentina the struggle of the urban and agricultural workers, the youth, the state employees and the unemployed is also gaining strength.

In several countries, such as Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia the fights against the extractive policies, particularly against open pit and large-scale mining that cause enormous damage to nature and the peoples of these regions and are a source of millions in profits to foreign capitalist enterprises, are taking shape and gaining strength. They are also demanding better living conditions, access to health care, education, continuation of democratic rights and are condemning the criminalization of social protest.

In Central America, the struggles of the peasants and residents of popular neighbourhoods (Honduras), of retirees (Nicaragua), of state employees (Costa Rica), etc. are also taking place.

In the Dominican Republic the struggle of teachers for the implementation of the state budget for education, as well as the popular mobilization against foreign mining companies that are taking the country’s wealth, and against the scandalous corruption at the highest levels of government, stand out.

The teachers, the student youth and the workers of several state companies in Mexico have been at the head of major combat actions against both the current and the former government, pawns of the neo-liberal IMF policies.

The political struggle in Venezuela, in which broad contingents of the masses are involved, is shown particularly in the defence of the gains achieved during the government of Hugo Chavez, in the confrontation with the right-wing that is trying to end the process taking place, and in the demand that deeper social and political measures be taken to benefit the workers and people.

The protest actions that are taking place in Latin America, together with those in Europe, in northern Africa and other parts of the world, show us a world in upheaval.

In these circumstances, we Marxist-Leninist communist parties present our policies and energies to build up revolutionary forces. In many of the fights described above we have been present, playing our role; however we are aware that we need to develop our abilities much further in order to lead those fights along the path that leads to the triumph of the revolution and socialism.

As a result of a major offensive promoted by imperialism, by various right-wing sectors, by revisionism and opportunism, the workers and peoples show a strong ideological acceptance that leads them to trust the discourse and social programmes that do not go beyond the scope of reformism and bourgeois democracy.

We are working to reverse this situation and to win the masses towards revolutionary politics, to strategic proposals and those that we are putting forward in the present situation. For that purpose we will increase our efforts in propaganda actions and mass work.

We will continue fighting together with our people, contending for political leadership and directing them towards new, higher struggles for their material and political demands, against imperialist interference and in order to play the role of the basic revolutionary force to which history has entrusted them.

We will provide the force to the movement promoting its unity, both in the social and popular movement, as well as at the level of political organizations of the left.

Our commitment to the revolution and socialism raises the need for us to more rapidly achieve the strengthening and development of our party structure. The political circumstances demand from our organizations greater skill in developing policies that will be embraced by the masses, but we also need sufficient force for their materialization. We are working for this, in order to establish our position as revolutionary vanguard.

The workers and the people of the Americas and the world are challenging the rulers, they are seeking change, they are fighting for it; we Marxist-Leninists have the responsibility to fight together with them and lead these changes to fruition, to the triumph of the revolution and socialism.

Quito, July 2013

Revolutionary Communist Party (Brazil)
Communist Party of Colombia (Marxist-Leninist)
Communist Party of Labour – Dominican Republic
Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Ecuador
Communist Party of Mexico (Marxist-Leninist)
Peruvian Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist)
Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Venezuela

En Marcha #1620
July 19-25, 2013

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.

WWIGraph4

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.

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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.
Vinogradov, V. N. Rumyniia ν gody pervoi mirovoi voiny. Moscow, 1969.
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.
Rutman, R. E. Bibliografiia literatury, izdannoi ν 1953–1963 gg. po istorii Pervoi mirovoi voiny. Moscow, 1964.
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History of the Great War: Series A–M. [vols. 1–49]. London, 1922–48.
Der Weltkrieg 1914 bis 1918: Die militärischen operationen zu Lande, vols. 1–14. Berlin, 1925–44.
Deutschland im Ersten Weltkrieg, vols. 1–3. Berlin, 1968–69.
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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.

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Major General Smedley Butler on U.S. Imperialism and the Nature of the Armed Forces

smedley-butler

“I spent 33 years and 4 months in active service as a member of our country’s most agile military force – the Marine Corps… And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street, and for bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect money in. I helped in the raping of a half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street… I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-12. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped get Honduras “right” for American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I feel I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was operate in three city districts. I operated on three continents.”

 – Smedley Butler, “War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America’s Most Decorated Soldier”

1 Black Man Is Killed Every 28 Hours by Police or Vigilantes: America Is Perpetually at War with Its Own People

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/Eugene Ivanov

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/Eugene Ivanov

By Adam Hudson

From the war on drugs to the war on terror, law enforcement’s battle against minorities serves as pacification.

Police officers, security guards, or self-appointed vigilantes extrajudicially killed at least 313 African-Americans in 2012 according to a recent study. This means a black person was killed by a security officer every 28 hours. The report notes that it’s possible that the real number could be much higher.

The report, entitled “Operation Ghetto Storm”, was performed by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, an antiracist grassroots activist organization. The organization has chapters in Atlanta, Detroit, Fort Worth-Dallas, Jackson, New Orleans, New York City, Oakland, and Washington, D.C. It has a history of organizing campaigns against police brutality and state repression in black and brown communities. Their study’s sources included police and media reports along with other publicly available information. Last year, the organization published a similar study showing that a black person is killed by security forces every 36 hours. However, this study did not tell the whole story, as it only looked at shootings from January to June 2012. Their latest study is an update of this.

These killings come on top of other forms of oppression black people face. Mass incarceration of nonwhites is one of them. While African-Americans constitute 13.1% of the nation’s population, they make up nearly 40% of the prison population. Even though African-Americans use or sell drugs about the same rate as whites, they are 2.8 to 5.5 times more likely to be arrested for drugs than whites. Black offenders also receive longer sentences compared to whites. Most offenders are in prison for nonviolent drug offenses.

“Operation Ghetto Storm” explains why such killings occur so often. Current practices of institutional racism have roots in the enslavement of black Africans, whose labor was exploited to build the American capitalist economy, and the genocide of Native Americans. The report points out that in order to maintain the systems of racism, colonialism, and capitalist exploitation, the United States maintains a network of “repressive enforcement structures”. These structures include the police, FBI, Homeland Security, CIA, Secret Service, prisons, and private security companies, along with mass surveillance and mass incarceration.

The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement is not the only group challenging police violence against African-Americans. The Stop Mass Incarceration Network has been challenging the policy of stop-and-frisk in New York City, in which police officers randomly stop and search individuals for weapons or contraband. African-American and Latino men are disproportionately stopped and harassed by police officers. Most of those stopped (close to 90%) are innocent, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union. Stop Mass Incarceration also organizes against the War on Drugs and inhumane treatment of prisoners.

Along with the rate of extrajudicial killings, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement report contains other important findings. Of the 313 killed, 124 (40%) were between 22 and 31 years old, 57 (18%) were between 18 and 21 years old, 54 (17%) were between 32 and 41 years old, 32 (10%) were 42 to 51 years old, 25 (8%) were children younger than 18 years old, 18 (6%) were older than 52, and 3 (1%) were of unknown ages.

A significant portion of those killed, 68 people or 22%, suffered from mental health issues and/or were self-medicated. The study says that “[m]any of them might be alive today if community members trained and committed to humane crisis intervention and mental health treatment had been called, rather than the police.”

43% of the shootings occurred after an incident of racial profiling. This means police saw a person who looked or behaved “suspiciously” largely because of their skin color and attempted to detain the suspect before killing them. Other times, the shootings occurred during a criminal investigation (24%), after 9-1-1 calls from “emotionally disturbed loved ones” (19%) or because of domestic violence (7%), or innocent people were killed for no reason (7%).

Most of the people killed were not armed. According to the report, 136 people or 44%, had no weapon at all the time they were killed by police officers. Another 27% were deaths in which police claimed the suspect had a gun but there was no corroboration to prove this. In addition, 6 people (2%) were alleged to have possessed knives or similar tools. Those who did, in fact, possess guns or knives were 20% (62 people) and 7% (23 people) of the study, respectively.

The report digs into how police justify their shootings. Most police officers, security guards, or vigilantes who extrajudicially killed black people, about 47% (146 of 313), claimed they “felt threatened”, “feared for their life”, or “were forced to shoot to protect themselves or others”. George Zimmerman, the armed self-appointed neighborhood watchman who killed Trayvon Martin last year, claimed exactly this to justify shooting Martin. Other justifications include suspects fleeing (14%), allegedly driving cars toward officers, allegedly reaching for waistbands or lunging, or allegedly pointing a gun at an officer. Only 13% or 42 people fired a weapon “before or during the officer’s arrival”.

Police recruitment, training, policies, and overall racism within society conditions police (and many other people) to assume black people are violent to begin with. This leads to police overacting in situations involving African-American suspects. It also explains why so many police claimed the black suspect “looked suspicious” or “thought they had a gun”. Johannes Mehserle, the white BART police officer who shot and killed 22-year-old Oscar Grant in January 2009, claimed Grant had a gun, even though Grant was subdued to the ground by other officers.

Of the 313 killings, the report found that 275 of them or 88% were cases of excessive force. Only 8% were not considered excessive as they involved cases were suspects shot at, wounded, or killed a police and/or others. Additionally, 4% were situations were the facts surrounding the killing were “unclear or sparsely reported”. The vast majority of the time, police officers, security guards, or armed vigilantes who extrajudicially kill black people escape accountability.

***

Over the past 70 years, the “repressive enforcement structures” described in the report have been used to “wage a grand strategy of ‘domestic’ pacification” to maintain the system through endless “containment campaigns” amounting to “perpetual war”. According to the report, this perpetual war has been called multiple names — the “Cold War”, COINTELPRO, the “War on Drugs, the “War on Gangs”, the “War on Crime”, and now the “War on Terrorism”. This pacification strategy is designed to subjugate oppressed populations and stifle political resistance. In other words, they are wars against domestic marginalized groups. “Extrajudicial killings”, says the report, “are clearly an indispensable tool in the United States government’s pacification pursuits.” It attributes the preponderance of these killings to institutionalized racism and policies within police departments.

Paramilitary police units, known as SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) teams, developed in order to quell black riots in major cities, such as Los Angeles and Detroit, during the 1960s and ’70s. SWAT teams had major shootouts with militant black and left-wing groups, such as the Black Panther Party and Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) in 1969 and 1974, respectively. SWAT teams were only used for high-risk situations, until the War on Drugs began in the 1980s. Now they’re used in raids — a common military tactic — of suspected drug or non-drug offenders’ homes.

The War on Drugs, first declared by President Richard Nixon in 1971, was largely a product of U.S. covert operations. Anti-communist counter-revolutionaries, known as the “Contras”, were trained, funded, and largely created by the CIA to overthrow the leftist Sandinista government of Nicaragua during the 1980s. However, the CIA’s funding was not enough. Desperate for money, the Contras needed other funding sources to fight their war against the Sandinistas. The additional dollars came from the drug trade. The late investigative journalist Gary Webb, in 1996, wrote a lengthy series of articles for the San Jose Mercury News, entitled “Dark Alliance”, detailing how the Contras smuggled cocaine from South America to California’s inner cities and used the profits to fund their fight against the Sandinista government. The CIA knew about this but turned a blind eye. The report received a lot of controversy, criticism, and tarnishing of Webb’s journalistic career, which would lead him to commit suicide in 2004. However, subsequent reports from Congressional hearings and other journalists corroborated Webb’s findings.

Moreover, major banks, such as Wachovia (now part of Wells Fargo) and HSBC have laundered money for drug dealers. Therefore, the very threat that the Drug War claims to eliminate is perpetuated more by the National Security State and Wall Street than by low-level street dealers. But rather than go after the bigger fish, the United States has used the pretext of the “war on drugs” to implement draconian police tactics on marginalized groups, particularly poor black communities.

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan passed the Military Cooperation with Civilian Law Enforcement Agencies Act, which provided civilian police agencies equipment, training, and advising from the military, along with access to military research and facilities. This weakened the line between the military and civilian law enforcement established by the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, a Reconstruction-era law forbidding military personnel from enforcing domestic laws. Five years later, in 1986, Reagan issued National Security Decision Directive 221, which declared drug trafficking a national security threat to the United States. This militarized the U.S. approach to drugs and overall policing. Additionally, the global war on terror and growth of the National Security State expanded this militarization of domestic police under the guise of “fighting terrorism”.

The adoption of military tactics, equipment, training, and weapons leads to law enforcement adopting a war-like mentality. They come to view themselves as soldiers fighting against a foreign enemy rather police protecting a community. Nick Pastore, a former Police Chief of New Haven, Connecticut from 1990 to 1997, turned down military equipment that was offered to him. “I turned it all down, because it feeds a mind-set that you’re not a police officer serving a community, you’re a soldier at war,” he told the New York Times. He said “tough-guy cops” in his department pushed for “bigger and more hardware” and “used to say, ‘It’s a war out there.'” Pastore added, “If you think everyone who uses drugs is the enemy, then you’re more likely to declare war on the people.” Mix this war-like mentality with already existing societal anti-black racism and the result is deadly. Black people, who, by default, are assumed to be criminals because of their skin color, become the victims of routine police violence.

The fact that a black person is killed by a police officer, security guard, or vigilante every 28 hours (or less) is no random act of nature. It is the inevitable result of institutional racism and militaristic tactics and thinking within America’s domestic security apparatus.

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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.
•••••

•••••

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.

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

The Costs of Counterrevolution: Must We Ignore Imperialism?

excerpted from the book

The Sword and the Dollar

Imperialism, Revolution, and the Arms Race

by Michael Parenti

St. Martin’s Press, 1989

The Costs of Counterrevolution

p 117

Throughout the 1980s, the counterrevolutionary mercenaries who have waged war against such countries as Nicaragua, Angola, and Mozambique, were described as “guerrillas.” In fact, they won little support from the people of those countries, which explains why they remained so utterly dependent upon aid from the United States and South Africa. In an attempt to destroy the revolutionary economy and thus increase popular distress and discontent, these counterrevolutionaries attacked farms, health workers, technicians, schools, and civilians. Unlike a guerrilla army that works with and draws support from the people, the counterrevolutionary mercenaries kidnap, rape, kill and in other ways terrorize the civilian population. These tactics have been termed “self-defeating,” but they have a logic symptomatic of the underlying class politics. Since the intent of the counterrevolutionaries is to destroy the revolution, and since the bulk of the people support the revolution, then the mercenaries target the people.

In Mozambique, for example, over a period of eight years the South African-financed rebels laid waste to croplands, reducing the nation’s cereal production enough to put almost 4 million people in danger of starvation. The rebels destroyed factories, rail and road links, and marketing posts, causing a sharp drop in Mozambique’s production and exports. They destroyed 40 percent of the rural schools and over 500 of the 1,222 rural health clinics built by the Marxist government. And they killed hundreds of unarmed men, women, and children. But they set up no “liberated” areas and introduced no program for the country; nor did they purport to have any ideology or social goals.

Likewise, the mercenary rebel force in Angola, financially supported throughout the 1980s by the apartheid regime in South Africa and looked favorably upon by the Reagan administration, devastated much of the Angolan economy, kidnapping and killing innocent civilians, displacing about 600,000 persons and causing widespread hunger and malnutrition. Assisted by White South African troops, the rebels destroyed at least half of Angola’s hospitals and clinics. White South African military forces, aided by jet fighters, engaged in direct combat on the side of the counterrevolutionaries. The rebel leader, Jonas Savimbi, offered no social program for Angola but was lavish in his praise of the apartheid rulers in Pretoria and critical of Black South African leaders.

So with the contra forces that repeatedly attacked Nicaragua from Honduras for some seven years. In all that time they were unable to secure a “liberated” zone nor any substantial support from the people. They represented a mercenary army that amounted to nothing much without US money-and nothing much with it, having failed to launch a significant military offensive for years at a time. Like other counterrevolutionary “guerrillas” they were quite good at trying to destabilize the existing system by hitting soft targets like schools and farm cooperatives and killing large numbers of civilians, including children. (While the US news media unfailingly reported that the Nicaraguans or Cubans had “Soviet-made weapons,” they said nothing about the American, British, and Israeli arms used by counterrevolutionaries to kill Angolans, Namibians, Black South Africans, Western Saharans, Nicaraguans, Guatemalans, and Salvadorans.)

Like counterrevolutionaries in other countries, the Nicaraguan contras put forth no economic innovations or social programs other than some vague slogans. As the New York Times reported, when asked about “the importance of political action in the insurgency” the contra leaders “did not seem to assign this element of revolutionary warfare a high priority.” They did not because they were not waging a “revolution” but a counterrevolution. What kind of a program can counterrevolutionaries present? If they publicize their real agenda, which is to open the country once more to the domination of foreign investors and rich owners, they would reveal their imperialist hand.

p 120

Like most of the Third World, Nicaragua during the Somoza dictatorship was one of imperialism’s ecological disasters, with its unrestricted industrial and agribusiness pollution and deforestation. Upon coming to power, the Sandinistas initiated rain forest and wildlife conservation measures and alternative energy programs. The new government also adopted methods of cutting pesticides to a minimum, prohibiting the use of the deadlier organochlorides commonly applied in other countries. Nicaragua’s environmental efforts stand in marked contrast to its neighboring states. But throughout the 1980s, the program was severely hampered by contra attacks that killed more than thirty employees of Nicaragua’s environmental and state forestry agencies, and destroyed agricultural centers and reclamation projects.

p 121

The US government is ready to accept just about anyone who emigrates from a Communist country. In contrast, the hundreds of millions of Third World refugees from capitalism, who would like to come to this country because the conditions of their lives are so hopeless, are not allowed to come in …

*

Must We Ignore Imperialism?

p 128

Woodrow Wilson, 1907

Since trade ignores national boundaries and the manufacturer insists on having the world as a market, the flag of his nation must follow him, and the doors of the nations which are closed against him must be battered down. Concessions obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process. Colonies must be obtained or planted, in order that no useful corner of the world may be overlooked or left unused.

p 129

Ronald Reagan
What I want to see above all else is that this country remains a country where someone can always be rich. That’s the thing we have that must be preserved.

p 129

Jeff McMahan

U.S. reasons for wanting to control the third world are to some extent circular. Thus third world resources are required in part to guarantee military production, and increased military production is required in part to maintain and expand U.S. control over third world resources …. Instrumental goals eventually come to be seen as ends in themselves. Initially the pursuit of overseas bases is justified by the need to maintain stability, defend friendly countries from communist aggression, and so on-in other words, to subjugate and control the third world; but eventually the need to establish and maintain overseas bases becomes one of the reasons for wanting to subjugate and control the third world.

p 131

Henry Kissinger, June 27, 1970 about Chile

I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go Communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people.

*  *  *  *

p 196

The people who make US foreign policy are known to us-and they are well known to each other. Top policymakers and advisors are drawn predominantly from the major corporations and from policy groups like the Council on Foreign Relations, the Committee for Economic Development, the Trilateral Commission, the Business Roundtable, and the Business Council. Membership in these groups consists of financiers, business executives, and corporate lawyers. Some also have a sprinkling of foundation directors, news editors, university presidents, and academicians.

Most prominent is the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Incorporated in 1921, the CFR numbered among its founders big financiers such as John D. Rockefeller, Nelson Aldrich, and J. P. Morgan. Since World War II, CFR members have included David Rockefeller, chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank (and erstwhile CFR president); Allen Dulles, Wall Street lawyer and longtime director of the CIA; and, in the 1970s, all the directors of Morgan Guaranty Trust; nine directors of Banker’s Trust; five directors of Tri-Continental holding company; eight directors of Chase Manhattan; and directors from each of the following: Mellon National Bank, Bank of America, General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Standard Oil of New Jersey, General Electric, General Dynamics, Union Carbide, IBM, AT&T, ITT, and the New York Times (a partial listing).

One member of the Kennedy administration, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., described the decision-making establishment as “an arsenal of talent which had so long furnished a steady supply of always orthodox and often able people to Democratic as well as Republican administrations. 115 President Kennedy’s secretary of state was Dean Rusk, president of the Rockefeller Foundation and member of the CFR; his secretary of defense was Robert McNamara, president of Ford Motor Company; his secretary of the treasury was C. Douglas Dillon, head of a prominent Wall Street banking firm and member of the CFR. Nixon’s secretary of state was Henry Kissinger, a Nelson Rockefeller protégé who also served as President Ford’s secretary of state. Ford appointed fourteen CFR members to his administration. Seventeen top members of Carter’s administration were participants of the Rockefeller-created Trilateral Commission, including Carter himself and Vice President Walter Mondale. Carter’s secretary of state was Cyrus Vance, Wall Street lawyer, director of several corporations, trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation, and member of the CFR.

Reagan’s first secretary of state was Alexander Haig, former general and aide to President Nixon, president of United Technologies, director of several corporations including Rockefeller’s Chase Manhattan Bank, and member of the CFR. Reagan’s next secretary of state was George Shultz, president of Bechtel Corporation, director of Morgan Guaranty Trust, director of the CFR, and advisor of the Committee for Economic Development (CED). Reagan’s secretary of defense was Caspar Weinberger, vice president of Bechtel, director of other large corporations, and member of the Trilateral Commission. The secretary of treasury and later chief of staff was Donald Regan, chief executive officer of Merrill, Lynch, trustee of the CED, member of the CFR and of the Business Roundtable. Reagan’s CIA director, William Casey, was director of the ExportImport Bank, head of the Securities and Exchange Commission under Nixon, and partner in a prominent Wall Street law firm. At least a dozen of Reagan’s top administrators and some thirty advisors were CFR members.

Members of groups like the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission have served in just about every top executive position, including most cabinet and subcabinet slots, and have at times virtually monopolized the membership of the National Security Council, the nation’s highest official policymaking body.’ The reader can decide whether they compose (1) a conspiratorial elite, (2) the politically active members of a ruling class, or (3) a selection of policy experts and specialists in the service of pluralistic democracy.

These policymakers are drawn from overlapping corporate circles and policy groups that have a capacity unmatched by any other interest groups in the United States to fill top government posts with persons from their ranks. While supposedly selected to serve in government because they are experts and specialists, they really are usually amateurs and “generalists.” Being president of a giant construction firm and director of a bank did not qualify George Shultz to be Nixon’s secretary of labor nor his secretary of the treasury. Nor did Shultz bring years of expert experience in foreign affairs to his subsequent position as Reagan’s secretary of state. But he did bring a proven capacity to serve well the common interests of corporate America.

Rather than acting as special-interest lobbies for particular firms, policy groups look after the class-wide concerns of the capitalist system. This is in keeping with the function of the capitalist state itself. While not indifferent to the fate of the overseas operations of particular US firms, the state’s primary task is to protect capitalism as a system, bolstering client states and opposing revolutionary or radically reformist ones.

p 200

Far from being powerless, the pressure of democratic opinion in this country and abroad has been about the only thing that has restrained US leaders from using nuclear weapons in Vietnam, and intervening with US forces in Angola, Nicaragua, and elsewhere. How best to pursue policies that lack popular support is a constant preoccupation of White House policymakers. President Reagan’s refusal to negotiate with the Soviets in the early 1980s provoked the largest peace demonstrations in the history of the United States. Eventually he had to offer an appearance of peace by agreeing to negotiate. To give this appearance credibility, he actually had to negotiate and even reluctantly arrive at unavoidable agreement on some issues, including the 1987 INF treaty.

Evidence of the importance of mass democratic opinion is found in the remarkable fact that the United States has not invaded Nicaragua. Even though the US had a firepower and striking force many times more powerful than the ones used in the previous eleven invasions of Nicaragua, and a president (Reagan) more eager than any previous president to invade, the invasion did not happen. Not because it would have been too costly in lives but because it would have been politically too costly. President Reagan would not have balked at killing tens of thousands of Nicaraguans and losing say 5,000 Americans to smash the Red Menace in Central America. When 241 Marines were blown away in one afternoon in Lebanon, Reagan was ready to escalate his involvement in that country. Only the pressure of democratic forces in the USA and elsewhere caused him to leave Lebanon and refrain from invading Nicaragua. He did not have the political support to do otherwise. Invasion was politically too costly because it was militarily too costly even though logistically possible. It would have caused too much of an uproar at home and throughout Latin America and would have lost him, his party, and his policies too much support.

p 203

The policies pursued by US leaders have delivered misfortune upon countless innocents, generating wrongs more horrendous than any they allegedly combat. The people of this country and other nations are becoming increasingly aware of this. The people know that nuclear weapons bring no security to anyone and that interventions on the side of privileged autocracies and reactionary governments bring no justice. They also seem to know that they pay most of the costs of the arms race and many of the costs of imperialism. From South Korea to South Africa, from Central America to the Western Sahara, from Europe to North America, people are fighting back, some because they have no choice, others because they would choose no other course but the one that leads to peace and justice.

Source

Video: Nicaraguas and the Contras

Video: In Nicaragua, A Return Of The Contras?

Video: Tribute to the Sandinista Revolution

TRIBUTO A LA REVOLUCION SANDINISTA (“Tribute to the Sandinista Revolution”)

Happy 33rd, Nicaragua! Que viva Nicaragua libre y Sandinista!

Written and performed by Silvio Rodriguez
In Nicaragua another hot iron broke;
In Nicaragua another hot iron broke;
With which the Eagle used to brand the people.
With which the Eagle used to brand the people.

There snapped, In Nicaragua, another bloody rope.
There snapped, in Nicaragua, another bloody rope.
With which the Eagle tied around the necks of the workers.
With which the Eagle tied around the necks of the workers.

The entire continent has caught fire.
The borders ardently kiss.
I remember a man who died for this;
And looking on today, as a ghost in the mountains,
Jubilantly laughs.

The ghost of Sandino, with Bolivar and Che,
The ghost of Sandino, with Bolivar and Che,
For the same path was trod by all three.
For the same path was trod by all three.

These three travelers, with identical fates;
These three travelers, with identical fates;
Have become giants, have mocked death.
Have become giants, have mocked death.

Now the Eagle is in great pain.
Nicaragua hurts it, for it is hurt by love.
It’s hurt that children go safely to school.
Because this way, the way of justice and kindness,
It can’t sharpen its talons.

Hell, no!

Go, Nicaragua, on your path to glory;
Go, Nicaragua, on your path to glory;
It was wise blood which made your history.
It was wise blood which made your history.

So says a brother, who has bled with you;
So says a brother, who has bled with you;
So says a Cuban, so says a friend.
So says a Cuban, so says a friend.

On the Day of American Independence

Today is the 4th of July, a holiday celebrated all over the nation as the date of American Independence from the British crown. I was considering burning an American flag to protest US foreign policy, imperial aggression, indigenous holocaust, sponsorship of terrorism, slavery and discrimination of minorities, etc., and promptly began wondering if flag-burning on public property is considered to be a fire hazard. Today is a holiday that is spent trying to spread patriotic feelings among our people, and thus in effect to try and goad them into flag-waving, chauvinism, jingoism and xenophobia. Patriotism, the way the imperialists see it, means love for their government and love for their class of oppressors. It means love for the police, the prison complex, the courts, the army and the ruling class dictatorship. It means love for the exploitive system of capitalism and the settler-fascists that have run it from the start.

On this celebrated day of the creation of the American state, it is time to take a look back at our long, star-crossed history, and it is time to present a challenge to ourselves—what has American really been about all this time? As Frederick Douglass famously said about this particular holiday in 1852:

“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

He continues,

“Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the old world, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.”

There are those who might say that Douglass’s words no longer ring true because of the Obama presidency, and then there are those who know that a change in the ruler’s skin color does not abolish racism and oppression overnight. In addition, Major General Smedley Butler from the US Marines speaks about what real role the US military has been playing over the years:

“I spent 33 years and 4 months in active service as a member of our country’s most agile military force – the Marine Corps… And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street, and for bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect money in. I helped in the raping of a half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street… I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-12. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped get Honduras “right” for American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I feel I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was operate in three city districts. We Marines operated on three continents.”

These revelations are by no means new, since they have been given by many anti-imperialist and anti-colonialists since the beginning of the domination of American imperialism, which started after World War II and strengthened itself through the selling-out of the Soviet Union during the Cold War and the collapse of socialist Albania.

To give a more detailed or complete account of American foreign policy, which has always been driven by nothing more and nothing less than the capitalist system’s desire for global hegemony under American leadership, would take many pages and several lifetimes of research into the history of the modern-day Roman Empire. But this 4th of July, and keeping with our challenge to ourselves, a few examples taken from the recent history of the United States alone should serve to give an idea of what this class dictatorship has really been about since the beginnings of its foundation.


A History Lesson

In 1945, the US invades the Korean peninsula and declares a “temporary” partition of Korea. America installs an illegitimate American-friendly regime in the South, backed by a force of 50,000 troops. After 2,617 troop incursions in the Northern Pro-Soviet half, sometimes with as many as a few thousand troops, a war ensues when North Korea finally invades South Korea in response. A three-year war takes place and millions are killed. Thousands of American troops remain in South Korea to this day.

In 1966, a US-backed coup ousted President Sukarno of Indonesia and replaced him with the fascist butcher Suharto. Over a million people were hunted down and killed, including thousands of popular leftist leaders, whose names were given to the military by the American Embassy. Suharto would go on to rule Indonesia with an iron fist for decades. Newly-liberated East Timor was then invaded by Suharto’s Indonesia the day after President Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (both butchers of the Vietnam War) gave them permission. By 1989, over one-third of East Timor’s 700,000 people had been killed. Indonesia had US backing, including armaments, throughout its 24-year occupation.

In 1967, a US-backed military coup took place to prevent Greek politician George Papandreou being elected Prime Minister. The colonels declared martial law, implemented torture, beatings, arrests, leaving 8,000 dead in the first month. The coup leaders were fiercely anti-communist and pro-American, working closely with the CIA. The colonels held power until 1974.

In 1970, Marxist reformist Salvador Allende was elected as President of Chile. He nationalized the giant US companies. Soon, the right-wing, backed by the CIA and US foreign policy, engineered a 1973 coup lead by the infamous General Augusto Pinochet. Allende was overthrown and replaced by a fascist military dictatorship that used mass executions and torture. Thousands were murdered and disappeared. Chile became an economic experiment that led to economic growth for the richest while leaving many homeless and greatly decreasing economic equality.

In 1978 in Nicaragua, the popular and progressive Sandinista movement overthrows the US-backed dictator Anastasio Samoza. The US then launches a military occupation in order to prevent “another Cuba.” A program of terrorism and economic sabotage is begun, which leads to the US support of the infamous Contra death squads. The Contras prove to be one of the most brutal fighting forces Latin America has ever seen, infamous for burning down schools, churches and hospitals as well as using mass murder, rape and torture. The Contras massacre whole villages though to be sympathetic to the Sandinistas. Over 60,000 die. President Reagan labels them as “freedom fighters.”

Summation

From these examples alone—Korea, Indonesia, East Timor, Greece, Chile and Nicaragua, which are merely the most prominent of many dozens more ready-made examples including the Vietnam War—we can see that United States foreign policy has never been driven by a devotion to any kind of morality, nor by any kind of longing for freedom or democracy. From the start, the United States has been driven by the necessity to make the world safe for investment by capitalism, to enrich US armaments who contribute generously to Congress members, to prevent the development of any society which becomes an example of an independent alternative to the capitalist model and to extend its political and economic control over as much of the globe as possible.

Everyone alive today remembers the media immediately after the events of 9/11. “Why Do They Hate Us So Much?” the newspapers asked. Gee, I don’t know. Perhaps dropping bombs really pisses some “less civilized” people off. This is a simple list of the nations bombed since World War II:

China 1945-46, Korea 1950-53, China 1950-53, Guatemala 1954, Indonesia 1958, Cuba 1959-60, Guatemala 1960, Congo 1964, Peru 1965, Laos 1965-73, Vietnam 1961-73. Cambodia 1969-70, Guatemala 1967-69, Grenada 1983, Libya 1986, El Salvador 1980s, Nicaragua 1980s, Panama 1989, Iraq 1991-2002, Sudan 1998, Afghanistan 1998, Yugoslavia 1999, Afghanistan 2001 and Iraq 2003 (1).

It is worth noting that violence and exploitation are also not limited to outside the US borders, either. Of all western nations, the US has the greatest income inequality. 40% of the wealth is controlled by 1% of the population. The US has the greatest discrepancy in the world between the wealthy and the poor when it comes to health care, and also when it comes to life expectancy.

Finally, the Land of the Free has the highest number of its population in prison than any other state in the world (2). And all this is without mentioning the minute details of the oppressive structure of the class society as it exists for us every day. These sorts of atrocities will continue until this capitalist system is done away with through struggle and revolution in the US.

On the day of American Independence, among all other days, this is a fact for all of us to remember.

Sources

(1) Taken from Australian Options Quarterly No. 31, Summer 2002.

(2) From Scientific American, Dec. 2005

Source

U.S. Resumes its Dirty War against Nicaragua

BY LIDICE VALENZUELA
Special for Granma International

September 3, 2007

EIGHT months since taking power, the government of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega is facing fierce opposition from reactionary sectors – both national and international – led by the United States, who are persisting in ignoring the structural changes that have been embarked on in this new era for national politics.

It concerns an ideological struggle, radicalized in the last few months, between the principles and the program to improve the quality of life of the majority of the impoverished Nicaraguan population and, on the other hand, the interests of the right wing, who are witnessing a threat to their class privileges in the face of overwhelming support for the process being set in motion by Ortega and his cabinet.

Ortega continues to condemn the destabilization plans on the part of the government in Washington, and in the last few weeks has attacked the Free Trade Agreement (FTA), signed by his country with the United States, contrasting the vast differences between that and the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), which it has already signed along with Cuba, Bolivia and Venezuela – the main driving force behind the project – the philosophical base of which is fair trade aimed at improving the lives of the poorest sections of those countries.

“Unfair trade” was one of the president’s descriptions of the FTAs, because they always benefit the largest country. He gave as one example the effects that will be felt by Nicaragua’s tobacco industry on account of the import and sales taxes applied to that product by the United States.

By adopting this measure, thousands of Nicaraguan producers will lose their jobs and will be forced to illegally emigrate to the United States, where they are treated as fifth-class citizens.

Ortega affirmed that his party, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), was never in agreement with the FTA.

Meanwhile, the United States is continuing its dirty war against the political process led by the former FSLN commander.

According to the president’s recent condemnations at the Sao Paulo Forum – held in Managua – the administration of George W. Bush is working “behind the scenes” in order to boycott the social and economic programs embarked on by his government, which have seen significant advances to date in spite of obstacles laid out by their enemies.

In a firm but conciliatory tone, Ortega referred to the fact that, despite the ideological differences between the two governments, relations between the United States and Nicaragua should be based on mutual respect and for that reason, he said, the underhand campaigns it is financing with the domestic right and with the privately-owned media are unacceptable. For the president, Washington’s interference in the internal affairs of his country are aimed at supporting groups calling themselves “representatives of the population,” when in reality these were destroyed by voters in last year’s general elections.

It is believed that a new split in bilateral relations could show itself after the Managua government confirmed an embargo of assets owned by U.S. oil company Esso in a tax payment dispute. The fraud on the part of the company consisted of declaring certain quantities while in the customs report, others appeared, according to presidential advisor Bayardo Arce.

The plan executed by Washington against Managua since Ortega assumed power is not that different from those that the White House – whose tenant Bush is currently rejected by 66% of his own people – has traditionally employed against legitimately constituted governments in Latin America and the Caribbean. Remember Haiti, Chile and Guatemala. The only difference is that we are in different times now and the governments have the support of powerful social and indigenous movements with a high level of political awareness.

What the right wing is looking to do now is to confuse the Nicaraguan population with tall stories in order to boycott the political and social programs of the administration of Ortega, the man who led the country from 1985 to1990, but did not secure reelection because of interference by the United States, which was supporting the so-called Contra war.

Source