Unionists tell Shuler, Walsh of company anti-union hate during organizing drives / by Mark Gruenberg

WASHINGTON—From intimidation and deportation threats to anti-union harangues to outright lies, companies still use a variety of tactics to scare workers into voting against organizing to defend themselves, a workers’ pre-Labor Day roundtable told Biden Administration Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler.

And such company hate is all the more reason for Congress to pass the Protect the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, the most wide-ranging pro-worker labor law reform bill since the original National Labor Relations Act of 1935, the two replied.

The roundtable was part of DOL’s new “Labor Week,” which lead up to Labor Day, Sept. 6. It’s meant to shine a spotlight on U.S. workers, rather than the usual end-of-summer barbeques and frolics which mark the decades-old holiday.

Honor organized labor for the holiday, too, Shuler reminded viewers on the zoom call with the workers.

“Before you head out for that weekend, thank the labor movement for it,” Shuler, an IBEW member, said. Prior to unionization, U.S. workers—union or not—were subjected to back-breaking 7-day weeks, long hours, and often dangerous conditions. “Now we’re organizing for the next ‘weekend,’” Shuler, the new federation president, said.

They’ve got the Democratic Biden administration strongly in their corner. “The president has said over and over again he believes in unions,” said Walsh, himself a member of Laborers Local 223, former Boston area building trades president and former mayor of that city.

President Biden “has made it very clear workers should have the right to organize and bargain. This is the time and the opportunity to move that forward” with a pro-worker administration and a narrowly Democratic Congress whose majority supports workers.

The August 30 roundtable also highlighted workers’ efforts to stand up for themselves, despite hostile and greedy bosses. That prompted Shuler to quip later that sometimes corporate honchos’ actions are the best organizing tools workers have.

That’s what happened at his delivery service, said Chris Jasinski, who’s organizing 82 fellow food delivery drivers in Oakland, Calif., for the United Food and Commercial Workers.

“A lot of guys had had no raises for two or three years,” he explained. They became especially angry when management boasted of “how we’re doing so well” as deliveries “went through the roof” due to the coronavirus pandemic’s shift in consumer buying habits. “But it doesn’t trickle down to us,” he said of the added revenue.

“We want to have a share of it.”

The workers also had to undergo “two and a half weeks of captive audience meetings” filled with bosses’ anti-union harangues, plus “gaslighting,” he said. “I’d love to see these meetings made illegal.”

Under the PRO Act, they would be.

Other workers described other boss tactics which drove them to unionize. In one case, the workers—and the United Auto Workers—appear to be on the verge of success at the University of California system. So the bosses there are trying to force almost 30% of the potential workers out of the bargaining unit.

Elizabeth McCarthy, a grad student researcher at UC-San Francisco said an overwhelming majority of the 17,000 such researchers systemwide filed union election authorization cards with the California Labor Relations Authority. If the campaign succeeds, “It would be the largest student researcher drive in the U.S.,” she said.

Such grad student researchers, resident assistants, and teaching assistants, often exploited, overworked, underpaid, and unsure if they have jobs from year to year, are among organized labor’s new big campaign targets from coast to coast. Besides UAW, the Teachers (AFT), the Teamsters, and the Steelworkers have been organizing the university workers.

“We’ve done the labor that brings in billions of grant dollars” to the university system, McCarthy explained. “But we also have system-wide issues, such as low pay” and “sexual harassment or abuse by superiors.” The survey by Student Researchers United/UAW of potential members showed 60% of the 1,700 respondents reported such abuse.

It also leads to “a higher risk of mental health issues,” she added. “A union would let us address this.”

Shuler responded unions can provide protection, through collective bargaining agreements and grievance procedures in those pacts, against such abuse—a key issue in grad student organizing drives from coast to coast.

The UC system, though, has responded to the overwhelming support, and a request for card-check recognition, by trying to split out around 5,000 of the workers, including McCarthy, from the bargaining unit, using a technicality: The source of the money funding their research.

Others reported even nastier boss responses, which the PRO Act would curb or outlaw.

Lots of retaliation and intimidation

“There’s a lot of retaliation and intimidation,” especially against undocumented people, said Sal Herrera, a Painters organizer based in Houston. And when workers decided to sign up with the union, “instead of addressing the issues we brought up, they (bosses) hired an expensive attorney to write letters threatening to seek cease-and-desist orders and to sue the union.”

The PRO Act would outlaw such tactics. It would also force such union-busters to reveal who pays them, how much, and for what.

And when workers at Sharon Maclean’s assisted-living facility for the disabled in Mercer County, N.J., organized with AFSCME, and were forced to take a strike authorization vote this year—Labor Day is the target date–“They (bosses) said we may not have a job, we may not have a paycheck, we may not have health care. Then they gave everybody in the chain a 10% raise, except for Mercer County—and said the union turned it down,” a lie.

Corporate greed drove the RNs at the big Mission Hospital complex in Asheville, N.C., to unionize with National Nurses United, said 32-year RN Amy Waters. NNU overwhelmingly won the election and now represents its 1,600 RNs.

“At the height of the pandemic, we had captive audience meetings” against the union in a small room that didn’t allow for physical distancing needed to stop the spread of the coronavirus plague. Mission used to be a non-profit, one of the nation’s largest hospital chains recently bought it. The chain’s CEO, Waters reported, earned $27 million last year. Meanwhile, Mission’s working conditions deteriorated, she added.

When the RNs complained, especially on behalf of their patients, “the hospital was so aggressive and nasty” in its response “that they turned a lot of people who were neutral into union supporters.

“They were some of our best organizers.” They also succeeded.

Not only did Mission’s RNs overwhelmingly vote union in 2020, but they ratified their first contract, also by an enormous margin, on July 3. Key features include patient protections. A 12-RN Professional Practice Committee will “review patient care conditions and make recommendations for improvement at the hospital,” NNU’s contract announcement said.

The contract also mandated personal protective equipment (PPE) against the coronavirus and a joint and evenly split labor-management committee on safe staffing and to review and vote on staffing shifts.

The contract also bans mandatory overtime and guarantees meal and rest breaks. It mandates training of RNs in patient handling and lifting to reduce ergonomic (musculoskeletal) disorders. It also includes raises ranging from 7% to 17% over the pact’s three years.

“We are proud of this agreement,” Mission RN Kelly Graham told NNU. “It is a testament to the unity of the Mission nurses, and to the phenomenal support we received from our neighbors, elected leaders, clergy, and friends across the greater Asheville community. Our pledge to all of you is to ensure you receive the highest standard of care when you are sick, injured, and in need of therapeutic, healing hospital care.”

Unionists tell Shuler, Walsh of company anti-union hate during organizing drives

Author: Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People’s World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

Source: People’s World, August 31, 2021 | https://www.peoplesworld.org/article/unionists-tell-shuler-walsh-of-company-anti-union-hate-during-organizing-drives/

Michael Harrington’s Failure of Vision / Interview with Doug Greene, author of a new biography of Michael Harrington

Doug Greene, A Failure of Vision: Michael Harrington and the Limits of Democratic Socialism (Zero Books, 2022)

Failure of Vision, A

For readers unfamiliar with the name, who was Michael Harrington?

Michael Harrington was the most important American democratic socialist of the latter half of the 20th century. He was the author of 14 books on politics, history, and socialism. His most famous book was The Other America (published in 1962), which was an exposé of poverty in the United States. The Other America influenced the Great Society and War on Poverty programs of the 1960s. So Harrington’s impact extended very much into the mainstream of U.S. politics.

Harrington was, however, not only a public intellectual but also a political activist. From the early 1950s to his death in 1989, he was involved in a number of organizations. He was a member of the Socialist Party, becoming its chairman at the end of the 1960s. He was also the founder of both the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC) and the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).

Lastly, Harrington was not only a political activist but also a democratic socialist theorist. His theory of “democratic Marxism” was meant to supply a philosophy and strategy for the U.S. Left and the labor bureaucracy. The key to this was the idea of “realignment,” which, to put it simply, was meant to transform the Democratic Party into a social democratic party, one that would in turn create a welfare state and, finally, socialism. In reality realignment was a nonstarter. It has been nothing but a rationalization for reformism, opportunism, and apologetics for imperialism. In other words, the key word in “democratic Marxism” is “democratic,” since Harrington’s ideas lead to the death of revolutionary politics and subordination to the Democrats.

How did Harrington respond to the most important political questions of his day?

For the radical generation that came of age in the 1960s, Vietnam was a touchstone issue. Harrington was detested by radicals in the antiwar movement. Now, he sometimes gets accused of supporting the Vietnam War. If we look through his writings, however, we’ll find all sorts of statements opposing the war. What I think is key here is not whether Harrington supported the Vietnam War, but how he went about opposing the war.

As we know, Harrington focused his energies on the Democratic Party. That meant he saw liberals such as President Johnson as potential allies, and he was willing to play on their terms. For Harrington, an antiwar movement could not welcome communists, break the law, or advance any revolutionary politics. He refused to see the Democrats as complicit in the war. In other words, Harrington refused to consider any concrete action that could actually end the war. The antiwar movement had to stay respectable and within proper limits, lest it embarrass potential liberal allies. Only after 1968, when large swaths of the public and the establishment saw the war as unwinnable – and a Republican was in the White House – did Harrington come out against it.

When it came to Israel, Harrington supported Zionism going back to the 1940s. Harrington’s various democratic socialist groups, including DSA, have also supported Israel. Now, Harrington leaned toward a “socialist” Zionism represented by the Israeli Labour Party and Yitzhak Rabin. Harrington’s position on Israel was part and parcel of his democratic socialist politics, which generally aligned with NATO and “democratic” capitalists, and opposed to the forces of “totalitarian” communism.

Harrington was fervently opposed to the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Yasser Arafat, believing them to be anti-Semitic. With a few exceptions, Harrington opposed Third World national liberation movements, seeing them as potentially totalitarian and Stalinist. Ironically, he admitted that democratic socialism had little chance of becoming a viable option in the Third World.

Harrington’s project to establish social democracy in the U.S. was a failure, so he was little known beyond small circles of leftists. I think it’s safe to say that 10 or even five years ago, you would not have written a whole book about him. I certainly would not have read such a book. So why is Harrington becoming relevant again?

You’re right, I never would have written about Harrington just a few years ago. Both him and DSA were largely irrelevant to the U.S. Left. Since 2016, with Sanders’s first campaign and the election of Donald Trump, DSA has grown to nearly 100,000 members, becoming the largest nominally socialist organization in the United States since the height of the Communist Party in the 1940s and Students for a Democratic Society in the 1960s. For better or worse, DSA shapes a great deal of debate on the U.S. Left regarding politics, strategy, and socialism. And in that mix, Harrington’s legacy casts a very long shadow. So it is very important to discuss who Harrington was as well as his ideas and their damaging legacy.

How do you see Harrington’s ideas specifically informing the strategies of Jacobin magazine and the majority leadership of the DSA?

The founder of Jacobin, Bhaskar Sunkara, has acknowledged Harrington as a major influence on the journal’s politics. At times, Jacobin has welcomed more revolutionary voices, but their dominant politics are very much social democratic: advocating working inside the Democratic Party, championing Bernie Sanders, etc.

Most DSA members likely don’t know who Harrington is and probably haven’t read a line by him. There may be isolated exceptions, but his ideas of reformism and working inside the Democratic Party remain very much the common sense of DSA. The strategies today referred to as “party surrogate” or “dirty break” are just updated versions of Harrington’s realignment strategy. Basically, this strategy argues for building DSA as a party within the Democrats: its members will be elected inside the Democratic Party, and they will eventually gain enough strength to split off and form a new socialist party.

In practice, the party surrogate/dirty break strategy is nebulous. DSA members who are elected as Democrats, such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, don’t seem to be in on it — they just consider themselves Democrats and act as such. Furthermore, many of the advocates of the dirty break, such as Eric Blanc, ended up campaigning not only for Bernie Sanders but also for Joe Biden. Like realignment, the dirty break was an excuse for kowtowing to the Democrats and surrendering socialist politics. In reality, the dirty break has ended up with all dirt and no break.

In Harrington’s time, what were revolutionaries’ most effective arguments against his reformist ideas?

I think the best were provided by members of the then Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party in the 1970s, particularly George Novack and Peter Camejo. Novack did an excellent job showcasing how Harrington took the revolutionary heart out of Marxism in terms of philosophy, economics, and politics.

Novack showed that such revisionism would ultimately lead to forgetting the class nature of the Democrats:

Imagine Marx’s indignation at the spectacle of a so-called Socialist Party divided over which capitalist ticket to support in the most vicious capitalist country in the world! What a theme for satire!… The Democrats and Republicans represent capitalist ideology. That’s correct but it’s rather superficial. These parties are the major defenders of the interests of the big-businessmen, bankers, racists, and sexists who rule the United States. That’s what’s wrong with them. That’s what every socialist recognizes as the beginning of wisdom, as the beginning of action, as the beginning of organization. If you don’t understand this elementary fact of political life you can go astray very, very easily. If you’re hooked in by the argument of the lesser evil, which turns out to be the greater evil once these capitalist politicians are in office, you’ll not only go from bad to worse.

As for Camejo, I think he put it best when he told Harrington that you will never get to socialism by supporting a capitalist party:

I think Mr. Harrington, who’s a Democrat, who votes Democrat, supports the Democratic party, should call himself what he is: a Democrat.

And that means to defend capitalism. I know he doesn’t want to do that. I know that in his ideology he would like to see socialism. We will never get socialism by supporting capitalism. You will never win equal rights for women by supporting sexists. You will never win the end of racism by supporting racists — even if there are worse racists and worse sexists.

There are many other arguments that both Novack and Camejo make against Harrington, but I think these are the most important.

Are there any points where Sunkara and other students of Harrington have serious differences with the old versions of “democratic socialism” and realignment?

In terms of Sunkara and Jacobin, I think there is a difference in that they sometimes look nostalgically at the socialist and communist past. You can see this when they run articles commemorating the Russian Revolution and Lenin. That’s something Harrington really wouldn’t do. I should add, however, that Jacobin doesn’t let that nostalgia translate into any advocacy for revolution today. Rather, you can find plenty of articles in Jacobin advocating popular frontism, reformism, and work inside the Democratic Party. Maybe in the fine print, there’s talk about independent politics, but not in the here and now. In that sense, Jacobin really isn’t too far from Harrington.

Harrington was also revived in the debate about Kautsky. This was not really about Kautsky per se, but rather about whether socialists should support the Democrats. Considering the DSA’s historical anticommunism, a theoretical authority for supporting the Democrats cannot come from Stalin, Togliatti, Browder, or Dimitrov. Kautsky does provide such a Marxist authority for the new reformism, since he is untainted by communism. By 1914, if not earlier, Kautsky had broken with any semblance of revolutionary politics and come around to a reformist position.

Kautsky’s advocates in DSA use him as a stand-in to advocate a “democratic road to socialism,” which in practice means supporting Biden. Harrington’s actual politics are little different from what’s being promoted by the Kautsky champions now. Maybe the name of Michael Harrington has too much baggage or is just too obscure to make the case for the new reformism.

Do you think the Democratic Party of today is different from what it was in Harrington’s time?

My short answer is no. The Democrats were a capitalist party in Harrington’s time, and they still are today. They still defend the interests of the bourgeoisie, implement racist policies, and conduct wars. That hasn’t changed. What does make the Democrats slightly different from the Republicans is that they use their facade as the “party of the people” to gain popular legitimacy for carrying out imperialist policies. Both in Harrington’s time and today, the Democrats are quite successful in co-opting and deradicalizing any potential opposition that may develop, whether that be Jesse Jackson or Bernie Sanders. Harrington’s strategy of realignment will lead to the same end of transforming socialists into loyal foot soldiers of the Democratic Party. Working among the Democrats does not and will not work to advance the politics of socialism.

Harrington is still probably best remembered for The Other America. Now that you have studied so much of his work, is there anything you would genuinely recommend for young socialists to study?

A short answer is that Harrington’s work has been immensely damaging for socialism. While Harrington was a very good writer and popularizer, I don’t think there’s much value in the politics he popularized. In terms of Marxism, socialism, revolution, and reform, not to mention his positions on the Soviet Union, Vietnam, and Zionism, Harrington got practically everything wrong. So I think he can serve only as a negative example for socialists and communists today.

That being said, I think we should read and learn from those we disagree with. In terms of Harrington’s work, I think The Other America is actually worth reading since it is his most famous work. By reading it, you can see how he framed his understanding of poverty and how to combat it in a liberal way. I’d also recommend his 1970 work Socialism, which really does an excellent job explaining his revisionist understanding of Marx, Third World struggles, and the reformist road to socialism. His last book, Socialism: Past and Future, goes over much the same ground, but I think it’s more fleshed out earlier.

For criticism of Harrington, I’d recommend the aforementioned Novack and Camejo. I hope my book also provides a dissection and refutation of Harrington and his worldview. And call me old-fashioned, but I’d also suggest a reading of Lenin’s What Is to Be DoneState and Revolution, and Rosa Luxemburg’s Reform and Revolution to provide ammunition against the reformism Harrington represents.

Ultimately, communists need to understand Harrington’s politics so we can refute it both theoretically and practically.Left Voice | 

Source: Left Voice, July 25, 2021 | https://www.leftvoice.org/michael-harringtons-failure-of-vision/

Author: Doug Enaa Greene is an independent Marxist historian and writer living in the greater Boston area.

Jesús Santrich explored utopian origins of Marxist and Bolivarian ideologies / by W.T. Whitney, Jr.

Colombian Army commandos on May 17, 2021 killed Jesús Santrich, a 30 -year veteran of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The ambush took place in Zulia Province, in northeastern Venezuela; six others died.  Santrich was a spokesperson for the FARC negotiating team in the talks in Havana with Colombia’s government that led to a peace agreement in 2016.

Because former FARC combatants were being killed despite the Agreement and because Colombia’s government and US agents were trying to extradite him to the United States on drug charges, Santrich went into hiding in 2019. He joined the “Second Marquetalia” offshoot of the original FARC insurgency, which was returning to armed conflict.

Santrich’s  22-page essay, written in 2009 in honor of legendary FARC commander Manuel Marulanda, carries the title:  “Bolivarianism and Marxism – a Commitment to the Impossible” (Bolivarismo y marxismo, un compromiso con lo imposible.) Santrich examines the utopian underpinnings of the Marxist movement and the liberation struggles of Simón Bolívar.

With his essay, Santrich challenges our own modes of anti-imperialist struggle and of creating socialism, impeded in both instances, we suggest, by a lack of long-term, visionary aspirations. That’s clear, for example, in the blunted response of progressives and radicals to recent developments in U.S. hybrid war involving Colombia, Haiti, and Cuba. With an expansive view, Santrich insists upon political leadership and political mobilization that attend to the future, embrace great purposes, and fight with determination and commitment.

His words

In his essay, Santrich writes about Simon Bolivar; the fight for independence from Spain; the FARC’s early years; leadership qualities of Manuel Marulanda, pioneer socialists of the French Revolution; Bolivar’s teacher Simón Rodríguez, an early socialist; and more. Along the way, Santrich provides ideas that, taken seriously, might greatly strengthen the revolutionary project in our own era.

For example: “Marxists must keep utopia foremost in their consciousness. It drives mass actions. They must assume that a revolutionary movement, whatever its origins, doesn’t qualify as such if it lacks that component manifesting as irrepressible effort towards change categorized as “impossible.” But utopia must always take off from a basis in realty. We humans have the duty to regard the world we want as another world that’s possible. Paraphrasing Bolívar, we are looking for the “impossible,” while leaving the possible up to everyone else, every day …

He continues: “To declare oneself Bolivarian and, as such, declare oneself a revolutionary on the Marxist path implies lifelong motivation derived from the hope of transforming society and finding justice. This is a constant and is strong enough with its broad vision as to point to utopia as a characteristic of political consciousness and the natural result of rational belief.”

He adds: “Utopia is a higher goal of commitment. That’s so because even at the beginning, the matter of possibility or impossibility is already uncertain due to extreme difficulties ahead, or uncertain survival of purpose as historical implementation evolves. But like history itself, utopia does not end.”

Moreover, “In the hopeful quest for realization of the “impossible,” the process calls upon a mixture of illusions, realism, magic, and love for people as a reason for life … The essential interest of the utopian is preservation of man and nature in absolute equilibrium, thus displaying the potentials of historical memory, faith, dignity, and our identity as vital factors for existence.

Confronting oppression and marching on the path of utopia, the revolutionary no longer is resigned. He or she is unconditionally, permanently, and creatively committed to the poor people of the world … Let’s say then that the Marxist-Bolivarian idea of a revolutionary is of someone who fixes on an ideology that, while encompassing reality, is not yet solidified and is perhaps uncertain. The goal is set of becoming absolutely convinced that this reality will be fulfilled, “impossible” though it may seem….

“The author of the Communist Manifesto, appealing to selfless purpose, was calling for struggle offering the possibility of risks. … Marx was calling for action needing to pass a test of fire in the face of historical commitment prompted by circumstances, even at the risk of death. He was clarifying a concept of living, whose own ethics intermeshed with the dialectics of reality that was moving, but always toward the future. …”

Santrich goes farther afield: “This kind of thinking envisions Marxists and Bolivarians alike as rising up, in our world, to the level of magical realism. And why not? Magical realism goes beyond mere rationalism. We have symbols, imagination, and creativity – all based on rich traditions rooted in indigenous experience in the Americas. It’s founded also on the syncretism of our mixed and oppressed mestizo peoples. Playing out, this proposition looks toward installing social justice, that is to say, accomplishes what’s ideal for the benefit of humankind.”

The stakes are high:“Perhaps one of the most fateful legacies for revolutionaries is apprehension on facing the danger that imperialism poses for the very existence of the planet with its catastrophic kind of developmentalism. In the face of great challenges, great resolve is necessary, really a triple boldness: action that overcomes determinism; recovery of the role of subjectivity, passion, audacity, and recklessness; and faith in the initiative of the masses, as they face the immediate prospect of “defeat.” In such circumstances, uncertainty and silence are worth nothing. …

What’s in play is the very survival of the human species, of life, of nature in general, all put at risk through the destructive power of capitalism. But we will not idle around patiently waiting for an automatic end to capitalism and for a communist alternative automatically to flourish. Humanity’s conscious intervention is necessary. It’s our immediate duty. Revolutionaries must connect utopia with liberation practice, at whatever cost …”

Meanwhile, on the ground

Next on our agenda is a survey of recent developments in Haiti, Colombia, and Cuba that are significant for the weak response they generated from anti-imperialists. Fragmentation and dwarfed ambitions seem to have paralyzed their fight against exploitation, plunder and militarization. We think the far-reaching aspirations of Santrich point to the alternative approach we need.

President Jovenal Moïse of Haiti was assassinated on July 7, presumably the result of rivalry among Haitian oligarchs, encouraged perhaps by leaders in Washington. All but two of the 28 perpetrators were former Colombian army regulars, now employed as mercenary soldiers. Many had received U.S. training. Colombia mercenaries have engaged militarily in the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Afghanistan and Dubai, Honduras, Venezuela and elsewhere.

CTU Security, a Florida company owned by right-wing Venezuelan émigre Antonio Intriago arranged for the assassination.  Miami – based Intriago has ties to regressive Colombian President Ivan Duque; to Juan Guaidó, the U. S. puppet  president of Venezuela; and to Christian Sanon, a Haitian physician living in Florida and seeking to be president of Haiti. Intriago’s company in 2018 carried out a drone attack against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

The Cessna four-passenger plane owned by Helidosa company in the Dominican Republic is emblematic of imperialism’s convoluted presence in the region.  Intriago, Sanon, and two others traveled to Haiti on that plane to be on hand at the assassination. After surgical care in Florida for wounds suffered during the attack, Martine Moïse, the assassinated president’s widow, returned to Haiti on the same airplane. In 2019, it transported right-wing Venezuelans to Barbados for negotiations with President Nicolas Maduro’s representatives, and did so again the following year with Juan Guaidó aboard.

The U.S. blockade of Cuba comes into view. Campaigning in 2020, President Biden assured voters he would ease blockade-related restrictions on Cuba imposed by Donald Trump. Biden has added new sanctions. For 60 years, the U.S. government has blockaded Cuba in order to cause suffering there. Suffering is mounting now due to sanctions and adverse health and economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic

On July 27 Biden met with Cuban-American elected officials in his office. He stated that, “I want Cuban Americans to know that we … hear the cries of freedom coming from the island … We’ve brought to bear the strength of our diplomacy, rallying nations to speak out and increase pressure on the regime.”


The opportunistic Biden seeks electoral advantage in Florida. Bipartisan consensus remains as to replacing Cuba’s government. Opposition to the blockade is at the margins of U.S. politics.  No U.S. hand or hierarchy of control is evident in the assassination of Haiti’s president. Marking both cases is a mélange of private interests, transactional relationships, and profit-making opportunities.

The unpleasant details reported here likely will soon be forgotten. Many already distracted and pessimistic progressives probably prefer not to be reminded of politicians’ corrupt and faked behavioral patterns.

It could have been otherwise. A narrative might have been developed that, absorbing the incidents noted here, might have contributed to shaping a powerful indictment against the power structures. That in turn might have helped set the stage for a return of sustained political counter-attack – if, that is, a large and powerful movement actually existed.

That’s the contribution of Jesús Santrich. He traces out characteristics of political leadership and permanent mobilization needed now for fightback and revolutionary optimism. His prescription calls for a movement that satisfies the subjective needs of oppressed peoples. License would be created for great longings and dreams of fulfillment, for these to be normalized.

Santrich draws upon a world that now for many is off-limits. We honor his contribution, a rarity, as it seems, in our own time. But he is not alone. We remember:

Karl Marx, The Civil War in France, 1871 – “The Commune, they explain, intends to abolish property, the basis of all civilization!… Yes, gentlemen, the Commune [aims] at the expropriation of the expropriators … But this is communism, “impossible communism! …  [But] “if cooperative production is not to remain a sham and a snare; if it is to supersede the capitalist system …[W]hat else, gentlemen, would it be but communism, “possible” communism.”

José Mariátegui, founder of the Peruvian Communist Party, 1928 – “We certainly don’t want socialism in America to be a copy or tracing. It must be a heroic creation. We have to give life to Indian-American socialism with our own reality, in our own language.”

Ernesto Che Guevara, Socialism and Man in Cuba, 1965 – “[I]n moments of great peril it is easy to muster a powerful response with moral incentives. Retaining their effectiveness, however, requires the development of a consciousness in which there is a new scale of values. Society as a whole must be converted into a gigantic school.”

Fidel Castro (as recalled by Raul Castro) – “in the mountains of the Sierra Maestra, on Dec. 18, [1956], with seven rifles and a fist full of combatants, [he] stated, ’Now we have won the war!’”

Author: W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine.

The author translated the excerpts appearing here. Santrich’s entire essay may be read, in Spanish, at https://rebelion.org/bolivarismo-y-marxismo-un-compromiso-con-lo-imposible/

Source: Marxism-Leninism Today / The Electronic Journal of Marxist-Leninist Thought, Aug 15, 2021  | https://mltoday.com/jesus-santrich-outlines-the-utopian-fundamentals-of-marxist-and-bolivarian-ideologies/

Bolivarianism and Marxism – Commitment to the Impossible in Defense of Utopia / by Jesús Santrich, March, 2009

Bolivarianism and Marxism – Commitment to the Impossible in Defense of Utopia

Translated by W.T. Whitney Jr.

Translator’s introduction: Jesús Santrich, a 30-year veteran, and leader, of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), was killed by irregular Colombian troops on May 17, 2021 in Venezuela. He and others had returned to armed insurgency with a renewed version of the FARC. Santrich’s death epitomizes the failure of the peace agreement signed in November 2016 between the FARC and Colombia’s government. It also marks the loss of a theoretician of socialist revolution, unappreciated at least in the English-speaking world. In the present essay Santrich explores tension playing out between the urgency of utopian longings, of hope, and the imperatives of actual conditions and of feasibilities.

Dedication: In defense of utopia, as homage to Comandante Manuel Marulanda Vélez, the Insurgent Hero of Bolivar’s Colombia, on the anniversary of his journey to eternity. The impossible is what we have to do, because others take care of the possible every day! (Bolivar)

Utopia on the level of praxis

To be overcome definitively, the worldwide phenomenon of capitalism, juxtaposed to the horizon of the Communist utopia, will have to collide with a version of socialist revolution that has a worldwide reach. Mostly certainly, it will be breaking the imperialists’ chain at its weakest link, as Lenin would say.  

In any case, Marxism must be nourished on a basis of reality and of our own history and circumstances, as we ceaselessly search out every corner of time and space to visualize the march of society, and influence and transform it without waiting for the right conditions to descend from the heavens.

Utopia is essential for Marxists. So too is the selective search for significant structures and the rescue of social science, revolutionary practice, and vigorous overview of constant renewal and of movement toward an unfathomable destiny. The search for utopia as method and guide for action requires investigation of the phenomenon, the logic of its movement, and our understanding that no category, not even a law of social development, is self-evident. No kind of truth is fixed in the head of any person however brilliant he or she may be. If we look at things dialectically, it’s there in the depths, on the surfaces, or on externalizations of phenomena as a whole – in other words, we examine human relations in all of society as it evolves with a rhythm of contradictions. 

Marxists must keep utopia foremost in their consciousness. It drives mass actions. They must believe that a revolutionary movement, wherever its origins, doesn’t qualify as such if it lacks that component manifesting as irrepressible effort towards change advertised as “impossible.” But utopia must continue taking flight from a basis in realty. Humans have the duty to regard the world we want as another world that’s possible. Paraphrasing Bolívar, we are looking for the “impossible,” while leaving the possible every day in the hands of everyone else.

The object is to always be making the “impossible” possible, without requiring history to stop, without ever insisting on a perfect, insurmountable ending. The fact is that man endlessly has to be looking for new and better horizons in the here and now. His commitment to the “impossible” represents, precisely, one of Bolivar’s fundamental values as a revolutionary protagonist prior to Marx. Through Bolivarism, this ideology now gets a hearing. The essence of the Bolivarian Project showed in its habit of persistence in total war, against the Spanish oppressors and against all oppressors.  In his role as the intellectual, the theorist and day-to-day leader of emancipation, Bolivar was a combatant not only for political autonomy, as were many of his contemporaries, but also as a champion of continental revolution and a parent of ideologies put forth but never realized, which are needed now more than ever.

Many assume that they are on their way to certain fulfilment. This is utopia, the achievement of the Great Homeland, of the hemispheric republic, of assuring the equilibrium of the universe, etc. The father of our Colombian nationality, Bolivar the revolutionary, the insurgent, the visionary, was looking toward the total destruction of colonialism., He noted what was beyond the real possibilities of his time, the “impossible” possibilities of building a global society under conditions of equality, justice, and true democracy. From this perspective, he also warned us of the danger of Yankee imperialism.

Marxism, Bolivarianism and Utopia

To declare oneself Bolivarian and, as such, declare oneself a revolutionary on the Marxist path implies going through life moved by the hope of transforming society and finding justice. This is a constant, one that unfailingly marks utopia as a characteristic of consciousness, a natural fruit of rational conviction. In the hopeful search for the realization of the “impossible,” the process calls upon a mixture of illusions, realism, magic, and love for people, as the people.

This gives meaning to life. Utopia ultimately epitomizes all of these together: love, dreams, admiration, rootedness in history, a vision of the future, and full experience of all stages of time and space as necessity, duty, and humanizing desire. The essential interest of the utopian is preservation of man and nature in absolute equilibrium, thus displaying the potentials of historical memory, faith, dignity, and our identity, all as vital for existence.

Confronting oppression, the revolutionary on the march, on the path of utopia, throws off resignation. He or she is unconditionally, permanently, and creatively committed to the poor people of the world.

Let’s say then that the Marxist-Bolivarian idea of a revolutionary is that of someone whose consciousness fixes on an ideology portraying a reality not yet solidified and perhaps uncertain. The goal is set of becoming absolutely convinced that this reality will be fulfilled, “impossible” though it may seem.  As with the Liberator’s ostensibly reckless expression, that’s what we are supposed to do, “because everyone else, every day, takes care of what’s possible.”

For example, that was Bolivar’s conviction as he undertook the mission, improbable for almost anyone else, of climbing over the grey hairs (“canas”) of the Andes to liberate New Granada. It was Marx’s conviction too as he wrote in support of the Paris Commune [of 1871], expressing certainty that the duty of all revolutionaries is that of “storming the heavens.” They do so, urged on by their demanding sense of ethics. They are motivated to free themselves from oppression, thus potentiating all values of human experience built into history.

The author of the Communist Manifesto, appealing to selfless purpose, was calling for struggle that would possibly involve risks. Projects were taken on that maybe looked absurd– what well-reasoned nonsense! – or unfeasible.  He was calling for action needing to pass a test of fire in the face of historical commitment that shapes the circumstances, even at the risk of death. He was clarifying a concept of life; its ethics were tied to the dialectic of a reality where life moves, always to the future.  

That’s how the course of human development proceeds quite generously with unbreakable determination to confront every obstacle imposed by exploitation of man by man. It’s a matter of sought-after possibility interacting with an ideal that comes close to a basis in reality, and of that combination ultimately breaking up into what, by any revolutionary’s yardstick, is a “realistic utopia.” But as occurred in France in May 1968, realism also is magical, especially when events move beyond what looks to be clearly feasible, and favorable to human potential: “We are realists, we do the impossible” was the great slogan. It expressed the determination of fired-up students who wanted change. They were rising up against an established order in France that was unjust.

His was the ‘crazy little army.” Augusto Cesar Sandino was called the “general of free men.” His guerrillas bravely took on Yankee marines invading his country. They fought because their search for truth on the complicated road of anti-imperialist struggle and emancipation not only demanded attention to meticulously planned directions, but called for daring and heroism too. The man’s audacity and valor, reflecting spirituality guided by faith, went far beyond factual awareness of the physical circumstances.

Here, then, are the “reasons” for utopia, that of “doing of the impossible because all the others every day take care of the possible” or that of “being realistic by doing the impossible,” or of “storming the heavens.” This kind of thinking has both the Marxists and the Bolivarians rising up, in our world, to the level of magical realism. And why not? Magical realism goes beyond mere rationalism. There are symbols, imagination, and creativity based on rich traditions rooted in indigenous experience in the Americas. It’s based too on the syncretism of our mixed and oppressed mestizo peoples. Playing out, this proposition looks toward installing social justice, that is to say, accomplishes what’s ideal for the benefit of humankind. 

Utopia: transcendence and the means for its achievement

Among the most important aspects of the higher and more humanizing state of being as proposed by Bolivar and Marx is that it is inexhaustible. That’s so, because inspiration also derives from a continuous source of creation. Their boundless imaginations conceived of an ideology in which duty serves the human collective and transcends to glory in the sense of satisfaction through fulfillment of duty. Moreover, as action is underway, a vision of purpose is being projected. It’s a vision of what has to be, beyond what now is. Visualized also is the highest social stage in which virtue becomes the common characteristic of humanity.

In practice these revolutionaries in thought and action may ignore any apparent or definite incongruence between their purpose, which is the “impossible,” and the means for its achievement. That’s the true outlook of the revolutionary.

In utopia, the possibility of change that provides hope is announced, even if the road to its achievement is ill-defined.  That happened with the utopia of Mariátegui. Although he may not have had really specific designs for how to get there, those plans for realizing his proposals that did exist always derived from great inspiration. They cannot be disqualified on grounds of ineffective action or excess intellectualism. It makes sense, certainly, that no revolution would be able to anticipate the revolution that will follow it.     

Otherwise, it’s logical that no true version of Marxism would reject or abandon, because of a lack of specific clarity or confidence, what, in effect, has to be the project of emancipation. Nor would it abandon, either, attempts to total up an explanation of capitalism and of class struggle in order to confront them. By no means would it abandon utopia as a proposal for creating a humanely human world, humanizing it in view of the struggle to come.

The Bolivarian utopia

Without entering into details about content or aspects of ideology, we can say of the Bolivarian utopia that, as it appears, the social order that is outlined as part of liberating transformation may coexist with oppression. Fully-realized socialism is by no means imminent. But, unquestionably, strong foundations of justice may be established within the context of the most perverse and inhuman systems of colonialist exploitation, even those sustained over the course of centuries by means of the whip and, infamously, by segregation. The Bolivarian utopia does respond to the lacerated shoulders of indigenous servants, to the enslavement of Africans and Afro-descendants.

Bolivar’s ideology served the construction of a new society without the oppression and cruelty of the old system, which even the most “advanced” liberalism of that era accepted as natural and necessary. That was evident, for example, in Philadelphia with provisions of the [U.S.] Constitution that defended the “sacred right to property,” which included the possession of and control over enslaved people. The Liberator took exception: “One man owned by another! Man as property!”

Property, slavery, racism, individualism, and utilitarianism were the key aspects of “advanced” U. S. liberalism of that era. Nor was provision made there for the independence of indigenous peoples. Later on, the Liberator noted that “Washington’s code” is not democracy, because we cannot conceive of democracy without freedom; “You know that one cannot be free and a slave at the same time without violating natural laws, political laws, and civil law.”

Santrich here devotes several paragraphs to documenting Simón Bolivar’s thinking and struggles over the course of decades. He describes the context of Bolivar’s military operations and political proposals, particularly the impact of strong opposition from conservatives headed by Francisco de Paula Santander, (1) He also dwells upon lessons learned from “The Spirit of the Laws” by Montesquieu (1748) and from the teachings of philosopher and pedagogue Simón Rodríguez, Simon Bolivar’s mentor in Europe and later in America. He comments on the sad example of the young United States. Santrich then concludes this section as follows.

All in all, the main aspect of Bolivar’s social project of justice and equality was the abolition of indigenous servitude and of slavery. In his writings, markers of such thinking are very clear. For example, in 1816, a time of great uncertainty about the destiny of the emancipation struggle, a time when adversities were a constant and close reality, he writes: “Considering that justice, politics and homeland imperiously claim the indispensable rights of nature, I have come to decree the absolute freedom of the slaves who have groaned under the Spanish yoke in the last three centuries.”

With this resolution and with greater determination, the Liberator was now nourishing his struggle for emancipation with truly revolutionary and profound social content aimed at destroying the main economic institutions of the Iberian colonial system. This initiative of his guerrilla struggle in the East would soon appear in his memorable speech to the Congress of Angostura (1819). He was proposing a constitutional principle: “Nature, justice and politics call for the emancipation of slaves. I leave to your sovereign decision the reform or revocation of all my statutes and decrees, but I beg for the confirmation of absolute freedom for enslaved people, as I would beg for my own life and life itself.”  Referring to “The poor indigenous people,” Bolivar “resolved to do everything possible for them, first, for the good of humanity, and second, they have the right to it.” To achieve this purpose was an essential part of his utopia.

Utopia and epochal change

Now the question of “the end of utopia” is posed to us in the sense of its altruistic purpose being fulfilled, or of it culminating in the death of hope. Marcuse proposes as criteria for an ending, one, that conditions favoring altruistic purpose now manifest as objective realities, and, two, that subjective conditions now turn out to be absolutely feasible.  Whatever the case, this circumstance implies movement peculiar to the era, a change characteristic of the moment, a “new period,” a transition or an abrupt change from a previous historical circumstance.

One can assume break-up and/or renovation, in the sense of total rejection of the old and its substitution by the new. But in terms of radical change, there is the idea too that the old may be thrown out, but not absolutely so. Instead, the richest part of the past is gathered up in the rescue; valuable tradition is preserved in order to face the future with optimism. So, for the revolutionary, the past doesn’t have to disappear from the creative vision. We accumulate experience to help build the new. The idea of simply changing “the old for the new” is an absolute fallacy, typical of absurd conclusions associated with Modernity, this one holding that we can’t find in earlier times the norms we need for direction. In truth, we are absolutely dependent on ourselves to draw out the normative elements we need.

The past cannot be undervalued simply because it is the past. To the extent that social constructions have historical meaning, the past contains normative principles drawn from experience that enable future creations. To the extent that history is the vision of humanity’s movement as a whole in every temporal and spatial dimension, the revolutionary surely sees the experience of the past to be proceeding as inevitably linked to the projection of new goals for the future. That means that history and utopia go together, one with the other. They are interrelated, or, if you like, are doing the same thing together. 

We can say without fear of being mistaken that no revolutionary spirit exists that hasn’t necessarily been touched by the magic of historical consciousness. That’s so in the sense of being aware that historical consciousness necessarily includes “the old,” and, at the same time, fervor for utopia. It’s an association based on balancing one with the other along that path we call hope.

Utopia, “realism” and history

It’s long been assumed that Marxist thought was critical of “utopia” especially in reference to “utopian socialism.” The notion of “scientific socialism” advanced primarily with its critique of presenting a better future only in the abstract, with the implication that, above all, “utopia” is an unrealizable dream, an unattainable illusion. To be “utopian” suggests conversion to pure fiction, a situation in which mentors and followers alike are delusional in simply imagining paradise as a pretty and unworldly place and never thinking about how it might be created.

The idea of “utopia” is not new, but according to “realists,” or dialectical-historical materialists, or anyone striving for concrete analysis of concrete situations, “utopia” is an idea lacking all substance. Possibility is not enough in itself, dynamic though it may be.  We have to define means and methods in order to outline the transformative role prescribed by Marxist philosophy. But this criticism is not enough, we would add, without a clear design being offered of the possible alternative.

It’s worth specifying that, in the Bolivarian view of things, building something is not a matter of fantasy, but is founded on concrete bases. But not only that: we have the incentive of projecting it into the future so that, with utopia and history being interwoven, the project takes on the dimension of ceaselessness while proceeding always toward newer and higher horizons. The issue is not that of now defining whether or not Robert Owen, Saint-Simon, Fourier, or Proudhon are disqualified in the eyes of Marxists because they are designated as utopian socialists.

Our suggestion rather is that the revolutionary not think solely of utopianism as a fantasy or, in other words, not try to build the future without firm foundations. It’s now clear that so-called utopian socialism has been and continues to be an irreplaceable contributor to Marxism. And it’s also a fundamental source of convictions that nourish Bolivarians of today inasmuch as they, with Marxists, hold that utopianism is meaningless if it’s divorced from action and the consequences of what is theorized. Those who emphasize the “realism” and the supposed “science” of a distorted “materialism” seem to forget these aspects of utopian socialism.

According to Guevara, the revolutionary must, in effect, be “a man who acts as he thinks.” It was that way with Bolivar, especially in his search for the “impossible,” or what looked to be that way. Utopia is fated to be an alternative proposition for life, one that at a given time is either possible or “impossible.” But in any case, utopia is a factor in sustaining the perspective of constant movement toward new stages of humanizing social development.

As regards history, then, utopia is the pull for its development. And in the search for what may look to be impossible, it protects the notion of ceaselessness and, consequently, is a factor not being consumed as energy as change continues.

Bolivarism and Marxism: utopia as vision of the future.

With Bolivar first and then with Marx, a vision of the future was presented as a constant. Their perspective on history held that it wasn’t going to be used up in the era at hand, when lives are being lived, but was always programed for action going beyond and transcending, even if circumstances appeared unfavorable for realization in the long term. It’s not as if Bolivar or Marx did not lay out immediate horizons too. They did so, but as stages to be used up on their road of continually searching for horizons of the future. Out there, they anticipated fertile societies rising over a terrain of democracy and equality. 

The case of the Liberator, he of the great continental homeland with an ecumenical projection, he who sought not to subjugate but to liberate, is one example: “Flying through and among the coming ages, my imagination is fixed on future centuries, and observing from there with admiration and fear the prosperity, splendor, and life this vast region has received ….”  [Santrich continues with his long quotation from Simon Bolivar’s speech at the Congress of Angostura in 1819]

Neither Bolivar or Marx was pessimistic about the future. They may have experienced disillusion and setbacks in their own time, as issues were settled in one way or another, but not as regards the future.

Perhaps one of the most fateful legacies for revolutionaries is that which leads to apprehension on facing the danger imperialism poses for the very existence of the planet as it sketches out a catastrophic kind of developmentalism. Uncertainty and silence are worth nothing. In the face of great challenges, great resolve is necessary, really a triple boldness: action that overcomes determinism; reclaiming the role of subjectivity, passion, audacity, and recklessness; and faith in the initiative of the masses, still facing the immediate prospect of “defeat.” What audacity implies, even in the case of the true revolutionary, is to not let defeat become capitulation to domestication, submission, and regret of purpose. That’s what the class enemy is attempting to do in reproaching us for the fall of many socialist projects – or those claimed as such –  in order to sew pessimism in the hearts of leftists. They’ve done do effectively with many former revolutionary groups and especially among the so-called progressive intelligentsia.

Those elements have been set to performing their nauseating role of apostates. They’ve built upon a deceptive notion that we are confronting a universe radically different from decades back and so we are in need of new coordinates for action and new ways of thinking. The result has been abandonment of analysis and political action quite typical of our “post-modern” era. We are supposed to say goodbye to Marxism, therefore, and the “chimera” that is socialism, and farewell also to “outmoded” thinking summed up in Bolivarism and the ideal of the Great Homeland – and for us to believe we have good reasons for doing so. 

In the realm of revolutionary consciousness this is unthinkable. If we are true Marxists and Bolivarians, even in the worst of circumstances, our utopias of socialism and the Great Homeland must show the greatest moral strength, as unbreakable as the morality of Bolivar of 1812, who, having been defeated in Puerto Cabello, reemerges in the “Admirable Campaign.” (2) This is the Bolivar who, after each of his failures in struggle to expel the Spanish empire from Our America, emerges from every adversity “like the sun, sending rays everywhere.”

To understand the sublime morality of a revolutionary utopian in the face of setbacks, we remember Bolivar. We recall that extremely difficult time in Peru when the counter-revolution found new strength as the result of treason, when Torre Tagle and Riva Agüero ,with the full support of the oligarchy, betrayed the independence cause and delivered troops and arms to the Spanish army, which at the time was almost moribund in Pativilca.

Sucre himself, the hero of Ayacucho, whom the Liberator considered to be his most valued, advised Bolivar in those unfavorable circumstances “to evacuate Peru” for the sake of “preserving the most precious part of our sacrifice [Colombia].” We gain clarity, however from the description Pablo Morillo provided of his encounter with the Liberator in Pativilca [in 1823]. The Spanish diplomat, on his way to Chile on a diplomatic mission, interviewed Bolivar, who was in appalling circumstances, “so thin and exhausted.” Seeing him in that pitiful situation, Mosquera asked him, “And what are you going to do now? Then Bolivar, his hollow eyes coming to life, answered me, ‘I will triumph.’”  Bolivar’s faith in victory was absolute.

It was under those same terrible circumstances that Bolivar announced that, “My watchword is to die or triumph in Peru.” The first didn’t happen, and in the year 1825, the army of the Liberator, with infantry units, calvary, artillery, and navy reassembled, was the foremost military power of America.

As regards Marx and Marxism, the significance of utopia is on display both in Marx’s justification of utopia in the concrete situation of the Parisian workers in 1870 and in Lenin’s reflection on the situation of the Russian revolutionaries of 1905. In the first case, Marx takes the example of the Paris Commune to offer proposals suggesting that actions there varied in essential ways from views put forth in the Communist Manifesto. The rising of 1871 gained Marx’s enormous admiration in several areas such as, for example, “the destruction of the parasitic state,” which led him to assume that that was the essence of the Paris revolutionaries’ program and objectives.

Lenin also justifies utopia in his criticism of Plekhanov who complained of those daring to rise up that “they did not have to take up arms.” But in well-taken advocacy, Lenin rescued the role of subjectivity, of romanticism, if you will. He argued against a misunderstood or mistaken version of “materialism” supposedly disqualifying those risking everything for the option of dignity. Lenin claimed that the revolutionaries of 1905 would have gained Marx’s admiration no less than did the Paris communards and their attempt at “storming the heavens.” Like Marx, Lenin was on the side of the Commune of Paris despite everything and its supposed failure. He also assumed the “defeat” of the rising of 1905 to have been positive and exemplifying.

These instances recall Che in La Higuera [in Bolivia] as he was telling his captors that even this, his defeat, could play a part in shaking up the Bolivian people’s awareness. What one realizes is that the example of a man’s selfless action can lay the foundation for moving toward a better future.  As for the Paris Commune, Marx had written that, “the bourgeois canaille of Versailles pushed the Parisians to choose between ending their struggle and succumbing to oppression without a fight. The demoralization of the working class in the latter case would have represented an enormously greater disgrace than the fall of any number of their ‘chiefs’.”

These words reaffirm our absolute confidence that the example of these revolutionaries can be an impetus for “storming heaven,” or at least for trying to do so.  This approach represents a break from whatever kind of sterile orthodoxy, or from useless “objectivity.” Ultimately, “being realists and doing the impossible” wins out, against all odds, as was the case with Bolivar’s determination to ascend the Andes. What that adds up to is “doing the impossible because every day everyone else takes care of the possible.”

Denial of Utopía

Where’s the satisfaction in denying utopia? Whom does it serve when dreams are fenced in and energies too that are aroused for creating a society with no exploiters, a society of dignity, justice, and happiness? The future of humanity today more than ever requires that utopia be fortified.  That’s because imperialism poses imminent danger to our survival.

To deny utopia is to deny creative possibility for the human being, and even more, the possibility of revolutionary transformation of that very same human.  Today, the finishing-off of humanity, the vision of that once unimaginable disaster taking place, is well within all scientific possibilities. But those of us who refuse to believe that man is fit by nature to be a wolf in human form are duty-bound to struggle for utopia and to sustain it. It’s a utopia not only of human existence and nature, but of its best state of being, with collaboration, mutual aid, and happiness. The essence of the problem is on full display for us, in our time – Communism or chaos

What’s in play is the very survival of the human species, of life, of nature in general, all put at risk because of the destructive power of capitalism. But we will not wait patiently and without action for capitalism to end automatically so that the communist alternative can flourish. The conscious intervention of humanity is both a necessary and immediate duty. It requires revolutionaries to merge utopia with the practice of liberation, at whatever cost. As regards revolutionaries of the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), we view the utopia of Marxism and the utopia of Bolivarism as coinciding fundamentally in the undying purpose of social justice within a context of freedom and dignity.

Nevertheless, the essential Bolivarian line of thinking may not fit with a strict definition of socialism, as usually conveyed. But it surely provides the necessary foundation for the construction of socialism within an Indio-American perspective, one that calls for developing a process of emancipating continental unification. We are convinced that its realization depends exclusively on humanity itself, but above all on revolutionaries, on the Quixotes, or, better said, on people as they ought to be.

This is not man as he is, focused on short-term, transitory reality, which is man that the dying Bolivar alluded to in Santa Marta, according to Gil Blas.  We need, in short, people who are given to dreaming, to making a utopia of the possible and impossible, and disposed to achieving the ideal with craziness, if one chooses. This is creative, instructive and paradigmatic craziness, the kind the Liberator himself takes on. According to the distinguished Colombian poet and historian Juvenal Herrera Torres, that’s how “Don Quijote might employ to lead our people, that multitude of Sancho Panzas, as they merge into a whole and get mixed up in the same epochal gallop toward the conquest of utopia. What craziness! It’s the craziness we need for humanity to advance, when the given wisdom is that of vegetating passively like slaves and servants!  They always call it crazy anything that’s out of the ordinary.”

Further, it’s the revolutionary, according to this idea, who combines thought and action that follows. What’s involved is man who acts as he thinks, man who redeems utopia. Or as exemplified by the Liberator, he is like Christ, Don Quixote, and he himself – in other words, history’s fools and triflers. Or, he is man as he ought to be. He now confronts the imminence of capitalist chaos and confronts the oppressor as he contributes to forging a different world – with no possibility of enjoying it for himself.   

This is no easy task, because to finish with utopia, finish with redemptive dreams of being human, has always been the purpose of those who vociferate about the end of history and the death of ideologies. They are trying to persuade us that the installation of capitalism would be a superior state of human development. They would convert us into an immense flock of passive consumers, of placid militants, nihilistic and fatalistic. But it turns out that the journey of the true revolutionary, who above all has to be a builder of the future, is defined by optimism as a condition for the march of history.

Historical meaning of utopia

We will have to fight every day so that productive forces are not converted into the means for destroying the planet. We will be showing that as long as revolutionary conscience exists, the possibility of having to be has to have all the utopian energy that historical consciousness creates that will transition without fail to a society without exploiters or exploited.

Within this framework of ideas, the end of a determined type of utopia, of a particular utopia, is in no way admissible, for the simple reason that, as we’ve suggested, utopia may present with diverse characteristics at different times, throughout history. What it does do is to take on new stages of humanizing development, new dimensions, but no finalization. 

To admit the end of utopia would be like admitting the possibility of the end of history.

We would propose to go beyond the ideology of the utopian socialists, just as Marxist critique tried to do, but to go beyond and not deny. We would also propose to go beyond he purposes and goals of scientific socialism, or, more straightforwardly, beyond the ideals and goals, in large measure failed, of really-existing socialism. Or we could continue advocating for the society of labor as utopia, or also, along with Marcuse in the 1960s, stay with the idea that the purpose for the world was no longer that of a “utopian dream.” He had concluded that the historical moment had arrived in which it’s now possible to construct a free society because the development of productive forces has reached a level allowing for the eradication of hunger and misery.

Attending to this last idea, we might then say that a non-repressive civilization can be built because the conditions for it exist and from that point on, we have the Marcusean evidence of the end of utopia, an end that signifies “that the new possibilities of a human society and of its surrounding world are a given, but are outside of the same historical continuum in respect to the previous society.” (Marcuse. “The End of Utopia” Barcelona 1986)

But in the revolutionary sense, both Bolivarian and Marxist, utopia certainly exists in its own continuum of dialectical change and, for all of its breakup and radical change, it does entail connection with the past. It can’t be a static concept, but is imbued with changing propositions that, all along, have nothing to do with types of experience that were unavoidable, in particular, the failings of really-existing socialism. The implication is that of improving things by seizing upon the positives of various experiences.

In conclusion, the historical sense of utopia and of “making the impossible” relates to ideals of social transformation which, for a given situation, may lack subjective and objective factors that are in their favor. Those factors, we suggest, are without conditions of maturity, as with, for example, the time of Bolivar and the building of the Great Homeland, or the era of the Paris Commune with the appearance of communism, or even still in the twentieth century with its attempted modelling of socialism. Many such conditions did not crystalize in an outcome that would satisfy genuine Marxist ideals, or come close, or that might have allowed for movement to superior stages. But in no way is utopia anti-nature or anti-history. There’s nothing telling us, for example, that the utopia of socialism and of the Great Homeland, which synthesizes Bolivarian and Marxist integration in our own time, opposes nature or history.

That Utopia Called Our America

In the mind of the revolutionary, a return to “making the impossible” and doing so radically, under difficult circumstances, and for short-term gains, calls for an end to “sitting in front of the house waiting for the dead body of imperialism to pass by.” That well- known adage from the Second Declaration of Havana looks to identify which subjective and objective conditions, originating from who knows where, would exert an effect and, with their presence, might be a catalyst for action.

In that respect, it wasn’t generally appreciated that, when Cuban revolutionaries decided to attack the Moncada Barracks, or when later they undertook the voyage of the Granma, that an insurrectional rising would be forged against capitalist exploitation and in favor of installing socialism.  But the material conditions for a rebellion against capitalism were indeed present in Cuba and with daring, valor and conviction, rebels undertook to “storm the heavens.” The rest of the history is well-known. It was precisely with the practical unfolding of the Marxian utopia – that at first didn’t lead to Batista’s overthrow– that aspirations to higher altruistic purpose were strengthened. After a heroic armed insurrection and after taking power, those comrades did raise their voices against imperialism and did defend the most urgent interests of the exploited peoples of the world.  They did so in that magnificent document titled “First Declaration of Havana.”

This document had emerged in reply to the so-called “Declaration of San José de Costa Rica”, which was nothing more than anti-communist scribbling directed against Cuba by that plague-ridden sewer called the OAS (Organization of the American States).

On September 2, 1960, evoking that constellation of Our America’s conscience that is José Martí, the First Declaration of Havana condemned imperialism “that with miserable submission of traitorous governments has, over the course of 100 years, converted Our America into a zone of exploitation, into the backyard of financial imperialism and Yankee politics. This is the America that Bolívar, Hidalgo, Juárez, San Martín, O’Higgins, Tiradentes, Sucre, and Martí, wanted to be free. The Declaration set forth a “liberating Latin Americanism” in opposition “to pan-Americanism which represents only the domination of Yankee monopolies over the interests of our peoples.”  It condemned “the attempt to preserve the Monroe Doctrine, used until now, as José Martí anticipated, ‘to extend dominion in America’ on behalf of voracious imperialists so they could ‘better inject the venom of loans, canals, and railroads.’”

That valiant declaration closes by reaffirming that, “Latin America will soon march forward, united and victorious, free from bonds that turn its economies into wealth handed over to U.S. imperialism and prevent its true voice being heard in the meetings where tamed foreign ministers notoriously parrot the line of their despotic master”.[Santrich goes on to quote at length from the Second Declaration of Havana which was issued in Havana on February 4, 1962 in response to the OAS having expelled Cuba.]

Many revolutionaries on the continent were convinced that “They did not have to sit back and watch the corpse of imperialism pass by.” With great determination, they and others set out on that path for human redemption which is the struggle for socialism. They took into account the example of the Cuban revolution, whose premises fed into Marxist ideology with the life-affirming vitality of Latin American thought, that of Jose Martí in particular.  

In Colombia, for example, Communists carried out armed resistance for more than a decade and then, around 1964, they achieved greater cohesion by forming the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). They did so under the guidance of legendary guerrilla leader Manuel Marulanda Vélez.  Even before its symbolic founding date of May 27th, this nascent revolutionary army proclaimed its Agrarian Program. That happened amid the clamor and confusion of fighting that erupted in response to the government’s military aggression against Marquetalia, [the revolutionary farmers’ small settlement].

The central aspect of this document was the proposal for “revolutionary agrarian reform.” The idea emerged there of building a “People’s United Front” in order to destroy Colombia’s well-ensconced system of big-parcel landowning and establishing a government of “national liberation.” The seventh point of the statement says: “this program proposes as a vital necessity struggle for forging of a single and very broad front of all the democratic, progressive and revolutionary forces of the country. Until the land issue is settled, the front will engage in unceasing combat

with this government in thrall to Yankee imperialists who impede the Colombian people’s successful realization of their desires.”

“For that reason, we call out to all peasants, all workers, all employees, all students, all artisans, all small manufacturers, all workers, all democratic and revolutionary intellectuals, all of the national bourgeoisie ready to fight against imperialism, all political parties of the left-center who want progressive change. We invite one and all to a great revolutionary and patriotic struggle for a Colombia for Colombians, for a democratic government of national liberation and for the triumph of the revolution.”

The Agrarian Program was endorsed by guerrillas heading the resistance and by around one thousand small farmers. Two years later at their Constitutive Conference, Marulanda’s insurgents adopted the name Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. In the Political Declaration of that event, which took place between April 25 and May 5, 1966, participants denounced imperialist aggressions against the peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America, against the Yankee occupation of Santo Domingo and the devastation afflicting Viet Nam. The Declaration highlighted the Tricontinental Conference in Havana, [which met in January,1966], as a space for solidarity action “undertaken by the democratic world against imperialist aggressors…”

 [Santrich cites various statements within the Declaration that are in line with positions taken at the Havana conference.]

The Declaration concludes: “We., the guerrilla detachments of the Southern Bloc, have joined together in this Conference and formed the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which will initiate a new stage of unified struggle of all revolutionaries of our country, by all workers, peasants, students and intellectuals, with all of our people, in order to further mass struggle towards popular insurrection and the seizure of power for the people.”

Marulanda fought for 42 more years. Neither the enemy nor the greatest adversities could lead him to surrender. For more than half a century he trapsed through the mountains in search of his utopia, like no other revolutionary of the continent. He offered his life every day in a war of resistance to achieve that ideal of a New Colombia. His thinking on the development of praxis would turn into careful reflections and initiatives that he converted into programs opening the way to shaping Marxist and Bolivarian ideology. His struggle had passed not only from a claim on a plot of land to participation in Colombia’s revolution, but also moving on to the very cause of continental emancipation and the founding of socialism in Our America, that unified, great homeland Bolivar would dream about. Through thick and thin, all of his life, and with rifle in hand, Marulanda departed for eternity on March 28, 2008. He was certain that the building of communism was the only route toward human redemption. He departed from us persuaded of the validity, the legitimacy, and necessity of armed insurrection in struggle for establishing a better world without exploiters and exploited. Observing that marvelous self-denial, we ask ourselves with Bolivar: “What better way is there to achieve freedom than to fight for it?

Evidently, in the minds of revolutionaries of Marulanda’s stature, there’s no waiting around for the right conditions for revolution. Rather, they are determined to fight to create it.

We may also say that they are committed to contributing subjectively to create those conditions. That’s because, according to such criteria, fully correct, consciousness can exert real influence over structure. Indeed, as Bolivar was maintaining, unity is being forged while emancipation is being accomplished, and emancipation takes place while unity is being formed. And the future begins now: “What does it matter to us if Spain sells slaves to Bonaparte or keeps them, as long as we ourselves are resolved to be free? These uncertainties are the sad effects of ancient chains. They actually say you must stay calm as you do big things. That’s strange: 300 years of calmness are not enough? The Patriotic Junta respects, as it should, the nation’s Congress. But the Congress owes something to the Patriotic Junta, the center of light and of all revolutionary interests. Let us fearlessly lay the cornerstone of South American freedom: to vacillate is to lose ourselves”. (Simón Bolívar speech July 4, 1811)

Bolivar was lashing out at those who claim conditions still weren’t right for proclaiming independence, when, for him, the urgency was about the unification and liberation of all America, not just about liberating Venezuela. Our homeland is America! And America is the equilibrium of the world, disposed toward service for humanity. That is the utopia of Bolivarian thought with its internationalism, solidarity, and deep humanism, for which Manuel Marulanda Vélez was a militant partisan, and around which he formed his army.

Simón Rodríguez and the Utopia of Bolivarianism

That utopia may become reality does not imply that it ends, but rather that it transforms into higher aspiration, that qualitative mutation takes place. We may say, similarly, that just as matter achieves higher forms of development, so too utopia evolves to the degree that it moves toward realization. And we reiterate this because there are many who may not want utopia to die, but not in the sense that they crave its evolution to vital permanence.  Instead, they prefer that there be no fulfilment, so that, ultimately, their kind of utopia follows the path of annihilating hope.

As part of revolutionary consciousness, utopia remains as a goad for constant struggle as it reflects or projects goals for the future, dutifully carrying them from a plane of pure abstraction to a plane of fulfillment through action at any cost – or at least through a try at realizing long-term emancipatory practices. With respect to the ideal of the Great Homeland, the American utopia, and Bolivar’s utopia, we recall the words of the Liberator’s teacher and “maestro”, Simón Rodríguez: “It is not a dream or delirium, but rather is philosophy to hope that, if all people know their obligations, and are aware of the interest they have in fulfilling them, they will all remain faithful, because they will be working to make good on principles.  And where this happens won’t be imaginary, like the Utopia delineated by Thomas More. Their utopia, in reality, will be America.”

Rodríguez locates utopia in a context characterized by culture as the essential element for building a new democratic and republican social order where the common good comes first. But in common with his teacher Simón Rodríguez, the Liberator harbored transformative notions for the short-term, for his own time, even though Rodríguez’s ideas applied also to future ages. His doing so might be viewed as his favoring a utopian scenario that was more feasible. But for the teacher this was a step toward a higher-level utopian situation, for which conditions perhaps didn’t yet exist, but which were to be imposed as a supreme human duty.

Simón Rodríguez, who survived the Liberator, outlined the unique type of society Bolivar was projecting. Assigning a fundamental role to reason and calling for a new society without traces of the old, his ideas would become part of Bolivarian ideology, of which he was a prominent founder.

Santrich next details various aspects of Rodríguez’s thinking with the aid of quotations from the latter’s writings. Rodríguez’s message of human solidarity is emphasized. Santrich maintains that, in comparison with Jean-Jacque Rousseau, Rodríguez was a more effective advocate for the common good and sharper critic of individualism. Santrich expands upon Rodríguez’s criticism of Jeremy Bentham, the

founder of utilitarianism, a British school of philosophical thought. Bentham is identified as a favorite of Colombia’s liberal anti-colonialists who opposed Bolivar.

Santrich then notes that: While Benthamism signified a divorce from the Spanish spirit with its new pattern of ethical ideas, metaphysics, and theory of law and of the state, it was rendering anti-ethical judgments on Hispanic tradition. It was representing, in essence, the ideals of a commercial and industrial middle class, pragmatic and rationalistic, that was still pledged to maintain the colonialist regime’s slaves and servants, in harmony with the United States, which Bolivar fervently opposed.

We point out that, as regards Simón Rodríguez, his thought entered into Bolivarian ideology in a major way. Rodríguez is recognized as a prominent socialist thinker whose influence on the Liberator was unquestionable. It makes sense that we explore the impact of this teacher’s socialist ideas as we explore the political consciousness of his disciple.

Rodríguez is usually categorized as a proponent of utopian socialism. He is placed in that camp ultimately by virtue of the non-scientific character of his ideas and the contrast they represent with socialist ideas following the publication of the Communist Manifesto. That would be time-frame marking the emergence of scientific socialism, at least according to Marx’s evaluation enshrined in the Anti-Dühring that claims that socialist theories prior to the Manifesto correspond to a period of immaturity of capitalist production and of the proletariat. (4)

Nevertheless, we reiterate that these theories are antecedents of and a primary source for the Marxist approach. They contain ideas of enduring value with as much depth and maturity as those put forth, for example, by Rodríguez that refer to the creative force of the whole people as the basis for social development and renovation of society. This was a line of thinking that Bolivar implemented with much conviction and that now absorbed internationalism and solidarity as fundamentals of social construction. And within such, education is the space where intellectual activities and practical action are unified as the basis for the new society.

What’s involved is the Bolivarian concept of a “morals and enlightenment” campaign that contributes to revolutionary transformation and which implies, at least in these aspects, a scientific convergence with Robinsonian thought which Bolivar the Liberator expands upon in practice.  (Another name used by Simón Rodríguez was “Samuel Robinson.”) The striking originality with which Bolivar’s teacher – whatever his name – affected him obviously did not originate from a void. There was a thread connecting the teacher with the socialist thought he encountered in Europe on his travels there. That thread also connected them with the communitarian tradition of American Raizal communities that he admired and affirmed.  (4)

Simón Rodríguez and Gracchus Babeuf – the socialist utopia

Simón Rodríguez had the opportunity of close exposure to the atmosphere of the Parisian revolutionaries of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.  That’s the basis for our being able to affirm that as a scholar and restless thinker, he must have gained access to the first French socialists, and especially the most radical ones, as indicated also by the very content of his proposals. At the time when Rodríguez was traveling through Europe, Babeuf was already manifesting the clear intent in his thinking to lead France toward an agrarian communism by means of a dictatorship of a revolutionary government. Babeuf was the organizer of “the conspiracy of the equals,” [a failed coup attempt in 1796], and Barbés and Blanquí followed him with similar tenets. These are taken up by Marx and Engels to delineate their idea of the “dictatorship of the proletariat” in the Communist Manifesto of 1848.

It’s clear, then, that the guiding thread of socialist thought that went from Simón Rodríguez to Bolivar fed into Marxism also. Babeuf’s ideas did not disappear with his death which took place amid the terrible repression of 1797.His supporters were active until a few years after the death of Bolivar [in 1830] and his influence had such visibility that the name of Babeuf merited an appearance in the Communist Manifesto itself.

The radiant era of Babeuf coincided with the period preceding Rodríguez’s return to America in 1823, by which time the latter had already been become an authentic, thorough-going socialist. But fine, apart from whether or not there exists contact of an intellectual or temporal nature, it was to be expected that all those marching together with them, the revolutionaries, did coincide in their awareness and purposes. How could that not have been so as long as what motived them was the profoundly human feeling of love for the people?

Rosa Luxemburg explained that “socialism, as an ideal of communist community, as an ideal of social order based on equality and fraternity of all men, is more than a thousand years old”. She added that, “among the first apostles of Christianity, among the religious sects of the Middle Ages, and in the peasant wars, the socialist ideal appeared as the most radical expression of revolution against [existing] society. But as an ideal we can support in any historical moment, socialism was the beautiful vision of a few enthusiasts, a golden fantasy always out of the hand’s reach, like the ethereal image of a rainbow in the sky”. So then, how can we not admit the possibility that in an age of emancipation like the one Bolivar was living in, such an ideal may not also have existed? But beyond that, there exists clear evidence that such was the case.

Precisely between 1820 and 1830, socialist thought has notable impact, as represented by three great and universally-recognized thinkers: Saint-Simon (1760-1825) and Fourier (1772-1830) in France, and Owen (1771-1858) in England. This is so even as we recognize that they did not outline a commitment to the revolutionary seizure of power to make their proposals real or establish socialism. But we have to praise their huge theoretical contribution as fundamental to the shaping of Marxist theory.

The case of Gracchus Babeuf is another matter. Indeed, it must be said that this revolutionary was set on taking power. Here we are undoubtedly dealing with a great enforcer of the communist utopia, a true pioneer of bold action toward fulfilment of the “impossible,” a promotor of realizing the ideal, even risking his life in the cause. He is fully prepared for sacrifice as a true revolutionary, even to the extent of giving up on paralyzing “rationality.” He is always ready to surmount the injustices of the bourgeois regime, but beyond those tasks, ready also to build a new order. Already he is proposing to establish a peoples’ dictatorship, quite similar to the one Marx and Engels revisited in the Communist Manifesto half a century after Babeuf’s death. 

Contrary to what Rosa Luxemburg herself puts forth, Babeuf and “the power of his critique and the magic of his futuristic ideals and socialist ideas” exemplify aspects of his theory and practice that can only be seen as quite transcendental. That he was killed along with only “a handful of friends in the counter-revolutionary wave” and that he may not have achieved conditions and gathered followers such that his ideas might have been fulfilled do not mean that his trail, like that of the heroic Rosa Luxemburg herself, won’t end up being “more than a luminous trail in the pages of revolutionary history”. Of course, that’s the way it will be, and they are that now, clearly, and much more.

For Gaius Gracchus Babeuf, pioneer communist fighter of the vanguard, action was the result of thought, aside from whether or not some of his basic ideas were correct. That fact alone, together with his aspirations to overthrow injustices of the existing social system and replace it with a communist one elevates him to the level of indispensability. Even standing before the court that sentenced him to death, Babeuf delineated his utopia in an unflinching manner.  That which Simón Rodríguez inherited from Babeuf nourished Bolivarism from its beginnings. All of these efforts may not have achieved the purpose of installing socialism, and happenings since represent various failed experiments of “socialist creation” and capitalist domination raging most savagely in the greater part of the planet. None of these phenomena, old or new, can be considered to be buried and unseen under the smoking rubble of the Parisian barricades, under the ruins of the Berlin Wall, and under the destruction left by “smart missiles” launched by imperialism in its wars of re-colonization. 

The Marxian ideology of social justice rises on the bedrock of hope, deeds, perseverance and resistance, even amid ruins and debris. It’s strengthened with new experience that now has the grace of converging with the power contained within the Bolivarian project. And, may it be said in passing, this last cannot be considered as buried under the perfidy of Santander-like practices aimed not only at finishing off the image of the Liberator, but the emancipation project itself, and his utopia.

The Bolivarian Marxist Utopia Now

It’s undeniable that Marx explored the laws of capitalist anarchy more successfully than anyone else in his time. He began with deep study based on his own thinking and methods which drew upon the best contributions of universal thought. Marx revealed the logic suggesting that the communist utopia was feasible and explained in a fundamental way how the very laws regulating the economy of capitalism set the stage for its own fall. He showed similarly that the growing anarchy of capitalism becomes incompatible with the development of society and meanwhile generates true economic and political catastrophes rendering the very existence of humans risky and even unsustainable. Accordingly, the guarantee that society doesn’t perish in uncontrolled convulsions lies in transition to modes of production consciously organized by people themselves.

Even with negative socialist experiences, ones that never materialized as an alternative to capitalism, it’s more evident every day that our only alternative is socialism and that the communist utopia is required, both as a historical necessity and by the very laws of capitalist development. This is apparent from the growing devastation of the planet generated by predatory capitalism, from the enormity of the present world capitalist crisis, and from the desperation now of great financiers and devotees of the free markets as they beg the state to rescue them.

From the continent of hope, as Bolivar called it, we revolutionaries of Our America must without hesitation make common cause with the revolutionaries of the world to propel and catalyze all the potentials of utopia. We would take back the rich heritage of generations of revolutionaries who preceded us, whether as Bolivarians, whether as Marxists, whether one and then the other. We would create from internationalism and solidarity the life-giving force of unified action. What’s required now at a time of urgency is struggle against the oligarchies and imperialism, with no respite being allowed for reactionaries, and with all forms of struggle and all available means being applied. We reply on that spirit of sacrifice learned from our heroes, even though in this mission of “doing the impossible,” of “storming the heavens”, we may be called voluntarists, putschists, adventurers, even terrorists.  Ultimately, for the revolutionary, utopia is no repository of ethereal reflections, but is a spur for action, for practical work fully oriented to the taking of power.

Now is no time for retreats or for learned reflections about whether or not this is a revolutionary situation – as if endless speculation were our only assigned task, as if conditions of misery and nonconformity were so lacking as to make us forget the oversaturation of exploitation and imperial humiliations. As Bolivar would say: “Those doubts are the sad effects of old chains. They tell us, ‘Calm down’ as we prepare great projects! Are not 300 years of calm enough?”

How necessary, then, are the Babeufs who don’t wait for developments, but who move toward them. And necessary too are those who dare to declare “War to the death” against the murderers attacking us every day. How indispensable are the ones who pursue their own “Admirable Campaign” in spite of warnings of failure. And we need those who raise their voices and who act on behalf of that new Manifesto reiterating that we need now to make the revolution, have nothing to lose but our chains, and have a whole world to win. It’s imperative to look towards the torch of utopia, which, shining, lights the path to emancipation.

But it’s worth saying: there will always be, to spare, gentlemen like Dühring, Santander, Bush. or Uribe Vélez, each one in his own time and own sauce, whose flag is the filthy rag of counter-revolution. They disqualify and persecute those who dare dream of “the greatest possible happiness” for humanity. But surely, they will no longer call us “social alchemists”, or “firebrand of discord”, “fools” or “madmen,” “charlatans”, “pamphleteers” or “dinosaurs” – but rather “terrorists,” or any number of other denigrating and unimaginable epithets within this “florilegium” of insults, as Engels would say (signifying “anthology”), along with those who usually confront us in the ideological field, or with obscene media warfare.

Nevertheless, with such a combative Marxist and Bolivarian inheritance,

not even the collapse of what in some countries was called socialism – or of what was taken for it – or the disastrous fascist wars waged by today’s oligarchs will convince us that we absolutely have to accept a reign of exploitation and humiliation imposed on mankind. Our leitmotif is hope, and so be it, or as Bertolt Brecht wrote: “today injustice walks with a firm step, and oppressors want to rule for another ten thousand years and guarantee with their violence that “everything will stay the same.” And among the oppressed many now lament, ‘We’ll never have what we want.’”

With Brecht we will have to go back and say: “Whoever is still alive do not say “never.” What’s firm is not firm. Nothing will stay the same. When rulers have spoken, the ruled will speak.  Who dares say never? Who does oppression depend on? On us!  On whom do we depend for it to end? On us also! Let the one who is down rise up! Anyone who is lost, let that one fight! Who can hold back those who know what’s what? So, the defeated of today are the victors of tomorrow, and what’s “never” becomes this very day.  

Because utopia can’t stay quiet, these are more that “pure fantasies.” No one may condemn humanity to a course that inevitably is chaotic and unpredictable, cruel and unjust. We must continue looking for that sought-after world that is different and better, that allows us to depart from prehistory. That’s what Marx predicted when he said this will happen when a truly rational, just and equitable social system exists on earth. That’s the necessary dream that rationalizes existence for a revolutionary. It may seem “impossible.” Some think the idea is useless and fantastical. They say   the dreaming up of “impossible” things is called utopia, and they may be correct.

But as Bolivarian Marxists, that corresponds precisely to us. We struggle for the “impossible,” but not inside the time frame of a single life. To gain what is obviously indispensable and attainable for the survival of the species won’t fit within that limit;  maybe that’s what they call “realism.”  Our realism can be that, but above all, it’s also about “doing the impossible.” That’s why there never will be lacking those of us with arms already raised who shout from every corner of America, “We are here!”   We are resolved to build paradise here on earth. We are the ones with the unbending perseverance of combatants like the insurgent hero of the Colombia of Bolivar, Manuel Marulanda Vélez. We repeat his creed of love for the poor, as we amplify his voice and his teachings.

He says: “if they push us from the bank of the river, we cross to the other side of the river; if they push us from the mountain, we escape to the other mountain; if they push us out of a region, we look for another region.” He expands the experience and transforms the principle to say: “if they push us from the bank of the river, we will be waiting for them on the other side; if they push us from the mountain, we will be waiting for them on the other mountain; if they push us out of one region, we will be waiting for them in another region”. Then working the principle to elaborate a precise idea: “Now we go back and look for them on the bank of the river from which one day they pushed us out. We will go back and look for them on the mountain from which one day they made us flee. We will go back and look for them in the region where one day they made us run.” (Quoted by Arturo Alape: The Lives of Pedro Antonio Marín, Manuel Marulanda Vélez, Tirofijo. Planeta Editores. 1989,).

As with Marulanda, then, communist ideology will survive in each Bolivarian combatant and in the entire insurgent army founded by him, while stories of his death and that of his utopia are heard in the confines of the forest and mountains. With these teachings from that outstanding expression of revolutionary militancy, the insurgent hero of Bolivar’s Colombia, we have reiterated many times that in the case of the FARC, we don’t belong to an organization where Bolivarian or Marxist ideas frolic on the desks of clever ideologues imposing a glitzy kind of pacifism and the meek docility of postmodern intellectuals. The uncompromising thinking forged by Manuel Marulanda Vélez is no conceit.

Thus, with its Marxist, Bolivarian, utopian and Marulandista consciousness, the FARC, confronting capitalism, in crisis despite its huge military might, will modestly persevere and will by no means disregard the military aspect of the class struggle. The penitent, reformist, and halting ones often camouflage this with pacifist rhetoric due to cowardice and opportunism. This is a special matter about which we of the FARC repeatedly call attention to as we follow a road opened up with a whole life of dedication on the part of Comandante Manuel. We thereby testify to its relevance.

With his words, then, we repeat with more conviction than ever that, “The efforts and sacrifices in 43 years of revolutionary action and confrontation of the commanders, guerrillas, leaders of the Clandestine Communist Party, civilian population, those fallen in combat, those imprisoned in the countryside and cities now are showing the ruling class of the traditional parties, and of the state, that revolutionary struggle is just and urgent, and is, therefore, impossible to defeat, whatever previous governments and the present one say.. We conclude that sooner or later the only solution remaining for those who govern is that of political negotiations with the insurgency – that is, if they don’t want to lose all those privileges acquired over many years.” (Manuel Marulanda Vélez: Letter to the combatants, December 2007)

Besides, we think it’s no longer possible to be bewitched by the siren songs of self-defeating lackeys calling for disarmament. We have lived confronting each annihilation offensive of the oligarchic and imperial monster. We know its innards. “Our sling is that of David”! There is nothing more to say but the words of the unforgettable Julius Fucik, spoken against fascism.

In the name of the Bolivarian communist utopia: “When the struggle is to the death/ Those who are faithful resist/ The undecided give up/ The cowards betray/ The bourgeoisie despair/ And the hero fights”.

Victory will be ours! Before the sacred altar of our dead, we have sworn

to win, and we will win!

Mountains of Colombia, March, 2009

End notes

1. Francisco José de Paula Santander (1792 – 1840) was a military and political leader during Colombia’s 1810–1819 independence war and was the new country’s acting president between 1819 and 1826 and its elected president between 1832 and 1837.

2. The reference is to Bolivar’s campaign of 1813 in which his “small army of around 650 soldiers …  set out from New Granada (present-day Colombia) on the ambitious, one might say “foolhardy,” task of fighting [its] way to Caracas to liberate Venezuela from the Spaniards.”

3. “Anti-Dühring” is the shorthand title for a book published by Frederick Engels in 1878 that was highly critical of the socialist theorizing of the writer Eugen Dühring. It has represented a major contribution to disseminating the ideas of Marx and Engels.

4.The Raizals were and are Afro-Colombian people living on islands off Colombia’s Caribbean coast.


Source: The original Spanish-language version of the author’s essay is accessible at: https://rebelion.org/bolivarismo-y-marxismo-un-compromiso-con-lo-imposible/ and at: http://www.cedema.org/uploads/MARXISMO%20Y%20BOLIVARISMO.pd

Translator’s additional note – in regard to Santrich:  Born in 1967 in Caribbean-facing Sucre department, and killed by Colombian paramilitaries on May 17, 2021 in western Venezuela, Santrich was a leader of the Second Marquetalia, a dissident offshoot of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).  He joined that force in 2019 in response to the failure of the peace agreement between the FARC and Colombian signed in November 2016, and in response also to attempts by the Colombian government and US agents to extradite him to the United States. Santrich, who was part of the original FARC for 30 years, and a leader, served for four years as spokesperson for the FARC negotiating team in peace talks with the Colombian government representatives in Havana.

Santrich studied law and philosophy at Barranquilla’s University of the Atlantic. He was severely sight-impaired as the result of Leber’s syndrome, a degenerative eye disease. Following deadly assaults from 1986 on, leveled against the left-leaning Patriotic Union electoral coalition of which he was a member, Santrich joined the Communist Party’s youth organization. When in 1990 an attack directed at Santrich, then known as Seuxis Pausias Hernández Solarte, took the life of his friend Jesús Santrich, he adopted that friend’s name. A year later he joined the FARC.

In regard to purpose: A prime object in presenting Santrich’s essay in English has been to honor a revolutionary combatant who pursued social and political justice in a place that sorely needs it. Another has been to promote access to the author’s creative political thought. Santrich applies ideology inherited from the founders of Marxist thought to special conditions of Latin America and the Caribbean. He documents the exposure of Simon Bolivar to early stirrings of the European socialist movement.

To the familiar fare of U.S. and European-based socialist analyses over many years, Santrich adds elements like struggle over land, indigenous peoples as victims, and above all, national liberation. In broadening the arena of struggle and highlighting special characteristics of the Americas, he follows the lead of dissident ideologists like José Mariátegui and Ernesto Che Guevara, one with his “Indo-American Marxism” and “socialism as heroic creation” and the other with references to a “great feeling of love” and “moral incentives.”

More on sources: The essay of Santrich translated here appears also in The Social Thought of Jesús Santrich, an anthology of his writings and sketches published online by Ediciones Espartaco in 2018 at the “Campus of New York University.” That 293-page compendium contains interviews, poems, stories from and reports about indigenous peoples, and other essays, among them “From Beethoven to Marulanda – the Romantic Roots of the FARC’s Marxism.” The book is accessible at https://resistir.info/livros/jesus_santrich_antologia.pdf.

“Revelations of Carter’s Former Advisor : ‘Yes, the CIA entered Afghanistan before the Russians…’” (1998)

Image: In 1979, long before false intelligence was used to justify the Iraq war, a heinous war crime was committed against Afghanistan by President’s Carter’s National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski.

The Brzezinski Interview with Le Nouvel Observateur (1998)

Question: The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs that the American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahiddin in Afghanistan six months before the Soviet intervention. In this period, you were the national security advisor to President Carter. You therefore played a key role in this affair. Is this correct?

Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahiddin began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan on December 24, 1979. But the reality, closely guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention [emphasis added throughout].

Q: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into the war and looked for a way to provoke it?

B: It wasn’t quite like that. We didn’t push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.

Q: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against secret U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, nobody believed them. However, there was an element of truth in this. You don’t regret any of this today?

B: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter, essentially: “We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war.” Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war that was unsustainable for the regime, a conflict that bought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.

Q: And neither do you regret having supported Islamic fundamentalism, which has given arms and advice to future terrorists?

B: What is more important in world history? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some agitated Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?

Q: “Some agitated Moslems”? But it has been said and repeated: Islamic fundamentalism represents a world menace today…

B: Nonsense! It is said that the West has a global policy in regard to Islam. That is stupid: There isn’t a global Islam. Look at Islam in a rational manner, without demagoguery or emotionalism. It is the leading religion of the world with 1.5 billion followers. But what is t h ere in com m on among fundamentalist Saudi Arabia, moderate Morocco, militarist Pakistan, pro-Western Egypt, or secularist Central Asia? Nothing more than what unites the Christian countries…

Translated from the French by William Blum and David N. Gibbs. This translation was published in Gibbs, “Afghanistan: The Soviet Invasion in Retrospect,” International Politics 37, no. 2, 2000, pp. 241-242. For article full text, click here.

Original French version appeared in “Les Révélations d’un Ancien Conseilleur de Carter: ‘Oui, la CIA est Entrée en Afghanistan avant les Russes…’” Le Nouvel Observateur [Paris], January 15-21, 1998, p. 76. Click here for original French text.

Note that all ellipses appeared in the original transcript, as published in Le Nouvel Observateur.

Additional Sources:

The memoirs referred to in the interview are Robert M. Gates, From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider’s Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996), pp. 143-49. Written by a former CIA director, this book first revealed the covert support for the Mujahiddin, prior to the invasion.

Washington Post correspondent Steve Coll downplays the significance of the CIA operation. He presents declassified documents from Brzezinski that express deep concern about the Soviet invasion. According to Coll, the documents “show no hint of satisfaction” from Brzezinski, regarding the invasion. Note, however, that Brzezinski’s 1983 memoirs clearly do imply some satisfaction regarding the Soviet invasion (Coll neglects to mention this).

See Steve Coll, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 (New York: Penguin, 2004), pp. 50-51, 581, footnote 17; and Zbigniew Brzezinski, Power and Principle: Memoirs of the National Security Advisor, 1977–1981 (New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1983), p. 429.

Originally published: David Gibbs Blog by Le Nouvel Observateur (International Politics 37, no. 2, 2000, pp. 241-242. ) – Posted Aug 19, 2021

Source: MRonline, https://mronline.org/2021/08/19/revelations-of-carters-former-advisor-yes-the-cia-entered-afghanistan-before-the-russians-1998/

The Great Game of Smashing Countries / by John Pilger

As a tsunami of crocodile tears engulfs Western politicians, history is suppressed. More than a generation ago, Afghanistan won its freedom, which the United States, Britain and their “allies” destroyed.

In 1978, a liberation movement led by the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) overthrew the dictatorship of Mohammad Dawd, the cousin of King Zahir Shar. It was an immensely popular revolution that took the British and Americans by surprise.

Foreign journalists in Kabul, reported the New York Times, were surprised to find that “nearly every Afghan they interviewed said [they were] delighted with the coup”. The Wall Street Journal reported that “150,000 persons … marched to honour the new flag …the participants appeared genuinely enthusiastic.”

The Washington Post reported that “Afghan loyalty to the government can scarcely be questioned”. Secular, modernist and, to a considerable degree, socialist, the government declared a programme of visionary reforms that included equal rights for women and minorities. Political prisoners were freed and police files publicly burned.

Under the monarchy, life expectancy was thirty-five; one in three children died in infancy. Ninety per cent of the population was illiterate. The new government introduced free medical care. A mass literacy campaign was launched.

For women, the gains had no precedent; by the late 1980s, half the university students were women, and women made up 40 per cent of Afghanistan’s doctors, 70 per cent of its teachers and 30 per cent of its civil servants.

So radical were the changes that they remain vivid in the memories of those who benefited. Saira Noorani, a female surgeon who fled Afghanistan in 2001, recalled:

Every girl could go to high school and university. We could go where we wanted and wear what we liked … We used to go to cafes and the cinema to see the latest Indian films on a Friday … it all started to go wrong when the mujahedin started winning … these were the people the West supported.

For the United States, the problem with the PDPA government was that it was supported by the Soviet Union. Yet it was never the “puppet” derided in the West, neither was the coup against the monarchy “Soviet backed”, as the American and British press claimed at the time.

President Jimmy Carter’s Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance, later wrote in his memoirs: “We had no evidence of any Soviet complicity in the coup.”

In the same administration was Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter’s National Security Adviser, a Polish émigré and fanatical anti-communist and moral extremist whose enduring influence on American presidents expired only with his death in 2017.

On 3 July 1979, unknown to the American people and Congress, Carter authorised a $500 million “covert action” programme to overthrow Afghanistan’s first secular, progressive government.  This was code-named by the CIA Operation Cyclone.

The $500 million bought, bribed and armed a group of tribal and religious zealots known as the mujahedin. In his semi-official history, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward wrote that the CIA spent $70 million on bribes alone. He describes a meeting between a CIA agent known as “Gary” and a warlord called Amniat-Melli:

Gary placed a bundle of cash on the table: $500,000 in one-foot stacks of $100 bills. He believed it would be more impressive than the usual $200,000, the best way to say we’re here, we’re serious, here’s money, we know you need it … Gary would soon ask CIA headquarters for and receive $10 million in cash.

Recruited from all over the Muslim world, America’s secret army was trained in camps in Pakistan run by Pakistani intelligence, the CIA and Britain’s MI6. Others were recruited at an Islamic College in Brooklyn, New York – within sight of the doomed Twin Towers. One of the recruits was a Saudi engineer called Osama bin Laden.

The aim was to spread Islamic fundamentalism in Central Asia and destabilise and eventually destroy the Soviet Union.

In August, 1979, the US Embassy in Kabul reported that “the United States’ larger interests … would be served by the demise of the PDPA government, despite whatever setbacks this might mean for future social and economic reforms in Afghanistan.”

Read again the words above I have italicised. It is not often that such cynical intent is spelt out as clearly.  The US was saying that a genuinely progressive Afghan government and the rights of Afghan women could go to hell.

Six months later, the Soviets made their fatal move into Afghanistan in response to the American-created jihadist threat on their doorstep. Armed with CIA-supplied Stinger missiles and celebrated as “freedom fighters” by Margaret Thatcher, the mujahedineventually drove the Red Army out of Afghanistan.

Calling themselves the Northern Alliance, the mujahedin were dominated by war lords who controlled the heroin trade and terrorised rural women. The Taliban were an ultra-puritanical faction, whose mullahs wore black and punished banditry, rape and murder but banished women from public life.

In the 1980s, I made contact with the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, known as RAWA, which had tried to alert the world to the suffering of Afghan women. During the Taliban time they concealed cameras beneath their burqas to film evidence of atrocities, and did the same to expose the brutality of the Western-backed mujahedin. “Marina” of RAWA told me, “We took the videotape to all the main media groups, but they didn’t want to know ….”

In1996, the enlightened PDPA government was overrun. The Prime Minister, Mohammad Najibullah, had gone to the United Nations to appeal to for help. On his return, he was hanged from a street light.

“I confess that [countries] are pieces on a chessboard,” said Lord Curzon in 1898, “upon which is being played out a great game for the domination of the world.”

The Viceroy of India was referring in particular to Afghanistan. A century later, Prime Minister Tony Blair used slightly different words.

“This is a moment to seize,” he said following 9/11. “The Kaleidoscope has been shaken. The pieces are in flux. Soon they will settle again. Before they do, let us re-order this world around us.”

On Afghanistan, he added this: “We will not walk away [but ensure] some way out of the poverty that is your miserable existence.”

Blair echoed his mentor, President George W. Bush, who spoke to the victims of his bombs from the Oval Office: “The oppressed people of Afghanistan will know the generosity of America. As we strike military targets, we will also drop food, medicine and supplies to the starving and suffering … “

Almost every word was false. Their declarations of concern were cruel illusions for an imperial savagery “we” in the West rarely recognise as such.

In 2001, Afghanistan was stricken and depended on emergency relief convoys from Pakistan. As the journalist Jonathan Steele reported, the invasion indirectly caused the deaths of some 20,000 people as supplies to drought victims stopped and people fled their homes.

Eighteen months later, I found unexploded American cluster bombs in the rubble of Kabul which were often mistaken for yellow relief packages dropped from the air. They blew the limbs off foraging, hungry children.

In the village of Bibi Maru, I watched a woman called Orifa kneel at the graves of her husband, Gul Ahmed, a carpet weaver, and seven other members of her family, including six children, and two children who were killed next door.

An American F-16 aircraft had come out of a clear blue sky and dropped a Mk82 500-pound bomb on Orifa’s mud, stone and straw house. Orifa was away at the time. When she returned, she gathered the body parts.

Months later, a group of Americans came from Kabul and gave her an envelope with fifteen notes: a total of 15 dollars. “Two dollars for each of my family killed,” she said.

The invasion of Afghanistan was a fraud. In the wake of 9/11, the Taliban sought to distant themselves from Osama bin Laden. They were, in many respects, an American client with which the administration of Bill Clinton had done a series of secret deals to allow the building of a $3 billion natural gas pipeline by a US oil company consortium.

In high secrecy, Taliban leaders had been invited to the US and entertained by the CEO of the Unocal company in his Texas mansion and by the CIA at its headquarters in Virginia. One of the deal-makers was Dick Cheney, later George W. Bush’s Vice-President.

In 2010, I was in Washington and arranged to interview the mastermind of Afghanistan’s modern era of suffering, Zbigniew Brzezinski. I quoted to him his autobiography in which he admitted that his grand scheme for drawing the Soviets into Afghanistan had created “a few stirred up Muslims”.

“Do you have any regrets?” I asked.

“Regrets! Regrets! What regrets?”

When we watch the current scenes of panic at Kabul airport, and listen to journalists and generals in distant TV studios bewailing the withdrawal of “our protection”, isn’t it time to heed the truth of the past so that all this suffering never happens again?

Photo: In the mid-1970s, female students were a common sight at Afghan education centers such as Kabul’s Polytechnical University. But some 20 years later, women’s access to education in the conflict-ridden country was completely shut down. And it changed only after the toppling of the Taliban regime in 2001. The right to education for both men and women was enshrined in the 2003 Afghan Constitution.

John Pilger can be reached through his website: www.johnpilger.com

Source: COUNTERPUNCH, August 25, 2021 | https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/08/25/the-great-game-of-smashing-countries/

U.S. defeat in Afghanistan—A contrast with the Soviet experience / by As’ad AbuKhalil

The decision by President Joe Biden to withdraw “all U.S. troops” from Afghanistan (not really all, but you know how empires fold their occupation tents) was a major decision in the contemporary history of the U.S. empire since the end of the Cold War. The U.S. war in Afghanistan has lasted longer than the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan and yet Western media never regarded U.S. involvement for what it was: an attempt to reshape the Middle East—and beyond—according to U.S. designs. Many of the facts regarding the background of the American intervention rarely make it into U.S. media narratives.

There is a big difference between the U.S. and Soviet experience in Afghanistan. The Soviet Union never invented exile groups and forced them on the native Afghan population to rule over them. In name only of course, as the U.S. military and the foreign service bureaucracy have really ruled the country. Just as in Iraq, the U.S. relied on puppets, with very little popular legitimacy in most cases, to rule in its name.

Ahmad Chalabi was a key favorite of the Bush administration, and the man the U.S. hoped would lead Iraq into the American orbit and even toward peace with Israel. But in the last Iraqi election before his death he had to align himself with Shiite cleric Muqtada As-Sadr in order to secure a seat for himself in the Iraqi parliament. The man who was key for U.S. intelligence and military (and who received millions of taxpayers’ money to conduct secret operations on behalf of the U.S.) wound up an ally of Iran and its allies in the region.

The Soviets, on the other hand, relied on local popular Afghans who had deep roots in their country and who had already formed popular progressive political parties. Those black-and-white photographs, which show how secular Afghanistan was, are but a testimony to the impact of secular, leftist rule there.

As much as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan received coverage in U.S. media at the time (remember CBS correspondent Dan Rather donning Afghan Hollywood wardrobe and promoting the zealot mujahideen?), and as much as Western and Gulf governments complained and expressed outrage over the so-called excesses of the Soviet army, the American occupation venture in Afghanistan proved to be far more brutal and devastating—but with little media attention to U.S. human rights violations there. The number of civilians who are killed in Afghanistan by the U.S., or by its allies, often exceed the number of civilians killed per year by the Taliban.

Prepping the People for Invasion

For every invasion, the U.S. prepares a set of propaganda talking points, and those points are dutifully carried in Western media as facts. Those talking points can be altered depending on the situation. The U.S. first invaded Iraq ostensibly to rid the country of WMDs, but when no WMDs were found the U.S. came up with another goal: of establishing democracy in the Middle East. And while the U.S. fought every attempt to democratize Iraq and tried to replace free elections with “caucuses,” it then came up with the goal of stabilizing the country (the country is yet to be stabilized).

| Women at university in Afghanistan in the 1970s The US which cries crocodile tears about the status of women in Afghanistan backed the jihadists in the 1980s that put an end to this Amnesty International UK | MR Online
Women at university in Afghanistan in the 1970s. The U.S., which cries crocodile tears about the status of women in Afghanistan, backed the jihadists in the 1980s that put an end to this. (Amnesty International UK)

In Afghanistan, the U.S. invaded to punish the Taliban for the Sept. 11 attacks although there is still no evidence that the Taliban leadership knew of Osama bin Laden’s plans. When the U.S. requested that the Taliban government surrender bin Laden in the wake of Sept. 11, the Taliban government (which had the diplomatic recognition of only three countries—Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the UAE—all key regional allies of the U.S.) seriously considered surrendering him and asked the U.S. to provide evidence of bin Laden’s guilt.

But the U.S. refused to negotiate because it was intent on invading the country to teach a lesson and to “kick some ass.” The U.S. wanted a war of revenge and 93 percent of Americans supported that war at the time (the invasion of Iraq was not as massively popular but still an overwhelming majority of Americans supported it). President George W. Bush took the occasion to assert that the U.S. wanted to overcome the Vietnam Syndrome, even though his father said in 1991 that it had been kicked once and for all. It was all a myth anyway as the U.S. never stopped intervening militarily in the affairs of countries and invading since Vietnam, but the Republican Party created that myth to rationalize their calls for more wars and more invasions.

At the time of the Soviet intervention, Afghanistan was divided between reactionary, religious-oriented, obscurantist forces and leftists who wanted a progressive social agenda based on feminism, secularism and social justice. The U.S., of course, sided with the reactionary and religious zealots, which it rushed to organize, finance and arm in the wake of the Soviet military entering the country.

Bin Laden was the direct product of the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan as the U.S. was midwife for the birth of an internationalist force of religious fanatics, kooks and zealots. The Soviets faced an array of regional and international forces which the U.S. organized to undermine Moscow’s efforts in Afghanistan and a progressive Afghan regime. With help especially from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and regional jihadists, the U.S. in the 1980s inflicted an internationalized war on the entire region from which the region would not recover, not even today.

The Soviets dealt with their war in Afghanistan rather differently. They did not organize an international force to prop up their allied regime. Furthermore, world communists failed miserably to see the historical significance of the Afghan conflict: they did not know that the defeat of the progressive project in Afghanistan would have severe repercussions on progress throughout the region–if not the world.

They could not see the importance of defeating the reactionary project there; had they organized—just as they had done in the Spanish Civil War—they may have been able to preserve the progressive order in Kabul. It was a missed opportunity for progress worldwide. The U.S.S.R. was not, it turned out, merely defending a progressive regime in Afghanistan, but was defending progressiveness in Muslim lands worldwide.

In contrast, the U.S. and Western powers in general, were promoting reactionary forces in the Islamic world. And those forces were in sync with the reactionary regime of Saudi Arabia, which jumped at the opportunity to collaborate—yet again—with the U.S. in combating Arab and Muslim progressives.

The U.S. did not face in Afghanistan the internationalist array of forces the U.S.S.R. had faced. Washington formed an international coalition of various governments around the world—which, oddly enough, regarded the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan and a brutal campaign of pacification that the U.S. had honed in Vietnam—as a just response or revenge for Sept. 11.

Today’s Defeat

The U.S. has been defeated today in Afghanistan not by a superpower with an advanced military, but by a rag-tag army of fanatical locals who perfected and consolidated their fanaticism under U.S., Saudi and Pakistani tutelage in the 1980s to fight the Soviets.

| Soviet soldier in Afghanistan Mikhail Evstafiev via Wikimedia Commons | MR Online
Soviet soldier in Afghanistan. (Mikhail Evstafiev via Wikimedia Commons)

The U.S. leaves Afghanistan defeated while typically blaming a variety of forces that have nothing to do with American deeds in the country. The U.S. legacy is the disruption of village life, the rising toll of civilian casualties and the imposition of a government of thieves, embezzlers, usurpers, World Bank functionaries and a healthy dose of war criminals who were previously cobbled together in the Northern Alliance and its allies in their war against the Taliban.

Just as Iraqi expatriates (like Chalabi and Kanaan Makiyya) assured George W. Bush that native Iraqis would welcome U.S. occupation troops with open arms, a chosen select group of Afghan expatriates assured Bush that Afghans would welcome American occupation forever. But the U.S. failed to understand why locals—anywhere—would resist U.S. colonial rule.

Western media, especially The Washington Post and The New York Times, have been aghast that the Biden administration would withdraw from the country after “only” 20 years of occupation. They asked about the fate of the good Afghans—i.e., those Afghans who worked, translated, spied on behalf of the U.S. military. Various headlines bemoaned the status of women after the American departure: what would Muslim women do without U.S. troops?

But the U.S. military could not sustain the occupation forever and the hope for a stable pacification has eluded the U.S.  As it withdraws its forces from Afghanistan, it is certain that the U.S., which never understood the country, is leaving it in a much worse state than when it began its intervention 40 years ago.

Author: As’ad AbuKhalil (@asadabukhalil) is a Lebanese-American professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus. He is the author of the “Historical Dictionary of Lebanon” (1998), “Bin Laden, Islam and America’s New War on Terrorism (2002), and “The Battle for Saudi Arabia” (2004).

Source: MRonline August 16, 2021

Originally published: Consortium News (May 13, 2021)

This article originally appeared 3 months ago but we are republishing it again now because we think it remains the best analysis available online about the present situation in Afghanistan. —MRonline Eds.

Nina Turner: My Love Letter to Our Movement / by Nina Turner

Dear progressive movement,

As I reflect on the past few weeks, I am filled with pride and gratitude for the incredible strides our progressive movement has made and continues to make. Our collective impact in improving the material conditions of working families of all races and from every walk of life in America is unmistakable.

After all, that is the entire reason for this movement. We are on a journey — united on a mission to center the poor, the working poor and the barely middle class. I call that journey our “justice journey.”

Just look around and see how far we have advanced the needle on policies like Medicare for All, a $15 an hour minimum wage, the Green New Deal and canceling student debt. These policies are more popular than ever, and we have successfully elected progressive candidates who are advancing these and other people-centered policies in the Congress. We cannot overstate the role that our progressive House members and Senators are having on the transformational legislation moving through the Congress right now. In addition, we have seen a growing influence of the dozens of organizations that share our mission.

We have made this progress because we have stood together against the enormous odds arrayed against us, and we have stayed the course.

I liken the members of our movement to twenty-first-century freedom fighters. We are courageous, determined individuals committed to centering the needs of everyday people in the political and legislative process. We believe it is time to end an approach to governance where the wealthy and well-connected are first in line and working people are an afterthought.

When the opportunity to run in Ohio’s Eleventh Congressional District presented itself, I saw a chance to leverage our movement to help reduce poverty in my hometown of Cleveland, the poorest city of its size in America, and to elevate our progressive vision. In a state with a minimum wage of $8.80, the average income in Cleveland is only $30,907, and 32 percent of the city’s residents live in poverty, our fight for a $15 an hour minimum wage, Medicare for All, a Green New Deal and canceling student debt would make a transformational difference to its residents.

No one person, not even the greatest candidate, ever runs for office by themselves. I want to thank everyone who gave of themselves to support our campaign. We’ve seen our movement win in places like Missouri, Minnesota, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, and you stood with me in Ohio to cross uncharted territory and show that our policies can continue winning multiracial, working-class voters in the heart of the Midwest.

Our campaign attracted incredible volunteers for a field program that knocked on some 70,000 doors, sent over 1 million volunteer texts, and made tens of thousands of volunteer phone calls — work done by some 5,000 volunteers (half of whom, I am proud to say, were Ohioans). All of that work was done before our GOTV program ever began.

I share your profound disappointment that we did not get the outcome we hoped for during this special election. But we did see our movement widely embraced by the working people of greater Cleveland and greater Akron. And that, my friends, is a win we needed.

Ohio’s Eleventh is not New York or California. It is the heart of the Midwest. Our work proves that progressive ideas are popular even in the center of the country — a critical lesson as we expand geographically in our work to bring working people, young people, people of color, and so many others who have given up on politics into the political process.

We always knew, whether we won or lost, that the election of one person would not erase the systemic suffering of working families across this district or this nation. So the mission remains the same today as it would have been if we had prevailed on election night.

This election’s outcome does not change the importance of our efforts to transform this country so that the needs of working people — not just the donor class — are what matters. It does not change the fact that we have so much more work to do, so many more fights to wage, and so many more victories to achieve.

Let there be no doubt that our movement is stronger than ever, thriving, and more prepared to take on the special interests that protect the status quo. Our opponents would not have felt it necessary to dump millions in corporate and Republican–aligned money if they did not see our strength. Progressives have the energy, and we are ready to roll up our sleeves to keep building our movement — especially in places where we have never competed before.

Preparing for Elections Is a Year-Round Effort

The progressive movement is already taking the lessons learned from this race and preparing for future opportunities. Our Revolution and People’s Action, organizations that supported me and many other progressive candidates, have begun mapping out ongoing organizing plans. This will lay the groundwork and create the infrastructure earlier than in previous cycles to prepare for the tough contests ahead.

In my race, at the drop of a hat, corporate interests and even Trump-aligned donors dropped millions of dollars to oppose us. In response, we had the support of so many small-dollar grassroots donors. But we cannot ignore the fact that our opponents’ ability to write massive checks whenever they wish is an advantage for them.

So, our job is not just about supporting a candidate one election at a time; it is also about supporting the organizing for elections of the future. We can defeat the corporate big-money advantage by organizing year in and year out.

This ongoing organizing will give us the capacity to support progressive candidates and help communities engaged in struggles outside of elections. It will empower our movement to protect our candidates when the establishment inevitably lines up dark money and resources to battle us.

Growing our network of volunteers, donors, and organizations is just as critical as growing a roster of elected officials. We will not grow the number of progressive elected officials fighting for freedom without building this network of activated everyday people.

If this race has taught us anything, it is that corporate interests will stop at nothing to blunt our momentum — even if it means aligning with Trump-connected Republicans to do it. That means we must also be willing to work in alliances with others outside of our movement when possible. In my race, our message of lifting working families attracted the support of local council members, mayors, state representatives, and state senators — including many who do not align themselves with the progressive movement.

We also need to employ the talents of all those who will stand with us. It takes a rainbow mosaic of not just volunteers and supporters, but organizers, operatives, staff, and consultants to make it happen.

I am proud of the multiracial staff and consulting team we assembled for my campaign — led by women and people of color — for this phase of our journey. Their collective experience, expertise, and perspectives made us a richer and more effective campaign. We must continue to be intentional about ensuring that all campaigns are reflective of the full diversity of our movement and build up local talent and capacity to support progressives at every level of government.

The Progressive Movement Is Power Through Love

While winning elections is one concrete metric for judging the success of our movement, it is only one. Just as important is advancing the policy agenda we all support. You see the impact of our movement in Congress right now. As we speak, incredible members are showing up for the people and pushing to make sure no one is left behind.

On the day of our election, Rep. Cori Bush slept on the Capitol steps on behalf of people facing eviction. An incredible example of what this movement can be, she is just one of many great leaders walking the walk. Her actions helped lead to the extension of the eviction moratorium. Without her courage to demand more, millions of people would be facing immediate eviction from their homes.

I ask you not to lose sight of our mission. No matter how you support the movement — as a volunteer that travels from state to state helping candidates, a virtual warrior texting and phone-banking each week, a donor of $3 or $27 or a supporter of your local progressive organization — stand fast in your work within this movement. We need you in this fight.

We are guided by our love for humanity to do this justice work together. The words of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr remind us that “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”

We seek to root out the reckless abuse of the working poor and to implement the demand for justice through love for our common humanity. As our justice journey continues and we look to our next chapter, know that I am eternally grateful for your continued support of me and this movement.

We are tilling the soil of progress, and we will continue to see our work bear fruit. Together we will support courageous future candidates, organizations, and operatives to be persistent and determined to change the material conditions of the people.

Making good trouble and telling radical truths matter. As we build our collective power to tackle the work ahead that we will do together, my heart is full of love for you and our movement. Thank you for the support you gave me in this campaign — my gratitude for each of you is beyond what words can convey. I look forward to seeing you on the road to progress.


Nina Turner

Author: The Honorable Nina Turner is a former Ohio state senator. She is currently running for Ohio’s 11th congressional district seat.

Source: Jacobin, August 26, 2021  |  https://jacobinmag.com/2021/08/nina-turner-letter-progressive-movement

Podcast: Prof. Hahrie Han explains how movements can make lasting change / by Beacon Staff


This week on the Beacon podcast, Ben Chin interviews Professor Hahrie Han of Johns Hopkins University on her work studying how and why movements for change succeed. She notes the importance of being equipped to respond to moments of challenge and demanding changes to power dynamics as well as material gains.

Podcast 24 minutes

Source: Beacon, August 26, 2021

Two-thirds of Mainers support path to citizenship for undocumented essential workers / by Lauren McCauley

A majority of Mainers support creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children, who fled war or natural disasters in their home country or who are considered essential workers, such as farmworkers, according to a recent poll conducted by the Maine People’s Resource Center.

The poll, which surveyed 528 Maine voters by phone and online in late July, found that 68% of respondents said they would support legislation that creates an earned pathway to citizenship, compared with 23% who said they would oppose such a measure (8.7% were undecided). The poll has a statistical margin of error of +/- 4.3% at the 95% confidence level.

Despite the anti-immigrant rhetoric from GOP leaders — particularly in recent years under the leadership of former President Donald Trump and former Governor Paul LePage in Maine — 48% of voters who identified as Republican said they support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented essential workers compared with 47% who said they are opposed.

Last week, more than 50 people rallied in Brunswick calling for Maine’s congressional delegation to support including a pathway to citizenship for essential workers, among other provisions, in the Democrats’ budget reconciliation package that is currently under discussion.

“As the richest country in the world, we have a duty to help people fleeing violence, escaping poverty, environmental and humanitarian crises,” Rita Welch, a Portland resident who is originally from Colombia, told the crowd.

Advocates who support creating a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented people said that, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress should at least recognize those who are frontline, essential workers.

“All immigrants deserve a path to citizenship but the very least we can do is provide one for those who have given so much to keeping our nation afloat during these trying times,” said Amy Halsted, co-director of MPRC, which was founded by Maine People’s Alliance (of which Beacon is a project).

Source: Maine Beacon, August 26th, 2021 | https://mainebeacon.com/two-thirds-of-mainers-support-path-to-citizenship-for-undocumented-essential-workers/

Photo: Maine voters rallied in Augusta on August 19 to call on Sen. Angus King to support including a pathway to citizenship for essential workers, among other provisions, in the Democrats’ budget reconciliation package. | Beacon staff

Author: Lauren McCauley is Editor of Maine Beacon. Previously, she was a senior editor at Common Dreams covering national and international politics and progressive news. Lauren also helped produce a number of documentary films, including the award-winning Soundtrack for a Revolution and The Hollywood Complex, as well as one currently in production about civil rights icon James Meredith. Her writing has been featured on Newsweek, BillMoyers.com, TruthDig, Truthout, In These Times,and Extra! the newsletter of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. She currently lives in Kennebunk with her husband, two children, a dog and several chickens. Lauren can be reached at Lauren(at)mainebeacon.com