Category Archives: East Asian & South Asian Liberation

Bruce Franklin’s Introduction to “The Essential Stalin”

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Please note the posting of this introduction to the book “The Essential Stalin” does not necessarily imply support of Franklin’s political line.

 — E.S.

I used to think of Joseph Stalin as a tyrant and butcher who jailed and killed millions, betrayed the Russian revolution, sold out liberation struggles around the world, and ended up a solitary madman, hated and feared by the people of the Soviet Union and the world. Even today I have trouble saying the name “Stalin” without feeling a bit sinister.

But, to about a billion people today, Stalin is the opposite of what we in the capitalist world have been programmed to believe. The people of China, Vietnam, Korea, and Albania consider Stalin one of the great heroes of modern history, a man who personally helped win their liberation.

This belief could be dismissed as the product of an equally effective brainwashing from the other side, except that the workers and peasants of the Soviet Union, who knew Stalin best, share this view. For almost two decades the Soviet rulers have systematically attempted to make the Soviet people accept the capitalist world’s view of Stalin, or at least to forget him. They expunged him from the history books, wiped out his memorials, and even removed his body from his tomb.

Yet, according to all accounts, the great majority of the Soviet people still revere the memory of Stalin, and bit by bit they have forced concessions. First it was granted that Stalin had been a great military leader and the main antifascist strategist of World War II. Then it was conceded that he had made important contributions to the material progress of the Soviet people. Now a recent Soviet film shows Stalin, several years before his death, as a calm, rational, wise leader.

But the rulers of the Soviet Union still try to keep the people actually from reading Stalin. When they took over, one of their first acts was to ban his writings. They stopped the publication of his collected works, of which thirteen volumes had already appeared, covering the period only through 1934. This has made it difficult throughout the world to obtain Stalin’s writings in the last two decades of his life. Recently the Hoover Institute of Stanford University, whose purpose, as stated by its founder, Herbert Hoover, is to demonstrate the evils of the doctrines of Karl Marx” completed the final volumes in Russian so that they would be available to Stanford’s team of émigré anti-Communists (In. preparing. this volume, I was able to use the Hoover collection of writings by and about Stalin only by risking jail, directly violating my banishment by court injunction from this Citadel of the Free World.)

The situation in the U.S. is not much different from that in the U.S.S.R. In fact the present volume represents the first time since 1955 that a major publishing house in either country has authorized the publication of Stalin’s works. U.S. capitalist publishers have printed only Stalin’s wartime diplomatic correspondence and occasional essays, usually much abridged, in anthologies. Meanwhile his enemies and critics are widely published. Since the early 1920s there have been basically two opposing lines claiming to represent Marxism-Leninism, one being Stalin’s and the other Trotsky’s. The works of Trotsky are readily available in many inexpensive editions. And hostile memoirs, such as those of Khrushchev and Svetlana Stalin, are actually serialized in popular magazines.

The suppression of Stalin’s writings spreads the notion that he did not write anything worth reading. Yet Stalin is clearly one of the three most important historical figures of our century, his thought and deeds still affecting our daily lives, considered by hundreds of millions today as one of the leading political theorists of any time, his very name a strongly emotional household word throughout the world. Anyone familiar with the development of Marxist-Leninist theory in the past half century knows that Stalin was not merely a man of action. Mao names him “the greatest genius of our time,” calls himself Stalin’s disciple, and argues that Stalin’ s theoretical works are still the core of world Communist revolutionary strategy.

Gaining access to Stalin’s works is not the hardest part of coming to terms with him. First we must recognize that there can be no “objective” or “neutral” appraisal of Stalin, any more than there can be of any major historical figure during the epochs of class struggle. From the point of view of some classes, George Washington was an arrogant scoundrel and traitor to his country, king, and God, a renegade who brought slaughter and chaos to a continent; Abraham Lincoln was responsible for the deaths of millions and the destruction of a civilized, cultured, harmonious society based on the biblically sanctioned relationship with the black descendants of Ham; Sitting Bull was a murderous savage who stood in the way of the progress of a superior civilization; Eldridge Cleaver, George and Jonathan Jackson, Ruchell Magee and Angela Davis are vicious murderers, while Harry Truman, Nelson Rockefeller, Mayor Daley, John F. Kennedy, and Richard Nixon are rational and patriotic men who use force only when necessary to protect the treasured values of the Free World.

Any historical figure must be evaluated from the interests of one class or another. Take J. Edgar Hoover, for example. Anti-Communists may disagree about his performance, but they start from the assumption that the better he did his job of preserving “law and order” as defined by our present rulers the better he was. We Communists, on the other hand, certainly would not think Hoover “better” if he had been more efficient in running the secret police and protecting capitalism. And so the opposite with Stalin, whose job was not to preserve capitalism but to destroy it, not to suppress communism but to advance it. The better he did his job, the worse he is likely to seem to all those who profit from this economic system and the more he will be appreciated by the victims of that system. The Stalin question is quite different for those who share his goals and for those, who oppose them. For the revolutionary people of the world it is literally a life and-death matter to have a scientific estimate of Stalin, because he was, after all, the principal leader of the world revolution for thirty crucial years.

I myself have seen Stalin from both sides. Deeply embedded in my consciousness and feelings was that Vision of Stalin as tyrant and butcher. This was part of my over-all view of communism as a slave system, an idea that I was taught in capitalist society. Communist society was not red but a dull-gray world. It was ruled by a secret clique of powerful men. Everybody else worked for these few and kept their mouths shut. Propaganda poured from all the media. The secret police were everywhere, tapping phones, following people on the street, making midnight raids. Anyone who spoke out would lose his job, get thrown in jail, or even get shot by the police. One of the main aims of the government was international aggression, starting wars to conquer other counties. When I began to discover that this entire vision point by point described my own society a number of questions arose in my mind.

For me, as for millions of others in the United States it was the Vietnamese who forced a change in perception. How could we fail to admire the Vietnamese people and to see Ho Chi Minh as one of the great heroes of our times? What stood out not about Ho was his vast love for the people and his dedication to serving them. (In 1965, before I became a Communist, I spoke at a rally soliciting blood for the Vietnamese victims of U.S. bombing. When I naively said that Ho was a nationalist above being a Communist and a human being above being a nationalist, I was pelted with garbage and, much to my surprise, called a “dirty Commie. But we were supposed to believe that Ho was a “tyrant and butcher.” Later, it dawned on me that Fidel Castro was also supposed to be a “tyrant and butcher” although earlier we had been portrayed as a freedom fighter against the Batista dictatorship. Still later, I began to study the Chinese revolution, and found in Mao’s theory and preaches the guide for my own thinking and action. But, again, we were Supposed to see Mao as a “tyrant and butcher” and also a “madman” the more I looked into it, the more I found that these “tyrants and butchers” – Ho, Fidel, and Mao – were all depicted servants of the people, inspired by a deep and self-sacrificing love for them. At some point, I began to wonder if perhaps even Stalin was not a “tyrant and butcher.”

With this thought came intense feelings that must resemble – what someone in a tribe experiences when violating a taboo. But if we want to understand the world we live in, we must face Stalin.

Joseph Stalin personifies a major aspect of three decades of twentieth-century history. If we seek answers to any of the crucial questions about the course of our century, at some point we find Stalin standing directly in our path. Is it possible for poor and working people to make a revolution and then wield political power? Can an undeveloped, backward nation whose people are illiterate, impoverished, diseased, starving, and lacking in all the skills and tools needed to develop their productive forces possibly achieve both material and cultural well-being? Can this be done under a condition of encirclement by hostile powers, greedy for conquest, far more advanced industrially and, militantly: and fanatical in their opposition to any people s revolutionary government? What price must be paid for the success of revolutionary development? Can national unity be achieved in a vast land inhabited by many peoples of diverse races, religions, culture, language, and levels of economic development?

Is it possible to attain international unity among the exploited and oppressed peoples of many different nations whose governments depend upon intense nationalism and the constant threat of war? Then, later, can the people of any modern highly industrialized society also have a high degree of freedom, or must the state be their enemy? Can any society flourish without some form of ruling elite?

These questions are all peculiarly modern, arising in the epoch of capitalism as it reaches its highest form, modern imperialism, and becoming critical in our own time, the era of global revolution. Each of these questions leads us inevitably to Stalin. In my opinion, it is not going too far to say that Stalin is the key figure of our era.

All the achievements and all the failures, all the strengths and all the weaknesses, of the Soviet revolution and indeed of the world revolution in the period 1922-53 are summed up in Stalin. This is not to say that he is personally responsible for all that was and was not accomplished, or that nobody else could have done what he did. We are not dealing with a “great man” theory of history. In fact, quite the opposite. If we are to understand Stalin at all, and evaluate him from the point of view of either of two major opposing classes, we must see him, like all historical figures, as a being created by his times and containing the contradictions of those times. .

Every idea of Stalin’s, as he would be the first to admit, came to him from his historical existence, which also fixed limits to the ideas available to him. He could study history in order to learn from the experience of the Paris Commune but he could not look into a crystal ball to benefit from the lessons of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. And the decisions he made also had fixed and determined limits on either side, as we shall see.

To appraise Stalin, the best way to begin is to compare the condition of the Soviet Union and the rest of the world at two times: when he came into leadership and when he died. Without such a comparison, it is impossible to measure what he may have contributed or taken away from human progress. If the condition of the Soviet people was much better when he died than when he took power, he cannot have made their lives worse. The worst that can be said is that they would have progressed more without him. The same is true for the world revolution. Was it set back during the decades of his leadership, or did it advance? Once we put the questions this way, the burden of proof falls on those who deny Stalin’s positive role as a revolutionary leader.

As World War I began, the Russian Empire consisted primarily of vast undeveloped lands inhabited by many different peoples speaking a variety of languages with a very low level of literacy, productivity, technology, and health. Feudal Social relations still prevailed throughout many of these lands. Czarist secret police, officially organized bands of military terrorists, and a vast bureaucracy were deployed to keep the hungry masses of workers and peasants in line.

The war brought these problems to a crisis. Millions went to their deaths wearing rags, with empty stomachs, often waiting for those in front of them to fall so they could have a rifle and a few rounds of ammunition. When the Bolsheviks seized power in 1917, the entire vast empire, including the great cities of Russia itself, was in chaos.

Before the new government could begin to govern, it was Immediately set upon by the landlords, capitalists, and generals of the old regime, with all the forces they could buy and muster, together with combined military forces of Britain, France, Japan, and Poland, and additional military contingents from the U.S. and other capitalist countries. A vicious civil war raged for three years, from Siberia through European Russia, from the White Sea to the Ukraine. At the end of the Civil War, in 1920, agricultural output was less than half that of the prewar poverty-stricken countryside. Even worse was the situation in industry.

Many mines and factories had been destroyed. Transport had been torn up. Stocks of raw materials and semi finished products had been exhausted. The output of large-scale industry was about one seventh of what it had been before the war. And the fighting against foreign military intervention had to go on for two more years. Japanese and U.S. troops still held a portion of Siberia, including the key port city of Vladivostok, which was not recaptured until 1922.

Lenin suffered his first stroke in 1922. From this point on, Stalin, who was the General Secretary of the Central Committee, began to emerge as the principal leader of the Party. Stalin’s policies were being implemented at least as early as 1924, the year of Lenin’s death, and by 1927 the various opposing factions had been defeated and expelled from the Party. It is the period of the early and mid-1920s that we must compare to 1953.

The Soviet Union of the early 1920s was a land of deprivation. Hunger was everywhere, and actual mass famines swept across much of the countryside. Industrial production was extremely low, and the technological Level of industry was so backward that there seemed little possibility of mechanizing agriculture. Serious rebellions in the armed forces were breaking out, most notably at the Kronstadt garrison in 1921.

By 1924 large-scale peasant revolts were erupting, particularly in Georgia. There was virtually no electricity outside the large cities. Agriculture was based on the peasant holdings and medium-sized farms seized by rural capitalists (the kulaks) who forced the peasants back into wage Labor and tenant fanning. Health care was almost non-existent in much of the country. The technical knowledge and skills needed to develop modern industry, agriculture, health, and education were concentrated in the hands of a few, mostly opposed to socialism while the vast majority of the population were illiterate and could hardly think about education while barely managing to subsist. The Soviet Union was isolated in a world controlled by powerful capitalist countries physically surrounding it, setting up economic blockades, and officially refusing to recognize its existence while outdoing each other in their pledges to wipe out this Red menace.

The counterrevolution was riding high throughout Europe Great Britain, and even in the U.S.A., where the Red threat was used as an excuse to smash labor unions. Fascism was emerging in several parts of the capitalist world, particularly in Japan and in Italy, where Mussolini took dictatorial power in 1924. Most of the world consisted of colonies and neo-colonies of the European powers.

When Stalin died in 1953, the Soviet Union was the second greatest industrial, scientific, and military power in the world and showed clear signs of moving to overtake the U.S. in all these areas. This was despite the devastating losses it suffered while defeating the fascist powers of Germany, Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria. The various peoples of the U.S.S.R. were unified. Starvation and illiteracy were unknown throughout the country. Agriculture was completely collectivized and extremely productive. Preventive health care was the finest in the world, and medical treatment of exceptionally high quality was available free to all citizens. Education at all levels was free. More books were published in the U.S.S.R. than in any other country. There was no unemployment.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world, not only had the main fascist powers of 1922-45 been defeated, but the forces of revolution were on the rise everywhere. The Chinese Communist Party had just led one-fourth of the world’s population to victory over foreign imperialism and domestic feudalism and capitalism. Half of Korea was socialist, and the U.S.-British imperialist army, having rushed to intervene in the civil war under the banner of the United Nations  was on the defensive and hopelessly demoralized. In Vietnam, strong socialist power, which had already defeated Japanese Imperialism, was administering the final blows to the beaten army of the French empire. The monarchies and fascist military dictatorships of Eastern Europe had been destroyed by a combination of partisan forces, led by local Communists, and the Soviet Army; everywhere except for Greece there were now governments that supported the world revolution and at least claimed to be governments of the workers and peasants. The largest political party in both France and Italy was the Communist Party. The national liberation movement among the European colonies and neo-colonies was surging forward. Between 1946 and 1949 alone, at least nominal national independence was achieved by Burma, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Laos, Libya, Ceylon, Jordan, and the Philippines, countries comprising about one-third of the world’s population. The entire continent of Africa was stirring.

Everybody but the Trotskyites, and even some of them would have to admit that the situation for the Communist world revolution was incomparably advanced in 1953 over what it had been in the early or mid 1920s. Of course, that does not settle the Stalin question. We still have to ask whether Stalin contributed to this tremendous advance, or slowed it down or had negligible influence on it. And we must not duck the question as to whether Stalin’s theory and practice built such serious faults into revolutionary communism that its later failures, particularly in the Soviet Union, can be pinned on him.

So let us look through Stalin’s career focusing particularly on its most controversial aspects.

“Stalin” which means “steel-man,” was the code name for a Young Georgian revolutionary born as Joseph Visvarionovich Djugashvili in 1879 in the town of Gori. His class origins combine the main forces of the Russian revolution.

His father formerly a village cobbler of peasant background, became a’ worker in a shoe factory. His mother was the daughter of peasant serfs. So Stalin was no stranger to either workers or peasants, and being from Georgia, he had firsthand knowledge of how Czarist Russia oppressed the non-Russian peoples of its empire. .

While studying at the seminary for a career as a priest, he made his first contact with the Marxist underground at the age of fifteen, and at eighteen he formally joined the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party, which was to evolve into the Communist Party. Shortly after joining the party in 1898, he became convinced that Lenin was the main theoretical leader of the revolution, particularly when Lenin’s newspaper Iskra began to appear in 1900. After being thrown out of his seminary, Stalin concentrated on organizing workers in the area of Tiflis, capital of Georgia, and the Georgian industrial City of Batumi. After one of his many arrests by the Czarist secret police, he began to correspond with Lenin from exile.

Escaping from Siberian exile in 1904, Stalin returned to organizing workers in the cities of Georgia, where mass strikes were beginning to assume a decidedly political and revolutionary character. Here he began to become one of the main spokesmen for Lenin’s theory, as we see in the first two selections in this volume. In December 1904 he led a huge strike of the Baku workers, which helped precipitate the abortive Russian revolution of 1905. During the revolution and after it was suppressed, Stalin was one of the main Bolshevik underground and military organizers, and was frequently arrested by the secret police. At the Prague Conference of 1912, in which the Bolsheviks completed the split with the Mensheviks and established themselves as a separate party, Stalin was elected in absentia to the Central Committee, a position he was to maintain for over four decades. Then, on the eve of World War I, he published what may properly be considered his first major contribution to Marxist-Leninist theory, Marxism and the National Question.

Prior to World War I, the various social-democratic parties of Europe were loosely united in the Second International.

All pledged themselves to international proletarian solidarity. But when the war broke out, the theory Stalin had developed in Marxism and the National Question proved to be crucial and correct. As Stalin had foreseen, every party that had compromised with bourgeois nationalism ended up leading the workers of its nation to support their “own” bourgeois rulers by going out to kill and be killed by the workers of the other nations. Lenin, Stalin, and the other Bolsheviks took a quite different position. They put forward the slogan “Turn the imperialist war into a civil war.” Alone of all the parties of the Second International, they came out for actual armed revolution.

In February 1917 the workers, peasants and soldiers of Russia, in alliance with the liberal bourgeoisie, overthrew the czarist autocracy, which had bled the country dry and brought it to ruin in a war fought to extend the empire. The liberal bourgeoisie established a new government. The next few months led to a key moment in history. Most of the parties that claimed to be revolutionary now took the position that the Russian proletariat was too weak and backward to assume political power. They advocated that the proletariat should support the new bourgeois government and enter a long period of capitalist development until someday in the future when they could begin to think about socialism. This view even penetrated the Bolsheviks. So when Stalin was released from his prison exile in March and the Central Committee brought him back to help lead the work in St. Petersburg, he found a heavy internal struggle. He took Lenin’s position, and, being placed in charge of the Bolshevik newspaper Pravda, was able to put it forward vigorously to the masses. When the Central Committee finally decided, in October, to lead the workers and soldiers of St. Petersburg to seize the Winter Palace and establish a proletarian government, it was over the violent objections of many of the aristocratic intellectuals who, much to their own surprise and discomfort had found themselves in an actual revolutionary situation. Two of them, Zinoviev and Kamenev, even went so far as to inform the bourgeois newspapers that the Bolsheviks had a secret plan to seize power. After the virtually bloodless seizure by the workers and soldiers took place, a third member of the Central Committee, Rykov, joined Zinoviev and Kamenev in a secret deal made with the bourgeois parties whereby the Bolsheviks would resign from power, the press would be returned to the bourgeoisie, and Lenin would be permanently barred from holding public office. (All this is described in John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook the World, which was first published in 1919. I mention this because Zinoviev, Kamenev, and Rykov were three of the central figures of the purge trials of the 1930s, and it is they who have been portrayed as stanch Bolsheviks in such works as Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon.)

During the Civil War, which followed the seizure of power, Stalin began to emerge as an important military leader.

Trotsky was nominally the head of the Red Army. Behaving, as he always did, in the primacy of technique, Trotsky took as one of his main tasks winning over the high officers of the former czarist army and turning them into the general command of the revolutionary army. The result was defeat after defeat for the Red forces, either through outright betrayal by their aristocratic officers or because these officers tried to apply military theories appropriate to a conscript or mercenary army to the leadership of a people’s army made up of workers and peasants. Stalin, on the other hand, understood the military situation from the point of view of the workers and peasants, and with a knowledge of their capabilities and limitations.

In 1919 Stalin was sent as a special plenipotentiary to the key Volga city of Tsaritsyn. His mission was simply to assure the delivery of food supplies from this entire region. What he found was a disastrous military situation, with the city not only surrounded by the White Army but heavily infiltrated by counterrevolutionary forces. He saw that the food supply could not be safeguarded unless the military and political situations were dealt with. He instituted an uncompromising purge of counterrevolutionary elements within both the officer corps and the political infrastructure, took personal command of the military forces over the heads of both the local authorities and Trotsky, and then proceeded to save the city, the region, and the food supply. Trotsky, furious, demanded his recall. As for the citizens of Tsaritsyn, their opinion became known six years later, when they renamed their city Stalingrad.

After this episode, rather than being recalled, Stalin was dispatched far and wide to every major front in the Civil War. In each and every place, he was able to win the immediate respect of the revolutionary people and to lead the way to military victory, even in the most desperate circumstances.

Certain qualities emerged more and more clearly, acknowledged by both friends and enemies. These were his enormous practicality and efficiency, his worker peasant outlook, and the unswerving way he proceeded to the heart of every problem. By the end of the war, Stalin was widely recognized as a man who knew how to run things, a quality sorely lacking among most of the aristocratic intellectuals who then saw themselves as great proletarian leaders. In April 1922 he was made General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. It was in this position that Stalin was quickly to become the de facto leader of the Party and the nation.

Stalin’s career up to this point is relatively uncontroversial in comparison with everything that follows. But nothing at all about Stalin is beyond controversy. Most of his biographers in the capitalist world minimize his revolutionary activities prior to 1922. At least two influential biographies, Boris Souvarine’s Stalin (1939) and Edward Ellis Smith’s The Young Stalin (1967), even argue that during most of this period Stalin was actually an agent for the czarist secret police. Trotsky’s mammoth biography Stalin (1940) not only belittles Stalin’s revolutionary activities but actually sees his life and “moral stature” predetermined by his racially defined genetic composition; after discussing whether or not Stalin had “an admixture of Mongolian blood,” Trotsky decides that in any case he was one perfect type of the national character of southern countries such as Georgia, where, “in addition to the so-called Southern type, which is characterized by a combination of lazy shiftlessness and explosive irascibility, one meets cold natures, in whom phlegm is combined with stubbornness and slyness.” The most influential biographer of all, Trotsky’s disciple Isaac Deutscher, is a bit more subtle, blaming Stalin’s crude and vicious character not on his race but on his low social class:

The revolutionaries from the upper classes (such as Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin, Rakovsky, Radek, Lunacharsky, and Chicherin) came into the Socialist movement with inherited cultural traditions. They brought into the milieu of the revolution some of the values and qualities of their own milieu-not only knowledge, but also refinement of thought, speech, and manners. Indeed, their Socialist rebellion was itself the product of moral sensitiveness and intellectual refinement. These were precisely the qualities that life had not been kind enough to cultivate in Djugashvili [Stalin]. On the contrary, it had heaped enough physical and moral squalor in his path to blunt his sensitiveness and his taste. (Stalin, Political Biography, p. 26)

Although there are vastly different views of Stalin’s career up to this point, his activities are relatively less controversial, because they are relatively less important. Whatever Stalin’s contribution, there is still a good chance that even without him Lenin could have led the revolution and the Red forces would have won the Civil War. But, from this point on, there are at least two widely divergent, in fact wildly contradictory, versions of Stalin’s activities and their significance. Most readers of this book have heard only one side of this debate, the side of Trotsky and the capitalist world. I shall not pretend to make a “balanced presentation,” but instead give a summary of the unfamiliar other side of the argument.

Everyone, friend and foe alike, would agree that at the heart of the question of Stalin lies the theory and practice of “socialism in one country.” All of Stalin’s major ideological opponents in one way or another took issue with this theory.

Actually, the theory did not originate with Stalin but with Lenin. In 1915, in his article “On the Slogan for a United States of Europe,” Lenin argued that “the victory of socialism is possible first in several or even in one capitalist country alone.” He foresaw “a more or less prolonged and stubborn struggle” internationally that could begin like this in one country: “After expropriating the capitalists and organizing their own socialist production, the victorious proletariat of that country will arise against the rest of the world-the capitalist world-attracting to its cause the oppressed classes of other countries, stirring uprisings in those countries against the capitalists, and in case of need using even armed force against the exploiting classes and their states.”

Of course, at the end of World War I most Bolsheviks (and many capitalists) expected revolution to break out in many of the European capitalist countries. In fact, many of the returning soldiers did turn their guns around. A revolutionary government was established in Hungary and Slovakia.

Germany and Bulgaria for a while were covered by soviets of workers, peasants, and soldiers. But counterrevolution swept all these away.

Trotsky and his supporters continued to believe that the proletariat of Europe was ready to make socialist revolution.

They also believed that unless this happened, the proletariat would be unable to maintain power in the Soviet Union.

They belittled the role of the peasantry as an ally of the Russian proletariat and saw very little potential in the national liberation movements of the predominantly peasant countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Their so-called “Left opposition” put forward the theory, of “permanent revolution,” which pinned its hopes on an imminent uprising of the industrial proletariat of Europe. They saw the world revolution then spreading outward from these “civilized” countries to the “backward” regions of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Meanwhile there also developed what was later to be called the “Right opposition,” spearheaded by Bukharin, Zinoviev, and Kamenev. They were realistic enough to recognize that the revolutionary tide was definitely ebbing in Europe, but they concluded from this that the Soviet Union would have to be content to remain for a long time a basically agricultural country without pretending to be a proletarian socialist state.

Stalin was not about to give up on socialism in the Soviet Union simply because history was not turning out exactly the way theorists had wanted, with revolution winning out quickly in the most advanced capitalist countries. He saw that the Soviet revolution had indeed been able to maintain itself against very powerful enemies at home and abroad. Besides, the Soviet Union was a vast country whose rich natural resources gave it an enormous potential for industrial and social development. He stood for building socialism in this one country and turning it into an inspiration and base area for the oppressed classes and nations throughout the world. He believed that, helped by both the example and material support of a socialist Soviet Union, the tide of revolution would eventually begin rising again, and that, in turn, proletarian revolution in Europe and national liberation struggles in the rest of the world would eventually break the Soviet isolation.

There are two parts to the concept of socialism in one country. Emphasis is usually placed only on the part that says “one country.” Equally important is the idea that only socialism, and not communism, can be achieved prior to the time when the victory of the world revolution has been won. A communist society would have no classes, no money, no scarcity, and no state that is, no army, police force, prisons, and courts. There is no such society in the world, and no society claims to be Communist. A socialist society, according to Marxism-Leninism, is the transitional form on the road to communism. Classes and class struggle still exist, all the material needs of the people have not as yet been met, and there is indeed a state, a government of the working class known as the dictatorship of the proletariat (as opposed to the government of capitalist nations, the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie).

Neither Lenin nor Stalin ever had any illusion that any single country, even one as vast and potentially rich as the Soviet Union, would ever be able to establish a stateless, classless society while capitalism still had power in the rest of the world. But Stalin, like Lenin, did believe that the Soviet Union could eliminate capitalism, industrialize, extend the power of the working class, and wipe out real material privation all during the period of capitalist encirclement.

To do this, Stalin held, the proletariat would have to rely on the peasantry. He rejected Trotsky’s scorn for the Russian peasants and saw them, rather than the European proletariat, as the only ally that could come to the immediate aid of the Russian workers.

When the Civil War ended, in 1921, with most of the Soviet Union in chaotic ruin, Lenin won a struggle against Trotsky within the Party to institute what was called the New Economic Policy (NEP), under which a limited amount of private enterprise based on trade was allowed to develop in both the cities and the countryside. NEP was successful in averting an immediate total catastrophe, but by 1925 it was becoming clear that this policy was also creating problems for the development of socialism. This brings us to the first great crux of the Stalin question.

We have been led to believe that in order to industrialize at any price; Stalin pursued a ruthless policy of forced collectivization, deliberately murdering several million peasants known as kulaks during the process. The truth is quite different.

When the Bolsheviks seized power, one of their first acts was to allow the poor peasants to seize the huge landed estates. The slogan was “Land to the tiller.” This, however, left most land in the form of tiny holdings, unsuited for large-scale agriculture, particularly the production of the vital grain crops. Under NEP, capitalism and a new form of landlordism began to flourish in the countryside. The class known as kulaks (literally “tight-fists”), consisting of usurers and other small capitalists including village merchants and rich peasants, were cornering the market in the available grain, grabbing more and more small holdings of land, and, through their debt holdings, forcing peasants back into tenant farming and wage labor. Somehow, the small peasant holdings had to be consolidated so that modern agriculture could begin. There were basically two ways this could take place: either through capitalist accumulation, as the kulaks were then doing, or through the development of large-scale socialist farms. If the latter, there was then a further choice: a rapid forced collectivization, or a more gradual process in which co-operative farms would emerge first, followed by collectives, and both would be on a voluntary basis, winning out by example and persuasion. What did Stalin choose?

Here, in his own words, is the policy he advocated and that was adopted at the Fifteenth Party Congress, in 1927:

What is the way out? The way out is to turn the small and scattered peasant farms into large united farms based on cultivation of the land in common, to go over to collective cultivation of the land on the basis of a new and higher technique.

The way out is to unite the small and dwarf peasant farms gradually but surely, not by pressure, but by example and persuasion, into large farms based on common, cooperative, collective cultivation of the land with the use of agricultural machines and tractors and scientific methods of intensive agriculture.

There is no other way out.

To implement this policy, the capitalist privileges allowed under NEP were revoked. This was known as the restriction of the kulaks. The kulaks, whose very existence as a class was thus menaced, struck back. They organized terrorist bands who attacked the co-operatives and collectives, burning down barns when they were filled with grain, devastating the fields, and even murdering Communist peasant leaders.

Even more serious than these raids, the kulaks held back their own large supplies of grain from the market in an effort to create hunger and chaos in the cities. The poor and middle peasants struck back. Virtual open civil war began to rage throughout the countryside. As the collective farm movement spread rapidly, pressure mounted among the poor and middle peasants to put an end to landlordism and usury in the countryside for good. In 1929 Stalin agreed that the time had come to eliminate the kulaks as a class. He led the fight to repeal the laws that allowed the renting of land and the hiring of labor, thus depriving the kulaks both of land and of hired workers. The ban on expropriation of the large private holdings was lifted, and the peasants promptly expropriated the kulak class. The expropriation of the rural capitalists in the late 1920s was just as decisive as the expropriation of the urban capitalists a decade earlier. Landlords and village usurers were eliminated as completely as private factory owners. It is undoubtedly true that in many areas there was needless violence and suffering. But this did not originate with Stalin. It was the hour of Russia’s peasant masses, who had been degraded and brutalized for centuries and who had countless blood debts to settle with their oppressors. Stalin may have unleashed their fury, but he was not the one who had caused it to build up for centuries. In fact it was Stalin who checked the excesses generated by the enthusiasm of the collective movement. In early 1930 he published in Pravda “Dizzy with Success,” reiterating that “the voluntary principle” of the collective farm movement must under no circumstances be violated and that anybody who engages in forced collectivization objectively aids the enemies of socialism. Furthermore, he argues, the correct form for the present time is the co-operative (known as the artel) , in which “the household plots (small vegetable gardens, small orchards), the dwelling houses, a part of the dairy cattle, small livestock, poultry, etc., are not socialized.”

Again, overzealous attempts to push beyond this objectively aid the enemy. The movement must be based on the needs and desires of the masses of peasants.

Stalin’s decision about the kulaks perfectly exemplifies the limits under which he operated. He could decide, as he did, to end the kulaks as a class by allowing the poor and middle peasants’ to expropriate their land. Or he could decide to let the kulaks continue withholding their grain from the starving peasants and workers, with whatever result. He might have continued bribing the kulaks. But it is highly doubtful, to say the least, that he had the option of persuading the kulaks into becoming good socialists.

There can be no question that, whatever may be said about its cost, Stalin’s policy in the countryside resulted in a vast, modern agricultural system, capable, for the first time in history, of feeding all the peoples of the Soviet lands. Gone were the famines that seemed as inevitable and were as vicious as those of China before the revolution or of India today.

Meanwhile, Stalin’s policy of massive industrialization was going full speed ahead. His great plan for a modern, highly industrialized Soviet Union has been so overwhelmingly successful that we forget that it was adopted only over the bitter opposition of most of the Party leaders, who thought it a utopian and therefore suicidal dream. Having overcome this opposition on both the right and “left,” Stalin in 1929 instituted the first five-year plan in the history of the world.

It was quickly over fulfilled. By the early 1930s the Soviet Union had clearly become both the inspiration and the main material base area for the world revolution. And it was soon will prove much more than a match for the next military onslaught from the capitalist powers, which Stalin had predicted and armed against.

This brings us to the second great crux of the Stalin question, the “left” criticism, originating with Trotsky and then widely disseminated by the theorists of what used to be called “the New Left.” This criticism holds that Stalin was just a nationalist who sold out revolution throughout the rest of the world. The debate ranges over all the key events of twentieth-century history and can be only touched on in an essay.

Stalin’s difference with Trotsky on the peasantry was not confined to the role of the peasantry within the Soviet Union.

Trotsky saw very little potential in the national liberation movements in those parts of the world that were still basically peasant societies. He argued that revolution would come first to the advanced capitalist countries of Europe and North America and would then spread to the “uncivilized” areas of the world. Stalin, on the other hand saw that the national liberation movements of Asia, Africa, and Latin America were key to the development of the world revolution because objectively they were leading the fight against imperialism.

We see this argument developed clearly as early as 1924, In “The Foundations of Leninism,” where he argues that “the struggle that the Egyptian merchants and bourgeois intellectuals are waging for the independence of Egypt is objectively a revolutionary struggle, despite the bourgeois origin and bourgeois title of the leaders of the Egyptian national movement, despite the fact that they are opposed to socialism; whereas the struggle that the British ‘Labor’ movement is waging to preserve Egypt’s dependent position is for the same reasons a reactionary struggle, despite the proletarian origins and the proletarian title of the members of hat government, despite the fact that they are ‘for’ socialism. To most European Marxists, this was some kind of barbarian heresy. But Ho Chi Minh expressed the view of many Communists from the colonies in that same year, 1924, when he recognized that Stalin was the leader of the only Party that stood with the national liberation struggles and when he agreed with Stalin that the viewpoint of most other so-called Marxists on the national question was nothing short of “counterrevolutionary” (Ho Chi Minh Report on the National and Colonial Questions at the Fifth Congress of the Communist International).

The difference between Stalin’s line and Trotsky’s line and the falsification of what Stalin’s line was, can be seen most clearly on the question of the Chinese revolution. The typical “left” view prevalent today is represented in David Horowitz’s The Free World Colossus (1965), which asserts “Stalin’s continued blindness to the character and potential of the Chinese Revolution.” Using as his main source a Yugoslav biography of Tito, Horowitz blandly declares: “Even after the war, when it was clear to most observers that Chiang was finished, Stalin did not think much of the prospects of Chinese Communism” (p. Ill).

Mao’s opinion of Stalin is a little different:

Rallied around him, we constantly received advice from him, constantly drew ideological strength from his works…. It is common knowledge that Comrade Stalin ardently loved the Chinese people and considered that the forces of the Chinese revolution were immeasurable.

He displayed the greatest wisdom in matters pertaining to the Chinese revolution. . . . Sacredly preserving the memory of our great teacher Stalin, the Communist Party of China and the Chinese people . . . will even more perseveringly study Stalin’s teaching …. (“A Great Friendship,” 1953)

It is possible that this statement can be viewed as a formal tribute made shortly after Stalin’s death and before it was safe to criticize Stalin within the international Communist movement. But years later, after the Russian attack on Stalin and after it was unsafe not to spit on Stalin’s memory, the Chinese still consistently maintained their position. In 1961, after listening to Khrushchev’s rabid denunciations of Stalin at the Twenty-second Party Congress, Chou En-lai ostentatiously laid a wreath on Stalin’s tomb. Khrushchev and his supporters then disinterred Stalin’s body, but the Chinese responded to this in 1963 by saying that Khrushchev “can never succeed in removing the great image of Stalin from the minds of the Soviet people and of the people throughout the world.” (“On the Question of Stalin”)

In fact, as his 1927 essay on China included in this collection shows, Stalin very early outlined the basic theory of the Chinese revolution. Trotsky attacks this theory, which he sneers at as “guerrilla adventure,” because it is not based on the cities as the revolutionary centers, because it relies on class allies of the proletariat, particularly the peasantry, and because it is primarily anti-feudal and anti-imperialist rather than focused primarily against Chinese capitalism.

After 1927, when the first liberated base areas were established in the countryside, Trotsky claimed that this revolution could no longer be seen as proletarian but as a mere peasant rebellion, and soon he began to refer to its guiding theory as the Stalin-Mao line. To this day, Trotskyites around the world deride the Chinese revolution as a mere “Stalinist bureaucracy.” The Chinese themselves do acknowledge that at certain points Stalin gave some incorrect tactical advice, but they are quick to add that he always recognized and corrected these errors and was self-critical about them. They are very firm in their belief that they could not have made their revolution without his general theory, his over-all leadership of the world revolutionary movement, and the firm rear area and base of material support he provided. Thus the only really valid major criticism comes from anti-Communists, because without Stalin, at least according to the Chinese, the Communists would not have won.

Stalin’s role in the Spanish Civil War likewise comes under fire from the “left.” Again taking their cue from Trotsky and such professional anti-Communist ideologues as George Orwell, many “socialists” claim that Stalin sold out the Loyalists. A similar criticism is made about Stalin’s policies in relation to the Greek partisans in the late 1940s, which we will discuss later. According to these “left” criticisms, Stalin didn’t “care” about either of these struggles, because of his preoccupation with internal development and “Great Russian power.” The simple fact of the matter is that in both cases Stalin was the only national leader anyplace in the world to support the popular forces, and he did this in the face of stubborn opposition within his own camp and the dangers of military attack from the leading aggressive powers in the world (Germany and Italy in the late 1930s, the U.S. ten years later).

Because the U.S.S.R., following Stalin’s policies, had become a modem industrial nation by the mid-1930s, it was able to ship to the Spanish Loyalists Soviet tanks and planes that were every bit as advanced as the Nazi models. Because the U.S.S.R. was the leader of the world revolutionary forces, Communists from many nations were able to organize the International Brigades, which went to resist Mussolini’s fascist divisions and the crack Nazi forces, such as the Condor Legion, that were invading the Spanish Republic. The capitalist powers, alarmed by this international support for the Loyalists, planned joint action to stop it. In March 1937, warships of Germany, Italy, France, and Great Britain began jointly policing the Spanish coast. Acting on a British initiative, these same countries formed a bloc in late 1937 to isolate the Soviet Union by implementing a policy they called “non-intervention,” which Lloyd George, as leader of the British Opposition, labeled a clear policy of support for the fascists. Mussolini supported the British plan and called for a’ campaign “to drive Bolshevism from Europe.” Stalin’s own foreign ministry, which was still dominated by aristocrats masquerading as proletarian revolutionaries, sided with the capitalist powers. The New York Times of October 29, 1937, describes how the “unyielding” Stalin, representing “Russian stubbornness,” refused to go along: “A struggle has been going on all this week between Joseph Stalin and Foreign Commissar Maxim Litvinoff,” who wished to accept the British plan. Stalin stuck to his guns, and the Soviet Union refused to grant Franco international status as a combatant, insisting that it had every right in the world to continue aiding the duly elected government of Spain, which it did until the bitter end.

The Spanish Civil War was just one part of the world-wide imperialist aims of the Axis powers. Japan was pushing ahead in its conquest of Asia. Japanese forces overran Manchuria in 1931; only nine years after the Red Army had driven them out of Siberia, and then invaded China on a full-scale.

Ethiopia fell to Italy in 1936. A few months later, Germany and Japan signed an anti-Comintern pact, which was joined by Italy in 1937. In 1938, Germany invaded Austria. Hitler, who had come to power on a promise to rid Germany and the world of the Red menace, was now almost prepared to launch his decisive strike against the Soviet Union.

The other major capitalist powers surveyed the scene with mixed feelings. On one hand, they would have liked nothing better than to see the Communist threat ended once and for all, particularly with the dirty work being done by the fascist nations. On the other hand, they had to recognize that fascism was then the ideology of the have-not imperialists, upstarts whose global aims included a challenge to the hegemony of France, Britain, and the United States. Should they move now to check these expansionists’ aims or should they let them develop unchecked, hoping that they would move against the Soviet Union rather than Western Europe and the European colonies in Asia and Africa?

In 1938 they found the answer, a better course than either of these two alternatives. They would appease Hitler by giving him the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia. This would not only dissuade the Nazis from attacking their fellow capitalists to the west, but it would also remove the last physical barriers to the east, the mountains of the Czech Sudetenland. All logic indicated to them that they had thus gently but firmly turned the Nazis eastward, and even given them a little shove in that direction. Now all they had to do was to wait, and, after the fascist powers and the Soviet Union had devastated each other, they might even be able to pick up the pieces. So they hailed the Munich agreement of September 30, 1938, as the guarantee of “Peace in our time”-for them.

Stalin had offered to defend Czechoslovakia militarily against the Nazis if anyone of the European capitalist countries would unite with the Soviet Union in this effort. The British and the French had evaded what they considered this trap, refusing to allow the Soviet Union even to participate at Munich. They now stepped back and waited, self-satisfied, to watch the Reds destroyed. It seemed they didn’t have long to wait. Within a few months, Germany seized all of Czechoslovakia, giving some pieces of the fallen republic to its allies Poland and Hungary.

By mid-March 1939 the Nazis had occupied Bohemia and Moravia, the Hungarians had seized Carpatho-Ukraine, and Germany had formally annexed Memel. At the end of that month, Madrid fell and all of Spain surrendered to the fascists. On May 7, Germany and Italy announced a formal military and political alliance. The stage was set for the destruction of the Soviet Union.

Four days later, on May 11, 1939, the first attack came.

The crack Japanese army that had invaded Manchuria struck Into the Soviet Union. The Soviet-Japanese war of 1939 is conveniently omitted from our history books, but this war, together with the Anglo-French collaboration with the Nazis and fascists in the west, form the context for another of Stalin’s great “crimes,” the Soviet-German non-aggression pact of August 1939. Stalin recognized that the main aim of the Axis was to destroy the Soviet Union, and that the other capitalist nations were conniving with this scheme. He also knew that sooner or later the main Axis attack would come on the U.S.S.R.’s western front. Meanwhile, Soviet forces were being diverted to the east, to fend off the Japanese invaders. The non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany, which horrified and disillusioned Communist sympathizers, particularly intellectuals, in the capitalist nations, was actually one of the most brilliant strategic moves of Stalin’s life, and perhaps of diplomatic  history. From the Soviet point of view it accomplished five things:

(1) it brought needed time to prepare for the Nazi attack, which was thus delayed two years;


(2) it allowed the Red Army to concentrate on smashing the Japanese invasion, without having to fight on two fronts; they decisively defeated the Japanese within three months;


(3) it allowed the Soviet Union to retake the sections of White Russia and the Ukraine that had been invaded by Poland during the Russian Civil War and were presently occupied by the Polish military dictatorship; this meant that the forthcoming Nazi invasion would have to pass through a much larger area defended by the Red Army;


(4) it also allowed Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, which also had been part of Russia before the Civil War, to become part of the U.S.S.R. as Soviet Republics; this meant that the forthcoming Nazi attack could not immediately outflank Leningrad;


(5) most important of all, it destroyed the Anglo-French strategy of encouraging a war between the Axis powers and the Soviet Union while they enjoyed neutrality; World War II was to begin as a war between the Axis powers and the other capitalist nations, and the Soviet Union, if forced into it, was not going to have to fight alone against the combined fascist powers. The worldwide defeat of the fascist Axis was in part a product of Stalin’s diplomatic strategy, as well as his later military strategy.

But before we get to that, we have to go back in time to the events for which Stalin has been most damned-the purge, trials. Most readers of this book have been taught that the major defendants in these trials were innocent, and that here we see most clearly Stalin’s vicious cruelty and paranoia.

This is certainly not the place to sift through all the evidence and retry the major defendants, but we must recognize that there is a directly contradictory view of the trials and that there is plenty of evidence to support that view.

It is almost undeniable that many of the best-known defendants had indeed organized clandestine groups whose aim was to overthrow the existing government. It is also a fact that Kirov, one of the leaders of that government, was murdered by a secret group on December 1, 1934. And it is almost beyond dispute that there were systematic, very widespread, and partly successful attempts, involving party officials, to sabotage the development of Soviet industry. Anyone who doubts this should read an article entitled “Red Wreckers in Russia” in the Saturday Evening Post, January 1, 1938, in which John Littlepage, an anti-Communist American engineer, describes in detail what he saw of this sabotage while he was working in the Soviet Union. In fact, Littlepage gives this judgment:

For ten years I have worked alongside some of the many recently shot, imprisoned or exiled in Russia as wreckers. Some of my friends have asked me whether or not I believe these men and women are guilty as charged. I have not hesitated a moment in replying that I believe most of them are guilty.

To those who hold the orthodox U.S. view of the purge trials, perhaps the most startling account is the book Mission to Moscow, by Joseph E. Davies, U. S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1936 to 1938. Davies is a vigorous defender of capitalism and a former head of the U. S. Chamber of Commerce. An experienced trial lawyer, he points out that, “I had myself prosecuted and defended men charged with crime in many cases.” He personally attended the purge trials on a regular basis. Most of his accounts and judgments are contained in official secret correspondence to the State Department; the sole purpose of these dispatches was to provide realistic an assessment as possible of what was actually going on. His summary judgment in his confidential report to the Secretary of State on March 17, 1938, is:

….. it is my opinion so far as the political defendants are concerned sufficient crimes under Soviet law, among those charged in the indictment, were established by the proof and beyond a reasonable doubt to justify the verdict of guilty of treason and the adjudication of the punishment provided by Soviet criminal statutes. The opinion of those diplomats who attended the trial most regularly was general that the case had established the fact that there was a formidable political opposition and an exceedingly serious plot, which explained to the diplomats man! of the hitherto unexplained developments of the last six months in the Soviet Union. The only difference of opinion that seemed to exist was the degree to which the plot had been implemented by different defendants and the degree to which the conspiracy had become centralized. (po 272 )

Davies himself admits to being puzzled and confused at the time because of the vast scope of the conspiracy and its concentration high into the Soviet government. It is only later, after the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, in the summer of 1941, that Davies feels he understands what he actually occurred.

Thinking over these things, there came a flash in my mind of a possible new significance to some of the things that happened in Russia when I was there.

None of us in Russia in 1937 and 1938 were thinking in terms of “Fifth Column” activities. The phrase was not current. It is comparatively recent that we have found in our language phrases descriptive of Nazi technique such as “Fifth Column” and “internal aggression.”…

As I ruminated over this situation, I suddenly saw the picture as I should have seen it at the time. The story had been told in the so-called treason or purge trials of 1937 and 1938 which I had attended and listened to. In reexamining the record of these cases and also what I had written at the time from this new angle, I found that practically every device of German Fifth Columnist activity, as we now know it, was disclosed and laid bare by the confessions and testimony elicited at these trials of self-confessed “Quislings” in Russia.

It was clear that the Soviet government believed that these activities existed, was thoroughly alarmed, and had proceeded to crush them vigorously. By 1941, when the German invasion came, they had wiped out any Fifth Column which had been organized.

All of these trials, purges, and liquidations, which seemed so violent at the time and shocked the world, are now quite clearly a part of a vigorous and determined effort of the Stalin government to protect itself from not only revolution from within but from attack from without. They went to work thoroughly to clean up and clean out all treasonable elements within the country. All doubts were resolved in favor of the government. (p. 280)

In 1956, at the Twentieth Party Congress, when Khrushchev launched his famous attack on Stalin, he dredged up all the denunciations of the purge trials circulated for two decades by the Trotskyite and capitalist press. He called Stalin a “murderer,” a “criminal,” a “bandit,” a “despot,” etc.

He asserted the innocence of many who had been imprisoned, exiled, or shot during the purge trials. But in doing so, he conveniently forgot two things: what he had said at the time about those trials, and what Stalin had said. On June 6, 1937, to the Fifth Party Conference of Moscow Province, Khrushchev had declared:

Our Party will mercilessly crush the band of traitors and betrayers, and wipe out all the Trotskyist-Right dregs. . . .We shall totally annihilate the enemies-to the last man and scatter their ashes to the winds.

On June 8, 1938, at the Fourth Party Conference of Kiev province, Khrushchev avowed:

We have annihilated a considerable number of enemies, but still not all. Therefore, it is necessary to keep our eyes open. We should bear firmly in mind the words of Comrade Stalin, that as long as capitalist encirclement exists, spies and saboteurs will be smuggled into our country.

Earlier, at a mass rally in Moscow, in January 1937, Khrushchev had condemned all those who had attacked Stalin in these words: “In lifting their hand against Comrade Stalin, They lifted it against all of us, against the working class and the working people”

As for Stalin himself, on the other hand, he had publicly admitted, not in 1956, but at least as early as 1939, that innocent people had been convicted and punished in the purge:

It cannot be said that the purge was not accompanied by grave mistakes. There were unfortunately more mistakes than might have been expected.” (Report to the Eighteenth Congress.)

That is one reason why many of those tried and convicted in the last trials were high officials from the secret police, the very people guilty of forcing false confessions.

There are certainly good grounds for criticizing both the conduct and the extent of the purge. But that criticism must begin by facing the facts that an anti-Soviet conspiracy did exist within the Party, that it had some ties with the Nazis, who were indeed preparing to invade the country, and that one result of the purge was that the ‘Soviet Union was the only country in all of Europe that, when invaded by the Nazis, did not have an active Fifth Column. It must also recognize that capitalism has since been restored in the Soviet Union, on the initiative of leading members of the Party bureaucracy, and so it is hardly fantastical or merely paranoid to think that such a thing was possible. The key question about the purges is whether there was a better way to prevent either a Nazi victory or the restoration of capitalism. And the answer to that question probably lies in the Chinese Cultural Revolution of 1966-67. Instead of relying on courts and police exiles and executions, the Chinese mobilized hundreds of ‘millions of people to exposé and defeat the emerging Party bureaucracy that was quietly restoring capitalism and actively collaborating with the great imperialist power to the north. But while doing this, they carefully studied Stalin, both for his achievements and for what he was unable to do. For Stalin himself had seen as early as 1928 the need to mobilize mass criticism from below to overcome the rapidly developing Soviet bureaucracy. It is also possible that the two goals the purges tuned to meet were mutually exclusive. That is, the emergency measures necessary to secure the country against foreign invasion may actually have helped the bureaucracy to consolidate its power.

In any event, when the Nazis and their allies did invade they met the most united and fierce resistance encountered by the fascist forces anyplace in the world. Everywhere the people were dedicated to socialism. Even in the Ukraine where the Nazis tried to foment old grievances and anti-Russian nationalism, they never dared meddle with the collective farms. In fact, Stalin’s military strategy in World War II like his strategy during the Russian Civil War was based firmly on the loyalty of the masses of workers, peasants, and soldiers.

Everybody, except for Khrushchev and his friends, who in 1956 tried to paint Stalin as a military incompetent and meddler, recognizes him as a great strategist. ‘

Nazi military strategy was based on the blitzkrieg (lightning war). Spearheaded by highly mobile armor, their way paved by massive air assaults, the Nazi army would break through any static line at a single point, and then spread out rapidly behind that line, cutting off its supplies and then encircling the troops at the front. On April 9, 1940, the Nazis, vastly outnumbered, opened their assault on the combined forces of Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, and Great Britain. By June 4, virtually the last of these fighting forces had been evacuated in panic from Dunkirk and each of the continental countries lay under a fascist power, the victim of blitzkrieg combined with internal betrayal. Having secured his entire western front, and then with air power alone having put the great maritime power Britain into a purely defensive position, Hitler could now move his crack armies and his entire air force into position to annihilate the Soviet Union.

The first step was to consolidate Axis control in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania were already fascist allies. Italy had overrun Albania. By early April 1941 Greece and Yugoslavia were occupied. Crete was seized in May. On June 22, the greatest invasion of all time was hurled at the Soviet heartland.

One hundred seventy-nine German divisions, twenty-two Romanian divisions, fourteen Finnish divisions, thirteen Hungarian divisions, ten Italian divisions, one Slovak division, and one Spanish division, a total of well over three million troops, the best armed and most experienced in the world, attacked along a 2,000-mile front, aiming their spearheads directly at Leningrad, Moscow, and Stalingrad. Instead of holding a line, the Red Army beat an orderly retreat, giving up space for time. Behind them they left nothing but scorched earth and bands of guerrilla fighters, constantly harassing the lengthening fascist supply lines. Before the invaders reached industrial centers such as Kharkov and Smolensk, the workers of these cities disassembled their machines and carried them beyond the Ural Mountains, where production of advanced Soviet tanks, planes, and artillery was to continue throughout the war.

The main blow was aimed directly at the capital, Moscow, whose outskirts were reached by late fall. Almost all the government offices had been evacuated to the east. But Stalin remained in the capital, where he assumed personal command of the war. On December 2, 1941, the Nazis were stopped in the suburbs of Moscow. On December 6, Stalin ordered the first major counterattack to occur in World War II. The following day, Japan, which had wisely decided against renewing their invasion of the Soviet Union, attacked Pearl Harbor.

From December until May the Red Army moved forward, using a strategy devised by Stalin. Instead of confronting the elite Nazi corps head on, the Red forces would divide into smaller units and then move to cut off the fascist supply lines, thus encircling and capturing the spearheads of the blitzkrieg.

This was the ideal counterstrategy, but it depended on a high level of political loyalty, consciousness, and independence on the part of these small units. No capitalist army could implement this strategy. By the end of May 1942 Moscow was safe and the fascist forces had given ground in the Ukraine.

In the early summer, the Nazi forces, heavily reinforced, moved to seize Stalingrad and the Caucasus, thus cutting the Soviet Union in two. The greatest and perhaps the most decisive battle in history was now to take place. The siege of Stalingrad lasted from August 1942 until February 1943. As early as September, the Nazi forces, which were almost as large as the entire U.S. force at its peak in Vietnam, penetrated the city and were stopped only by house-to-house fighting.

But unknown to the Germans, because Soviet security was perfect, they were actually in a vast trap, personally designed by Stalin: A gigantic pincers movement had begun as soon as the fascist forces reached the city. In late November the two Soviet forces met and the trap snapped shut. From this trap 330,000 elite Nazi troops were never to emerge. In February 1943 the remnants, about 100,000 troops, surrendered.

The back of Nazi military power had been broken. The Red Army now moved onto a vast offensive which was not to stop before it had liberated all of Eastern and Central Europe and seized Berlin, the capital of the Nazi empire, in the spring of 1945.

It was the Soviet Union that had beaten the fascist army. The second front, which Great Britain and the U.S. had promised as early as 1942, was not to materialize until June 14, after it was clear that the Nazis had already been decisively defeated. In fact, the Anglo-American invasion was aimed more at stopping communism than defeating fascism. (This invasion took place during the same period that the British Army “liberated” Greece, which had already been liberated by the Communist-led Resistance.) For under Communist leadership, underground resistance movements, based primarily on the working class, had developed throughout Europe. Because the Communists, both from the Soviet Union and within the other European nations, were the leaders of the entire anti-fascist struggle, by the end of the war they had by far the largest parties in all the nations of Eastern and Central Europe, as well as Italy and France, where the fascists’ power had been broken more by internal resistance than by the much-heralded Allied invasion. In fact, it is likely that if the Anglo-American forces had not invaded and occupied Italy and France, within a relatively short time the Communists would have been in power in both countries.

As soon as victory in Germany was assured, in May 1945, much of the Soviet Army began to make the 5,000-mile journey to face the Japanese Army. At Potsdam, July 17 to August 2, Stalin formally agreed to begin combat operations against Japan by August 8. On August 6, the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan, in what is now widely considered the opening shot of the so-called “Cold War” against the U.S.S.R. On August 8, the Red Army engaged the main Japanese force, which was occupying Manchuria. The Soviet Army swept forward, capturing Manchuria, the southern half of Sakhalin Island, and the Kuriles, and liberating, by agreement, the northern half of Korea. Except for the Chinese Communist battles with the Japanese, these Soviet victories were probably the largest land engagements in the entire war against Japan.

The Soviet Union had also suffered tremendously while taking the brunt of the fascist onslaught. Between twenty and twenty-five million Soviet citizens gave their lives in defense of their country and socialism. The industrial heartland lay in ruins. The richest agricultural regions had been devastated.

In addition to the seizure of many cities and the destruction of much of Moscow and Stalingrad, there was the desperate condition of Leningrad, which had withstood a massive, two-year Nazi siege.

Once again, the Soviet Union was to perform economic miracles. Between 1945 and 1950 they were to rebuild not only everything destroyed in the war, but vast new industries and agricultural resources. And all this was conducted under the threat of a new attack by the capitalist powers, led by the nuclear blackmail of the U.S., which opened up a worldwide “Cold War” against communism.

Spearheaded by British and rearmed Japanese troops, the French restored their empire in Indochina. U.S. troops occupied the southern half of Korea and established military bases throughout the Pacific. Europe itself became a vast base area for the rapidly expanding U.S. empire, which, despite its very minimal role in the war (or perhaps because of it), was to gain the greatest profit from it. One European showdown against the popular forces occurred in Greece.

Here we meet another “left” criticism of Stalin, similar to that made about his role in Spain but even further removed from the facts of the matter. As in the rest of Eastern Europe and the Balkans, the Communists had led and armed the heroic Greek underground and partisan fighters. In 1944 the British sent an expeditionary force commanded by General Scobie to land in Greece, ostensibly to aid in the disarming of the defeated Nazi and Italian troops. As unsuspecting as the comrades in Vietnam and Korea who were to be likewise ‘assisted’, the Greek partisans were slaughtered by their British allies who used tanks and planes in an all-out offensive, which ended in February 1945 with the establishment of a right-wing dictatorship under a restored monarchy. The British even rearmed and used the defeated Nazi “Security Battalions.” After partially recovering from this treachery, the partisan forces rebuilt then guerrilla apparatus and prepared to resist the combined forces of Greek fascism and Anglo-American imperialism. By late 1948 full-scale civil war raged, with the right-wing forces backed up by the intervention of U.S. planes, artillery, and troops. The Greek resistance had its back broken by another betrayal not at all by Stalin but by Tito, who closed the Yugoslav borders to the Soviet military supplies that were already hard put to reach the landlocked popular forces. This was one of the two main reasons why Stalin, together with the Chinese, led the successful fight to have the Yugoslav “Communist” Party officially thrown out of the international Communist movement.

Stalin understood very early the danger to the world revolution posed by Tito’s ideology, which served as a Trojan horse for U.S. Imperialism. He also saw that Tito’s revisionist ideas, including the development of a new bureaucratic ruling elite, were making serious headway inside the Soviet Union. In 1950, the miraculous postwar reconstruction was virtually complete, and the victorious Chinese revolution had decisively broken through the global anti-Communist encirclement and suppression campaign. At this point Stalin began to turn his attention to the most serious threat to the world revolution, the bureaucratic-technocratic class that had not only emerged inside the Soviet Union but had begun to pose a serious challenge to the leadership of the working class. In the last few years of his life, Joseph Stalin, whom the present rulers of the U.S.S.R. would like to paint as a mad recluse, began to open up a vigorous cultural offensive against the power of this new elite. “Marxism and Linguistics” and “Economic Problems of Socialism in the U.S.S.R.” are milestones in this offensive, major theoretical works aimed at the new bourgeois authorities beginning to dominate various areas of Soviet thought.

In “Economic Problems of Socialism in the U.S.S.R.,” published a few months before his death and intended to serve as a basis for discussion in the Nineteenth Party Congress of 1952, Stalin seeks to measure scientifically how far the Soviet Union had come in the development of socialism and how far it had to go to achieve communism. He criticizes two extreme tendencies in Soviet political economy: mechanical determinism and voluntarism. He sets this criticism within an international context where, he explains, the sharpening of contradictions among the capitalist nations is inevitable.

Stalin points out that those who think that objective laws, whether of socialist or capitalist political economy, can be abolished by will are dreamers. But he reserves his real scorn for those who make the opposite error, the technocrats who assert that socialism is merely a mechanical achievement of a certain level of technology and productivity, forgetting both the needs and the power of the people. He shows that when these technocrats cause “the disappearance of man as the aim of socialist production,” they arrive at the triumph of bourgeois ideology. These proved to be prophetic words.

In his final public speech, made to that Nineteenth Party Congress in 1952, Stalin explains a correct revolutionary line for the parties that have not yet led their revolutions. The victories of the world revolution have constricted the capitalist world, causing the decay of the imperialist powers. Therefore the bourgeoisie of the Western democracies inherit the banners of the defeated fascist powers, with whom they establish a world-wide alliance while turning to fascism at home and the would-be bourgeoisie of the neocolonial nations become merely their puppets. Communists then become the main defenders of the freedoms and progressive principles established by the bourgeoisie when they were a revolutionary class and defended by them until the era of their decay. Communists will lead the majority of people in their respective nations only when they raise and defend the very banners thrown overboard by the bourgeoisie-national independence and democratic freedoms. It is no Surprise that these final words of Stalin have been known only to the Cold War “experts” and have been expunged throughout the Soviet Union and the nations of Eastern Europe.

A few months after this speech, Stalin died. Very abruptly, the tide of revolution was temporarily reversed. Stalin’s death came in early March 1953. By that July, the new leaders of the Soviet Union forced the Korean people to accept a division of their nation and a permanent occupation of the southern half by US forces. A year later, they forced the victorious Viet Minh liberation army, which had thoroughly defeated the French despite massive U.S. aid, to withdraw from the entire southern half of that country, while the U.S. proclaimed that its faithful puppet, Ngo Dinh Diem, was now president of the fictitious nation of South Vietnam. When the Chinese resisted their global sellouts of the revolution, these new Soviet leaders first tried to destroy the Chinese economy, then tried to overthrow the government from within and when that failed, actually began aimed incursions by Russian troops under a policy of nuclear blackmail copied from the U.S. In Indonesia, the Soviet Union poured ammunition and spare parts into the right-wing military forces while they were massacring half a million Communists, workers, and peasants.

And so on, around the world. Meanwhile, internally, they restored capitalism as rapidly as they could. By the mid-1960s, unemployment had appeared in the Soviet Union for the first time since the first Five Year Plan. By the end of the 1960s, deals had been made with German, Italian, and Japanese capitalism for the exploitation of Soviet labor and vast Soviet resources.

From an anti-Communist point of view, Stalin was certainly one of the great villains of history. While he lived, the Red forces consolidated their power in one country and then led what seemed to be an irresistible world-wide revolutionary upsurge. By the time he died, near hysteria reigned in the citadels of capitalism. In Washington, frenzied witch hunts tried to ferret out the Red menace that was supposedly about to seize control of the last great bastion of capitalism. All this changed, for the time being, after Stalin’s death, when the counterrevolutionary forces were able to seize control even within the Soviet Union.

From a Communist point of view, Stalin was certainly one of the greatest of revolutionary leaders. But still we must ask why it was that the Soviet Union could fall so quickly to a new capitalist class. For Communists, it is as vital to understand Stalin’s weaknesses and errors as it is to understand his historic achievements.

Stalin’s main theoretical and practical error lay in underestimating the bourgeois forces within the superstructure of Soviet society. It is ridiculous to pose the problem the way we customarily hear it posed: that the seeds of capitalist restoration were sown under Stalin. This assumes that the Soviet garden was a Communist paradise, totally free of weeds, which then somehow dropped in from the skies. Socialism, as Stalin saw more keenly than anybody before, is merely a transitional stage on the way to communism. It begins with the conquest of political power by the working class, but that is only a bare beginning. Next comes the much more difficult task of establishing socialist economic forms, including a high level of productivity based on collective labor. Most difficult of all is the cultural revolution, in which socialist ideas and attitudes, based on collective labor and the political power of the working people, overthrow the bourgeois world view, based on competition, ambition, and the quest for personal profit and power and portraying “human nature” as corrupt, vicious, and selfish, that is, as the mirror image of bourgeois man.

Stalin succeeded brilliantly in carrying through the political and economic revolutions. That he failed in consolidating the Cultural Revolution under the existing internal and external conditions can hardly be blamed entirely on him. He certainly saw the need for it, particularly when the time seemed most ripe to make it a primary goal, in the 1950s. But it must be admitted that he underestimated the threat posed by the new intelligentsia, as we see most strikingly in the “Report to the Eighteenth Party Congress,” where he unstintingly praises them and denies that they could constitute a new social class.

This error in theory led to an error in practice in which, despite his earlier calls for organizing mass criticism from below, he tended to rely on one section of the bureaucracy to check or defeat another. He was unwilling to unleash a real mass movement like the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and, as a result, the masses were made increasingly less capable of carrying out such a gigantic task. All this is easy to say in hindsight, now that we have the advantage of having witnessed the Chinese success, which may prove to be the most important single event in human history. But who would have had the audacity to recommend such a course in the face of the Nazi threat of the late 1930s or the U.S. threat after World War II, when the Soviet Union lay in ruins? In 1967, when the Chinese Cultural Revolution was at its height and the country was apparently in chaos, many revolutionaries around the world were dismayed. Certainly, they acknowledged, China had to have a cultural revolution. But not at that moment, when the Vietnamese absolutely needed that firm rear base area and when U.S. imperialism was apparently looking for any opening to smash China. And so it must have looked to Stalin, who postponed the Soviet Cultural Revolution until it was too late.

It is true that socialism in the Soviet Union has been reversed. But Stalin must be held primarily responsible not for its failure to achieve communism but rather for its getting as far along the road as it did. It went much further than the “left” and the right Opposition, the capitalists, and almost everybody in the world thought possible. It went far enough to pass the baton to a fresher runner, the workers and peasants of China, who, studying and emulating Stalin, have already gone even further, as we are beginning to see.

This Day in History: When Kim Il Sung Took Power

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BY BRANDON K. GAUTHIER, OCTOBER 9, 2012

October 10 marks the anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), which guides the Korean people to always emerge victorious. – Korean Central News Agency[i]

 Celebrated annually, authorities in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) refer to October 10 as “Party Foundation Day.”  The Great Leader, Pyongyang contends, created the Workers’ Party of Korea on that day in 1945.  To commemorate the anniversary in years since, floral tributes are laid at statues of Kim Il Sung throughout the country; dancing parties are held in his honor; and Koreans north of the DMZ belt out revolutionary ditties, like: “Let’s Sing of Our Pride in Being under the Guidance of the General,” in joyful remembrance.[ii]

Though this date remains one of many important ones in the nascent beginnings of the DPRK, the Workers’ Party of North Korea wasn’t created until August 1946.[iii]  Instead, from October 10-13, 1945, Korean communists held a major conference[iv]—called: “The Conference of Korean Communist Party Members and Enthusiasts in the Five Northwestern Provinces”—as a first effort towards creating an organization independent from the newly reformed Korean Communist Party (KCP) in Seoul.[v]  The KCP had initially dispatched Hyon Chun-hyok, a prominent communist originally from Pyongyang, to create a subordinate bureau of the party in northern Korea.  Hyon, however, was murdered while riding shotgun (poor choice of words?) in a truck on September 28.[vi]  Curiously, Cho Man-sik, a widely recognized Christian nationalist leader, was left unharmed in the seat next to him.[vii]

During the October conference that followed, Kim Il Sung emerged as a political force for the first time.  On the thirteenth, the fourth and final day of that event, he played a leading role in the formation of the “North Korea Branch Bureau of the KCP”—a body that would quickly become autonomous from the party center in Seoul.  And while Kim was not initially elected chairman of the new bureau, in a little over two months he would find himself atop the organization.[viii]  The previous chairman, Kim Yong-bom, “died later during a simple operation on a stomach tumor.”[ix]

The Great Leader himself had only just returned to Korea from the Soviet Union.  Wearing the uniform of a Soviet army major—or was it a captain’s—Kim reentered his homeland on a Soviet ship, the Pugachev, at the port of Wonsan on September 19, 1945.  He and sixty partisan loyalists had at first attempted to return across Manchuria but, instead, travelled by ship from Vladivostok after learning that Soviet forces had destroyed the bridge across the Yalu River in Sinuiju.[x]

Clad in a foreign uniform, it might have seemed an ignominious return, but a few facts are important to note about the fresh-faced Kim Il Sung that disembarked on the east coast of Korea at only 33 years of age: he was a seasoned guerilla fighter; he had heroically endured hardships and risked his life in the struggle against the Japanese in Manchuria.[xi]

In fact, by the time Kim Il Sung was just 17 years old in that region, Japanese authorities had already imprisoned him for a short time for subversive activities.  Within two years of his release from jail, Kim had adopted the nom de guerre, Il Sung—bidding farewell to his given name, Song-Ju—and squeezed a rifle trigger in combat against a patrol of Japan’s “Manchukuo” puppet government.[xii]  His memoirs, so often filled with hagiographic nonsense, recall that all-important first moment with penetrating nostalgia: ‘I was so tense and excited that I could feel my heart beating.’[xiii]

Years later in early 1941, when Kim Il Sung and a handful of guerillas crossed into the Soviet Union to the west of Vladivostok, it was out of sheer desperation.  The Northeast Anti-Japanese United Army, an organization formed by the Chinese Communist Party, which Kim served in as only one of many Korean officers, was thoroughly decimated by strident Japanese manhunts.  Only after the death of his “superior and mentor,” Wei Zhengmin—a man who used to make him naengmyon (delicious buckwheat noodles served in a cold broth)—is it said that the future North Korean leader accepted the necessity of fleeing to the Soviet Union.[xiv]  There, he received an appointment as an officer in the Soviet Union’s 88th International Division, restored his health, and fathered two sons, Kim Jong-il and the ill-fated Kim Pyong-il, with his new wife: Kim Chong-suk.

And so, returning to Korea in September 1945, Kim Il Sung must have felt entitled to play some important role in the future of his country.  Having gained the good graces of the Soviet authorities, he wasted no time going about it.  On October 14, 1945, the day after he helped establish the North Korea Branch Bureau, Kim was introduced to the Korean people at a Soviet-held rally—entitled a “‘reception for the triumphant return of General Kim Il Sung.’”[xv]  In front of approximately 70,000 people, the widely known nationalist Christian leader, Cho Man-sik, introduced the future President of the DPRK.[xvi]  As the guerilla fighter—turned Soviet army major—turned Korean liberator extraordinaire—took the stage, a row of Soviet officers literally backed him.  Many in the crowd were already familiar with his daring exploits.[xvii]

Yet, as he spoke, dismay surged among the listeners: who was this deceptively fresh-faced man?  Was this individual really the famed guerilla that survived so many encounters with the Japanese?  How could this young man hope to claim leadership over thousands of others that had also resisted the Japanese occupiers?

So yes—Kim Il Sung had an image problem in those first consequential days after October 10, 1945.  But it didn’t matter very long.  As the Soviet propaganda machine geared up behind him, Kim proved extraordinarily adept at utilizing his Soviet-backing and political wiliness to forestall and outmaneuver other rival factions.  By June 1949 when the Workers’ Party of Korea, as we know it, finally emerged in the years after the October conference, Kim Il Sung was the undisputed leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.[xviii]


NOTES

[i] “Founder of WPK,” Korean Central News Agency (Hereafter KCNA), October 10, 2011. Articles from the Korean Central News Agency can be accessed at: http://www.kcna.co.jp/index-e.htm

[ii] See: “Floral Tribute Paid,” KCNA, October 10, 2011. “Dancing Parties Celebrate WPK Anniversary,” KCNA, October 10, 2011.

[iii] Charles Armstrong, The North Korean Revolution, 1945-1950 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003), 58 & n. 91, 66.  The Workers’ Party of North Korea was established from August 28-30, 1946 after the northern branch of the Korean Communist Party and the New People’s Party joined together.

[iv] The conference overlapped with a meeting of delegates from Interim People’s Committees in Pyongyang from October 8-10, 1945.  People’s Committees, created on the initiative of Koreans at the Provincial, County, City, and Township levels, were local and regional governments established after the departure of the Japanese.  See: Bruce Cumings, The Origins of the Korean War, Vol. 1 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1981), 391-395.

[v] Ibid.  The Korean Communist Party was founded in April 1925 by Pak Hon-yong but withered away as a formal organization in the late 1920s and early 1930s as a result of Japanese persecution and internal infighting.  After the defeat of Japan in August 1945, the party was quickly reformed under the leadership of Pak.  See: Dae-Sook Suh, Kim Il Sung: The North Korean Leader (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), 69.

[vi] Ibid., 69-70. Hyon Chun-hyok and Cho Man-sik had just met with Soviet Major General Andrei A. Romanenko, the leader of the Soviet civil administration in northern Korea.

[vii] As Dae-Sook Suh states, “…it is unlikely that he [Kim Il Sung] was involved in the plot to eliminate Hyon…Political assassination was common in both North and South Korea shortly after the liberation,” Kim Il Sung: The North Korean Leader, 70.

[viii] Some scholars, such as Chin O. Chung, do not accept that Kim Il Sung was not elected chairman of the branch in October.  For a succinct discussion of this issue: see: Jacques L. Fuqua, Jr., Nuclear Endgame: The Need for Engagement With North Korea(Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007), 174 n. 14.

[ix] Dae-Sook Suh, Kim Il Sung: The North Korean Leader, 71.  Other than the odd circumstances surrounding Kim Yong-bom’s death, no evidence exists that he was assassinated.

[x] Bradley K. Martin, Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2004). 51. Dae-Sook Suh, Kim Il Sung: The North Korean Leader, 50.

[xi] Dae-Sook Suh goes into great detail about Kim’s guerilla past to discern fact from fiction, see: The North Korean Leader, 15-57.

[xii] Bradley K. Martin, Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader, 29-32. Dae-Sook Suh, The North Korean Leader, 6-8.

[xiii] Kim Il Sung, With the Century, Vol. 2 (Pyongyang: Foreign Language Publishing House, 1992), 324-326. Quoted and cited in Martin, Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader, 31-32.

[xiv] Dae-Sook Suh, The North Korean Leader, 47.

[xv] Quoted in Martin, Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader, 52.

[xvi] Cho later refused to accept a Soviet trusteeship of northern Korea and was placed under house arrest on January 5, 1946.  He was eventually executed in October 1950 as DPRK troops evacuated Pyongyang during the Korean War.  See: Armstrong, The North Korean Revolution, 1945-1950, 120-123.

[xvii] Robert Scalapino and Chong-Sik Lee, Communism in Korea, Vol. 1 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972), 324-325, 338. Bruce Cumings, The Origins of the Korean War, Vol. 1, 397-403. Martin, Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader, 52. A firsthand account of the speech from O Yong-jin’s “An Eye Witness Report”—cited by Scalapino & Lee, Cumings, and Martin—states that Kim had “‘a haircut like a Chinese waiter’” and spoke in “‘a monotonous, plain, and duck-like voice’”; the speech caused “‘an electrifying sense of distrust, disappointment, discontent, and anger.’”  Bruce Cumings, however, rejects the integrity of this “anticommunist account,” stating: “I heard similar accounts from Koreans in the south who claimed to have attended the same meeting; there is no way to verify such impressions…These things belong in gossip columns.” See: The Origins of the Korean War, Vol. 1, 557, endnote 62.

[xviii] With Kim Il Sung as chairman, the Workers’ Party of Korea was formed in a merger between the North Korean Workers’ Party and the South Korean Workers’ Party on June 30, 1949….

Source

Anniversary of the Liberation of Saigon, the Unification of Vietnam and the Victory of the Vietnamese People Against U.S. Imperialism

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A North Vietnamese tank rolls through the gates of the Presidential Palace in Saigon.

Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk, burns himself to death on a Saigon street on June 11, 1963, to protest persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government. (AP Photo/Malcolm Browne, File)

Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk, burns himself to death on a Saigon street on June 11, 1963, to protest persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government. (AP Photo/Malcolm Browne, File)

A father holds the body of his child as South Vietnamese Army Rangers look down from their armored vehicle March 19, 1964. The child was killed as government forces pursued guerrillas into a village near the Cambodian border. (AP Photo/Horst Faas)

A father holds the body of his child as South Vietnamese Army Rangers look down from their armored vehicle March 19, 1964. The child was killed as government forces pursued guerrillas into a village near the Cambodian border. (AP Photo/Horst Faas)

Hovering U.S. Army helicopters pour machine gun fire into a tree line to cover the advance of South Vietnamese ground troops in an attack on a Viet Cong camp 18 miles north of Tay Ninh, northwest of Saigon near the Cambodian border, in Vietnam in March of 1965. (AP Photo/Horst Faas, File)

Hovering U.S. Army helicopters pour machine gun fire into a tree line to cover the advance of South Vietnamese ground troops in an attack on a Viet Cong camp 18 miles north of Tay Ninh, northwest of Saigon near the Cambodian border, in Vietnam in March of 1965. (AP Photo/Horst Faas, File)

An unidentified U.S. Army soldier wears a hand lettered “War Is Hell” slogan on his helmet, in Vietnam on June 18, 1965. (AP Photo/Horst Faas, File)

An unidentified U.S. Army soldier wears a hand lettered “War Is Hell” slogan on his helmet, in Vietnam on June 18, 1965. (AP Photo/Horst Faas, File)

A U.S. B-52 stratofortress drops a load of 750-pounds bombs over a Vietnam coastal area during the Vietnam War, Nov. 5, 1965. (AP Photo/USAF)

A U.S. B-52 stratofortress drops a load of 750-pounds bombs over a Vietnam coastal area during the Vietnam War, Nov. 5, 1965. (AP Photo/USAF)

Berkeley-Oakland City, Calif. demonstraters march against the war in Vietnam, December 1965. Calif. (AP Photo)

Berkeley-Oakland City, Calif. demonstraters march against the war in Vietnam, December 1965. Calif. (AP Photo)

A napalm strike erupts in a fireball near U.S. troops on patrol in South Vietnam, 1966 during the Vietnam War. (AP Photo)

A napalm strike erupts in a fireball near U.S. troops on patrol in South Vietnam, 1966 during the Vietnam War. (AP Photo)

A U.S. paratrooper moves away after setting fire to house on bank of the Vaico Oriental River, 20 miles west of Saigon on Jan. 4, 1966, during a “scorched earth” operation against the Viet Cong in South Viet Nam. The 1st battalion of the 173rd airborne brigade was moving through the area. (AP Photo/Peter Arnett)

A U.S. paratrooper moves away after setting fire to house on bank of the Vaico Oriental River, 20 miles west of Saigon on Jan. 4, 1966, during a “scorched earth” operation against the Viet Cong in South Viet Nam. The 1st battalion of the 173rd airborne brigade was moving through the area. (AP Photo/Peter Arnett)

Women and children crouch in a muddy canal as they take cover from intense Viet Cong fire at Bao Trai in Jan. of 1966, about 20 miles west of Saigon, Vietnam. (AP Photo/Horst Faas, File)

Women and children crouch in a muddy canal as they take cover from intense Viet Cong fire at Bao Trai in Jan. of 1966, about 20 miles west of Saigon, Vietnam. (AP Photo/Horst Faas, File)

Water-filled bomb craters from B-52 strikes against the Viet Cong mark the rice paddies and orchards west of Saigon, Vietnam, 1966. Most of the area had been abandoned by the peasants who used to farm on the land. (AP Photo/Henri Huet)

Water-filled bomb craters from B-52 strikes against the Viet Cong mark the rice paddies and orchards west of Saigon, Vietnam, 1966. Most of the area had been abandoned by the peasants who used to farm on the land. (AP Photo/Henri Huet)

Seen here are pickets demonstrating against the Vietnam War as they march through downtown Philadelphia, Pa, March, 26 1966. (AP Photo/Bill Ingraham)

Seen here are pickets demonstrating against the Vietnam War as they march through downtown Philadelphia, Pa, March, 26 1966. (AP Photo/Bill Ingraham)

Empty artillery cartridges pile up at the artillery base at Soui Da, some 60 miles northwest of Saigon, at the southern edge of War Zone C, on March 8, 1967. (AP Photo/Horst Faas)

Empty artillery cartridges pile up at the artillery base at Soui Da, some 60 miles northwest of Saigon, at the southern edge of War Zone C, on March 8, 1967. (AP Photo/Horst Faas)

Anti-Vietnam war demonstrators fill Fulton Street in San Francisco on April 15, 1967. The five-mile march through the city would end with a peace rally at Kezar Stadium. In the background is San Francisco City Hall. (AP Photo)

Anti-Vietnam war demonstrators fill Fulton Street in San Francisco on April 15, 1967. The five-mile march through the city would end with a peace rally at Kezar Stadium. In the background is San Francisco City Hall. (AP Photo)

South Vietnamese Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, chief of the national police, fires his pistol into the head of suspected Viet Cong officer Nguyen Van Lem, also known as Bay Lop, on a Saigon street, early in the Tet Offensive on Feb. 1, 1968. (AP Photo/Eddie Adams)

South Vietnamese Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, chief of the national police, fires his pistol into the head of suspected Viet Cong officer Nguyen Van Lem, also known as Bay Lop, on a Saigon street, early in the Tet Offensive on Feb. 1, 1968. (AP Photo/Eddie Adams)

Bodies lay in the road leading from the village of My Lai, South Vietnam, following the massacre of civilians on March 16,1968. Within four hours, 504 men, women and children were killed in the My Lai hamlets in one of the U.S. military’s blackest days. (AP photo/FILE/Ronald L. Haeberle, Life Magazine)

Bodies lay in the road leading from the village of My Lai, South Vietnam, following the massacre of civilians on March 16,1968. Within four hours, 504 men, women and children were killed in the My Lai hamlets in one of the U.S. military’s blackest days. (AP photo/FILE/Ronald L. Haeberle, Life Magazine)

Mary Ann Vecchio gestures and screams as she kneels by the body of a student lying face down on the campus of Kent State University, Kent, Ohio on May 4, 1970. National Guardsmen had fired into a crowd of demonstrators, killing four. (AP Photo/John Filo)

Mary Ann Vecchio gestures and screams as she kneels by the body of a student lying face down on the campus of Kent State University, Kent, Ohio on May 4, 1970. National Guardsmen had fired into a crowd of demonstrators, killing four. (AP Photo/John Filo)

Meeting Kim Il Sung in His Last Weeks

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BY MARK BARRY, APRIL 15, 2012

The first (non-communist) Americans to meet North Korea’s president Kim Il Sung likely were journalists Harrison Salisbury of The New York Times, and Selig Harrison, then ofThe Washington Post, in 1972. Congressman Stephen Solarz was the first U.S. public official to meet him in 1980, and Rev. Billy Graham later met him in 1992 and 1994. Little did I realize when I met Kim Il Sung on April 16, 1994, weeks before his death, I would be among a very small group of Americans ever to do so. On Sunday, April 15, North Korea celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of the “Eternal President,” perhaps the North’s biggest celebration ever. Kim ruled North Korea for nearly half a century, far outliving Stalin and Mao, and holding power from Truman through Clinton. More importantly, Kim Il Sung embodied North Korea, a country and people he molded in his image. His legacy is now carried on by the young Kim Jong Un, who, North Koreans are constantly reminded, resembles his grandfather.

*  *  *

I was senior staff in a delegation organized by a Washington, DC-based NGO, the Summit Council for World Peace, an association of former heads of state and government, that arrived in Pyongyang at the time of Kim Il Sung’s 82nd birthday. The group was chaired by a former president of Costa Rica, Rodrigo Carazo, and included a former Governor General of Canada, former Egyptian prime minister, former chief of staff of the French armed forces, a U.S. think tank executive, and CNN’s chief news executive, among others. TV crews also came from CNN and Japan’s NHK. The Council had a prior record of successfully arranging meetings with Kim Il Sung, and Carazo himself had met Kim several times in the past.

Mid-morning on April 16, 1994 – the day after Kim’s birthday – our international delegation was brought in a fleet of black Mercedes to the Kumsusan Assembly Hall in Pyongyang, Kim Il Sung’s official residence. Our minders kept repeating how lucky we were for this opportunity. Inside, we lined up single file and were introduced individually to the waiting Kim Il Sung by a vice chairman of the Korea Asia Pacific Peace Committee. By Kim’s side was his superb English translator, and party secretary Kim Yong Sun, then the number three figure in North Korea (who later played an instrumental role in the 2000 inter-Korean summit) and chair of the Peace Committee. Kim Il Sung stood and walked on his own without assistance, but had a military aide nearby just in case. He did not seem to be wearing a hearing aid. His handshake was firm, he did not look overweight and appeared to be in good health, although his voice was rather gravelly (a Korean affairs analyst later told me this was because Kim used to smoke a lot). Very noticeable on the right side of his neck was a baseball-sized growth, which was benign, but because of its location, was said to be inoperable; official photos of Kim always were taken from a leftward angle to hide the growth.

Official Meeting Photo

Official Meeting Photo

After our official greetings, we were brought before a huge mural in the main lobby of the palace for our official photos. They were taken in two groups: the former heads of state and government and other senior members of the delegation, and the journalists. As with other visitors to the palace, we later each received a copy of the official photo with the date gold-stamped.

We were then escorted into the palace conference room with a long table that could accommodate two dozen. Each place setting had a pen, writing pad, and microphone, as well as coffee cup and dish of small candies. After we sat down, the window curtains and room lighting were remotely adjusted. Noticeably, neither the translator nor Kim Yong Sun sat too close to President Kim. On the DPRK side of the table were also Kim Yong Sun’s wife, and two other officials from the Asia Pacific Peace Committee.

President Carazo, who founded the United Nations Peace University in Costa Rica, spoke first, thanking Kim for receiving our group, and noting we were a goodwill delegation that had come to the DPRK for the sake of peace in the entire peninsula. President Kim responded that he regretted that we did not come through Panmunjom because we could then better understand the division of Korea (in fact, we had sought permission from the ROK to do so, but the Kim Young Sam administration denied our request; however, we later traveled to the northern end of Panmunjom, as well as a small town by the DMZ that clearly was not a Potemkin village). Kim added that earlier in the year, Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-NY) had come to see him, and had returned to South Korea by way of Panmunjom, becoming the first American to do so since the Korean War.

Kim then began to expound. He said, “We always open our doors widely. Our only secrets have to do with the military. But apart from that, we are ready to open to the outside.” The nuclear issue, which had become quite serious by that time, was not brought up in this meeting, but was left to the journalists. Later that day, Kim Il Sung would personally hand to Josette Sheeran, then managing editor of The Washington Times (now vice chair of the World Economic Forum), a booklet of his written answers to her questions, that included his candid responses about the DPRK nuclear program. The full-length interview, her second with him, was published on April 19th. I do not believe his answers were ghost-written, but were largely dictated by Kim, because the tone had the same unmistakable authority as when I heard him speak.

Kim then proceeded to boast that in North Korea “there are no beggars, no unemployed, no homeless.” He recalled asking Billy Graham if there were beggars, unemployed and homeless in America, to which Graham said “yes.” While this statement seems laughable in the context of the severe food shortages that North Korea would endure from 1996 on, it was not a ludicrous thing to hear about the North in 1994. Flying in on Air Koryo, President Carazo had peered out the cabin window and saw the expanse of freshly planted rice paddies, and said it appeared North Korea could produce enough food to feed itself. Kim Il Sung also told a story about a visiting Hong Kong businessman who had lost his wallet in a Pyongyang hotel with $10,000 in it. His wallet was returned to him within two hours, everything intact.

Kim then turned to what seemed a favorite theme of his: what made the DPRK different from the Soviet Union, China and other communist states. He said, “After 1945, I tried to find intellectuals to rebuild the country, but could only locate a handful. The partisans who fought with me against the Japanese knew how to fight, but not how to build institutions.” The Japanese in their 35-year colonial rule, he said, left no college functioning in the North. “So I had to start my own, which became Kim Il Sung University, and then other schools. Today [1994], there are 1.76 million intellectuals out of a population of 20 million, almost one out of ten citizens.” What still impresses me about his point is how North Koreans value education, are inquisitive, and possess great human capital that can easily be trained to a high-level of professional skill.

Suddenly, Kim Il Sung leaned to the side and asked Secretary Kim Yong Sun for his Korean Workers Party card. I will never forget the look on Kim Yong Sun’s face. He almost turned white, because even though President Kim wanted the card just to make a point, Kim Yong Sun did not know if the request meant something more serious, such as losing his party post. But as he handed the card to his leader, Kim Il Sung held it up and pointed to the large gold-stamped party emblem, consisting of the usual hammer and sickle, but also a calligraphy brush in the middle. “In 1946, I created this emblem for our party. The brush symbolizes our highest commitment to intellectual pursuits in every discipline. Our emblem is unique among communist parties in the world. This is an example of juche, doing things our own way. We did everything in our own way.” President Kim then handed the party card back to its relieved owner.

At this juncture, Bill Taylor, vice president of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, who was meeting the North Korean leader for the second time, told Kim that he had not changed a bit from two years ago, and looked to be in good health. Kim responded, “I always live with optimism.” Eason Jordan, president of CNN International, greeted Kim on behalf of Ted Turner, founder of CNN, and expressed hope for a face-to-face interview, which did not materialize. Taylor praised Kim’s decision to allow in CNN and NHK as a very important step. In fact, CNN’s Mike Chinoy conducted the first live broadcast from Pyongyang during this trip, using state television’s satellite uplink.

The meeting ended and we adjourned across the hall for lunch. We sat at a large round table with white tablecloth, although most journalists sat at a second table. The northern Korean cuisine was extraordinary, including my first time to taste blueberry wine. Conversation became a bit more free-flowing. Kim was asked about the role of his son and successor, Kim Jong Il. He responded, “I am so proud of him. As an elderly man, I cannot read easily, and every day my son dictates reports into a cassette recorder so I can listen to them later on. But he keeps me fully informed. He is truly a filial son.” The North Korean leader also noted he likes to hunt, especially wild boar. One participant asked him if he would like to come to the United States. He responded, “I have yet to visit the United States, but I hope to do so in the future.” Someone suggested he even come to the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September 1994. Kim smiled. Though he likely feared flying, the State Department could not have prevented him from coming to the UN with other world leaders in attendance because Kim was head of state of a member nation.

According to one Korean affairs specialist, in Kim’s 1994 discussions with Rev. Billy Graham, a large U.S. National Council of Churches delegation, and former president Jimmy Carter, he frequently returned to his youth and engaged in a discussion of religion with curiosity. In a sense, he began to mellow, as older Korean men can be  quite susceptible to this; among older overseas Korean men, there is an urge to return to one’s hometown in Korea. This seemed to me to be true based on my observation of Kim Il Sung that day.

After the banquet, we said our individual farewells to Kim Il Sung. Several participants told him they wanted to return to the DPRK with others so they could see the country for themselves. One even invited Kim to come to the U.S. to enjoy sport fishing. Kim seemed genuinely appreciative of each gesture. As we walked out of the reception room, Kim was left standing with just Kim Yong Sun, his translator and military aide. He seemed to regret seeing us leave. We were outsiders, non-Koreans, from Europe, the U.S., Canada, Japan, Egypt, and elsewhere. He appeared to enjoy nothing better than to tell us his story, one few foreigners in the non-communist world had heard. For Kim Il Sung, it was a rare opportunity, to get courtesy and respect from foreign leaders and let them know his legacy. We did not realize Kim had only weeks to live.

Kim Il Sung would see two more outside visitors in June 1994, Selig Harrison and Jimmy Carter, as the nuclear issue reached a fever pitch and both the Clinton and Kim Young Sam administrations prepared for a possible outbreak of hostilities. Carter’s historic trip as the first former U.S. president to meet Kim Il Sung*, defused the nuclear crisis, averted war and led to the 1994 Agreed Framework, which froze the DPRK nuclear program until 2003. Kim also told Carter he agreed to hold the first-ever inter-Korean summit that summer with Kim Young Sam. It was not to be.

Kim Il Sung died suddenly of a heart attack on July 8, 1994. We later learned that Kim knew he was dying and felt an urgency to initiate major policy measures while still alive to effect a strategic change; Kim Jong Il would have been unable to implement major policy change after his father’s death. Kim senior’s meeting with Carter was that pivotal moment, and U.S.-DPRK relations eventually were elevated to where, in October 2000, the top North Korean general, Vice Marshall Jo Myong Rok, greeted Bill Clinton in the White House and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang weeks later. The same pattern appeared to unfold last fall: Kim Jong Il knew he would not live long, and in his final weeks, set into motion policy initiatives, including toward the U.S., to pave the way for Kim Jong Un’s succession.

*  *  *

Kim Il Sung’s official residence became his mausoleum, renamed the Kumsusan Memorial Palace. Kim Jong Il, who died in December, soon will join his father there. In February, Kim Jong Un rechristened the mausoleum the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, named for his father, but foremost for his grandfather, Kim Il Sung.

* Excellent sources for this trip include Marion Creekmore, Jr., A Moment of Crisis: Jimmy Carter, the Power of a Peacemaker, and North Korea’s Nuclear Ambitions, 2006, and Douglas Brinkley, The Unfinished Presidency: Jimmy Carter’s Journey to the Nobel Peace Prize (cf. Chapter 20, “Mission to North Korea”), 1998. Bill Clinton was the only former U.S. president to meet Kim Jong Il, in 2009.

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Book Review: Bruce Cumings’ North Korea: Another Country

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BY SOPHIA SOLIVIO

Bruce Cumings is the Chairperson of the History Department and Gustavus F. and Ann M. Swift Distinguished Service Professor in History and the College at the University of Chicago. In 1975, he received his PhD from Columbia University. Cumings’ professional and academic credentials make his compilation of complaints primarily in regard to the United States’ foreign and domestic policies and his fundamental admiration for North Korea in North Korea: Another Country (2004) especially grating to read because presumably he has the professional experience and academic training to produce a more informative, engaging book about North Korea for the general reader.

Cumings has written well-received scholarly books on Korean history, especially the Korean War. With North Korea: Another Country, however, he does not intend to write for other academics. Instead, he focuses on a readership with little or no familiarity with the history of North Korea or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the Korean peninsula, and United States–Korea relations. By the end of Cumings’ 256-page book, that readership may have learned more about the aforementioned topics, but only tangentially and selectively. Unfortunately, Cumings has written a book sidetracked by his supercilious attitude.

In North Korea: Another Country, Cumings seeks to educate “the reader who wishes to learn about our eternal enemy” and wonders “if Americans can ever transcend their own experience and join a world of profound difference.” To help curious readers, even Americans, willingly enter his “world of profound difference,” the author divides the book into six chapters beginning with the brutality, particularly of the United States, during the Korean War and its continuous influence on North Korea; the history of North Korea’s nuclear program and the apparent intransigence of North Korea–United States negotiations over the former’s denuclearization; Kim Il Sung’s life, his fight for an independent Korea, and the appeal of anti-imperialism to North Koreans and Koreans overall; the history of daily life in the northern half of the Korean peninsula and the DPRK; Kim Jong Il’s life and dynamism as a leader; and the crises in North Korea, including floods, droughts, famine, and the collapse of its energy system, following the death of Kim Il Sung in 1994.

Throughout the six chapters, Cumings basically covers the modern history of north Korea and its relations with the United States to show that, contrary to Western narratives about the DPRK, the country is dynamic rather than static and more rational than not. Cumings’ objective, to increase public awareness of North Korea as a somewhat knowable country and to combat perceptions of North Korea as a hopelessly backward, mysterious country, is very worthwhile and admirable. His execution of that objective maybe well-intentioned, but it is also meandering and overbearing. Often, Cumings seems more interested in using North Korea as a lens through which to contemptuously mention and criticize the United States and whatever or whoever else annoys him; this habit frequently detracts from his attempts to educate others as completely as possible, about North Korea.

For example, early on Cumings notes a 1999 CIA study that according to him, “almost grudgingly acknowledged various achievements of this regime: compassionate care for children in general and war orphans in particular; ‘radical change’ in the position of women; genuinely free housing; free health care, and preventive medicine; and infant mortality and life expectancy rates comparable to the most advanced countries until the recent famine.” Rather than clarify whether the CIA study “grudgingly acknowledged various achievements” of the North Korean government in a vacuum, in comparison to other Communist states, or even South Korea, Cumings appears to reference the study mainly to underscore the hypocrisy of the United States, where the government and the press relentlessly pigeonholes North Korea as “our” evil Oriental enemy as, at one point, the CIA documents positive socioeconomic developments in North Korea.

Cumings does not bother to examine, point by point, the trajectory of North Korea’s early achievements in social welfare and gender equality. North Korea’s “compassionate care for children in general and war orphans in particular” led to the creation of Mangyondae Revolutionary School, initially chiefly for the education of the next generation’s political elite, the children whose parents died in the Korean War. In addition, in contrast to South Korea’s post-Korean War policy of “exporting” orphans, resulting in approximately 150,000 adopted ethnic Koreans in more than 20 Western countries, Kim Il Sung encouraged domestic adoption of the country’s war orphans although from 1951–52 at least, an estimated 2,500 North Korean war orphans were adopted in several Eastern European Communist countries, such as Poland, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia, as well as Hungary and Mongolia. However, the recent famine also contributed to the creation of 200,000 orphans, many becoming ‘kotchebis’ or “ wandering swallows,” street urchins living off black markets in North Korea and/or relying on crossing into the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in order to scavenge for food.

Also, while North Korea for instance, on July 30, 1946 announced the enactment of the “Status on Gender Equality” with Clause I stating, “In all areas of the country’s economic, cultural and social political life, women have the same rights as men,” in terms of political power, as of 2001, women represented about 20% of the Supreme People’s Assembly, all in symbolic posts. In 1990, there were only 14 women members of 328 members in the policy-making Central Committee and the Alternative Members of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party. In addition, in the mid-1980s, North Korean defectors claimed about 60–70% of women quit their jobs after marriage.

Yet at the same time, North Korean women may have earned or earn more than 70% of the male income level. Notably, in 2010, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported South Korean women earned 38% less than the male income level and South Korea had the largest income gender gap in the developed world. Similarly, a Beijing Broadcast Agency report on March 6, 1988 announced a gradual increase in the number of highly educated women professionals in North Korea from the 1970s-80s. In 1963, 43,000 of about 294,000 specialists in North Korea were women. In the 1970s, there were 1,310,000 specialists in North Korea and 463,000 were women with about 220 having doctorate or semi-doctorate degrees. Most recently, in 1989, approximately 37% of the 1,350,000 specialists in North Korea are women. Women in North Korea then, are not brainwashed and incapable zombies for non-North Koreans, particularly Americans, to pity or scorn.

Cumings wants to humanize not only North Korean women, but North Koreans in general. Presumably, as a Westerner fortunate enough to have already entered the previously mentioned “world of profound difference,” he thinks and behaves just as, if not more, empathetically and respectfully toward North Koreans as anyone else. His characterization of his experience at the North Korean Museum of the Revolution, however, perfectly encapsulates the contrast between Cumings’ non-stop moralizing and his condescending tone throughout North Korea: Another Country. Commenting on one exhibit of gifts given to Kim Il Sung by foreign dignitaries, Cumings writes,

“My guide, a young woman whose English was less than fluent, paused in front of a glass-encased chimpanzee, and began to instruct me in a sing-song voice that ‘the Gleat Reader’ had received this taxidermic specimen from one Canaan Banana, vice president of Zimbabwe. I dissolved into hysterics and could not stop laughing as she continued to intone her mantra without dropping a single (mangled) syllable.”

Cumings is considered a “progressive” academic. His ostensible liberalism and unique ability to “transcend” his own experience does not make him a less dogmatic, petty person as demonstrated by his paragraph-long mockery of a North Korean woman’s English accent—obviously not up to his standards. Finally, Cumings presents himself as a person and a historian of Korean history (unable or unwilling to speak Korean fluently) who considers Korea and the United States equals culturally and socially, and in an ideal world, politically as well. Following the “cultural exchange” Cumings describes at the Museum of the Revolution, though, who had the privilege of publicly ridiculing and contributing to negative public perceptions of the “Other?” The young, female North Korean tour guide? Or Cumings, an older white guy with a comfortable job at a prestigious American university? …

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KCNA on the Korean War

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Pyongyang, March 29 (KCNA) — The Fatherland Liberation War (1950-1953) ended in a victory of the Korean people.

But, its consequences were very devastating and disastrous.

The U.S. bombing in the war left more than 8 700 factories destroyed and 90 000 hectares of farmland spoiled.

Power stations and reservoirs were severely damaged and towns and rural communities were reduced to ashes.

The U.S. imperialists said that the DPRK would not be able to get to its feet even in one hundred years.

Convinced of the victory in the war, President Kim Il Sung pressed ahead with preparations for post-war rehabilitation and construction in a far-sighted manner.

In early Juche 40 (1951), he gave an instruction to work out a blueprint for rehabilitating the capital city of Pyongyang. He had a Cabinet decision on reconstructing Pyongyang adopted in May 1952.

After the war, in August 1953 he delivered a historic report “Everything for the Postwar Rehabilitation and Development of the National Economy” at the 6th plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

He, in the report, proposed a basic line of postwar economic construction, the keynote of which was to give priority to building heavy industry while developing light industry and agriculture simultaneously.
The President channeled all efforts to liquidating the aftermath of the war.

Soon after the war, he called at the Kangnam Ceramic Factory and the Kangson Steel Plant, appealing to the workers to restart their operation at an earlier date.

When visiting the Hungnam Fertilizer Factory in South Hamgyong Province, which was heavily damaged in the war, he encouraged the workers there to restore the factory in a short time, mindful that the farmers in Hamju Plain were bitterly lamenting over the ruined factory.

He went to Jangjingang Power Station, Joyang-ri, South Hamgyong Province, Sambong-ri, South Phyongan Province, Wonsan College of Agriculture and other industrial establishments, rural communities and educational and cultural institutions to arouse them to rehabilitation.

In response to his appeal, the workers of the Kangson Steel Plant restored the ruined electric furnace by their own efforts and made the plant operational 40 days after the war.

The then Songjin Steel Plant, too, reconstructed the electric furnace to begin production.

Railway workers opened the train service in all branch lines some days after the ceasefire.

Farmers worked hard to rezone the ravaged farmland and repair the irrigation facilities.

Under his energetic leadership, rapid rehabilitation and development were witnessed in the heavy and light industries and agriculture.

Meanwhile, Pyongyang and other local cities began making their appearances again on the ruins.

Thus, the post-war rehabilitation and construction was successfully carried out in Korea under the President’s wise guidance.

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

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

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Video: A 100 años del Natalicio de Kim Il Sung

Actividad en conmemoración de los 100 años del nacimiento del Camarada Kim Il Sung realizada por el Partido Comunista Chileno (Acción Proletaria) PC(AP) el día viernes 13 de Abril.

Los comunistas chilenos recalcamos la importancia de esta actividad, ya que apoyar a la República Popular Democrática de Corea es parte importante de la lucha anti-imperialista y por la revolución y el Socialismo.

ACTO DE HOMENAJE AL PRIMER CENTENARIO DEL NACIMIENTO DEL CAMARADA KIM IL SUNG

El 13 de Abril en la ciudad de Santiago de Chile, el Comité Regional Metropolitano, por encargo de la dirección del Partido Comunista Chileno (Acción Proletaria) PC(AP), realizó un significativo acto de homenaje a los CIEN AÑOS DEL NACIMIENTO DEL CAMARADA KIM IL SUNG.

En la ocasión junto a los vídeos, intervenciones y a la música revolucionaria de homenaje al camarada Kim IL Sung, se dio lanzamiento a la edición del libro titulado ” A CIEN AÑOS DEL NACIMIENTO DEL CAMARADA KIM IL SUNG”, el contiene un artículo del camarada Eduardo Artés titulado: ” A CIEN AÑOS DE SU NACIMIENTO, EL CAMARADA KIM IL SUNG VIVE EN LAS MENTES Y CORAZONES DE LA CLASE OBRERA Y DE LOS PUEBLOS” y la obra del camarada Kim IL Sung titulada ” ALCANCEMOS LA GRAN UNIDAD DE NUESTRA NACIÓN”, escrita el 1 de agosto de 1991.

Es de destacar el gran entusiasmo de los asistentes, reflejado, entre otras cosas, en el hecho de que compraron varios ejemplares del libro en lanzamiento, de manera de hacerlo llegar rápidamente a otros camaradas y compañeros. El libro en estos momentos se está distribuyendo por medio de los militantes del PC(AP) en todo el país.

Chile, sus trabajadores y pueblos, desde el PC(AP), no nos hemos quedado al margen de los actos de homenaje que en todo el mundo, partiendo por la República Popular Democrática de Corea RPDC, se llevan a cabo en este primer centenario del gran dirigente comunista, del camarada Kim IL Sung.

¡Honor y gloria al camarada Kim IL Sung!

Comisión Nacional de Comunicaciones
Partido Comunista Chileno (Acción Proletaria)
PC(AP)

www.accionproletaria.com

Cuba: the Evaportion of a Myth – From Anti-Imperialist Revolution to Pawn of Social-Imperialism

Cuba: the Evaporation of a Myth – From Anti-Imperialist Revolution to Pawn of Social-Imperialism

CUBA: The Evaporation of a Myth was first published in the February 15, 1976 issue of Revolution, organ of the Central Committee of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. It was first printed as a pamphlet March, 1976. Some slight editorial changes were made for greater clarity.

Introduction

Cuba’s role in the world today makes it increasingly important to expose the class nature of its leaders and the real character of the society.

In words, Cuba is socialist. Its thousands of troops fighting in Africa under Soviet leadership are said to be there to advance the cause of proletarian internationalism. But the American paid-for mercenaries fighting there also wave banners of freedom and “anti-imperialism.” Obviously it is necessary to go beneath the appearance of things to understand what’s really going on in the world. To understand a country we have to ask what class is in power there. And to understand a country’s politics we have to ask what class these politics serve.

The revolution led by Fidel Castro in 1959 was a tremendous leap forward for Cuba, clearing away the rule of the U.S. imperialists and the Cuban landlords, dependent capitalists and all their parasites, pimps and gangsters. Because of this, and because of the revolutionary goals that Castro and those around him proclaimed, many people all over the world looked to Cuba for inspiration and guidance in their struggles.

But the class outlook, political line and methods that the leadership promoted have led to nothing but setbacks and defeat everywhere in the world they’ve been taken up. They have proved wrong and harmful to the development of the revolutionary struggle.

In Cuba, the revolution has turned into its opposite. Cuba today is as much a colony of the Soviet Union as much as it once was of the U.S., its economy dominated by sugar, and its working people wage-slaves laboring to pay off an endless mortgage to the U.S.S.R. The leaders of the anti-imperialist revolution of 1959 have now themselves become a new dependent capitalist class.

The question of Cuba is particularly sharp right now for two reasons. Internationally, the Soviet Union, which is itself an imperialist country trying to upset the applecart of U.S. domination in order to grab up the apples for itself, is making increasing use of Cuba. It uses Cuba as both a carrot and a stick. In Angola, Cuban troops spearheaded the drive to conquer that country under the cover of opposing U.S. imperialism (which is trying to do the same under the cover of opposing the USSR), while the Soviets pointed to Cuba as an example of how Soviet “aid” has bought socialism for Cuba and offer the same deal to Angola and other countries. This combination of “anti-imperialist” rubles and and “anti-imperialist” tanks is key to the Soviet social-imperialists’ efforts to replace the U.S. as the world’s main imperialist power, and for that reason Cuba is invaluable to the Soviets.

HUMBLE WORDS AT PARTY CONGRESS

Within Cuba, the first congress of the country’s revisionist “Communist” Party in December, 1975, marked the economic and political consolidation of Cuba into the Soviet bloc and the formal emergence of capitalist relations into the sunlight in Cuba, after years of being hidden under “revolutionary” rhetoric.

This congress ratified Cuba’s new “Economic Planning and Management System,” sanctifying “the profitability criterion” as the country’s highest principle. It also featured a long self-criticism by Castro for not coming around to the Soviet’s way of thinking sooner, a “self-criticism” in which he tries to justify Cuba’s present situation and bows down so low before the New Czars that it serves as an outstanding indication of Cuba’s present neocolonial status,

“Had we been humbler, had we not had excessive self-esteem,” Castro explained, “we would have been able to understand that revolutionary theory was not sufficiently developed in our country and that we actually lacked profound economists and scientists of Marxism to make really significant contributions to the theory and practice of building socialism…” (Castro’s speeches and other congress documents can be found in Granma, the official Cuban publication.) [1]

Humble words indeed from the Cuban leadership who, not that many years ago, were portraying themselves as the lighthouse of revolution for the Third World and elsewhere, in contrast to what they considered the “conservatism” of the revisionists, and what they slandered as the “dogmatism” of the genuine Marxist-Leninists.

In the 1960s the Cuban leadership had actually become very humble in serving as a Soviet political errand boy whenever it was necessary to pay the rent – for instance, by attacking China and Mao Tsetung in 1966, backing the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and so on. But at that time the Cubans did try to maintain some distance between themselves and the Soviets, if only to maintain Cuba’s prestige and “ultra-revolutionary” image at a time when the new Soviet capitalist ruling class was beginning to smell worse and worse to a growing number of revolutionary-minded people.

But now the Soviet strings which hold up the Cuban regime have been pulled very tight, and the Cuban leadership is to be more “humble” than ever. Today, Castro says, Cuba’s foreign policy is based “in the first place, on staunch friendship with the Soviet Union, the bastion of world progress.”

The use to which the Soviets have put the “staunch friendship” of Cuba has changed over the years. In an earlier period the weaker Soviet imperialists’ relationship with the U.S. imperialists tended more towards surrender and collaboration. Now with their competition with the U.S. becoming sharper and more violent every day, the Soviets’ use of so-called “detente” is mainly as a cover for Soviet aggression and preperations for war – while the U.S. imperialists use it for the same purpose themselves. Times have changed. But it seems anything the Soviet rulers want is fine with Cuba.

Castro goes out of his way to make this point unmistakably clear by going back over th 1962 missile crisis, when the USSR rashly set up long-range missiles in Cuba, and then, when challenged by the U.S. imperialists, not only capitulated completely by taking the missiles out, but also promised the U.S. it could inspect Cuba to make sure that they were gone – without asking the Cuban government. At that time, Castro correctly denounced the Soviets for it.

Now, Castro says, he was wrong for “not understanding” that this cowardly use of Cuba as a bargaining chip with the U.S. was “objectively” a “victory for the socialist camp.”

But this is not the only crow Castro was forced to eat at the congress. Not only should the Cuban leadership have been “humbler” regarding Soviet foreign policy, they also should have been “applying correctly the main useful experiences in the sphere of economic management” in the Soviet Union.

LAWS OF CAPITALISM GOVERN CUBAN ECONOMY

What experience does he mean? That “economic laws” (especially the law of value) “govern socialist construction,” and that “money, prices, finances, budgets, taxes, credit, interest and other commodity categories should function as indispensable instruments…to decide on which investment is the most advantageous; to decide which enterprises, which units, which collective of workers performs best, and which performs worst, and so be able to take relevant measures.” (Speech at party congress)

This, Castro claims, is dictated by “reality,” but it’s not the reality of socialism. The working class must take these laws and categories into account so that it can consciously restrict and limit their sphere of operation and develop the conditions to do away with them once and for all. But socialism can’t be governed by the economic laws of capitalism or else there wouldn’t be any difference between the two systems! Castro’s words here are taken lock, stock and profit margin from recent Soviet economic textbooks – summing up the experience of restoring capitalism in the Soviet Union.

The “new economic system” Castro goes on to describe is based on the same principles that govern all capitalist countries, especially in the form of state capitalism: that prices be fixed according to the cost of production; that the factories and industries which produce the highest rate of return on their investment should be the areas of most expansion; that the managers of these units should be paid according to their social position and also the profitability of their enterprises; that the workers be paid according to the profitability of the enterprises they work for and lose their jobs if production would be cheaper without them; and furthermore, that workers be paid strictly according to their productivity as measured by piecework (which, Castro reported, now determines the wages of 20% of Cuban workers) or by whether or not they meet the production quota set for their jobs – in other words, whether they make rate (this is already in force for 48% of Cuba’s workers).

This is truly capitalism in its full glory. Nowhere is this more ugly than when Castro says that he’s sorry that there’s such a terrible housing shortage in Cuba, but “the revolution hasn’t been able to do much” about it – while later revealing that the government is building 14 new tourist hotels and expanding others. Clearly, the consideration isn’t what people need, but what’s most profitable. Of course, Castro doesn’t call this capitalism, any more than do the present capitalist rulers of the USSR. All the revisionists claim that this kind of thing is just a little more “realistic” version of socialism.

CUBA’S $5 BILLION MORTGAGE

The irony of it is that for many years the Cuban leadership argued that Soviet aid and sugar purchases were allowing them to buy everything they needed to “build socialism and communism simultaneously in Cuba.” Now, with the island $5 billion in hock to the USSR [2] and more dependent on it economically than ever, it’s pretty clear that what really happened was exactly the opposite – the USSR was able to buy itself a neocolony. This development also makes it clearer than ever that the Cuban leadership’s strategy had nothing to do with the working class’ strategy for building socialism – that in fact Cuba was never a socialist country. It raises the question of what kind of revolution Cuba did have and why it was turned into its opposite, so that, far from being socialist, Cuba today has not even won its independence and national liberation.

Petty Bourgeois Radicals Come to Power

This isn’t the first time that an imperialist power has taken advantage of the Cuban people’s struggle for national liberation in order to take over the country for itself. The Soviet rulers’ present tricks are nothing new in the world – although painted red, they are fundamentally no different from what the U.S. imperialists have been doing for years.

In 1898, when the Cuban people were on the verge of winning their independence from Spain after many years of fighting, the U.S. stepped in under the pretext of helping Cuba against Spanish colonialism and thereby seized the island as a neocolony for the U.S. With monopoly capitalism only recently established in the U.S., this was the U.S.’s first imperialist war to open up new areas for the export of American capital and to seize sources of raw materials.

The flood of U.S. investment to. Cuba reenforced the colonial and semi-feudal nature of Cuban society that centuries of Spanish colonialism had created in Cuba. The U.S. imperialists propped up the rule of the landlowners in Cuba and created a handful of capitalists dependent on U.S. capital, thus transforming Cuba from a colony of Spain to a neocolony of the U.S., stifling all possibilities of progress. At the time of the 1959 revolution the system of the ownership of land in Cuba had remained almost unchanged since the days of the Spanish empire, and the country’s one-crop economy had long been stagnant.

This system laid the most crushing burden on the urban and rural working class and the landless and small peasants. At the same time, it also held back the fortunes of all but the richest landowners – the small and very weak national bourgeoisie (confined to manufacturing the few things not made by U.S. subsidiaries or imported) and the relatively large urban petty bourgeiosie.

Throughout most of these years, Cuba’s workers played a leading role in the country’s fight for independence and national liberation, as well as fighting bitterly for their own immediate interests. This reached a high point in the 1930s, when under the leadership of the then-existing Communist Party the working class and its allies unleashed a huge wave of strikes and demonstrations, including armed uprisings and the establishment of soviets (revolutionary workers’ councils) in the sugar mills.

The existing U.S. puppet government was overthrown, but it was soon replaced by an army coup led by Fulgencio Batista. Although though the struggle was very intense for the next several years, the working class was not able to consolidate its advances and eventually was driven back. As some of its previous errors came to the fore, the Communist Party became more and more revisionist. In the 1940s its leadership accepted a partnership in the Batista government, then, when Batista dropped them, crawled into the wood· work, where they remained until the eve of the 1959 revolution. This contributed greatly to the weakening of the workers’ movement as a conscious and organized force, although the workers never stopped fighting their conditions.

VOLATILE PETTY BOURGEOISIE

By the 1950s the petty bourgeoisie had become the most volatile class in Cuba. The political groups that arose from it were the best organized to fight for their interests. Castro’s 26th of July Movement came from the urban petty bourgeoisie, 25% of Cuba’s population – the tens of thousands of businessmen with no business, salesmen with no sales, teachers with no one to teach, lawyers and doctors with few patients and clients, architects and engineers for whom there was little work, and so on. In its 1956 “Program Manifesto,” it defined itself as “guided by the ideals of democracy, nationalism and social justice … [of] Jeffersonian democracy;” and declared, “democracy cannot be the government of a race, class or religion, it must be a government of all the people.” [3]

This certainly expressed the outlook of the petty bourgeoisie, with its hatred for the big bourgeoisie that held it down, its repugnance for the revolution of the working class, and its dreams of a “democracy” above classes. Its practical program aimed at restricting the U.S. and the landlords by ending the quota system under which the U.S. controlled Cuban sugar cane production, restricting the domination of the biggest landlords over the medium-sized growers, distributing unused and stolen farmland to the small peasants, and a profit-sharing scheme for urban workers to expand the market for domestic manufactures and new investment.

With this program, Castro and a small-group took up arms against the Batista government in the Sierra Maestra mountains, while other young intellectuals and professionals organized resistance in the cities. This war won support from nearly every other class except the tiny handful of people directly tied to the landlords and the U.S. Many workers supported it and joined in. In the fighting itself, the most decisive force was the rural petty bourgeoisie, especially the small peasants for whom armed struggle was the only way to defend their land from’ the landlords and the army. Made up largely of peasants itself, Batista’s army soon began to fall apart.

The Batista government disintegrated after two years of fighting involving only a few hundred armed rebels. In the last months, even the U.S. government dropped some of its support for the Batista government, believing that it was more likely that the July 26th Movement would agree to come to terms than that the Batista government could survive. [4]

Just after seizing power in 1959, Castro went-to the U.S. on a “goodwill tour,” declaring in New York, “I have clearly and definitely stated that we are not communists…The gates are open for private investment that contributes to the development of Cuba.” He even called for a massive U.S. foreign aid program for Latin America, “in order to avoid the danger of communism.” But these words weren’t enough to reassure the U.S. ruling class. [5]

Despite Castro’s proclaimed desire to get along with the U.S. government and the U.S imperialists’ desire to get Castro to support their interests, nothing could change in Cuba without seizing the sugar estates and mills and ending the monopoly American business held there. These were the pillars of the economic and political system that had given rise to the rebellion. To challenge them meant challening the whole colonial system and its master but to retreat in the face of them was not possible without abandoning everything.

FIDEL CASTRO: SECRET “MARXIST-LENINIST”

When Castro proclaimed the first agrarian reform law which limited the size of the biggest estates (many of them owned by U.S. sugar companies), all hell broke loose. The U.S. began applying, economic and political pressure to topple the rebel army – which in effect now was the government – and in turn the Cubans began to take over the property of those forces whose interests were opposed to the island’s independence. By 1961, the government found itself in possession of key sections of the economy, while the U.S. had imposed an economic blockade. In April, the U.S. launched the futile Bay of Pigs invasion.

Early in that year the USSR had sent its first trade delegation to Cuba, and Khruschev had offered to protect Cuba with Soviet missiles. On May 1, Castro announced that henceforth Cuba would be a socialist country. Later that year he declared that he was and always had been a Marxist-Leninist, explaining, “Naturally If we had stood on the top of Pico Turquino [in the Sierras] when we were a handful of men, and said we were Marxist-Leninists, we might never have gotten down to the plain.” [6]

The U.S. imperialists used this development to say that the revolution’s leadership had hidden its real intentions all along and came to power under false pretenses – in other words, to find some excuse other than naked self-interest for why they had opposed the Cuban revolution the minute it had touched their property. And they also used Castro’s sudden announcement to slander communism by saying that this was how communists operate, by sneaking their system in through the back door without bothering to tell the masses what’s going on, and that communists don’t really rely on the masses but operate as “masters of deceit.”

The great majority of Cuban workers and peasants were strong supporters of the revolution, and very much in favor of the measures it had taken, such as taking over the estates and mills and guaranteeing small peasants the right to their land (and in many cases giving them more), reducing rent, electricity and other prices, putting thousands of unemployed workers to work constructing hospitals, roads, schools, etc., launching a tremendous literacy campaign, and other steps which removed some of the weight from the masses’ backs and allowed their enthusiasm for change to show itself in action. And many were enthusiastic about the idea of going on to socialism.

But socialism is not just an idea, nor a matter of words, nor just a government take-over. It’s a social revolution, a revolution in the relations of classes so that the working class is not just the owner of things in theory, but also in practice the actual master of production and society, through the leadership of its own Marxist-Leninist party, and the political rule of the working class – the dictatorship of the proletariat. On this basis the working class can lead repeated and successful struggles against the bourgeoisie and in the process it is able to transform material conditions and itself, so as to gradually do away with classes altogether.

This is not the road that Castro and those around him toot despite all their rhetoric to the contrary. They had rebelled against the neocolonial, semi-feudal conditions of old Cuba, but their petty bourgeois position and outlook which had given rise to the longing for a quick and radical change in their status also gave rise to the ambition to retain – and strengthen – their privileged position above the masses of workers and peasants. This only capitalism could give them. This same class outlook also caused them to hate and fear the difficult class struggle and long years of hard work that proletarian rule and the real transformation of Cuba would mean. While the petty-bourgeois intelligentsia did hate the ugly features of capitalism, especially as it had oppressed them, they didn’t want to change society’s division of labor, which had placed them above the masses, free to develop their careers instead of laboring as wage slaves.

In the early years following the revolution, their class position and outlook was manifested in an idealist political line. This line reflected the desire of the petty bourgeois revolutionary intellectuals to see a world without oppression. But it also reflected their contempt and fear for the only force in society that can lead the process of transforming the world, the working class.

This so-called “Cuban line” reflected the impetuosity of the petty-bourgeoisie in wanting their “ideal society” right away and without class struggle, especially without the dictatorship of the proletariat. The Cuban leaders talked as if communism was right around the comer and as if classes were eliminated simply by expropriation of individually owned property.

In fact the essence of utopian socialism, an early form that the idealist world outlook took among the Cuban leaders, is that the building of socialism depends on “enlightened” rulers with the interests of the masses at heart. The Cuban leaders, who viewed themselves as among the most enlightened “saviors” of the masses of all time, believed they could impose their wishes on society. In fact this whole line had great appeal for many revolutionary minded people from the petty-bourgeoisie in this country and around the world who wanted to see a better society but shared the Cuban leadership’s view of the working class.

The same “left” political line stemming from the idealism of the petty-bourgeoisie was manifested in the activities of the Cuban leadership in international affairs. They developed the so-called “foco theory” in struggle in the countryside; acting as the “detonator” to the masses, who are inspired by them to spontaneously rise up, overthrow the old regime and put the “heroic guerrilla” in power.

This is against the experience of every successful communist revolution, which is based on the conscious and organized struggle of the masses. In China, for example, this meant people’s war: mobilizing the peasantry, under the leadership of the working class, establishing base areas in the countryside, and waging a protracted war. When Che Guevara tried to put the “foco theory” into practice in Bolivia, he was killed, the whole operation a complete fiasco.

PEOPLE, NOT THINGS, ARE DECISIVE

Underneath the petty-bourgeois “left” political line and coming more and more to the surface was undisguised revisionism. Instead of mobilizing and relying on the working class to change the actual class relationships. that existed in Cuba, to eliminate the warped economy that imperialist plunder had created in Cuba, and on this basis to develop the productive forces, the Cuban leaders looked for something that could substitute for the masses and class struggle. Despite the rhetoric of building the “new man,” they more and more based themselves on the line common to all revisionists, that things, not people, are decisive; that in order for their version of “socialism” to triumph in Cuba, productive capacity had to be obtained from abroad. Their class outlook insured they could never understand that revolutionizing the relations of production is the key to developing the productive forces. Still less could they understand that, in Marx’s words, the “greatest productive power is the revolutionary class itself.” In place of the conscious struggle of the masses the Cuban leaders sought to purchase socialism by mortgaging the economy to the Soviet Union.

Lenin said, “Clearly, in order to abolish classes completely, it is not enough to overthrow the exploiters, the landlords and capitalists, not enough to abolish their rights of ownership; it is necessary also to abolish all private ownership of the means of production, it is necessary to abolish the distinction between town and country, as well as the distinction between manual workers and brain workers. This requires a very long period of time.” (A Great Beginning)

This is the line of the working class in building socialism and carrying on the revolution for communism. In Cuba it certainly would have meant mobilizing the workers to break down the divisions of labor inherited from the old semicolonial society. This would especially mean changing the organization of the island, which served the almost single purpose of producing sugar for the imperialist world market. But the Cuban leaders, because of their petty bourgeois position and outlook, rejected this path.

Castro said that the main problem facing the revolution was how “to produce the abundance necessary for communism” – meaning, to him, trading sugar for the means of production and machinery that he felt the working class could never produce by relying on its own efforts. And to do this the Cuban leaders’ plan amounted to putting the substance of the old relations of production, in somewhat altered form – society’s division of labor and its sugar plantations – to work at top speed to produce the goods to sell to get this wealth. Now the buyer and “provider” was no longer to be the U.S., but the Soviet Union.

Once this line was adopted, the enthusiasm of the masses for changing the old society was increasingly perverted so that the role of the working class, rather than revolutionizing society, was reduced to working hard to produce the necessary cash. Thus the basic capitalist relation of production was preserved and strengthened the subordination of the working class to production for profit. Rather than a new socialist society, and still less communism, this was, in essence, the same old society with new masters. The workers’ role was to work hard. The Cuban leaders more and more became bureaucratic state capitalists dependent on a foreign imperialist power.

Even the revolutionary fervor and desire of the Cuban people to support anti-imperialist struggles, exemplified by their support for the people of Vietnam, was twisted to support Soviet adventures abroad against their U.S. rivals, as in Bangladesh and in Angola.

Once the basic political road was taken of buying “socialism” instead of relying on and mobilizing the class struggle of the working class and masses which alone could revolutionize society, the basic economic policy of the Cuban revisionists followed as surely as night follows day. The cash that Castro sought could only be obtained by preserving and strengthening the very lopsided and semicolonial economy that had led to the Cuban revolution in the first place. The production of sugar for sale to the Soviet Union became the basis of economic policy, which all the get-rich-quick schemes, “socialist” proclamations and gimmicks depended on and served. And this economic dependency, in turn, became the basis for the further development of the political line of the Cuban leadership.

Sugar Coated Road To Neo-Colonialism

Sugar had been a curse on Cuba. The U.S. had used its control of the sugar market to control Cuba. The American and Cuban sugar lords had tried to keep the people from growing food on the unused land in order to keep them impoverished and without property, with .no choice but to work in the sugar. The sugar lords tied the whole Island to producing sugar for export, while this fertile tropical country ended up importing much of its food. This was the most profitable arrangement for the landowners and imperialists, because food was so expensive, the majority of Cuban workers and peasants ate only rice, beans and roots.

In the first few years of the revolution, as the land and, above all, those who worked it, began to break free of this system, crops were diversified. WIth sugar production continuing where it had been planted in the past, while other land was used for other crops. These were the years of greatest improvement in the living standards of the masses, as working people and material resources that had been kept idle were freed up. The development of some industry was initiated and the construction of schools hospitals and other projects were begun. ‘

In the early ’60s the U.S. closed off Cuba’s former sugar market, so the purchases by the USSR and China helped Cuba out of a jam. In early 1963, as the economy’s advance began to falter and shortages appeared, Castro went to the Soviet Union for talks with Khruschev and other Soviet leaders. When he came back, he had a new plan. Instead of diversifying agriculture, Cuba would produce more sugar.

BEHIND SOVIET “AID”

By then Cuba had borrowed quite a bit from other countries. The USSR offered to substantially increase its loans to Cuba and buy up to five million tons a year of Cuban sugar – more than the country was then producing – at higher than the world market price at that time, so that Cuba could buy goods from the Soviets. [7] The “aid” was the bait, and sugar the hook – and the Cuban leaders swallowed it.

For the rulers of the Soviet Union this was good business. Having overthrown the rule of the working class in the USSR, these new capitalists were increasingly driven oy the laws of imperialism: the need to monopolize sources of raw materials, to export capital for the purpose of extracting superprofits and to contend with imperialist rivals for world domination. They saw that in tying Cuba into their imperialist orbit they would be able to extract great wealth out of Cuba over the years and use Cuba as a political and military tool in their contention with their U.S. rivals.

Like any good dope pusher, the Soviets gave the first samples at a low price. The first couple of years of “aid” were loaned mterest-free. Later they began charging 2.5% interest. Their actual rate of profit was much higher than this. In the original agreement, 80% of the USSR’s credit and money had to be used for purchasing Soviet products at highly inflated prices. (As in the case of interest rates, once the dependency of Cuba has been established, the Soviets upped the ante, requiring all credit to be used on Soviet products.) According to an author with access to Cuban statistics, the USSR was charging 11% to 53% more for machinery than the price of comparable machines in the West. [8] And making this robbery even more outrageous, although at first the Soviets paid Cuba more for its sugar than the world market price at the time (you guessed it, they stopped this practice too), they turned around and resold much of this sugar at an even higher price to Eastern Europe.

This is standard Soviet practice throughout the world. “It is through unequal trade that the Soviet Union realizes the surplus value generated by the export of capital. In essence, it is little more than a bookkeeping arrangement as to whether the profit comes back to the USSR in the form of interest or in the form of superprofits from sales when the sales are tied by trade agreement to the export of capital.” (From Red Papers 7: How Capitalism Has Been Restored in the Soviet Union and What This Means for the World Struggle, emphasis in the original)

But the Soviet Union has much bigger ambitions than mere domination of Cuba. Like all imperialist powers their appetite continually grows and they seek world domination. For the Soviets Cuba represented tremendous political “capital” with which to penetrate other countries in Latin America and throughout the world, by hiding behind Cuba’s “revolutionary” image. Because of the tremendous importance of gaining a foothold in Latin America and in hopes of making even greater political (and eventually military) use of Cuba in their struggle with the U.S. for world hegemony, the Soviets were willing to give Cuba a better “deal” than other countries under their grip.

SELF SUFFICIENCY NOT “CONVENIENT”

The reasoning of the Cuban leadership for mortgaging their countrv to the Soviets went like this: Cuba had extensive sugar fields and mills, and unused land besides. It had relatively few factories, low grade iron ore and little facilities for making steel. Sugar was very profitable to grow and sell on the international market, whereas diversifying agriculture and building industry would be slow and expensive.

As Castro explained in a speech, “To become self-sufficient in rice…we would have to use 330,000 more acres of irrigated land and invest in them our scarce water supply…Undoubtedly, it wouldn’t be convenient for our country to stop producing one and one half million tons of sugar, which is what we could produce on 330,000 acres of irrigated land planted to sugar cane, and which would increase our purchasing power abroad by more than $150 million, in order to produce on this land, with the same effort, rice valued at $25 million.” [9]

Why not take land out of rice production and plant cane, and use the money to buy rice with a good bit left over? This is the course the government followed with a vengeance. In 1964 Cuba decided to up its production of sugar cane from 3.9 million tons to 10 million tons a year by 1970.

All this made perfect economic sense – very “convenient” – according to capitalist economics.

Objectively, this was a decision to develop Cuba exactly as the U.S. imperialists had developed it-in a lopsided and forever dependent manner, according to what was most profitable. It was particularly disastrous because Cuba failed to produce the 10 million tons, but even if this goal had been surpassed the basic effect on the economy’s structure – its dependence on imperialism – would have remained the same. And in this situation it is definitely more profitable to grow cane than develop industry in Cuba – otherwise the U.S. imperialists would have industrialized Cuba long ago.

Even in the last few years, when very high market prices for sugar allowed Cuba to make some profit on its foreign trade for the first time, “economics” still dictated that it be plowed back into making the sugar industry even bigger and more profitable.*

[Footnote in original] In late 1976 the bottom dropped out of the sugar market and the world price fell from 65 1/2 cents a pound to 7 1/2 cents (the Soviets had contracted to buy it at 30 cents). Castro declared that this would mean that Cuba would have to grow still more sugar for sale abroad and Cubans would have to give up the four ounces of coffee they’d been allowed to buy under rationing, so that more coffee could be exported too.

PROFIT IN COMMAND

At the 1975 party congress Castro spoke as though “the profitability criterion” had been unknown in Cuba for many years. In fact, the decision to expand sugar production showed that from the start his government’s strategy for building “socialism” was based on profitability. This was not a mistake – it was a class decision, a basic political step that decided what road Cuba was to take and what classes would benefit from it.

Even under socialism the working class must take into account “profitability,” but profit remains an economic category reflecting the old, capitalist relations of production. Put simply this means that the working class, through the state, must consider the cost, in money, that goes into the production of things (wages, the price of raw materials, etc.) and the price at which the goods produced are sold-generally prices are expected to cover costs and produce a surplus. But the aim of production under socialism is not profit.

Under socialism it is the political line of the working class – its conscious decisions through its party and its state – that determines economic policy, the plan for what will be produced and how. Fundamentally, the plan is based on taking account of the material things in society (the workers, available machinery, raw materials, etc.) to meet the needs of society – food, clothing, schools, new factories, etc. The basic purpose of the working class recognizing – the criterion of profit is so that it can wage a political struggle to restrict, to limit, and eventually to do away with it completely. To base an economy on “the profitability criterion” is capitalism, not socialism.

Neither can the working class build socialism by relying on foreign aid or trade, no matter how well intended. This is because its goal, communism and classless society, is not just. a matter of abundance. But that is exactly how Castro explained It to the masses, as if communism were just a pie in the sky promise of better times. For its own liberation the working class has to lead the masses of people in transforming conditions in each country, wiping out the material and social basis of class contradictions and training the masses in the outlook of the proletariat, so that everyone becomes a worker and the workers are conscious masters of production and every aspect of society. Only on that basis will classes disappear and communism be won.

Self reliance, unleashing, organizing and relying on the creative power of the masses within each country is the only way the working class can break the economic and social chains of capitalism.

DIDN’T DIVERSIFY AGRICULTURE

Cuba couldn’t waste the sugar by letting it rot in the fields, or forget about using it to buy some imports if it could. But especially because not only Cuba’s agriculture but its whole economy was dominated by sugar, it had to diversify Its crops as the only possible basis for breaking out of its neocolonial structure.

In a system where the basic principle upon which all decisions are made is the needs of society and not profit, feeding the people and feeding them well is basic. The fact that the profitability of sugar has always pushed aside less profitable food crops made a lot of food staples very expensive and scarce for the masses.

Furthermore, unless agriculture was diversified and developed, Cuba would never have a basis for complete industrialization, either in raw materials from agriculture (for which Cuba still is largely dependent on imports) nor in terms of developing a market for machinery and consumer goods.

Castro argued that it was much cheaper to import tractors from the Soviet Union, where factories could churn them out by the millions, than to set up factories in Cuba, which didn’t need that many tractors. But again this is capitalist economics. If Cuba didn’t develop its industry, even though this might be more “efficient” in the short run, then in the long run it would always be dependent on imported manufactured goods.

In “generously” providing Cuba with “aid” and encouraging it to enormously increase its production of sugar, the USSR was doing exactly as the U.S. had done – strengthening the most backward aspect of the Cuban economy – its dependence on sugar production. This meant reproducing in a new form the old content – export of capital to the colony and colonial dependence on the imperialist “mother country.” It also meant that the Cuban leaders, by ruling Cuba under these conditions, were fast becoming sugar lords and dependent capitalists.

The decision on sugar was no mere misstep by the Cuban leadership. The example and experience of all socialist construction, including the experience in China and Albania at the time of the Cuban revolution, served as unmistakable examples of the difference between the socialist and capitalist road on the question of developing the economy.

Khruschev, who had led in the establishment of a new exploiter ruling class m the USSR after Stalin’s death, had tried to overthrow working class rule in China and Albania and bring those countries under the Soviet thumb, by ripping out Soviet technicians and blueprints and cutting off important supplies without warning. They even imposed an economic blockade around Albania, while threatening still more drastic action. Despite the fact that both countries were also very poor, and the fact that China is on the Soviet border and tiny Albania is surrounded by hostile states, the working class of these countries had done their best to develop them according to the principle of self-sufficiency and self-reliance, and they were able to resist Khruschev’s offensive, although not without cost.

The Cuban leadership often claimed that the U.S. blockade, the threat of aggression, and Cuba’s short supply of some key natural resources forced them to hitch their wagon to the Soviet Union. But despite whatever real obstacles that did exist to building genuine socialism in Cuba, these were certainly no greater than the conditions faced in real socialist countries. Cuba’s most important resource, the working class itself, was much larger than in Albania, for example.

In fact, the blockade, far from being a justification for reliance on the Soviets,was itself yet another reason for self-reliance: to avoid the threat of strangulation the economy could not be based on the assumption that ships would always be able to reach Cuba.

The Soviet Union, for its part, did oppose the U.S. when it suited their interests and even used Cuba to shake a few more sabers in the U.S. imperialists’ faces, but as the Cuban missile crisis proved, they were quite willing to use Cuba as a pawn to be traded to the U.S. if that proved to be to their advantage. And as the development of things showed, Soviet military “protection,” like Soviet “aid” and trade, meant Soviet protection of its property and the end of Cuban independence.

CHINA-CUBA DISPUTE

An incident between the Cuban and Chinese governments in 1966 shows just how fast the Cuban leaders were going down the road of neocolonial dependence, and how much, despite all their revolutionary rhetoric, their politics were increasingly dictated by the laws of capitalism. China had doubled its shipment of rice to Cuba for the year of 1965, at the Cuban government’s request, but when the Cuban government demanded that China maintain that level permanently, the Chinese government responded by saying they were willing to talk about it but had some serious objections. [10]

China’s aid and trade is fundamentally different from that of the Soviet revisionists described earlier. China’s aid is not investment. Since China is ruled by the working class and not the bourgeoisie, China’s aid and trade doesn’t serve the “profitability criterion” – it serves proletarian politics and is based on equality and mutual benefit.

The Cuban government offered to pay for the increased rice shipments with sugar, and if the Chinese weren’t interested in that, with cash that China had loaned the Cubans to help them diversify their economy. [11] China answered that whatever the sugar might be worth in terms of money, they had no need for so much sugar, while they did need the rice. It was needed not only for their own consumption and to prepare a stockpile in case of war (China had recently been attacked by India, which was armed and backed by both the U.S. and the USSR), but also to supply Vietnam, then at war with the U.S. imperialists.

China’s own bitter experience before and after its liberation had taught it well that economic dependence is a condition that revolution must end, an obstacle and a burden to the people. The Cuban people’s rice ration had stayed the same even when China’s rice shipments doubled because the Cuban government was ripping up rice fields to plant sugar cane – since nee was not as “convenient” as sugar according to the profitability principle. Chinese aid had been meant to help Cuba break out of sugar’s chains. To buy rice with it would only make this situation worse.

Castro’s response was to use the occasion of a Havana conference of some revolutionaries from Africa, Asia and Latin America to publicly lash out at China for “economic aggression.” There he also made disgusting personal slanders on Mao Tsetung and called for his removal from office. [12] In the context of the USSR’s own attacks on China and the polemics then raging between the parties of the two countries over the general line for the international communist movement, this attack put Castro in particularly good standing with his Soviet creditors – a truly disgusting example of how the “profitability criterion” ruled Cuba’s politics.

NATIONALIZATION – FOR WHAT PURPOSE?

Of course, this wasn’t the way Castro presented it. Every step, every measure that the government took was explained to the masses as a step towards “socialism,” better yet, towards “communism.” But every new nationalization, every new “revolutionary offensive,” every new opportunity presented to the masses to show their revolutionary enthusiasm, was in fact guided by “the criterion of profitability” and the class interests of Cuba’s rulers.

In 1963, a few months after Castro’s visit to the USSR and the signing of the sugar deal, Castro announced that in addition to the great estates and the property of the U.S. imperialists which had been seized before, now the land of the medium growers was to be confiscated. Those affected, growers with 160 to 990 acres – about 10,000 farmers and their families in all – were accused by Castro of “sabotaging sugar production” and aiding the CIA. [13]

These were certainly not poor peasants, and couldn’t be relied upon in the struggle to transform Cuba because they were exploiters themselves. Nevertheless, many of these farmers had supported the 1959 revolution because they had been severely restricted by the big sugar companies.

We cannot say exactly what would have been the correct policy toward these growers. The real point is not whether the particular policy toward them was a mistake or not. Mistakes need not be fatal and can be corrected, given an overall correct line. The important point is that, for the Cuban government, this policy was not at all based on how to develop socialist agriculture. It wasn’t even a matter of defense of the revolution. For them, this complete expropriation was a reflection of what had become their overall policy: sacrifice everything to subordinate the maximum amount of land to the sugar mills and make the cane grow as cheaply as possible.

This exact same line – all out to turn the country into an efficient sugar producing operation – came out differently when applied to the several hundred thousand poor farmers. As the people who grew so much of Cuba’s food, these peasants were potentially an important force in developing the economy along socialist lines. But the government’s general policy was not to lead them in the voluntary collectivization of their land and labor.

DIDN’T COLLECTIVIZE

Basically they just let them sit. Some went out of business and some became part of the state farms, and a few grew rich. All this caused this part of the economy to stagnate in small private ownership, and Cuba still continued to have to spend 24% of its import money on food. [14] This was ignored by the Cuban leaders, who saw the motive force in their economy not as the masses, mobilized to break the old patterns of production and build socialism, but as the profit criterion and the “get rich quick” gimmick of pushing the sugar export section of the economy.

The failure to lead these peasants through cooperation, collectivization and socialization ensured that this section of the people would remain stuck in this method and outlook of small private ownership, and that Cuba’s agriculture would not develop in a socialist way.

The state farms formed from the old estates and the confiscated medium farms were in turn grouped together into giant agrupaciones, often totaling several hundred thousand acres. This was a more “efficient” – more profitable – way to grow sugar, especially with the market now expanding to include the Soviet Union. But it wasn’t a higher, more socialist form of ownership than before because the relations of production – especially the role of the producers in the whole setup – was unchanged. Instead of working for a sugar company under the eyes of a few managers, now the mill workers and field hands worked for the government under the eyes of 20 to 30 bureaucrats. And the purpose of their labor remained production and profit.

After a few years, when the state farms needed even more manpower for sugar, the state farm employees were forbidden from having even their private plots, on which many Cuban cane cutters grew small amounts of vegetables and other crops, principally for their own use.

Under socialism the working class strives to make the most efficient use of use of the resources of society. In the long run this means, of course, large-scale, mechanized, diversified agriculture, and at all times the working class must wage a political struggle against the capitalist tendencies that small-scale production engenders. But for a long period of time in many countries, certainly in Cuba, it is neither necessary nor desirable to eliminate all sideline agricultural production, even when some of the produce is sold. It can contribute to feeding people. And if the state farm workers could grow much of their own food in their spare time it would be a good thing, freeing up resources to be used elsewhere.

But for the Cuban government, these private plots took time away from the main business – sugar cane. In effect, the government had become the new landlords, subordinating the laborers’ needs and the needs of society to the demands of King Sugar just as before.

95.1% OF HOT DOG VENDORS “COUNTER-REVOLUTIONARY”?

The shortage of manpower in the cane fields caused a mania of nationalization in the late ’60s. In the so-called “revolutionary offensive” of 1968, when the sugar harvest was way behind, Castro announced that “95.1 %” of all hot dog sellers, grocery store owners, barkeepers and other small proprietors had been discovered to be “counter-revolutionaries.” [15] Worse, these “able bodied men were loafing” while “women went to the fields.”

All of these establishments – 55 ,000 in all – were seized. They were either closed down permanently (without regard to whether, for instance, the workers might need a hot dog stand in front of a factory) or else run by bureaucrats, while the ex-proprietors were sent off to cut cane. Some turned out to be old and crippled, and many joined the almost 10% of Cuba’s population who had fled the country.

Castro justified this by saying that the revolution hadn’t been made just so “parasites” could run a business. But his approach to the question was the opposite of the proletariat’s. In revolutions led by the working class, it is an important political principle to win over the maximum number of forces against the enemy at each point in the struggle and to neutralize those who can’t be won over. The working class, having seized power from the big capitalists, has to gradually do away with the small proprietors in its midst who represent a capitalist element. But the working class’ method in this situation is to use persuasion, not force. The working class can win the vast majority of these people to building socialism and, in the course of this, transform both their political outlook and their economic position. But Castro’s capitalism turned them into wage slaves pure and simple. For the Cuban government, it was a simple matter of economics: 55,000 “able-bodied men” = 55,000 potential cane cutters.

This nationalization was the greatest fraud and had nothing to do with socialism, even though the government might pronounce it very “revolutionary” to do away with someone else’s business to serve its own. Nationalization is not necessarily socialization. Nationalization means simply control of a business by the state, which the bourgeois state does all the time, from the Post Office to Penn Central in the U.S., to the steel-industry and the mines in Britain.

The key difference is which class holds power. When the working class runs the state, it is able to plan society increasingly to serve its own interests and all of humanity. To do this requires the increasingly conscious and organized participation of the workers at all levels of society, including the enterprise level in management and administration.

The masses of workers and peasants have a great knowledge about production and about their overall and particular needs. With the leadership of the proletariat’s party, their knowledge can be summed up and used to formulate a plan to run the economy in order to fill those needs and advance revolution. And the masses of producers can be organized, educated and relied upon to increasingly control and participate in the carrying out of this plan and run society. Unless all this is done, there is only one other way to make decisions – according to profit.

This is the case in Cuba. There are periodic assemblies of workers in the factories all right. But as a top government official explained them, “It is not a question of discussing all the administrative decisions. The thing is that the enthusiasm of the workers must be obtained to support the principal measures of the administration.” [16] This isn’t very different from the kind of management pep talks workers.in the U.S. often hear.

The factories, state farms, hot dog stands, etc., weren’t run by a plan, in the working class sense of the word. Plans were made, but since the general lines of the economy were already decided by the production of sugar, the particular plans within that had to follow suit, to also be based on profit.

But there was one very important difference between the management of the economy in the ’60s and its present management. In the ’60s the managers and bureaucrats were subject to little control or discipline regarding their particular enterprise or industry. In the name of establishing “communism” all at once (and with the freedom they thought Soviet “aid” had bought them), there was no economic accounting for their performance, and little control except for their superior’s orders. This allowed the former intellectuals and professionals who were running the economy to trip out pretty much as they liked with “special projects” and so-called “miniplans,” free as birds, until the bills for this “freedom” quickly came due.

All this was in the name of “socialism,” of “eliminating the vile intermediary of money,” as Castro explained. [17] But in real socialist construction, when both the forces of production and the knowledge and conscious control of the producers are still relatively limited, the working class must use some economic accounting and controls over production in order to better understand what it is free to do and to help check up on its implementation. Again, this means subordinating economics to politics. Otherwise, if the plan doesn’t strictly reflect reality and if it isn’t strictly carried out, then the laws of capitalism will reassert themselves.

While the new managers and bureaucrats wanted to be free of the “vile intermediary of money,” they couldn’t be free of the laws of capitalism and the market. The uncontrolled nature of production under this system, which created very severe economic setbacks and contributed a lot to the failure of the sugar harvest, had to be brought under the discipline of profit.

At first profit commanded the economy through the direct intervention of Castro and other leaders, who ran around directing resources into sugar and other exports and industries that seemed to promise a quick return on investment. Then in the later 1960s the government tried to run everything with the aid of a giant Soviet computer and asset of mathematical tables prepared according to the instructions of a Harvard economist. [18] If Since these methods arranged things for maximum “efficiency” as measured in pesos and centavos, they were simply a disguised form of running things according to profit (and in fact are often used by capitalist management in the U.S. and USSR). By the early 1970s, however, even these methods turned out to be not efficient enough and piece by piece the government began reorganizing the economy according to the same principle, in form as well as content, followed by the dollar and especially the ruble.

The real relations of production, the real class relationships, were camouflaged by fast and loose use of Marxist words. And at the same time, the workers and peasants were expected to work doubletime in honor of this phoney “Marxism.”

“VOLUNTARY” LABOR

In the name of “using conscience to create wealth” and “creating the New Man,” workers were increasingly called upon to do great amounts of voluntary labor. This was especially true in the late 1960s, as growing numbers of cane cutters streamed out of the countryside looking for better pay and conditions, leaving the all-important sugar harvests short of manpower.

The enormous numbers of workers, students and even sometimes bureaucrats bused into the cane fields, however, had little resemblance to real socialist voluntary work, which under working class rule is an important measure for developing society and transforming the working class.

Under socialism when the workers rule and are transforming society toward communism, there is a real basis for people to spend their spare time doing voluntary labor. But in Cuba, the “voluntary” labor was nothing like this. This was because the needs of sugar production meant that people’s “voluntary labor” was often at the expense of their regular work, and because, although many people did take part enthusiastically and selflessly, logging a certain number of hours of “voluntary” labor was the only way to become eligible to buy durable consumer goods such as refrigerators, etc. [19] Many workers resisted this scheme. Productivity in “voluntary” labor was often only 10% of paid labor – but it was still cheaper than paying wages. [20]

Just as Castro had claimed that the increasing concentration on sugar was necessary “so as to fully develop the productive forces necessary for communism,” he also claimed that the increasing emphasis on voluntary labor was also a communist measure. In fact, as many workers were becoming very sceptical about how things were going under “socialism,” throughout the ’60s Castro made increasing use of the promise that “communism” would come in the very near future (starting within ten years, he said) [21] and would put an end to Cuba’s growing problems.

This was a very convenient misuse of what communism really means, as well as pure pie in the sky, as developments quickly proved. No amount of labor, voluntary or otherwise, will change the capitalist class relations, which are the real cause of Cuba’s problems. And the Cuban government was using all sorts of devices – from perverting people’s real revolutionary enthusiasm, to material incentives, to outright wage cutting-to disguise this fact and squeeze more and more labor out of the people.

In industry and especially among skilled workers, wages for a great many jobs were cut, under the slogan “workers renounce gains which today constitute privileges.” Many times Castro has denounced the so-called “privileges” that some workers supposedly enjoyed under Batista (as well as those supposedly enjoyed by workers in the U.S. today). But it’s the capitalists who’ve caused inequalities among the working people, not fundamentally by favoring some, but by paying all as little as they can get away with. The socialist principle “to each according to its work” means that people do receive different pay for different work, because they contribute different amounts to society. Restricting these differences, and eventually doing away with them, must overwhelmingly be done by raising the general wage level-not by forced wagecutting.

It’s the capitalists’ idea of “equality” that all workers should be equally poor, and that some workers should pay for whatever advances others make. This, too, was the Cuban government’s idea of “building socialism and communism simultaneously.” Meanwhile, of course, class differences widened. While workers took a pay cut in the name of building a “pure, really pure society,” high school teachers, for instance, got a 60% wage hike. And on the new plan, managers will be paid for their profit performance. [22]

Even so, people’s wages were not what they seemed. Rent was cheap and even free for some, and many prices at that time were cheaper than before. But by the end of the ’60s consumer goods were so scarce that the amount of money in circulation was twice the value of goods available on the market. [23] Much of people’s pay was worthless because there was nothing to spend it on. (Since then this has been “solved” by raising prices.)

ECONOMY IN SHAMBLES

By the late 1960s the Cuban economy was in shambles: in 1964 after signing the sugar sales agreement with the Soviet Union, Castro had announced that by 1970 Cuba would harvest 10 million tons of sugar a year. This plan meant almost tripling sugar production.

A high 30% of the economy was being plowed back into capital investment [24] focusing on clearing land for cane, buying tractors for cane building new mills for cane, railroads for cane, ports for cane – as well as expanding other export crops and nickel mining for export. After the first two years, sugar production began to fall farther and farther behind the targeted goals. [25] And the more sugar fell behind, the more frantically other resources were thrown into sugar production, with workers drawn out of every other industry. Even housing was left standing half-built as the workers were snatched away to cut cane.

But this plan turned out to be a nightmare, and Cuba’s rulers were in deep trouble. In their frenzied efforts to make that goal upon which Castro had very publicly staked “the honor of the revolution,” they so burned out men, machines and fields that the 8.5 million tons that was achieved in 1970 came at such a cost that in the next two years cane production fell to a new low in recent Cuban history. And not only did they not get the 10 million tons, by 1970 they had fallen so far behind in sending sugar promised the Soviet Union that they owed the USSR 10 million tons. [26]

Cuba’s economic statistics for this period paint a picture of disaster. The country’s industrial production had risen somewhat until 1968, when sugar production began to reach a fever pitch. Then it fell sharply, according to Cuban figures. Steel and shoe production, for instance, dropped like a stone. Non-sugar agricultural production fell by a fifth. (Cuban statistics quoted by the UN). The number of cattle fell from 7 million to 5 million in three years. Cuba’s poultry andmany vegetables remained scarce. [27]

According to the American “experts” on the subject, their statistics show that the standard of living of the masses was slowly falling throughout the late 1960s. We don’t have to take their words for it, because according to the Cuban government the amount of goods people could get under rationing either stayed the same or decreased (as in the case of milk), and even the personal consumption of Cuba’s two most famous products, sugar and cigars, was drastically cut – to have more left over for export – while the prices of many consumer items rose sharply. [28] That the workers didn’t care for the way things were going is shown by the admission by the Cuban Minister of Labor that absenteeism from work was 20% on the average day in 1970. [29] He described this as “widespread passive resistance.” [30]

To the Cuban masses, the government had promised that the 10 million ton harvest would produce the abundance necessary for Cuba’s economic liberation. But this drive and its failure had further enslaved the Cuban people. By 1970 the Cuban government owed the USSR over $2 billion, and the Soviets were demanding more than a pound of flesh in return. [31]

Soviets Bark Orders, Castro Cracks Whip

The 1975 Cuban party congress was a consolidation and formal ratification of many of the changes that the Cuban government has been making since the early 1970s.

First and most important, there was a new crackdown on the working class. Along with the new wage policy described at the beginning of this article, there is now less emphasis on relying on the masses’ enthusiasm and more on plain old force. This was in line with a 1973 decision which revived a system of punishment familiar to workers throughout the capitalist world: for offenses ranging from absenteeism, lateness and negligence to lack of respect to supervisor, workers can be punished by docking their pay-check, being disqualified from certain posts, transferred to another Job, postponement of vacations, temporary suspensions and actual firing. [32]

Individual sugar enterprises started laying off workers several years ago to increase “productivity.” Cuban President Osvaldo Dorticos admited in a 1972 speech that there was some outright unemployment in two of the largest sugar growing provinces. [33] Now, according to the party congress, this practice is to become much more widespread in other industries.

The decisions of the congress established a formal system for running the Cuban economy along capitalist lines. Bureaucrats and managers won’t be so free to damage profit with their fantasies anymore since that is one freedom even the social-imperialists’ money can’t buy. The whole economy is to be run more “efficiently” now, with profit to be made at every step. Workers are to be paid according to the profitability of the enterprises they work for (to make them work harder – which won’t make them any less exploited). Managers are to be paid according to the profitability of the enterprises they manage (to make them work the workers harder), and those at the top are to be paid “rewards for results” [34] – after all, don’t they have the responsibility of running everything?

ROLE OF THE CUBAN PARTY

The Cuban government has learned from the experience of the Soviet revisionists in more than just the “socialist” version of capitalist economics. The decision to finally hold a first congress of the Communist Party of Cuba ten years after its founding is a good example of that.

When the Party was founded in 1965, its role was mainly formal. Since Cuba was supposedly a “socialist” country it had to have a “communist” party. This was cooked up by amalgamating Castro’s July 26th Movement, the Revolutionary Directorate (a student group which had taken up arms against Batista) and the Popular Socialist Party, the old revisionists who had long ago given up calling their party communist and opposed the armed struggle against Batista until the last minute, even going so far as to betray some of the student fighters to Batista’s police. This new Party’s leading bodies rarely met, few people joined it and in general it was mainly for show.

For the working class, its party is its key weapon in making revolution and building socialism. Only through the organized detachment of the most class conscious fighters can the knowledge and experience of the laboring people in their millions be summed up to formulate the line and policies that can lead the working class forward. The leaders of the Cuban revolution got a lot of support from the masses, but since they never based themselves on the working class, they had no need for such a party.

But the experience they’ve had as a new dependent capitalist class has made them more “realistic” about protecting and strengthening their rule. The party they have organized and brought to center stage was created by this class and is guided by its interests and outlook. Its leaders are the rulers of the state, the army, the factories and the farms. Castro reported to the congress that 40% of its members are administrators and full time party officials, 10% are teachers and health workers. As for the rest who belong to factory and farm units, we don’t know exactly how many are workers and peasants and bow many are technicians and managers. We do know from a previous speech that, at least in 1970, the manager and party leader in these units were almost always the same person [35] — and on state farms more often than not, an army officer as well. [36]

But the way we can tell what class a party represents is not mainly by the membership, but by the policies it carries out and what class interests these policies advance. Like the present revisionist party in the Soviet Union, this is not a party of the working class, to serve the working class’s rule. It is a party of the bourgeoisie, to protect and strengthen their rule over the masses.

CASTRO’S “SELF-CRITICISM”

Even Castro’s so-called “self-criticism” serves these class interests. “Perhaps our greatest idealism,” he said not too long ago, “has been to believe that a society that has scarcely left the shell of capitalism could enter, in one bound, into a society in which everyone could behave in an ethical and moral manner.” [37]

At the party congress, Castro continued this theme: “Revolutions usually have their utopian periods, in which their protagonists, dedicated to the noble tasks of turning their dreams into reality and putting their ideals into practice, assume that historical goals are much nearer and that man’s will, wishes and intentions can accomplish anything.”

These are truly reminiscences of a new bourgeoisie looking back on its early days. Their rise to power began with a petty bourgeois revolution. The policies of its leaders reflected the outlook of that class, with all its vacillation, subjectivism, idealism and wishful thinking, impatience for quick change and lack of patience for struggle, and all the get-rich-quick schemes and other characteristics that reflect the petty bourgeoisie’s unstable position between the working class and the capitalists. Their “left” line in the ’60s and its real, underlying conservatism, and their rapid changeover to open revisionism in the face of difficulties, is all testimony to that outlook.

The main idealist form that this took was certainly not, as Castro would have us believe, having too high an estimation of the masses of people. Their real idealism was that they expected that society could be changed just because they wanted it to, without the conscious and organized efforts of the masses in their millions. This was reflected in their theory that a “small handful of resolute men” alone could topple U.S. imperialism throughout Latin America, as well as by their theory that the combination of Soviet money and Castro’s ideas could bring socialism to Cuba, instead of the struggle of the masses themselves.

It wasn’t idealism that they wanted things to change, nor that they believed that things could change. What was most idealist what was furthest from reality – was the Cuban leaders’ conception that they could maintain capitalism’s division of labor with themselves on top, the thinkers and planners and administrators of all, while the working people would willingly carry out their plans without struggling against this exploitation and oppression.

FULL-BLOWN BOURGEOISIE

What has changed in Cuba today, reflecting this transformation of these rebels into a new bourgeoisie, is that while they still maintain the appearances of “socialism,” their experience at running society in their bourgeois way has taught them the outlook and methods of all capitalist ruling classes. They haven’t exchanged their old petty bourgeois idealism for the outlook and struggle of the working class, but rather for that of the bourgeoisie itself. They still use rhetoric and illusions as a prop to their rule but now rely on the “discipline of the market” to make the workers work backed up by all the coercion and outright force at their disposal.

“They grabbed, now let me have a go, too.” This was how Lenin described the outlook of the petty bourgeoisie towards Russia’s overthrown rulers. This applies to Cuba’s petty bourgeois leaders. For them the victory over the imperialists and their Cuban overseers was not an opportunity to transform the conditions that gave rise to the neocolonial system. Instead they increasingly became replacements, in a new form, for those they had overthrown. On the basis of their own class outlook, and with the conditions so readily supplied by the Soviet revisionists, these once petty-bourgeois rebels have become a full-blown comprador bourgeoisie-dependent on the Soviet imperialists.

Cuba’s trade figures with the Soviet bloc for the last few years are almost the same as they once were with the U.S. Exports still make up a third of the island’s production (and most of that is sugar), with the bulk of these products going to the Soviet bloc. [38]

While fertile land is tied down in the production of sugar, food remains on the long list of things which Cuba must purchase from abroad. This fact is a constant drag on its development. The Cuban debt to the USSR is now over $5 billion, and to pay that back it is now planning to put even greater efforts into increasing sugar production. Recently the Cubans joined the CMEA,which has been the main vehicle for Soviet economic domination of East Europe. This endless cycle of dependency, debt and yet more dependency, and the one crop economy at its center, is identical to that which ties many other Latin American countries to the U.S.

CUBA’S POLITICAL ROLE

These are the imperialist economics which dictate Cuba’s present political role in the world – its role as a tool, a puppet, used by Soviet social-imperialism to advance its interests everywhere.

For the Soviets, Cuba is a long-term investment with far greater profits expected than simply immediate economic benefit. It is even conceivable that the USSR could lose money, in the short run, on its investments. But this would not affect Cuba’s colonial dependence on the Soviet Union. Imperialist powers often subordinate their immediate profit in any particular country to their overall policies. A good example of this is Israel, where the U.S. has poured in billions of dollars, more than it could ever hope to squeeze out of control of the Israeli economy alone. Israel’s real value to the U.S. is primarily as a political and military tool with which to protect its vast holdings in the Middle East.

The Soviet imperialists certainly expect to return a monetary profit on their Cuban investment. But Cuba’s real value for them now is that, dressed in the revolutionary garb of anti-U.S. imperialism, it is a key tool in the Soviets’ drive to replace the world domination of U.S. imperialism with its own – all in the name of revolution and communism.

“REVOLUTIONARY” CREDENTIALS

As a country which has made a revolution against the U.S. and has consistently tried to enhance its “revolutionary” credentials, Cuba is able to advance the Soviet imperialists’ cause in many areas where the USSR can’t act so openly in its own name.

Part of Cuba’s service is to provide a cover and to counterattack against exposure and denunciation of the Soviet imperialists: to call things their opposite and hide their real nature.

Cuba was particularly valuable for this at the Conference of Non-Aligned Countries in Algeria in 1973, when Cambodia’s Prince Sihanouk denounced the USSR as an accomplice in the U.S. aggression against Cambodia. Castro stood up and launched an attack on Sihanouk and others and spouted an embittered defense of the Soviets, whom he portrayed as the staunch and natural ally of the oppressed countries.

Today, the Cuban leaders are playing this theme still louder and more shamelessly than before. At the 1975 party congress, Castro said “no true revolutionary, in any part of the world, will ever regret that the USSR is powerful, because if that power did not exist … the people who fought for liberation in the last 30 years would have had no place from which to receive decisive help … and all the small, underdeveloped nations – of which there are many – would have been turned into colonies once more.”

The message behind this is loud and clear: underdeveloped countries cannot win liberation without depending on the Soviet Union. This call for the world to follow the “Cuban model” is a very important service to the Soviet rulers who are trying to pervert the struggles of the oppressed against U.S. imperialism to serve their own purpose of replacing the U.S. as the world’s biggest exploiters and oppressors.

But of course the Soviet rulers are not fundamentally counting on Castro’s speeches to advance their interests. More and more, like the U.S. imperialists, they are counting on guns. And, here too, the Cuban leaders have seen the light of Soviet “realism.”

ARMED INTERVENTION IN ANGOLA

These days instead of spreading the line of “guerrilla focos” to substitute for the masses’ own struggle for liberation, now Cuba is sending its soldiers riding in on Soviet tanks and planes.

The thousands of Cuban troops accompanying the Soviet tanks in Angola are only one of the many payments the Cuban ruling class will be expected to make to its Soviet masters on the practical front.

Not only do the social-imperialists use Cuban troops to try to bring Angola under their heel. They try to sell it all as “proletarian internationalism” and they go so far as to portray Cuba as an example of what great blessings are in store for other countries if only they tie their future to the Soviet Union and its “aid.” But the fact that thousands of Cuban soldiers are sent to fight and die as pawns in this counterrevolutionary crime is a tremendous exposure of Soviet imperialism, which no amount of words can hide.

The Soviet imperialists say that the working class and masses of people are destined to remain in chains unless they receive Soviet “aid” and submit to Soviet control. The U.S. imperialists, whose own economic and military aid has long been used to enslave and reenforce the bonds of oppression of many peoples, say the same thing from their angle-if the oppressed and exploited of a country dare rise up against U.S. “protection” and plunder they are sure to fall prey to the Soviet jackals.

But the most important lesson to be learned from the failure of the Cuban revolution is just the opposite of this imperialist logic. The masses of people in each country can free themselves, and advance the cause of freeing all humanity only by relying mainly on their own efforts and not the “aid”of the world’s exploiters – by taking the road of proletarian revolution.

SOURCES

[1] Granma. Jan. 4, 1976.

[2] John E. Cooney, Wall Street Journal, Dec. 16, 1974.

[3] “Program Manifesto of the 26th of July Movement,” in Cuba In Revolution, Rolando E. Bonachea and Nelson P.Valdes, Editors. New York, 1972.

[4] U.S. Ambassador to Cuba E, T. Smith, The Fourth Floor, New York, 1962,

[5] Hispanic-American Report, May 1959.

[6] Revolucion (organ of the 26th of July Movement), Dec, 22, 1961,

[7] Edward Boorstein, The Economic Transformation of Cuba, New York, 1968.

[8] Jaime Suchlicki, Cuba, Castro and Revolution. Coral Gables, 1972.

[9] Granma. Jan. 3, 1966.

[10] Peking Review, Jan. 14, 1966.

[11] Granma, Feb, 5, 1966.

[12] Speech of March 13, 1966, Quoted in Hugh Thomas, Cuba. New York, 1971.

[13] Leo Huberman and Paul M. Sweezy, Socialism in Cuba, New York, 1969,

[14] Cuban government statistics cited by Erik N. Baklanoff, “International Economic Relations,” in Revolutionary Change in Cuba, Carmelo Meso-Lago, ed., Pittsburgh, 1971.

[15] Speech of March 13, 1968.

[16] Speech by Armando Hart, Organization Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba. Granma,Oct. 5, 1969.

[17] Speech at ANAP Conference of May 1967, cited in Thomas, op. cit.

[18] W. Leontief, “Notes on a Visit to Cuba.” New York Review of Books, Aug. 21,1966.

[19] Roberto E. Hernandez and Carmelo Mesa-Lago , “Labor Organization and Wages,” in Revolutionary Change in Cuba.

[20] Carmelo Mesa-Lago, “Economic Significance of Unpaid Labor,” in Cuba in Revolution.

[21] Speech of Sept. 28, 1966.

[22] Castro’s report to the 1975 Party Congress.

[23] “Let’s Fight Absenteeism and Fight It Completely,” Granma, Nov. 9, 1969.

[24] Figure given by Castro in speech of March 12, 1968.

[25] Carmelo Mesa-Lago and Luc Zephirin, “Central Planning,” in Revolutionary Change in Cuba.

[26] Carmelo Mesa-Lago, Cuba in the Seventies, Albuquerque, 1974.

[27] Statistics from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization taken from Cuban government reports, and also from various Cuban government figures’ speeches. Cited by Mesa-Lago, Cuba in the Seventies.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Speech by Labor Minister Jorge Risquet, Granma, Sept. 20, 1970.

[30] 1970 speech by Risquet cited by Jaime Suchlicki, Cuba From Columbus to Castro, New York, 1974.

[31] Carmelo Mesa-Lago “Economic Policies and Growth,” in Revolutionary Change in Cuba. U.S. government figures are higher. See also U.S.Government Official Area Handbook on Cuba, 1973.

[32] These are the provisions of the labor law of 1965, which was not completely enforced until after the congress of the Cuba Trade Union Federation (CTC) in 1973. Law quoted by Hernandez and Mesa-Lago op. cit.

[33] Mesa-Lago, Cuba in the Seventies.

[34] Castro’s report to the Party Congress.

[35] Risquet, speech of July 31, 1970.

[36] Renee Dumont, Is Cuba Socialist? New York, 1974.

[37] Granma, Sept. 20, 1970.

[38] Castro’s report to the Party Congress.

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.

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Peking Review on Environment and Development

Environment and Development
by Chu Ko-ping
Peking Review
May 14, 1976, p. 19

The question of environment and development is of common concern to various countries in the world. The numerous developing countries are speeding up the development of their national economies and, in the course of such development, are protecting and improving the environment so that economic development and environmental protection can be co-ordinated with each other. This is a question of special concern to the developing countries and their people.

The question of environmental pollution and its damages has cropped up in many areas of the world. Pollution has become a scourge of society in some countries with highly developed economies. What is the root cause of environmental pollution and damage? The main social cause of environmental pollution and its damages lies in the fact that, as a result of the development of capitalism into imperialism, the monopoly capitalist groups, in their quest for big profits, are unscrupulously plundering the natural resources and disposing of harmful substances at will, thereby polluting and poisoning the environment. The developing countries also face certain questions concerning the environmental pollution and damage. But their environmental question is different in nature from that in the developed countries. Over a long period in the past, the colonialists and imperialists dominated the Asian, African and Latin American regions by various means, controlling their economic lifelines, carrying out savage plunder and ruthless exploitation, and engaging in indiscriminate development and utilization of natural resources, thereby wreaking serious havoc on their national economies and natural environment. This is the root cause of the poverty and backwardness of the developing countries and of the damage to their environment. In the face of superpower hegemonism, this state of affairs has become even more serious in these regions.

Now some people still regard economic development as the root cause of environmental pollution, while others consider poverty its root cause. All these views represent an attempt to evade the essence of the matter and seek the causes of the problem from superficial phenomenon, thus making it impossible to reach a correct conclusion in conformity with objective reality, and leading to pessimism about the future of the human environment.

Economic development and environmental protection are interrelated and promote each other. The former gives rise to the environmental problem and the latter constitutes an important condition for developing the economy; economic development increases the capability to protect the environment, and environmental improvement in turn promotes economic development. This is the interdependent relationship between the two.

At present, the developing countries have a pressing need to develop their national economies, gradually build up a modern industry and modern agriculture and achieve economic independence so as to consolidate their political independence. This is the urgent task of the developing countries in freeing themselves from imperialist, colonialist, neo-colonialist and big-power hegemonist control and plunder; it is also a basic guarantee for the protection and improvement of the environment. In the absence of political independence and economic development, how can the environment be effectively protected and improved? Economic development will be bring with it the problem of environmental pollution, which, however, can be solved only in the course of development, not by calling a halt to development or slowing down its pace. We hold that in the struggle against nature, man has constantly to sum up experience and go on discovering, inventing, creating and advancing. With social progress and scientific and technological development, the problem of environmental pollution can be prevented and solved in the course of development so long as we proceed from the interests of the people and adopt effective measures to this end.

China is a developing socialist country. We have in the course of advance also come across the problem of economic development causing environmental pollution. The main cause of pollution is the problem left over from the old China. It takes some time to transform the lopsided economy in the old society. So far we are still short of adequate experience and knowledge of environmental protection work, which is a new problem for us. Chairman Mao has taught us that we should proceed in all cases from the interests of the people. Economic development is in the interests of the people and so is environmental protection. The development and protection are in harmony with each other. We are constantly summing up experience and striving to reduce and eliminate pollution while developing the economy so as to create good living and working conditions for the working people.

In developing the economy, we should make an overall planning and arrangement when handling the relations between industry and agriculture, between town and country, between production and livelihood, between economic development and environmental protection, so that they will advance in co-ordination with each other. This is an important measure for preventing industrial pollution.

As to the development and utilization of natural resources, we should also make an all-round planning to ensure multiple benefits, pay attention to immediate and long-term effects, take into consideration the accruing gains and the possible effect on the ecological conditions. Our practice in the building of water conservancy projects over the years has proved that by making an overall planning and striving to ensure multiple benefits in flood-control, power-generation, irrigation, navigation and cultivation of aquatics, we can make the best use of water resources and at the same time reduce and avoid damage to the environment.

Geographical distribution of industries should be put on a rational basis, with greater stress put on small cities and towns. The small cities and towns have characteristics favouring the environmental protection such as the integration of cities with the countryside, of workers with peasants, facilitating production and conveniencing daily life. Meanwhile, the difficulties which often arise in big cities can be averted in small cities and towns: difficulties in housing, communications and transport, supplies of agricultural and sideline products and other public welfare facilities. This is also beneficial to environmental improvement.

To prevent industrial wastes from contaminating the environment, we put anti-pollution measures into practice simultaneously with the designing, construction and commission of the projects in our industrial construction. Such practice has proved effective. In so doing, we can ponder over the ways and means,before the construction work starts, of getting rid of the harmful substances as best we can in the course of production, or adopt purifying measures against any possible damage which might accrue from these harmful substances. This may cost more money when a project is under construction, but the cost will be much smaller than the price which has to be paid for keeping the pollution under control after it has occurred, and the results have proved much better.

Will the environmental protection and improvement affect development and slow down its pace? This depends on what policies are adopted. Our country regards the multiple-purpose use of resources as an important policy for economic development. Thanks to the development of modern industrial technology, the natural resources discovered and used by mankind are increasing daily. Discharge of industrial wastes at will will contaminate the environment. Multiple-purpose utilization of industrial wastes makes it possible to turn many harmful things to good account and make useless things useful. This will help to open up new sources of raw materials for industry, expand social production, increase social wealth and promote the development of production.

Agriculture is the foundation for the development of the national economies of the developing countries. Without the development of agriculture, industrial development cannot go very far. Protection and improvement of the environment is of particular importance to promoting the development of agriculture.

Agriculture production, including food crops, forestry, livestock breeding, side occupations and fishery, depends to a large extent on natural conditions. There is a certain limit to the development of agriculture under certain natural conditions, that is, it will be hampered by natural conditions. However, through its own hard work, mankind can change the existing natural conditions and strive to master the natural law governing the reproduction of living things, and create still greater productive forces. On the question of the natural conditions for agriculture, the naturalist point of view is wrong, and the ideas of pessimism and inertia are both groundless. In the old China, as a result of the long years of oppression and plunder by the imperialists and their lackeys, rural natural environment was seriously damaged, agricultural production was ruined because large tracts of land turned alkaline or became deserts. One-third of the cultivated lands were red soils or alkaline, sand-stony and cold-swampy fields and lands susceptible to drought and waterlogging. Some lands became barren. Since the founding of New China,  our Government has given the first place to agriculture in developing the national economy.

By extensive mobilization of the masses, relying on our own efforts and transforming our country in an indomitable spirit as displayed by the legendary Foolish Old Man who removed the mountains,  it has worked with great will to transform the natural conditions for production. After more than two decades of hard work, we have improved over one half of the alkaline land in north China, reclaimed, utilized and improved over 120 million mu of red soil which is sometimes called “red deserts,” and brought one-fifth of the land subject to erosion under preliminary control. With the planting of shelter belts over large areas and the improvement of water conservancy conditions in the desert regions in northwest and north China, more and more oases have emerged. The improvement of natural conditions for agriculture has enabled China to reap good harvests for 14 years running, with the broad masses of the people enjoying a happy life. Certain people assert that speedy development of agriculture would reduce the fertility of soil and bring about an ecological crisis. The fact that China has improved the  natural conditions for agriculture and reaped good harvests in succession shows that mankind can transform nature and create a more suitable environment. So long as the creative power of the people is brought into full play and necessary measures are taken, the fertility of soil will not be destroyed; instead, poor soil can be turned into fertile soil and produce more food grains.

Bloodbath mars anti-Maoist ‘success’

By Sudha Ramachandran

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

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

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

There are different versions of what happened that night.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What followed was a massacre.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Happy 101st Birthday Comrade Võ Nguyên Giáp!

August 25, 2012: Happy 101st Birthday Comrade Võ Nguyên Giáp, architect of the Vietnamese people’s revolutionary military victory over U.S. imperialism!

Happy 101st Birthday, General Võ Nguyên Giáp

Video: May Day in Democratic Korea