Fidel Castro’s interview with Barbara Walters, 1977 / ABCNews

Reposted from In Defense of Communism, December 31, 2022

On May 1977, the legendary leader of Socialist Cuba, Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro, gave an interview to ABC’s reporter Barbara Walters (1929-2022). It was Fidel’s first interview to U.S. television since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. Below you can read the full transcript of the interview, accompanied by a video.

When will your country and my country have normal relations?

I believe that Carter himself will have to re­move many internal obstacles. History proves that any change in U.S. policy needs time and resistance must be overcome … It is not probable that in the following four years, relations will be re-established, if they are going to be re-established on serious and solid grounds … Maybe in Carter’s second term, between 1980 and 1984 … The ob­stacles cannot be eliminated overnight, believe that … the first steps have been taken. And I consider them positive. But there are also some manifestations of resis­tance. Recently, the House of Representa­tives opposed the motion presented by [Sen­ator George] McGovern for a partial lifting of the blockade. And in spite of the fact that it did not solve the problem, it is undoubt­edly a good gesture, a good initiative. In the Senate committee they have already agreed to adopt the partial lifting of the blockade in respect to food, medicine–only in one direction. That step alone wall very modest; if they do not buy food or medicine from us, we will not buy food or medicine from the United States. In principle, we cannot accept any type of unilateral formula for trade… As long as the embargo exists, in any form, adequate conditions will not exist to better relations between the United States and Cuba. Now then, I ask myself, does Carter want to lift the embargo? Can Carter lift the embargo?

Well, suppose the embargo is lifted …Would that mean normal relations?

I think it would be a decisive step toward normal relations. Then we could sit down on equal terms to discuss the differences be­tween the United States and Cuba. Many problems could be discussed. But we cannot hold discussions if you are not on equal footing. This is the fundamental principle that we maintain.

We have made many gestures recently of friendship, or of trying to improve rela­tions … Now, what signs from you? What gesture in return?

We have responded to the gestures of the United States. For instance, on fishing, we have historical rights to fish in those seas, since we respected the 12-mile limit that had been established. [Then] the U.S. govern­ment makes a unilateral decision, which does not correspond to an international agree­ment, to expand its jurisdiction to 200 miles. We did not have any alternative other than to expand our seas to 200 miles… We have accepted U.S. law and we have also been willing to reach an agreement … The United States has authorized U.S. citizens to visit Cuba … What does that mean? First, the re-establishment of a freedom for

U.S. citizens that they had been deprived of before … What has our attitude been? We have responded by authorizing these visits of U.S. citizens, facilitating that right of U.S. citizens to visit Cuba, even though we do not know how inconvenient that could be for us, because we face the risk that terrorist elements could come. We also face the risk of CIA elements coming in.

You also make some money.

We might earn some money. But the econom­ic element has not been the decisive factor, because, as I say, there are risks. We have done this simply as a gesture of friendship to U.S. citizens. We are not going to solve our economic problems through those visits. We do not even have enough facilities to develop high-level tourism here. That is why I can tell you that it was a gesture, on our part, of confidence and of friendship to the U.S. people, being certain that they will be received with all of the courtesy, hospi­tality, and friendly spirit in our country. That is to say that for each gesture on the part of the United States, there has been a corresponding gesture on our part. But aside from that, you also mentioned the lifting of spy flights over Cuban territory. That pleases us. We appreciate that gesture … But we cannot respond with a measure equal to that, since we have never carried out spy flights over the United States … Who prof­its from this? Cuba gains in that we don’t have planes flying above us, that every once in a while would break the sound barrier and bother everybody … Who gains more in suspending these flights? Cuba or the United States? I think that it is the United States, in accepting international law; in eliminating an act that was an open viola­tion of our sovereignty, they gain in the face of world public opinion, they gain in re­spect; so we both gain by this.

We have made these gestures, whether you think that they are to our benefit or not, as gestures of friendship. There are gestures that you could make in return. For example, you could let Cubans in the United States, maybe even second-generation Cubans, re­turn to this country to visit their families; release any or all of the 24 Americans in prison here; reinstate the hijacking agree­ment that ended on April 15; make some effort toward compensation of the property, estimated at $2 billion, confiscated at the time of the revolution. Perhaps, at this time, you cannot do any of this, but maybe you could make one sign that shows your heart­felt intentions.

It seems funny that you speak about the possibility of a country under economic blockade by the United States making any promise for indemnity of U.S. property. First of all, these properties recovered, in benefits, at least 10 times the investments made in Cuba before the triumph of the rev­olution. Second, the United States, through 18 years of hostility, aggression, subversive plans, and economic blockade, has brought about far worse damage in our country than the value of the properties that, as you say, were confiscated. So in that sense, we cannot make any gesture. I admit that on these questions of mutual economic interest and of mutual economic damages we could hold discussions in the future when the blockade against our country has ceased. On the air piracy agreement, we cannot forget that only a few months ago a Cuban plane was sabo­taged while in fight; 73 people died, includ­ing the whole youth fencing team that had just obtained almost all the gold medals in an international match … More than one million people accompanied the scarce re­mains of these victims to the burial place. That event that was perpetrated by people trained by the CIA, with the unquestionable complicity of the CIA, was the reason that we denounced the agreement … How could our people understand, only a few months after that criminal act, and at a time when we still have no proof that the United States has made the decision to take measures against these terrorists, our signing this hi­jacking agreement ? We have said that as long as the economic blockade exists we will not sign this agreement … We consider the eco­nomic blockade a serious act of hostility against our country, and it encourages ter­rorism. You blockade Cuba. On the other hand, you trade with South Africa; you make investments in a fascist country, a rac­ist country, where 20 million blacks are dis­criminated against and oppressed.

Will you allow Cubans to visit this country, to visit their families?

Not until relations with the United States are normalized.

Is it possible to have any of the American prisoners released?

I cannot commit myself now to take any measure, but it is something that can be considered … You cannot hope that we will free them all, since some of them are important CIA agents … And speaking of gestures, I hear that you concern yourselves about some of these CIA agents that are in prison, and this is humane; and I ask my­self, why has there never been any effort to free Lolita Lebron, for instance, and a group of Puerto Rican patriots who have been in prison for more than 25 years in the United States?

As I listen to you, I am reminded that Batista released you from prison and that you came back. Perhaps that has entered into your thinking.

Batista came to power by force, through a coup d’etat. He looted the country. All his acts were illegal. Our struggle against Ba­tista’s regime was totally just, and totally legal. What’s more important, it was in agreement with the precepts of the constitu­tion. I was as worthy of going to jail as Washington and Jefferson when they rose up against English domination in the old American colonies. And nobody questions the legitimacy, honor, and greatness of those American patriots who rose up against tyr­anny. And that is what we did. Batista was not the one who freed us; it was the people — the masses with their demands that coin­cided with Batista’s interest in an electoral masquerade. And he could not do it as long as we were in prison … The CIA agents are men who, coming from a foreign country, worked to overthrow the revolutionary gov­ernment, thus committing a very serious act … We were doing something just. They were not doing anything just. We were serv­ing our homeland. They were serving a powerful foreign power … I do not con­sider myself a George Washington or a Thomas Jefferson … I have never fought to occupy a position in history. I have al­ways fought for concrete facts, for justice. I follow the slogan of Marti: All of the glo­ry of the world fits in one grain of corn.

Can you have trade relations with the United States before the embargo is lifted and before we have normal relations?

Before the lifting of the blockade — you call it “embargo”– it is impossible, because the U.S. laws and agreements, the provisions of the government prohibit it. If the embargo is lifted totally, we could have trade relations before establishing diplomatic relations, but I believe that that step would create the ap­propriate conditions for further development of relations … Now then, if the embargo is lifted partially and only one side can purchase merchandise, that is to say, specific merchandise only, we could not have any trade, because we could not accept that dis­crimination, that is, that we buy food from the United States and the United States would not buy sugar or other agricultural products from us. But if it is partially lifted in both directions, then there could be a cer­tain trade of agricultural products between the United States and Cuba.

But if the embargo or blockade is lifted one way, so that you can buy food and medicine, would you do that?

If the embargo is lifted so that we can only buy agricultural products from the United States and we would not be able to sell agricultural products to the United States, we would not buy anything at all from the United States, not even an aspirin for head­aches-and we have a lot of headaches … The U.S. policy of hostility toward Cuba, that is its worst policy. I am totally con­vinced that in regard to Cuba a policy of normal relations and of commercial exchange would be much more intelligent.

Do you think that the United States will one day be a Socialist country?

I do. One day. Some time ago, the United States was an English colony. If an English­man were asked if the United States would be independent, he would have said no, that it would always be an English colony. Af­terward, the colonies liberated themselves, a nation was established, but it contained slavery. The slave owners would have said that slavery would never disappear, but slavery ended. salaried workers came, capi­talism came, it developed extraordinarily, large multinational enterprises developed, and if a reasonable man is asked now if that will be eternal, he would have to say no. Some day the capitalist system will disappear in the United States, because no social class system has been eternal. One day, class societies will disappear. But you can be calm, I do not foresee in a short time any change toward socialism in the United States.

What do you think of Richard Nixon?

I was always of the impression that Nixon was a false man and that he was a mediocre politician, using tricks all the time. And I think that events have reinforced that im­pression.

Some Americans believe that you did not become a Communist until after you had control of the government; that when you were in the mountains, the people did not know that you were a Communist, so that you deceived the people. I would like to ask you, when did you become a Communist?

I became a Communist on my own, before reading a book by Marx, Engels, Lenin, or anyone. I became a Communist by studying capitalist political economy, and when I had some understanding of that problem, it ac­tually seemed to me so absurd, so irrational, so inhuman, that I simply began to elaborate on my own formulas for production and distribution. That was when I was a third-­year law student at the University of Ha­vana. And I’ll tell you something more, because I do not hide my life, nor my origin, nor do I have any reason to invent things. If I were a false man, if my ideas were not deep and sincere, I would not have been able to convince anyone in this country, because when the revolution triumphed, the majority of the people were not Socialists, and the majority of the people were not Communists. But when the revolution tri­umphed, my convictions were Socialist, were Communist. I was born within a landhold­ing family, I studied in religious schools, that is, my primary and secondary education. I arrived at the University of Havana being a political illiterate and no one instilled ideas in me. These ideas were the result of my own analysis and my own meditations. I am very sorry not to have had, since I was a child, someone who would have educated me politically. Since I had to discover that on my own, I became what could be called a utopian Communist. Then I discovered Marxist literature, the Communist Manifesto, the works of Marx, Engels, and Lenin. Maybe there are some in Cuba and even outside of Cuba who remember listen­ing to all the criticisms that I made about capitalist society when I had not even read one Marxist document … Before the revo­lution, our program was not yet a Socialist program … It was a program of national liberation, very close to socialism. I would say that it was the maximum that at that time and under those circumstances could have been understood by the masses of the population. Although our program was not Socialist as of yet, I did myself have deep Socialist and Communist convictions. When the revolution triumphed, the people were still not Socialists or Communists because they were still too deceived, too poisoned through anti-Communist propaganda, Mc­Carthyist propaganda, too poisoned by bourgeois papers, bourgeois books, bourgeois cinema coming exclusively from the United States … What made our people Socialists and Communists? The revolutionary laws, the work of the revolution, persuasion, and education … Now the people are Socialists and Communists … That is a reality, and it is not going to change, no matter how many millions of tourists come here.

You have said that a man should not remain in office too long lest he become arrogant. Could that happen in your case?

I feel totally convinced that it could not happen. My life has always been an effort for constant improvement. A man in dif­ferent stages may feel assaulted by arrogance, vanity, and all sorts of things. I have always been very much on the alert against these. In my opinion, the more one matures, the more one struggles, the more a purpose is instilled in you. It has always been said that power corrupts people … But do not forget that we have a doctrine. We are not tribal chiefs, whose influence and power are based on personality, our power, our strength, is based on ideas, on a doctrine, on convic­tions … The danger simply does not exist in my case. not only because of subjective ideas, but also because of objective matter. When the revolution triumphed, we could say that my power was very great, because I was the chief of a victorious army, and a war is not led through collective, democratic methods, it is based on the responsibility of command. Immediately after the triumph, we started to establish a collective leadership, to create a party… Afterward came the whole process, the war, and then after the triumph of the revolution the institutionali­zation of the revolution. Since then, we have always preached incessantly against the cult of personality, against making men gods. We prohibit statues, the names of the leaders used in streets. So that in my case, far from entering a process in which the individual had greater power, the individual bad to share his power even more.

But children kiss you. People shout. “Fidel! Fidel!” You are a legend.

They take me as a symbol. The children have schools, but I was not the one who built the schools. There were tens of hun­dreds of workers who built those schools. They have a camp. That camp was not built by me, that camp was built by hundreds of workers. The economy of the country, from where the clothes, the shoes, the food for those children come is not produced by me, it is produced by the workers, it is produced by millions of people. The merit is in the millions of people. What happens is that the people cannot thank millions of people and they thank one person. But I have never even thought that I deserve all that merit. I have merit. I am not going to deny that I know I have merit, because of the influence I have had on events. But that is not a reason for me to feel that I deserve the recognition that is the result of the work of millions.

Do you think that you will be president until your death?

I do not wish so. But I don’t think I have the right to resign… It would be, in my opinion, a selfishness on my part. So I could not do that. If I felt incapable, I would then have the obligation to do so, and the most probable thing is that if I myself did not understand that, my comrades would replace me. But as long as I have the capacity and as long as I can be useful in one position or in another, and as long as it is a demand of the revolution, I have the duty to carry out that job. Until when? I don’t know when I’m going to die. I don’t know if I’m going to die tomorrow, tonight, in an accident, natural death, I cannot know… Maybe if I have the capacity until that moment, maybe I could be up … until I die.

Your newspapers, radio, television, and mo­tion pictures are under state control … Why not allow dissent in the newspapers, or an opposition newspaper?

Our concept of freedom of the press is not like yours… Our mass media serve the revolution. As long as the revolution devel­ops, as long as hostility against Cuba exists, as long as there is counterrevolution sup­ported by the United States, and as long as this struggle exists, we will not allow any paper that goes against the revolution. And besides, who would pay for it? Would the CIA?

I sometimes think that you feel everything, everything comes back to the CIA.

The problem is that the CIA has a budget of $5 million for espionage, murder, and sab­otage. It’s a lot of money. The CIA uses more money each year than the total volume of Cuban exports, and you don’t want us to think about the CIA. The CIA has made plans to assassinate the leaders of the revolution for more than 10 years, and you don’t want me to think about the CIA. In fact, I am not the only one. Everybody here thinks about the CIA.

Do you have proof of the last CIA attack against you, the last plan perhaps to assas­sinate you?

That was in 1971, when I visited Chile … The CIA plans went on for more than 10 years, and I do not know when they ceased … At this very moment, I have no proof that the CIA has stopped its plans. I have not received any CIA message telling me that the plans have stopped, nor have we received any excuse from the U.S. government for the fact that the country’s authorities for more than 10 years have been preparing the plans to assassinate the leaders of the revolution. In spite of the fact that the Senate inves­tigated, and verified a very small part of those plans, never has any U.S. authority addressed the government of Cuba to apolo­gize for these events …

Do you think that Nixon ordered or specif­ically approved assassination attempts?

I don’t know how these mechanisms operate. I don’t know how an assassination is planned in the United States. I don’t know if they write down an order; I don’t know if they discuss it with the CIA director; I don’t know if they tell them directly, or if they tell them indirectly; that I don’t know. But what I can assure you is that if there were plans and Nixon Were confronted with these plans, he did not change them.

Mr. President, may we talk about Africa! Do you think that one day all of Africa will be Communist?

Let’s not say Communist. I don’t know what is understood by Communist. I don’t know if all of Africa is going to be Marxist­-Leninist. I could not say that, because there are African countries that have a strong relig­ious Islamic influence that determines their political philosophy. If you ask me if all of Africa will one day be Socialist, I could tell you that yes, it will be… They have no other alternative … In Africa, there is a terrible backwardness: sanitation condi­tions are terrible; there are countries that only have one doctor for every 100,000 inhabitants; there are no universities, or they have very few students; there are no tech­nicians. Those countries cannot even allow the luxury of thinking of an anarchic de­velopment of the capitalist type-the path of neocolonialism, foreign investments that take over the national resources of the coun­try. I am not denying the possibility of agreements existing between foreign enter­prises and these countries, but, in essence, the control of the national resources should be in their hands, and economic development should be planned. The resources cannot be wasted, corruption cannot be admitted. If they don’t follow a Socialist path, they will never be able to solve their problems. You have created a specific way of life, and a society that has a lot of wealth-badly distributed in fact. Do you think that your way of life could be a model for Africa, for India, for China? Imagine each Chinese citizen having an automobile, and each In­dian citizen having an automobile, and each African citizen having an automobile 20 years from now. How many years would it take before the fuel reserves, oil reserves were exhausted? So you have created a society that runs very well for you, if that is your criterion, but that cannot be the model for the underdeveloped countries of the world.

What do you see as Cuba’s role in Africa?

The role of Cuba in Africa is mainly of a civilian nature, not of a military one. For a long time, we have been assisting a large number of countries, sending them technical assistance, especially doctors. On certain oc­casions, they have asked us for military ad­visers, to help organize their armed forces. And we have sent them, at the request of these governments. The case of Angola was the first occasion in which we sent military units. But we always had relations with the MPLA [Popular Movement for the Libera­tion of Angola] since they started their strug­gle for independence. And we assisted them. When they were at the point of achieving their independence an attempt was made to snatch it from them. The U.S. government invested some tens of millions of dollars to organize a movement, in Zaire, handled by the CIA. That is the famous FNLA [National Front for the Liberation of Angola]. The Portuguese organized another counterrevolu­tionary movement before they left-UNITA [the National Union for the Total Liberation of Angola]. South Africa was determined to stop the victory of the MPLA. We had been assisting them for a long time, and we were sending them weapons, and we had sent them some military instructors. We sent our first military unit at a time when the South African regular troops invaded Angola on October 23, 1975. Tank col­umns, artillery columns, blitzkrieg-type, Nazi-type, apartheid style. They sent their regular army. So we had to make a decision. Either we would sit idle, and South Africa would take over Angola, or we would make an effort to help. That was the moment. On November 5, we made the decision to send the first military unit to Angola to fight against the South African troops. That is the reason why we made the decision. If we would not have made that effort it is most probable that South Africa would have taken over Angola. We would also have Angola in the hands of the South African racists. I don’t know what has been pub­lished in the United States about it, but I am sure that the American black people know the meaning of discrimination and of apartheid, and appreciate the effort we made. The American people, white or black, who understand apartheid will some day — if they don’t understand it today because they have not received the correct information — he totally in agreement with us for the effort we made to save a black people of Africa.

Will you remove your troops from Angola?

They will not be there forever. The mission is that of supporting Angola against any ex­ternal attack while the Angolan army is or­ganizing, training, and preparing… But now I should tell you that when the war in Angola ended, in agreement with the An­golan government, we immediately started a process of withdrawing military person­nel. … When France and Morocco inter­fered in Zaire in April, we stopped the process, and we are studying the develop­ment of events … The day will come when the Angolans will not need us to defend them from South Africa or any other im­perialist. That is the only reason to be there. What interest could we have in maintaining that military personnel there forever? It is expensive for us. It implies sacrifices.

Did Cuban advisers train troops to fight in Zaire?

No. During the war in Angola, these Zairean citizens of the province of Katanga were together with the MPLA, and there were contacts with them. Once the war ended, more than a year ago, we had no contact with these people of Zaire. Why? Because we thought that what Angola needed was peace. Even when we knew that Zaire’s gov­ernment was one of the most corrupt, re­pressive, and reactionary governments, what Angola needed was to improve relations with its neighbors. That is why we avoided contacts with Zaire that could hinder that development. We have consistently followed that criterion. Now the CIA knows, the U.S. government knows, the French government knows, and everybody knows that we Cu­bans have neither trained, nor armed, nor had anything to do with that question of Zaire, because it is strictly an internal ques­tion. They all know about it. The rest are lies, simply to justify France’s, Morocco’s, Egypt’s interference with the approval, with the approval of the United States, to send troops from Morocco, Egypt, and other countries, with logistic support from France, to Zaire. That is why we stopped the pro­gram of withdrawal of Cuban military troops from Angola, because we have reasons to be­lieve that behind all this there may be a fur­ther plan to attack Angola.

Are you now sending military advisers to Ethiopia?

We have sent diplomatic personnel to Ethio­pia. All our personnel in Ethiopia are ac­credited as diplomatic personnel. There are no military advisers as such in Ethiopia.

What do diplomatic advisers do?

They are diplomatic advisers that have good experience in revolutionary matters, and they even have some experience in military questions. But, as such, we do not have military advisers there.

Do these diplomatic advisers assist in train­ing Ethiopian troops?

We do not have military instructors in Ethiopia but we do not give up our right to send them if the government asks and it is in our power… Look what your friend Haile Selassie did. A friend of yours, of North America. When he died, there were only 125 doctors in the country … Ethio­pia is a country with over 30 million in­habitants. It is a country that is carrying out a deep revolution [with] great mass-support from the peasants and the workers, who come from feudal conditions.

If you have the right to be in Africa, do you feel that we have the right to be there?

No, we do not have the right. The right is of the governments that request that we be there. Besides, we don’t have a bank, or a hectare of land, or a mine, or an oil well, or a factory. The civilian assistance and sup­port we give Africa and the military advisers are totally at our expense.

If there were forces in Puerto Rico that wanted to change the political conditions and become Socialist, would you send ad­visers, diplomatic or otherwise, into Puerto Rico?

If Puerto Rico becomes an independent state and asks us to send advisers, we would have the right to send them, if they would be willing to receive them. We have been send­ing advisers to countries that have legally established governments, but this is not the case with Puerto Rico.

Are you trying to help them achieve their independence?

Even before our independence, there had been bonds between Puerto Rico and Cuba. The Cuban Revolutionary party, which was the party of independence founded by Mar­ti, comprised Cuba and Puerto Rico. When U.S. intervention occurred — the Spanish­-North American War, at the end of the last century — the United States took over Puer­to Rico and transformed it into a colony. Historically speaking, political and moral support has been given to Puerto Rico al­ways. I remember when I was a student at the university. I belonged to the Puerto Rico Pro-Independence Committee. One day, in front of the U.S. Consulate in Old Havana, the police beat me because I was participating in a demonstration to support the independence of Puerto Rico. The Cu­bans at the university have always given political and moral support to the Puerto Ricans fighting for their independence. No one can accuse Cuba of having promoted violence… Some North Americans say that the problem is that the majority of Puerto Ricans do not want independence. Well, 20 or 30 years before U.S. independ­ence, many North Americans did not want the independence of the United States.

May we now talk about China? Do you consider China a friend or an enemy?

I consider China a good ally of the United States.

Does that make her an enemy of Cuba?

To the extent that the United States is our enemy. But you have done very good diplomatic work with China. You have them at your side now in all fundamental issues.

Are you saying that China is in the pocket of the United States?

I can’t say that China is in the pocket of the United States because China is too large to fit in a pocket.

The United States supports Taiwan, China does not. The United States supports Israel. China does not. The United States in the United Nations voted against the Zionism-­is-racism statement. China voted for it. They do not vote the way the United States votes in the United Nations. They certainly  …

But what is the importance of having some differences in the United Nations if they agree in all other things. You know this as well as I do, and besides you are very pleased with it.

We are pleased that we are having new re­lations with China just as we would be pleased to have relations with you.

But we would not act like the Chinese. If I were to promise the North Americans that if the blockade were lifted and relations were established that we would act like the Chi­nese and turn into allies of the United States, it would be a terrible deceit.

I find that your thinking on our relationship with China is almost naive. China does not consider herself our ally. We’re just beginning to normalize relations. We don’t even have diplomatic relations. We disagree about Taiwan. We have totally different oil. We certainly do not have, in any sense, the relationship with China that you have with the Soviet Union.

No, no. Of course not. We have interna­tionalist relations with the Soviet Union and China has reactionary relations with the United States. So there is no problem. You created Pinochet. China supported Pinochet. You created the FNLA and Holden Roberto. China supported the FNLA and Holden Roberto. You created Mobutu. Chi­na supports Mobutu… You created NATO. Didn’t you?

China does not support NATO.

China does support NATO. China supports the English Conservative party … China supports the reactionary forces of the Ger­man Federal Republic. I’m saying serious things. The Chinese Secret Services meet in Paris with those of France, the Federal Re­public of Germany. England, and the United States. China opposes U.S. withdrawal from the Guantanamo Naval Base. China uses the very same arguments that the United States uses to attack Cuba. I do not know if some of these Chinese leaders will later be ex­pelled, and then they will say that they are part of the Clique of Four. There are some things I do not understand about China. Now they blame Mao’s widow and three others for everything that has happened in China. But for more than 10 years, these things had been happening. What type of genius, what type of god, and what type of revolutionary was Mao Tse-tung whose wife and a group of attaches were able to do these things that the present Chinese leader­ship is fighting?

Do you not feel that Mao Tse-tung was a true revolutionary?

I do. I believe he was a great revolutionary leader. But I believe that Mao destroyed with his feet what he did with his head for many years. I’m convinced of that. And some day the Chinese people, the Commu­nist party of China will have to recognize that. It is a question of time. That is my humble opinion.

What do you think Mao did to destroy; what were his mistakes?

First, cult of personality. He practically destroyed the Chinese Communist party. He unleashed a witch hunt there against many of the best cadres of the party. He admitted becoming a god and betrayed the people’s revolutionary solidarity. That was Mao’s gravest error. I think that he was an ex­traordinary man, with great capacity, who transformed China. What happens? The men that participate in these processes acquire great power and later abuse that power… I also acquired that power, but I never abused it, nor did I retain it in my hands. I distributed it. I gave it to the revolutionary institutions.

What about Stalin? What about Lenin!’ Was there a personality cult? These are men who became heroes, legends.

One cannot compare Lenin with Stalin. Lenin was an extraordinary man in all as­pects and there is not a single dark spot in his life from my point of view. Stalin also had extraordinary merits, but during Stalin’s time, the cult of personality developed and abuses of power did take place.

Do you not feel that China now is a true Socialist country?

I do think that China is a Socialist country. There are no great landowners. There are no capitalists. China’s paradox is that al­though it has a revolutionary domestic policy it is carrying out a foreign policy that betrays the international revolutionary movement. But since it does not have a domestic base, since this is a malformation of the policy. I am confident that this will not last long.

Turning to another subject, Mr. President, do you think that Jimmy Carter is delib­erately trying to strain relations with the Soviet Union?

Unfortunately, yes… Well. I cannot say it is deliberate. Maybe he believes that is what he should do. But I know the Soviets well … and I know that the main concern of the Soviet Union is to avoid the arms race, to create an environment of detente and peace.

How do you reconcile the Soviet domination of countries like Czechoslovakia and Yugo­slavia? How do you explain it when the Soviets put down what they call an uprising in Czechoslovakia?

I have relations with these countries. These countries have very close relations with the Soviet Union, in the economic, political, and ideological fields. But I can say that they are totally independent states. What you call domination is a type of unity that has been created within these countries.

Do you think Russia is a free country?

I think it is the freest of all countries.

What do you say about the intellectuals? … The writers, many of the artists, have com­plained worldwide of the restrictions on their intellectual freedom.

There are many intellectuals in the Soviet Union-writers, artists; the overwhelming majority of them support the Soviet power, support the Communist party of the Soviet Union. There is a minority, very much motivated by the West … because on many occasions the West converts a mediocre writer into an international hero. You do not realize …

Do you think that Solzhenitsyn is a medi­ocre intellectual?

I do not like his literature. Technically he may not be mediocre, but politically he is mediocre… Yes, there could be a very in­significant minority who are in disagree­ment. But who are those people compared with the dozens of millions of workers, of Soviet peasants who are the essence of the Soviet Union? Your mistake is to confuse the activity of four isolated cats with the formidable reality of the Soviet Union … You never speak of a worker, of a worker hero of the Soviet Union, of a peasant hero; you only speak of three or four dissidents … One question: Why doesn’t Carter receive a worker hero … an advanced peasant? Why does he only receive a dissident?

I think there are more than three or four dissidents . … If Russia is so secure, if its system is so good, why can it not tolerate these four dissidents, these four cats? We tolerate dissidents in our country. We may not like it, but we don’t imprison them, we don’t put them in camps, they write, they speak…

Why do I have to tolerate the allies of my adversaries? If you want to tolerate them, O.K., but not me.

Are you independent of the Soviet Union?

Maybe we are another state of the Soviet Union. I would hope that there would be no independent states, that borders would not exist, that all of humanity would be one Socialist family, without exploitation of man by man, with true equality, and with­out exploiting and exploited classes. That would he my ideal. I’m not saying that it is I or anyone in particular who is going to make this change. But nationalism has played its role in history. First there were tribes, then there were nations. Someday, one will look at nationalism as we look at tribalism today. Someday the borders will have to disappear … Now we are a sover­eign country and an independent country. You know that perfectly well. Carter knows it. The CIA knows it.

The Soviets give Cuba approximately $1 million a day in money, and almost $3 million in other aid.

Of what? Where are these millions?

All right then, set me straight. How much aid does the Soviet Union give you?

The Soviets have given us an extraordinary amount of assistance. When the oil com­panies cut off our oil, they sent us oil. When the United States stopped buying sugar, they bought our sugar. When the United States imposed an almost worldwide blockade on us, the Soviets sold us raw materials. ma­chinery, foodstuffs, and fuel. When the United States was preparing the Giron in­vasion, the mercenary attack, they sent us weapons that played a very important role at that time. During all these years our security has been threatened by the United States and they have freely supplied us with the weapons that we needed. When we faced difficulties from droughts or we were not able to fulfill our export commitments, they always fulfilled their commitments to us. Today, we have fulfilled all of our export commitments to the Soviet Union. We have established a satisfactory commercial ex­change… If the United States and Europe would trade with all the underdeveloped world as the Soviet Union does with Cuba, the problems of underdevelopment would be solved. And that is what you call a $3 million, $4 million, subsidy.

1 used a figure of $1 million a day in money and almost $J million in aid. If we are wrong, what is the figure?

Do you want me to give you a figure? …

We have established agreements that if the goods they export to us increase in price, the sugar we export to them also rises pro­portionately in price… Our trade is based on just prices, more or less balanced prices. That’s the way it is. They pay us a just price for our products, that’s all. So forget the three, four, five, seven million. They simply pay us just prices for our goods.

How important is Guantanamo as a condi­tion for normalization with the United States?

Guantanamo is militarily useless for the United States today. They keep it as a show of strength. They have no right to be there because they are there against our will. So let us say that the United States is there by force. We have never wanted to make Guan­tanamo a special problem … If some day we sit down to discuss normalization of relations, one of the points that must be discussed is the question of Guantanamo. Let us reach an agreement to see what day they will leave, what year. We have not used nor are we ever going to use force to recover Guantanamo. We are not going to wage a war against the United States because of Guantanamo.

Do you still have many political prisoners?

Maybe two or three thousand … But there were times when the activity of the United States was more intensive against Cuba, and we reached a point of having more than

15.000 prisoners. About 20 percent of the prisoners must still be in prison. They are not political prisoners, they are counterrev­olutionaries, people who rose up in arms under the orders of the CIA in the Escam­bray Mountains and committed sabotage.


Cubans, yes … nurtured, encouraged, armed, and trained by the United States. No one

in Cuba could have imagined that there was a possibility of overthrowing the revolution unless they believed that the United States was behind them. Since those years of inten­sive CIA activity in Cuba, we have liberated more than 15,000 counterrevolutionary pris­oners. This was not done because Carter asked us to do it. Can we now, when the blockade against Cuba is still maintained by the United States, free these counterrevolu­tionary prisoners? No, we can’t do it. These are people who have committed crimes, seri­ous crimes.

If we lifted the embargo, would you release these prisoners?

Why are you demanding unilateral measures from us? We could reach a bilateral agree­ment. We free all counterrevolutionaries in prison and, at the same time, you liberate all those you have in jail, who had to steal because they were hungry, because they had no jobs, because they were impoverished. You free a certain number and we free another, bilaterally. Don’t try to impose conditions on us, because we are not going to accept them.

I have one personal question: Will you ever shave off that beard?

As an exchange for what? The ceasing of the blockade?

If we stop the blockade, you shave off that beard, eh? I don’t think that would make America do it, but . …

We would be importing Gillette razor blades, right? I don’t know if they still man­ufacture them in the United States, but … do you know why we left our beards? We left our beards because we did not have razor blades at that time. As time passed, the guerrillas came to be known by their beards. And finally, it became a symbol. But now what happens? When gray hair appears, it shows up first in the beard, and you notice it more. My idea now is to wait at least until it is totally white. And then I will make a decision, whether to tint it or shave it.

I would like to ask you to say some words to the American people about anything you want. Please, in English.

I feel the best wishes for the people of the United States. Every time when I know a new American always I have the reason to try to understand your people and I think that every time too. I find that the Ameri­cans, the newspaper, the worker, the tech­nician are wonderful people. Really. I ap­preciate and admire the people of the United States for what they have achieved in tech­nician, in science and because I see that you, your people, is a people well working, is an honest and idealistic people. Clearly that are my feelings, my sincere feeling to the people of the United States. I hope in the future we will understand better and we will be friends. / ABCNews

Architects of Medicare Privatization: Congress, Biden and the CMS / by Sandra M. Fox

Photograph Source: Molly Adams – CC BY 2.0

Originally published in Counterpunch, December 30, 2021

It is easy and appropriate to target the private health insurance companies who earn excessive profits from the Medicare Trust Fund through Medicare Advantage plans, especially given the well-documented evidence of overcharging and fraud.

But it is essential that we remember that it has been the U.S. Congress and the Executive Office that promoted the privatization of Medicare, to varying degrees, since it was first signed into law by President Johnson in 1965 and enacted the following year.

In 2017 The Commonwealth Fund published “The Evolution of Private Plans in Medicare,” which detailed the increasing role in healthcare granted to private companies since 1966 through Acts of Congress and the Office of the President.   Privatization was boosted significantly by the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, which–in addition to providing private drug coverage (with non-negotiable prices) through Medicare Part D–provided an alternative payment structure to private health insurers as a way to incentivize and increase their participation in the Medicare program.  And it worked; more health insurance companies decided to enter the Medicare “market” and labeled their plans “Medicare Advantage.”  Almost 50% of Medicare beneficiaries are now enrolled in private plans, compared to those in traditional Medicare.

There are many reasons why seniors and those with disabilities continue to enroll in traditional Medicare.  Traditional Medicare does not have restrictive provider networks and individuals can seek care from any provider in the country who takes Medicare.  Further, prior authorizations are not required, as they are in Medicare Advantage plans.  Delay and denial of care are hallmarks of Medicare Advantage plans–not traditional Medicare–as a way of increasing the profit margin of private companies.  However, delay and denial of treatment also mean worse health outcomes and an increase in premature death.   The Mayo Clinic has stopped accepting patients with Medicare Advantage plans and is encouraging patients to enroll in traditional Medicare instead.

Traditional Medicare has no profit; its administrative overhead is less than 2%, compared to 15% overhead and profit for Medicare Advantage plans.  As a result, traditional Medicare is less costly, while payments to Medicare Advantage plans are draining the Medicare Trust Fund, a fund workers pay into, as they do for Social Security.

Advocates for a national single-payer healthcare system in this country, often referred to as Improved Medicare for All, acknowledge the weaknesses in the current version of traditional Medicare.  While the federal government has allowed for perks to beneficiaries in Medicare Advantage plans, including free gym memberships and some (limited) dental and vision care, these benefits are not available to those choosing traditional Medicare.  Why not?  They are a clever way for private companies to increase enrollment in their plans, in addition to lowering their premiums, made possible through excessive payments received from the Medicare Trust Fund to private insurers.  So far, Congress has not expanded those benefits to beneficiaries in traditional Medicare, thus favoring for-profit companies.

The money is there to improve traditional Medicare and expand it to cover all residents of the United States, as substantiated by the Congressional Budget Office.  But many elected officials on both sides of the aisle will say otherwise and are compensated by private health insurers with handsome campaign contributions.

Meanwhile, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI), under the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), was established as part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA).  According to its website,

“the CMS Innovation Center, through its models, initiatives and Congressionally-mandated demonstrations, has accelerated the shift from a health care system that pays for volume to one that pays for value.”

The ACA also allowed CMMI to make changes without Congressional oversight.  And CMMI is determined to reframe privatization as value-based care.

CMMI has been quietly contracting with for-profit companies to engage in “pilot programs” that insert middlemen into traditional Medicare without the beneficiary’s consent and often without their knowledge.  The Trump Administration, which launched the program, contracted with 53 for-profit middlemen called Direct Contracting Entities (DCEs).  The Biden Administration re-branded the program ACO-REACH (Accountable Care Organizations Realizing Equity, Access, and Community Health) and increased the number of corporate participants to 99.

These participants include private health insurance companies as well as private equity/venture capital firms, which can keep up to 40% of Medicare dollars in administrative costs and profits by “managing” patients’ healthcare.  The supposed goal is to lower costs through “value-based care.”  We already know that lowering costs in Medicare Advantage means delaying and denying care by requiring prior authorizations, as well as restricting provider networks.  Furthermore, an excellent analysis by healthcare policy experts Kip Sullivan, J.D. and James G. Khan, M.D., refutes the premise of CMS that Accountable Care Organizations will save money, given evidence of past performance.

The intended goal is the complete privatization of Medicare by 2030, as posted on the CMS website:  “All Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries will be in a care relationship with accountability for quality and total cost of care by 2030.”  Starting January 2023, the number of ACO-REACH programs managing the care of traditional Medicare beneficiaries is slated to increase dramatically, from 99 to over 200.

The appointment of Elizabeth Fowler, Director of CMMI, whose past work in the private healthcare sector as Vice President for Global Health Policy at Johnson & Johnson and as Vice President of insurer Wellpoint (now Anthem), not only poses a huge conflict of interest.  It reflects the intention of many within the federal government to privatize healthcare.  During the Obama administration, Fowler assisted in the development and implementation of the ACA, which created the CMMI, the office she now directs.

Since Congress does not have oversight of CMMI, it will take an Executive Action by the President to eliminate the ACO-REACH program.  President Biden could do this with a stroke of his pen.

Healthcare advocates must recognize that the instruments of privatization are in the government’s hands and that CMMI, CMS, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Members of Congress, and the President of the United States have been complicit for years in the privatization of a beloved public program, Medicare, and must all be held accountable.

What constitutes government accountability in healthcare?

There are those in Congress, as well as some healthcare advocates, who ascribe to a “bad actors” paradigm; i.e., if we can issue new rules, fine, and/or weed out the private companies that engage in Medicare fraud we will be doing our job in protecting the public.  Diane Archer, a long-time healthcare advocate and President of Just Care, writes on 12/21/22 that the current fines are grossly insufficient to de-incentivize corporations from committing fraud.  And she is right.

However, as Archer concedes in a March 2022 interview, private corporations in healthcare are following their profit-driven mission to maximize profits and satisfy their shareholders, not the public, and that an improved system of Medicare for All is the solution.

Don McCanne, M.D., another long-time healthcare advocate, writing for Health Justice Monitor on 12/22/22, comments that CMS’s new proposed regulations for Medicare Advantage programs are “camouflage for perpetuating” a “wealth-creating business model” and calls for the end of privatization in Medicare and Improved Medicare for All.

The majority of Americans favor a “single government program to provide healthcare coverage.”

Even in a county that voted overwhelmingly for former President Trump–rural Dunn County, Wisconsin–a referendum asking “Shall Congress and the President of the United States enact into law the creation of a publicly financed, non-profit, national health insurance program that would fully cover medical care costs for all Americans?” passed.

Whether it’s tax incentives for polluters, with EPA issuing fines for environmental degradation and health risks, or the federal government designing a system for the privatization of Medicare and CMS issuing fines to the profiteers, we need to reckon with our government’s history of working hand in glove with corporate interests, often at odds with the best interests of the people and the planet, and not compromise our own expectations and the demands we make of elected officials.  As McCanne wrote, the proposed regulations are indeed a means of perpetuating the status quo.  We need to get the middlemen out of healthcare, improve traditional Medicare, and expand it to cover everyone.

Sandra M. Fox, LCSW, is a psychiatric social worker who has worked in healthcare in southern West Virginia and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for over 40 years, was a co-founder of the Western PA Coalition for Single Payer Healthcare and is on the steering committee of National Single Payer.

    Opinion: Peace should be our priority for the new year / by Andrew Murray

    New tombs in a cemetery in Bakhmut, the site of the heaviest battles, in the Donetsk region

    The anti-war movement needs to assert its deeper solution to the imperialist agenda of endless conflict, argues ANDREW MURRAY

    2022 did not want for drama and important developments in British political life.

    The chaos in the Tory Party leading to three prime ministers in two months speaks to an elite which no longer pretends to know what it is doing, beyond default defence of property and privilege.

    Mounting working-class resistance to the wage cuts with which capital is compounding more than a decade of pay stagnation also marks a watershed, and is replete with promise for further advance.

    Nevertheless any retrospective of the passing year must acknowledge that even these signal issues are overshadowed by the continuing war in Ukraine.

    As ever, war has tested all political movements and actors across the world and occasioned the usual torrent of competing propaganda.

    If there is a unifying theme to most of these narratives it is that they seize on one aspect of the war and make it the whole pivot of a complex conflict.

    Thus, there is no doubt that the escalation of the war in February was an unjustified initiative of Russian President Vladimir Putin for which tens of thousands of civilians and soldiers have died, millions made refugees and destruction visited on Ukraine’s basic civilian infrastructure.

    Equally it is indisputable that the war actually started in 2014, when a fragile Ukraine was pitched into a full-on great-power struggle.

    This led to the deposition of its democratically elected president, the ascension to power of Ukrainian nationalists, the annexation of Crimea by Russia and a popular uprising against the new Kiev regime in the Donbass, later suborned by Putin as the price for its survival.

    Moreover, those who deny that the relentless expansion of Nato eastwards since 1991, years in which the supposedly defensive alliance has waged aggressive war against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Libya, has menaced Russia do not deserve to be taken seriously.

    Recognise these facts together, and they form the basis for a settlement. But a settlement does not seem to be at hand.

    Russia declares a willingness to negotiate but it is not clear what an acceptable peace for Moscow would look like. Clearly annexing another state’s territory absent gold-standard democratic evidence that such corresponds to the will of the people resident there is no basis for stability.

    Russia’s position is weakened by the inadequate performance of its military, exacerbating the political misjudgements Putin made in invading.

    As for Nato and the Ukrainian government, bleeding Russia dry while asserting maximalist positions is the prevalent policy.

    Some demand that Russia withdraw from all internationally recognised Ukrainian territory, which would include all of the Donbass and Crimea, before negotiations start.

    Others, slightly more sane, urge a return of the Russian military to its positions of February 24. However, neither look likely to happen absent either protracted war or the overthrow of the Putin government in Moscow.

    The first remains fraught with danger for the world, while the second is purely speculative. Some commentators want a Nuremburg-style trial of Russian war criminals, but that would require the collapse of the Russian state. The planet would not survive the drive to implement such a programme.

    International social democracy, with British Labour in the van, has remained true to its bloody past and enthusiastically supported Nato’s proxy war.

    For Starmer’s Labour even that is insufficient, and it has effectively prohibited any dissenting opinion on the merits of Nato or expression of support for the anti-war movement. Support for imperialism and authoritarianism go hand-in-hand.

    Indeed, something like war fever has gripped sections of the movement. The TUC’s vote to campaign for increased military spending, at a time when so many of its affiliates are fighting tooth-and-nail to preserve living standards and against Tory austerity, was one bleak measure of such derangement.

    Since even the bellicose but cash-strapped Sunak Cabinet has frozen plans for arms spending hikes — bankers beat brass-hats in Tory top trumps — this misbegotten resolution places the TUC to the right of the Conservatives.

    The only new year’s resolution worth making is to fight to bring this war to an end. Some form of military deadlock looks to be the prospect for the rest of the winter.

    That gives the space to build a movement for a ceasefire and negotiations, something that is unlikely when one side or the other believes it is prevailing on the battlefield.

    Peace talks are what most of the world wants. The nuclear brinkmanship, the risk of the conflict extending, the economic disruption bearing heaviest on the poorest, all mandate a push for peace.

    The Ukrainians would rather fight, we are told. It is hard to judge when opposition parties, independent media and trade union organisation have all been repressed by Volodymyr Zelensky’s government.

    But even were that the case, the understandable emotions of Ukrainians enraged by the attack on their country, the devastation of their cities and the abuses of the invader cannot dictate an endless continuation of war, which in any case depends entirely on Nato, primarily US-British, armed support.

    It is not for the left anywhere else to prescribe the outcome of such negotiations. A lasting peace will depend on security arrangements acceptable to all and a genuinely democratic determination of the destiny of contested regions. Russia will need to purge itself of nonsense about the Ukrainian nation or state being somehow illegitimate.

    However, anything that compromises the holy principle of US hegemony is likely to be unacceptable to Washington — the real counter-party to Moscow in any talks. And Sunak and Starmer will stay in step with the US.

    That then is the challenge to the anti-war movement — breaking through the wall of political consensus for continuing this war indefinitely.

    The immediate demand is peace. The deeper solution lies in working-class solidarity and the assertion of its own programme of international socialism, the lasting alternative to imperialist war.

    This was the year when it could be said that “the working class is back.” It will truly be returned when such things can be the policy of our movement. That would indeed mean a happy new year.

    Morning Star (UK), December 30, 2022,

    Some socialist wishes for the new year / by Zoltan Zigedy

    After the Democratic Party brought in legislation to block a national rail strike this month, 2023 may be the year the US left moves beyond the two-party system

    From social democratic dreams of coexistence with capitalism, to misunderstandings over the nature of imperialism, ZOLTAN ZIGEDY hopes the left’s confusion can be eased in 2023.

    AT this time of year, many people are coming up with their wish lists or sets of resolutions for the year ahead. My wish list follows.

    First, I wish that the idea of socialism would again become popular, but I would rejoice if it would at least be discussed seriously in the US.

    Now I don’t mean the weak-tea version of socialism associated with the Democratic Socialists of America or with Senator Bernie Sanders.

    That kind of socialism is really a cold war relic — a brew of schoolhouse participatory democracy and a minimalist welfare state stirred into a consenting capitalism.

    But capitalism doesn’t mix well with social democracy, except when capitalism anticipates an existential threat from real socialism, like the popularity of communism.

    The political marginalisation of European social democracy after a diminished communist spectre following the Soviet collapse of 1991 proves that point.

    Real socialism — to be crystal clear — cannot amicably coexist with capitalism. There can be no lasting peace treaty between capitalism and socialism, despite the best efforts of many socialists and communists (there have been few if any of the rich and powerful who sincerely advocated coexistence with socialism in the centuries since socialism was first envisioned).

    For real socialism to take root, the power of the state must be wrested from the capitalists. History shows no sustainable road to socialism through power-sharing with the capitalist class.

    That is not to say that there cannot be a transitional period in which capitalists and socialists struggle for dominance over the state, but that period will not be stable.

    That is not to discount the importance of parliamentary struggle in fighting to establish a socialist-oriented state. That is not to preclude a socialist programme that engages with national specifics, class alliances and shifting tactics.

    But socialism must be the professed and uncompromising goal of those who claim to be socialists and winning state power must be accepted as a necessary step to achieving any real socialism, where socialism is both the absence of labour exploitation and the ending of the dominance of the capitalist class. Any “socialism” that doesn’t respect these truths is engaged in self-deception.

    But what, you may ask, is People’s China? Clearly there is labour exploitation in the People’s Republic of China, where powerful private capitalist companies exist alongside state enterprises.

    And it is just as clear that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) maintains a tight grip on state power. For over 40 years, the balance of forces between these two realities has shifted frequently, with the CCP leadership, nonetheless, claiming firm control and a commitment to socialism.

    Whether genuine Marxists in the CCP can ride this tiger is yet to be decided. Partisans of socialism must follow this development with a critical eye, but an open mind.

    Advocates for socialism — real socialism — are not so naive as to believe that socialism is around the corner or that socialism is likely to solve the immediate problems of the working class.

    It is useful, however, to be reminded that when Lenin left Zurich to return to Russia just months before the 1917 revolution, he spoke to young revolutionaries, explaining that he likely would not see socialism, but they surely would. He was spectacularly wrong.

    But even a heavy dose of pessimistic realism does not explain the absence of the word “socialism” in the political narratives of progressives, the self-styled left, and even self-proclaimed Marxists living in the US and Europe.

    Moreover, in conversation, eyes roll or go glassy when the idea surfaces. Everyone is an anti-capitalist; everyone is against some form of hyphenated capitalism — disaster-capitalism, neoliberal-capitalism, financial-capitalism, etc etc. But no-one is for socialism!

    You can see this dismissal in the current debates over inflation raging through the left. All disputants recount the effects of inflation on poor and working people.

    All recognise the negative consequences of official policy — raising interest rates — on all. All fumble for alternative solutions, most of which have a past history of failure.

    None will pronounce this as a contradiction — an intrinsic failure — of the capitalist system. All are too busy trying to repair capitalism to even hint that there might be a better alternative. Will there ever be a better time than today to inject socialism into the conversation?

    We suffer from the leftover fears of communism and socialism in the wake of the cold war. We are suffocated by the limited options allowed by our corrupted two-party system. And we are overwhelmed with cynicism and a poverty of vision.

    Surely a frank, honest discussion of socialism is in order.

    My second wish would be for left clarity and unity on the war in Ukraine. To a great extent, the left’s poor understanding of the relationship between capitalism, imperialism and war has spawned wide divisions in an already fractious left.

    On one hand, liberals and social democrats discount the history of conflict in Ukraine and mechanically apply a simplistic concept of national self-determination to what is, in fact, a civil war.

    They see Russian intervention as simply a violation of Ukraine’s right to decide its own future. Using their logic, it is as if the US civil war was construed as a war over the South’s right to self-determination and not a war over slavery.

    Or in a 20th century instance, it would be as if the war in Vietnam were viewed as a fight for the rights of the people in an artificial South Vietnam to choose their own destiny.

    Both the idea of the South’s right of secession (states’ rights) and the “freedom” of South Vietnam were abusive of any legitimate right to self-determination. Neither took the measure of the desire of the masses; both served the interests of privileged elites or foreign powers.

    Leading historian of the Korean war Bruce Cumings reminds us that civil wars are complex conflicts with complex histories and little is gained by pondering who started the war in assigning blame.

    Obsession with determining the immediate “aggressor” in the Korean war clouds the understanding of the deeper causes, colliding interests and political stakes at play to this day.

    Without a historical context, without understanding the conflict and clash of vital interests within the borders of Ukraine, a defence of US meddling in Ukraine constructed on the facade of self-determination is wrongheaded and dangerous.

    There can be no self-determination when the US and its allies undermined an elected government in 2014. That intervention effectively put an end to any pretence of Ukrainian self-determination.

    On the other hand, many self-styled anti-imperialists view the Russian invasion as a war of liberation, with Russia removing Kiev’s oppressive government, thwarting US and Nato aggression, or defending the interests of the people of eastern Ukraine.

    They both overestimate the selflessness of the motives of the now capitalist, former Soviet Russian republic and underestimate the dangers unleashed by an invasion that opens the door widely to a further reaching, more intense war.

    They also fail to see that in its essence the conflict in Ukraine has been a civil conflict since the demise of the Soviet Union. Without the ideology of socialism, that conflict has been driven by a scramble for wealth and power with ensuing corruption, manipulation and crude nationalism.

    Foreign powers — East and West — have manipulated this scramble, forcing it to a proxy showdown. Any escalation — whether it is a coup, an invasion, or the continuing arming of belligerents — would further risk pressing the war beyond the borders or at a greater tempo and should therefore be rejected.

    Behind some defenders of the Russian invasion is the neo-Kautskyian theory of multipolarity. This view sees US imperialism, and not simply the system of imperialism, as the force disruptive of a peaceful, stable and orderly world order.

    It is possible, even likely — according to the theory — for capitalist countries to conduct international affairs benignly if only a predatory US were tamed.

    They go beyond denouncing US imperialism as the main global enemy to imagining a viable, co-operative capitalist order without US dominance. Like Kautsky, multipolarity projects an era of “balance” between imperialist powers and the softening of rivalries.

    Lenin rejected this view. Like Kautsky’s theory of super- or ultra-imperialism, multipolarity reflects an inadequate understanding of class dynamics — the unlimited drive for competitive advantage by the capitalist state — and a failure to recognise that socialism is the only answer to imperialism’s destructive anarchy.

    The carnage of imperialism’s last hundred years since the Kautsky/Lenin debate surely underscores these truths.

    Along with the revival of Kautskyism, neo-Malthusianism threatens to confound the thinking of the left in addressing the critical environmental crisis.

    No-growth as a facile answer to the abuse of our environment is as misguided today as it was in Marx’s time. The critical question is how the global economy grows and not how much it grows.

    My wish is that the left does not ignore the class issues — nationally and internationally — in developing a programme to address this vital matter.

    A no-growth solution that freezes in place the internal and global inequalities, or exacerbates them, cannot be accepted. A programme that does not address the connection between imperialism, militarism, and war in despoiling the planet is inadequate.

    As the lights go out on the nine-and-a-half-billion-dollar midterm electoral extravaganza, leaving a bad taste and a strong sense of emptiness and disappointment, we can only wish that the US left will take a critical look at the two-party system with the idea of uniting to create some independent presence in electoral politics.

    May 2023 be a year of deeper discussion beyond chirping on the shallow platforms crafted for triviality and abasement by the ruling class.

    Zoltan Zigedy is a US-based writer. He blogs at

    Morning Star (UK), December 29, 2022,

    You should thank this Russian Naval Officer that you and your loved ones are alive today / by Jeremy Kuzmarov


    Originally published: CovertAction Magazine on December 15, 2022

    On October 27, 1962, Soviet naval officer Vasily Arkhipov helped prevent the outbreak of World War III and saved humanity from nuclear catastrophe.

    Vasily Arkhipov [Source:]

    A minesweeper during the Pacific War, Arkhipov was the commander of a diesel submarine that had been sent by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to escort merchant ships bound for Cuba, which were equipped with a torpedo boat armed with a nuclear warhead.

    On October 14, 1962, a U.S. spy plane flying over Cuba had revealed that the Soviet Union was building ramps for the installation of missiles with nuclear warheads, in retaliation for the United States deploying missiles with nuclear warheads capable of striking the Soviet Union in Italy, at Gioia del Colle (Apulia in southern Italy), and in Turkey.

    President Kennedy’s imposition of a naval blockade after the spy plane discovery triggered the 13-day Cuban Missile Crisis, during which time the submarine that Arkhipov commanded was being pursued by U.S. destroyers which, using depth charges, were trying to force Arkhipov’s submarine to the surface.

    President Kennedy with the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. [Source:]

    After the Soviet sub’s ventilation system broke down and communication was cut, the captain of the Soviet submarine group, Valentin Grigoryevich Savitsky, was convinced that war had broken out.

    Not wanting to sink without a fight, he decided to launch a nuclear warhead at the aircraft carrier pursuing his sub.

    The political officer, Ivan Semyonovich Maslennikov, agreed with the captain, but on the flagship B-59, Arkhipov’s consent was also needed, and he objected, convincing Savitsky ultimately to do the same.1

    Arkhipov’s persuasion averted a nuclear war, whose consequences would have been horrific. After surfacing, Arkhipov’s sub was fired on by Americans but was able to return to the Soviet Union safely.

    The Soviet B-59 nuclear submarine forced to surface off the coast of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis. [Source:]

    Spooked about how the world had come so close to the nuclear brink, President Kennedy gave a speech at American University in June 1963, five months before his assassination, calling for a “reexamin[ation of the U.S.] attitude towards the Soviet Union” and “Cold War” and for the U.S. and Soviets to work together for a “just and genuine peace” and to “halt the arms race.”

    “Confident and unafraid,” Kennedy concluded,

    we must labor on—not towards a strategy of annihilation but towards a strategy of peace.

    Another Grave Moment of Danger

    Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara was not mincing his words when he said years after the events that “We came very, very close [to nuclear war during the Cuban missile crisis,] closer than we knew at the time.”

    Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., characterized the period of the Cuban Missile Crisis as “not only the most dangerous moment of the Cold War [but] the most dangerous moment in human history.”

    That moment of danger unfortunately appears just as sharp today.

    Time magazine reported in late October that Russia’s launching of missile strikes targeting energy plants within Ukraine and civilian infrastructure “triggered fears that hostilities were escalating and inching closer to nuclear war.”

    JFK giving commencement address at American University in June 1963 in which he spoke for a rethinking of the Cold War and need for disarmament. Five months later, he was assassinated. [Source:]

    The U.S. had stoked the fire by a) engaging in provocative military drills testing the handling of thermonuclear bombs; b) delivering bombers to Europe equipped with low-yield tactical nuclear weapons; and c) carrying out acts of international terrorism such as the sinking of the flagship vessel of the Russian Black Sea Fleet called the Moskva that prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to place Russia on high nuclear alert.

    The U.S. was generally the one to provoke a new Cold War with Russia by a) expanding NATO towards Russia’s border; b) imposing economic sanctions on it under fraudulent pretexts; c) and then backing a coup in Ukraine that triggered the conflict in eastern Ukraine which has evolved into a proxy war.2

    In October 2018, the Trump administration pulled the U.S. out of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) agreement, characterized by former U.S. ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman, Jr., as “probably the most successful treaty in the history of arms control.”3

    Carl J. Richard, head of the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) which oversees the nation’s nuclear arsenal, wrote in the U.S. Naval Institute’s monthly magazine subsequently that the U.S. military had to “shift its principal assumption from ‘nuclear employment is not possible’ to ‘nuclear employment is a very real possibility,’” in the face of threats from Russia and China.

    Richard’s successor, Anthony J. Cotton, said just as ominously during his confirmation hearing in September that his job was to prepare the 150,000 men and women under his command to deploy nuclear weapons, and that the president should have flexible nuclear options.


    Both Richard and Cotton appear to be of the opposite character of Arkhipov, whose level-headedness under pressure and commitment to peace between the U.S. and Russia needs to be remembered at this time.

    In a deeply Russophobic climate, Arkhipov should remind us also not to associate Russians with the stereotyped qualities promoted about them in Hollywood films—and in the ravings of Pentagon war planners and politicians who have led us into another grave crisis.

    1.  See Ron Ridenour, The Russian Peace Threat: Pentagon on Alert (New York: Punto Press, 2018), chapter 5.
    2.  See Jeremy Kuzmarov and John Marciano, The Russians are Coming, Again: The First Cold War as Tragedy, the Second as Farce (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2018).
    3. See Scott Ritter, Disarmament in the Time of Perestroika: Arms Control and the End of the Soviet Union (Atlanta: Clarity Press, 2022) on the lost promise of the disarmament treaties of the late Cold War era.

    Jeremy Kuzmarov ( is Managing Editor of CovertAction Magazine and author of The Russians Are Coming, Again, with John Marciano (Monthly Review Press, 2018).

    MR Online, December 28, 2022,

    Brazilian communist leader Ivan Pinheiro honored in Mexico / by IDC

    Ivan Pinheiro, Segretario Generale del PCB

    Ivan Pinheiro, General Secretary of the Brazilian Communist Party from 2005 to 2016, was honored by the Communist Party of Mexico (PCM) with the “David Alfaro Siqueiros Medal for Revolutionary Merit”, as a recognition of his contribution to the communist movement in Brazil and Latin America.

    Pinheiro, a lawyer by profession who stood as a candidate at the 2010 Presidental Elections in Brazil, received the medal during the 7th Congress of the PCM on December 17, 2022. 

    Ivan Pinheiro

    The Communist Party of Mexico (PCM) initiated the “David Alfaro Siqueiros Medal for Revolutionary Merit”, named after the famous communist painter and muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros, in honor of exemplary communists in Latin America. Ivan Pinheiro is the first recipient of the Medal. 

    In Defense of Communism (IDC), December 26, 2022,

    Communist Party of Brazil (Partido Comunista do Brasil, PCdoB),

    Communist Party of Mexico (Partido Comunista de México, PCM),

    When Jamaican Slaves Rebelled on Christmas Day / by Perry Blankson

    The destruction of the Roehampton Estate in January 1832. (Adolphe Duperly / Wikimedia Commons)

    Originally Published in Jacobin on December 25, 2022

    On Christmas Day in 1831, 60,000 enslaved Africans carried out the largest uprising in British West Indies history. Their uprising would prove a milestone on the road to emancipation only a few years later.

    In late December 1831, white Jamaican planters slept restlessly in their beds. Rumors had long been circulating of disquiet among the enslaved Africans residing in plantations across the island. Before they knew it, the island would be set ablaze as tens of thousands armed themselves to fight for their freedom.

    As it became known, the Christmas Rebellion (or Baptist War, named so after the faith of many of its key conspirators) was the largest uprising of enslaved Africans in the history of the British West Indies, and directly influenced the abolition of slavery in 1833 and full emancipation in 1838.

    To understand the dynamics at play during the uprising, it’s vital to understand the social structure of nineteenth-century colonial Jamaica. Jamaica, like much of the West Indies, was what was known as a plantocracy. In this arrangement, a minority of white European settlers, human traffickers, and plantation owners dominated the enslaved African majority on the island.

    Conscious of their minority (Africans outnumbered whites twelve to one), planters deployed ferocious violence to discipline their slaves at home, and used their substantial wealth and influence to lobby against abolitionists in Parliament and the press. But despite their efforts, the sun was setting on slavery in the British Empire, and hopes of emancipation around the corner emboldened the enslaved population to take matters into their own hands.

    Samuel “Daddy” Sharpe, a black Baptist deacon, organized enslaved Africans to participate in a peaceful general strike on December 25, 1831, demanding wages and increased freedoms. While nonviolence was intended, Sharpe was under no illusions that the infamously violent planter class would respond in kind.

    The Plantocracy

    Aside from providing an insight into mass resistance against slavery, the Christmas Rebellion also provides a valuable case study into the complexities of governing a plantocracy and the contradictions of slave resistance. Seeking assistance to put down the rebellion, the colonial authorities enlisted the help of the Accompong and Windward Maroons — both disparate, militant guerrilla organizations of escaped former slaves.

    The Maroons had gained a degree of independence following their own Maroon Wars in the eighteenth century. As a result of treaties signed with the colonial authorities following the First Maroon War of 1728–1739, signatory Maroon factions were granted small parcels of land that soon became known as Maroon towns.

    The caveat to this treaty was that these Maroon towns would be assigned a white superintendent, and that Maroon fighters would be required to assist colonial authorities in putting down future uprisings by their enslaved brethren and catching runaway slaves. This arrangement was resisted by many Maroon factions, but they would later find themselves fighting opposite their fellow oppressed Africans.

    The uprising led to the deaths of fourteen planters and two hundred enslaved Africans, with property damage worth an estimated £124 million today. African rebels burned hundreds of buildings across the island, including Roehampton Estate, the blazing scene of which was later recreated by French lithographer Adolphe Duperly. But it was the aftermath of the uprising that saw some of the most sadistic violence take place.

    Enlisted to be his military commanders were fellow literate enslaved Africans spanning several different estates, illustrating the effectiveness of the vast communication network known colloquially as the slave “grapevine.” Also crucial was the limited degree of freedom given to Sharpe: as a deacon, he had the ability to move around the island and secretly organize after prayer meetings.

    The initially peaceful demonstration soon became a violent uprising, and out of a population of 600,000, an estimated 60,000 took up arms to resist their oppression. Any pretense of a peaceful demonstration was lost when Kensington Estate was set ablaze by enslaved rebels, with the rebellion taking place in earnest soon after.

    The Aftermath

    The white Jamaican plantocracy responded to the Rebellion in the only language it knew: unspeakable brutality. The reprisals of the Jamaican planter class in response to such an affront to their authority was merciless and indiscriminate. Immediately after the rebellion, approximately 340 Africans were executed using a cruel and gruesome variety of methods. The majority were hanged, their heads displayed in plantations across the island to serve as a warning against future uprisings.

    Beyond the pale for Parliament, though, was the tarring and feathering of a white missionary suspected of fanning the flames of rebellion. It’s difficult to find a clearer example of the racialized priorities of the British Empire: rather than the brutal murder of thousands of black Africans (perceived as nothing more than chattel), it was the punishment of a white missionary by white planters that drew significant protest. The missionary’s filthy neckerchief was paraded around Britain to the horror of those who saw it, bolstering the cause of white abolitionists.

    Today, it wouldn’t be too far off the mark to call Sharpe an advocate of a form of liberation theology. Sat in jail following his failed uprising, Sharpe proclaimed that he learned from the Bible that “whites had no more right to hold black people in slavery than black people had to make white people slaves. . . . I would rather die on yonder gallows than live in slavery.” Sharpe was executed on those gallows on May 23, 1832. He’s remembered as a national hero in Jamaica, with his likeness printed on the $50 Jamaican banknote.

    An Ongoing Struggle

    The popular narrative would have us believe that the British Empire chose to fully emancipate the thousands of African slaves in Jamaica in 1838 out of moral duty. But the truth is quite the opposite. Despite its failure, the sheer scale of the Christmas Rebellion, coupled with the constant resistance of enslaved Africans, demonstrated that the centuries-old practice of slavery had become untenable.

    The Christmas Rebellion directly precipitated the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act, which on its surface abolished slavery, but also stipulated that formerly enslaved Africans would have to undergo a period of “apprenticeship” under their old masters before they could be freed. It was not until 1838 that full emancipation was granted by Britain.

    In addition, slave owners, the Jamaican planter class among them, were awarded a handsome £20 million in compensation — a sum comprising 40 percent of the Treasury’s national budget at the time, and worth more than £17 billion today. This monumental debt was only paid off in 2015, meaning that the tax revenue generated by living British citizens, potentially among them, the descendants of enslaved Africans, has been used to contribute to recompense for human traffickers. The formerly enslaved Africans, subject to untold brutality for generations, got nothing.

    This year, the Jamaican government was unsuccessful in its petition for £7 billion in reparations from the British government. The latter dismissed Jamaica’s claims due to questions of practicality. Who would pay for it? And to whom?

    No such questions were asked when the British government compensated slaveowners for the loss of their “property.” As we remember the Christmas Rebellion and the bravery of those Africans who struggled against near insurmountable odds, we must also remember that the long fight for justice remains incomplete.

    Perry Blankson is a Tribune columnist and a project coordinator at the Young Historians Project. He is a member of the Editorial Working Group for the History Matters Journal.

    U.S. faith leaders, activists demand Christmas ceasefire in Ukraine / by John Wojcik and C. J. Atkins

    Late on Christmas Eve 1914, during World War I, British soldiers heard German troops in the trenches opposite them singing carols and saw lanterns and small fir trees along their trenches. Messages began to be shouted between the two sides. The following day, on Christmas, British and German soldiers met in ‘no man’s land’ and exchanged gifts, took photographs, and played impromptu games of football. They also buried casualties and repaired trenches and dugouts. After the short truce, fighting unfortunately carried on. Today, U.S. faith and peace leaders are calling for a Christmas ceasefire in Ukraine and demanding negotiations to end the war. | Imperial War Museum

    Activists and faith leaders in the United States are calling for an immediate Christmas season truce, a ceasefire, and talks to end the Ukraine-Russia conflict. They issued their call in the wake of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s address to the Congress on Wednesday.

    Zelensky called for continued flows of U.S. arms into his country to fight the Russians and promised that the weapons would be put to use. “We are alive and kicking and will never surrender,” he declared. He said that U.S. military aid to Ukraine was not charity but an investment in security for the future.

    At a meeting with Zelensky just prior to the Capitol speech, President Joe Biden vowed to back Ukraine with arms “for as long as it takes.” He also pledged to send new Patriot missiles, the most advanced in the U.S. military arsenal, to Ukraine.

    This was coupled with approval in the Senate on Thursday of an unprecedented $850-billion military budget, swollen to historic levels by billions more for the Ukraine war and multi-billion-dollar guarantees to the U.S. armaments makers that if any decision they make to increase armament production causes them to lose money, the U.S. treasury will jump in with “socialism for the rich” and cover their losses.

    Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., right, react as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy presents lawmakers with a Ukrainian flag autographed by front-line troops. Zelensky spoke to a joint session of Congress on Dec. 21. | AP

    Completely under the radar is this week’s call by more than 1,000 faith leaders demanding the Christmas season truce in Ukraine. Almost all of those leaders have, since the war began, strongly condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the resulting death and suffering of the Ukrainian people. They are also concerned, however, about U.S. culpability in the war and the refusal thus far in Washington to push for a ceasefire and negotiations to end the fighting.

    Led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Bishop William Barber, who leads the Poor People’s Campaign, they recalled the Christmas truce in 1914 during the First World War. They declared: “We urge our government to take a leadership role in bringing the war in Ukraine to an end through supporting calls for a ceasefire and negotiated settlement, before the conflict results in a nuclear war that could devastate the world’s ecosystems and annihilate all of God’s creation.”

    Co-founder of Code Pink Medea Benjamin, one of the signers, said: “There is nothing glorious about the Ukraine war. It is a lose-lose for everyone except weapons makers. Zelensky should be calling for peace. So should Putin. And Biden. And everyone else. #ChristmasTruceNow.”

    Benjamin said the war “must move from the battlefield to the negotiating table—no more dollars for war! Peace talks instead!” Supplies of more advanced weaponry would “only bring us closer to a direct war with Russia…and nuclear armageddon,” she added.

    Zelensky essentially told the Congress this week, however, that no peace would be possible and no ceasefire was possible until Russia pulls out of Ukraine altogether. He said he has a 10-point peace plan that he discussed with Biden but gave no details. Biden has also not disclosed any specifics of the supposed plan.

    A Biden administration spokesperson, retired Admiral John Kirby, said on MSNBC that the Zelensky plan was “not really a peace plan but rather a framework within which discussion between Ukraine and the U.S. can be held.”

    The huge military budget is causing enormous problems in the U.S. already. First is the obvious diversion of funds away from programs to address social needs. In addition, existing critical funds are under threat. The trillion-dollar omnibus bill approved in the Senate this week does not specify what part of it can be used to provide more than $1.7 billion needed, for example, to keep Medicaid benefits flowing to those in need.

    Federal money for states that have opted into Obamacare could be endangered if there are not adequate funds allocated for that in the federal budget. Millions who rely on these benefits could be harmed.

    The conflict is increasingly looks like the proxy war between the U.S. and Russia that many peace activists say it is. They have been saying that Ukraine is caught in the middle of a long-term battle that the U.S. is waging against Russia.

    Ukrainians stand around a Christmas tree adorned with peace doves in Kiev on Dec. 17, as partial power outages kept much of the capital city dark. | Felipe Dana / AP

    While the U.S. announced billions in new weapons for the Ukraine war this week, Russia responded by announcing plans on Wednesday to increase the size of its army from one million to 1.5 million members, and government officials rolled out plans to create entirely new, “better trained” units.

    Meanwhile, NATO which is under the control of Washington, continues its plans to expand—an expansion that is seen as a major cause of the war in the first place. Two countries are slated to soon become new members.

    Russia’s Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu, said his country needed to safeguard its security because of those NATO plans, which involve the incorporation of Finland and Sweden into the alliance.

    Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov also responded this week to U.S. plans for sending more weapons into the conflict. He declared that the move would not “bode well” for Ukraine, as Russian bombardments continued to pound the country’s energy infrastructure.

    This news analysis published here reflects the views of the authors.

        John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People’s World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and ’80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper’s predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.

          C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People’s World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People’s World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.

          People’s World, December 23, 2022,

          On eve of strike, millworkers say: ‘I want more than a t-shirt for feeling essential’ / by Laurn McCauley

          Workers at St. Croix Chipping in Baileyville, Maine |

          Originally published in the Beacon n December 19, 2022

          Workers at the Woodland Pulp mill in Baileyville say that during the pandemic they helped keep the local economy afloat, despite personal risk to themselves and their families, but in return were only given “toilet paper and a t-shirt that said we were ‘essential,’” explained Mark Prenier, a member of United Steelworkers Local 27.

          In a video posted to YouTube last week, Premier and two other USW Local 27 members shared some of the challenges they’ve experienced and why they voted earlier this month to strike.

          “During COVID we kept production up, we kept production going. You heard all these places that were folding because they couldn’t get materials and a lot of companies depended on materials — the workers in that mill made it happen,” said Glenn Connolly. “They’re the ones that got the trucks out, they’re the ones that got the pulp produced, and because of that the economy survived. Now that we’re asking to help us out, it’s being met with resistance.”

          “We ran all through covid without a blip. We staffed the mill no matter what. Many 18-hour shifts, guys out with COVID,” explained Prenier. 

          “A lot of companies paid their workers above and beyond because of the dangers. Every one of us could have brought COVID home to our families,” he said, noting they lost a coworker who died after a COVID outbreak at the mill. “What we got during COVID was a thing of toilet paper and a t-shirt that said we were essential on it…I want more than a t-shirt for feeling essential.”

          Mill workers in Baileyville Maine fight for a fair contract

          According to the Maine AFL-CIO, the millworkers weren’t even offered paid sick time when they came down with COVID. 

          Troy Wallace said his work at the mill is “extremely dangerous,” with exposure to a lot of chemicals that could be detrimental to his health. “We’re asked to work long hours, scheduled on your days off for mandatory overtime…we’re looking for a fair wage increase to make an honest living.”

          The workers could launch a strike as early as Monday after more 85% of the 123 voting members with United Steelworkers Local 27 voted to reject a contract offer from the company and authorize a strike earlier this month.

          According to local USW staff representative Michael Higgins, the mill “offered us very good general wage increases but failed to recognize the cost of living adjustment that we need.”

          The union sent a certified letter to the company on Dec. 7 terminating the contract and Higgins said a strike could begin 10 days after the company receives the letter. 

          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,, 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)

          Maine tribal leaders denounce Sen. King for blocking Wabanaki sovereignty bill / by Lauren McCauley

          U.S. Sen. Angus King (I-ME) walks in the US Capitol during a vote on 7 21, 2021 in Wash., DC. | A Moneymaker, Getty Images

          Originally published in the Beacon n December 21, 2022

          Tribal leaders in Maine say they are “extremely disappointed” that, due to opposition from Sen. Angus King, the Advancing Equality for Wabanaki Nations Act was not included in the final congressional budget deal announced Tuesday.

          The bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Jared Golden and co-sponsored by Rep. Chellie Pingree, would have adjusted the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1980, a jurisdictional arrangement between the tribes and the state that Indigenous leaders have long criticized for leaving the Wabanaki Nations with less authority over natural resources, gaming, taxation, criminal justice and economic development than 570 other federally recognized tribes. 

          Through the Settlement Act, federal laws that benefit other Indigenous nations around the country only apply to tribes in Maine if they are explicitly included by Congress. HR 6707 would change that going forward to include the Wabanaki in such laws.

          “The Wabanaki Nations have never been closer to amending the poorly-designed and intentionally one-sided Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act and our inability to be included in this year-end legislation really stings,” said Chief Rena Newell of the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Sipayik.

          “The fact that we have come this far and generated this much support from Mainers should serve as a stark reminder to those that oppose Wabanaki equality. We will not stop. We will keep fighting for a brighter future because all of Maine succeeds when the Wabanaki succeeds,” she added. 

          Earlier this month, a study published by the Harvard Kennedy School highlighted how the current arrangement with the tribes has significantly stifled their economic development, which has had a ripple effect throughout rural Maine.

          “Perhaps no better economic development policy costing so little money could be implemented now in the State of Maine than removing the restrictive language of MICSA. Yet, Sen. King refuses to support it,” said Chief Clarissa Sabattis of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians.

          Following the lead of Maine Gov. Janet Mills, who opposed the federal legislation in addition to a state bill that would have amended the Settlement Act, King said he has “serious concerns about the legislation in its current form and the unintended consequences it poses for the state of Maine,” according to a statement from his office. 

          King’s Communications Director Matthew Felling said the independent would work with the tribes on specific provisions within the more sweeping legislation. “Moving forward, he is committed to continuing to work with the Tribes on specific issues involving the application of federal tribal laws in Maine, such as the Stafford Act and the Indian Health Care Improvement Act — much like he did with the implementation of the Violence Against Women Act,” he said.

          However, Penobscot Nation Chief Kirk Francis said the tribes had “directly conferred with Senator King as the legislation was being drafted and purposefully drafted the bill narrowly to address Senator King’s concerns.” 

          “It’s hard not to suspect that the senator’s opposition to the legislation is political in nature and not substantive,” Francis added. “The Wabanaki bill would have been a meaningful step towards modernizing an archaic settlement act, and it would have opened doors for much-needed economic opportunities for our tribal communities and rural Maine.”

          Both Golden and Pingree expressed disappointment in King and Republican Sen. Susan Collins’ refusal to support the bill. 

          “I’m disappointed that this provision, which we passed in the House on a bipartisan basis, fell out of the omnibus spending bill during negotiations with the Senate,” Golden told the Press Herald on Tuesday. “This issue is not settled and I look forward to working with the tribes to make headway on this important issue.”

          Pingree added, “We got it through the House, but the two Maine Senators don’t support it. It was attached when it came over from the House but they opposed its inclusion. This one we just couldn’t get agreement on.”

          Correction: An earlier version of this story said Gov. Janet Mills had vetoed the Maine legislation. Rather, the bill died when it was not funded by the legislature’s Appropriations Committee.

          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,, 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)