Monday, October 16, 2017

2727. Yes, White Supremacists, Some Vikings Were Muslims & Thor Was Brown

By Juan Cole, Informed Comment, October 15, 2017
A reconstructed Viking boat grave from the Gamla Uppsala archaeological site in Sweden is part of a Viking couture exhibition at the Enkopings Museum. Photo: Therese Larsson.


The archeological identification of stylized Arabic text for God (Allah) and Ali (the prophet Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law) in burial garments of the Vikings in Sweden has thrown white supremacists into a tizzy. While the garments could just be the result of trade with the Middle East, it can’t be ruled out that there were some converts to Islam. This possibility drove the Neo-Nazis, Klansmen, the Breitbart staff, and other losers bonkers since Vikings for them are the ur-Whites.

There was a similar controversy over Kenneth Branagh’s 2011 movie “Thor” from Marvel Studios, inasmuch as it cast Idris Elba as a Black guardian of the Bifrost bridge between earth and Asgard. As usual, the white nationalists were just being brain dead. First of all, they might have noticed that this version of Norse mythology is the brainchild of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, two Jewish American giants of story-telling.

The biggest problem with white supremacy is how hateful it is. But its second biggest problem is how stupid it is. That is not to say that intelligent people cannot be members (Steve Bannon, e.g.). It is that they are captive of moronic premises. If you buy a stupid premise (global heating is not caused by humans, e.g.), then all your further statements will be false because they are built on a rotten foundation.

So genetic testing of those buried in Viking grave sites have turned up a some with Iranian origins, and Iran may be the origin of a significant number of Vikings.

And, Vikings ruled a maritime empire during the medieval warming period when Scandinavia could support a fair population, roughly 800-1200 CE (AD). For instance, Vikings briefly conquered Sicily in 860. But during the whole period 827-902 the island was gradually coming under Arab Muslim rule from North Africa. Their troops were Arab, Berber, and Black African. If you don’t think Vikings mingled with people of color in Sicily before returning north, including having some children by local women, you don’t know much about medieval society. And that some of them converted to Islam is entirely plausible. In fact, the 827 invasion was provoked by a Byzantine official who felt badly used and so converted to Islam and became an agent of the Aghlabid emirs of North Africa. A Viking woman buried with a Muslim ring has been found by archeologists. Vikings also traded with the Abbasid Empire and raided Muslim Spain (al-Andalus). Vikings were not racists, and wouldn’t have known what a race is. As for their “tribes,” tribes in medieval society were like our political parties. People joined successful ones and suddenly found an ancestor in common with the clan they joined.

The populations of empires are always mongrels, and the Vikings were just not all of one ethnic origin or religious belief.

Moreover, Norse mythology is just a version of Indo-European mythology which is shared by Iran and India. In ancient Iran, as well, there was a bridge to the next word, called Chinwat, similar to the Norse Bifrost. Thor is clearly the same as the Vedic Indra and the Midgaard Serpent is Vritra. In ancient Iran, Thor was Faridun who fought the serpentine Zohak. That is, the closest you can get to Norse mythology today is Indian religion. Yes, supremacists, there are brown Aryans.

Worst of all for the supremacists, there are no races as popularly conceived. Our outward appearance is dictated by only 2% of our genes, and no, has nothing to do with intelligence or character attributes. Irish and Chinese are genetically almost identical despite representing the easternmost and westernmost extent of homo sapiens sapiens. Skin color is an adaptation to UV rays. When a woman is pregnant, she needs enough UV rays from the sun to produce vitamin D in the embryo, but not so much that they will cause genetic damage. So in very sunny places like the Congo, nature selects for black skin. In Sweden, nature over time (13,000 years) selects for white skin. The people in Sweden came from places to the south and began by being dark.

So give us a break. Vikings were all kinds of people. And so are genuine Americans.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

2726. Capitalism, Loneliness, and Mental Health

By George Monbiot, The Guardian, October 12, 2017

What greater indictment of a system could there be than an epidemic of mental illness? Yet plagues of anxiety, stress, depression, social phobia, eating disorders, self-harm and loneliness now strike people down all over the world. The latest, catastrophic figures for children’s mental health in England reflect a global crisis.

There are plenty of secondary reasons for this distress, but it seems to me that the underlying cause is everywhere the same: human beings, the ultrasocial mammals, whose brains are wired to respond to other people, are being peeled apart. Economic and technological change play a major role, but so does ideology. Though our wellbeing is inextricably linked to the lives of others, everywhere we are told that we will prosper through competitive self-interest and extreme individualism.

In Britain, men who have spent their entire lives in quadrangles – at school, at college, at the bar, in parliament – instruct us to stand on our own two feet. The education system becomes more brutally competitive by the year. Employment is a fight to the near-death with a multitude of other desperate people chasing ever fewer jobs. The modern overseers of the poor ascribe individual blame to economic circumstance. Endless competitions on television feed impossible aspirations as real opportunities contract.

Consumerism fills the social void. But far from curing the disease of isolation, it intensifies social comparison to the point at which, having consumed all else, we start to prey upon ourselves. Social media brings us together and drives us apart, allowing us precisely to quantify our social standing, and to see that other people have more friends and followers than we do.

As Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett has brilliantly documented, girls and young women routinely alter the photos they post to make themselves look smoother and slimmer. Some phones, using their “beauty” settings, do it for you without asking; now you can become your own thinspiration. Welcome to the post-Hobbesian dystopia: a war of everyone against themselves.

Social media brings us together and drives us apart, allowing us precisely to quantify our social standing

Is it any wonder, in these lonely inner worlds, in which touching has been replaced by retouching, that young women are drowning in mental distress? A recent survey in England suggests that one in four women between 16 and 24 have harmed themselves, and one in eight now suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Anxiety, depression, phobias or obsessive compulsive disorder affect 26% of women in this age group. This is what a public health crisis looks like.

If social rupture is not treated as seriously as broken limbs, it is because we cannot see it. But neuroscientists can. A series of fascinating papers suggest that social pain and physical pain are processed by the same neural circuits. This might explain why, in many languages, it is hard to describe the impact of breaking social bonds without the words we use to denote physical pain and injury. In both humans and other social mammals, social contact reduces physical pain. This is why we hug our children when they hurt themselves: affection is a powerful analgesic. Opioids relieve both physical agony and the distress of separation. Perhaps this explains the link between social isolation and drug addiction.

Experiments summarised in the journal Physiology & Behaviour last month suggest that, given a choice of physical pain or isolation, social mammals will choose the former. Capuchin monkeys starved of both food and contact for 22 hours will rejoin their companions before eating. Children who experience emotional neglect, according to some findings, suffer worse mental health consequences than children suffering both emotional neglect and physical abuse: hideous as it is, violence involves attention and contact. Self-harm is often used as an attempt to alleviate distress: another indication that physical pain is not as bad as emotional pain. As the prison system knows only too well, one of the most effective forms of torture is solitary confinement.

It is not hard to see what the evolutionary reasons for social pain might be. Survival among social mammals is greatly enhanced when they are strongly bonded with the rest of the pack. It is the isolated and marginalised animals that are most likely to be picked off by predators, or to starve. Just as physical pain protects us from physical injury, emotional pain protects us from social injury. It drives us to reconnect. But many people find this almost impossible.
It’s unsurprising that social isolation is strongly associated with depression, suicide, anxiety, insomnia, fear and the perception of threat. It’s more surprising to discover the range of physical illnesses it causes or exacerbates. Dementia, high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, lowered resistance to viruses, even accidents are more common among chronically lonely people. Loneliness has a comparable impact on physical health to smoking 15 cigarettes a day: it appears to raise the risk of early death by 26%. This is partly because it enhances production of the stress hormone cortisol, which suppresses the immune system.
Studies in both animals and humans suggest a reason for comfort eating: isolation reduces impulse control, leading to obesity. As those at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder are the most likely to suffer from loneliness, might this provide one of the explanations for the strong link between low economic status and obesity?

Anyone can see that something far more important than most of the issues we fret about has gone wrong. So why are we engaging in this world-eating, self-consuming frenzy of environmental destruction and social dislocation, if all it produces is unbearable pain? Should this question not burn the lips of everyone in public life?

There are some wonderful charities doing what they can to fight this tide, some of which I am going to be working with as part of my loneliness project. But for every person they reach, several others are swept past.

This does not require a policy response. It requires something much bigger: the reappraisal of an entire worldview. Of all the fantasies human beings entertain, the idea that we can go it alone is the most absurd and perhaps the most dangerous. We stand together or we fall apart.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

2725. Psychoactive Mushrooms Found to Treat Depression

By Science Daily, October 13, 2017
Psilocybin mushrooms
Patients taking psilocybin to treat depression show reduced symptoms weeks after treatment following a 'reset' of their brain activity.

The findings come from a study in which researchers from Imperial College London used psilocybin -- the psychoactive compound that occurs naturally in magic mushrooms -- to treat a small number of patients with depression in whom conventional treatment had failed.

In a paper, published today in the journal Scientific Reports, the researchers describe patient-reported benefits lasting up to five weeks after treatment, and believe the psychedelic compound may effectively reset the activity of key brain circuits known to play a role in depression.

Comparison of images of patients' brains before and one day after they received the drug treatment revealed changes in brain activity that were associated with marked and lasting reductions in depressive symptoms.

The authors note that while the initial results of the experimental therapy are exciting, they are limited by the small sample size as well as the absence of a control group -- such as a placebo group -- to directly contrast with the patients.

Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, Head of Psychedelic Research at Imperial, who led the study, said: "We have shown for the first time clear changes in brain activity in depressed people treated with psilocybin after failing to respond to conventional treatments.

"Several of our patients described feeling 'reset' after the treatment and often used computer analogies. For example, one said he felt like his brain had been 'defragged' like a computer hard drive, and another said he felt 'rebooted'. Psilocybin may be giving these individuals the temporary 'kick start' they need to break out of their depressive states and these imaging results do tentatively support a 'reset' analogy. Similar brain effects to these have been seen with electroconvulsive therapy."

Over the last decade or so, a number of clinical trials have been conducted into the safety and effectiveness of psychedelics in patients with conditions such as depression and addictions, yielding promising results.

In the recent Imperial trial, the first with psilocybin in depression, 20 patients with treatment-resistant form of the disorder were given two doses of psilocybin (10 mg and 25 mg), with the second dose a week after the first.

Nineteen of these underwent initial brain imaging and then a second scan one day after the high dose treatment. Carhart-Harris and team used two main brain imaging methods to measure changes in blood flow and the crosstalk between brain regions, with patients reporting their depressive symptoms through completing clinical questionnaires.

Immediately following treatment with psilocybin, patients reported a decrease in depressive symptoms -- corresponding with anecdotal reports of an 'after-glow' effect characterised by improvements in mood and stress relief.

Functional MRI imaging revealed reduced blood flow in areas of the brain, including the amygdala, a small, almond-shaped region of the brain known to be involved in processing emotional responses, stress and fear. They also found increased stability in another brain network, previously linked to psilocybin's immediate effects as well as to depression itself.
These findings provide a new window into what happens in the brains of people after they have 'come down' from a psychedelic, where an initial disintegration of brain networks during the drug 'trip', is followed by a re-integration afterwards.

Dr Carhart-Harris explained: "Through collecting these imaging data we have been able to provide a window into the after effects of psilocybin treatment in the brains of patients with chronic depression. Based on what we know from various brain imaging studies with psychedelics, as well as taking heed of what people say about their experiences, it may be that psychedelics do indeed 'reset' the brain networks associated with depression, effectively enabling them to be lifted from the depressed state.

The authors warn that while the initial findings are encouraging, the research is at an early stage and that patients with depression should not attempt to self-medicate, as the team provided a special therapeutic context for the drug experience and things may go awry if the extensive psychological component of the treatment is neglected. They add that future studies will include more robust designs and currently plan to test psilocybin against a leading antidepressant in a trial set to start early next year.

Professor David Nutt, Edmond J. Safra Professor of Neuropsychopharmacology and director of the Neuropsychopharmacology Unit in the Division of Brain Sciences, and senior author of the paper, added: "Larger studies are needed to see if this positive effect can be reproduced in more patients. But these initial findings are exciting and provide another treatment avenue to explore."

Journal Reference:

1. Robin L Carhart-Harris, Leor Roseman, Mark Bolstridge, Lysia Demetriou, J Nienke Pannekoek, Matthew B Wall, Mark Tanner, Mendel Kaelen, John McGonigle, Kevin Murphy, Robert Leech, H Valerie Curran, David J Nutt. Psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression: fMRI-measured brain mechanismsScientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-13282-7

Friday, October 13, 2017

2724. Marxism of C. L. R. James

By Paul Le Blanc, Against the Current, October 8, 2017
C. L.  R. James

Cyril Lionel Robert James (1901-1989) has begun to enjoy a revival among U.S. and European intellectuals which promises to spread his influence more widely in the present and future than was the case at any time during his life. He is best known for his magnificent history of the Haitian revolution, entitled Black Jacobins (first published in 1938 and reprinted often since then), but a growing number of people are becoming increasingly familiar with many other facets of his work.

There has been a flood of works by and about James since his death.  There are now two biographies—one by "new left" historian Paul Buhle, and a more recent product of Kent Worchester's careful scholarship.  A massive anthology of his writings, edited by Anna Grimshaw, was glowingly reviewed in the New York Times.  A fascinating collection edited by Buhle and Paget Henry entitled C.L.R. James's Caribbean has now been followed by a re-issue of his sports classic Beyond a Boundary.

Grimshaw and Keith Hart have also made available a major work by James, rich in pioneering cultural analysis, entitled American Civilization.  Professor Robert Hill of the University of California at Los Angeles is projecting the publication of the Collected Works of C.L.R. James over the coming years, according to a front-page story in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  An important collection of essays by various scholars, edited by Selwyn Cudjoe and William E. Cain, C.L.R. James, His Intellectual Legacies, has just appeared.
The Revolutionary Studies series of Humanities Press has recently republished his 1937 classic World Revolution (a history of the Communist International), has published a volume edited by Scott McLemee and myself, entitled C.L.R. James and Revolutionary Marxism, Selected Writings 1939-1949, and plans to bring out his wonderful 1960 lectures Modern Politics in the near future.

James is generally acknowledged to have been one of the most original Marxist thinkers to emerge from the Western hemisphere, yet essential aspects of his identity came from the other side of the Atlantic, from Europe and Africa.  As he explained to one African-American scholar, "I am a Black European, that is my training and outlook."

He offered penetrating analyses on the interrelationships of class, race and gender, and his discussions of colonialism and anti-colonialism could be brilliant. But C.L.R. James also embraced the heritage of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, the working-class and socialist movements of Europe and North America, and the Bolshevism of Lenin and Trotsky which transformed Russia and promised to liberate the world from all oppression. At the same time, his writings on sports deserve special emphasis—which is something that can be said of few Marxist theorists. James began his writing career by writing about baseball's distant cousin, cricket, first in the West Indies and later in England.

Paul Buhle, following James, tells us that such sports are a means of "expression for ordinary genius," adding that James regarded cricket as "a fully fledged art form equal to theatre, opera and dance.  To this claim James added a populist amendment: 'What matters in cricket, as in all the finer arts, is not the finer points but what everyone with some knowledge of the elements can see and feel.' It embodied the elemental human movement which ... constituted the basis and the source of renewal for all arts."  (One can imagine that these insights could also be applied to modern-day basketball, music videos on MTV, and much else.)

Such things—James felt—come from the same deeply creative sources as more conventional great art and also as genuinely revolutionary politics.  The mass popular response to such things, similarly, has something in common with the emotions and sensibilities associated with social revolutions, in which masses of people creatively transform reality.

James's Political Involvements
James moved to England in 1932 from the West Indian island of Trinidad.  In England he quickly made contact with the British working-class movement, becoming part of the radical Independent Labor Party and of a small Trotskyist organization within it called the Marxist Group.  He learned his Marxism within this context, and some of his most enduring contributions to Marxism were made while he was part of the Trotskyist movement in Britain and the United States.  James also became involved in the Pan-Africanist movement, becoming associated with such figures as George Padmore, Paul Robeson, W.E.B. DuBois, Jomo Kenyatta, and Kwame Nkrumah.

In 1938 James helped to found the Fourth International, the world-wide organization of revolutionary socialists, and was elected to its International Executive Committee.  In the same year he moved to the United States and became part of the Socialist Workers Party.  Frank Lovell has offered this recollection:
"When C.L.R. James came to this country from Britain, where he was a leader of the Trotskyist movement, he was welcomed into the Socialist Workers Party and given leadership responsibilities.  James was an impressive speaker with his British accent and his poise.  He was a tall, handsome Black man...  He spoke without notes, standing aside from the podium on the speakers platform.  It was as if he were a great actor delivering a famous oration."
"At his first appearance he shared the platform with [the top leaders of the SWP, Max] Shachtman and [James P.] Cannon in the Irving Plaza meeting hall where Trotskyist meetings were often held. Shachtman was the first speaker and was not brief.  James came on next and even though his talk was longer than Shachtman's, he completely captivated his audience and received a big ovation.  Cannon was the last speaker.  Although he was the national secretary of the party and had been announced for a major speech, Jim had no intention of standing on his dignity or trying to hold the audience so late at night in order to have his turn. He put aside his notes, congratulated James on his speaking ability and welcomed him to the Socialist Workers Party." [James P. Cannon As We Knew Him, ed. by Les Evans (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1976), pp. 138-139.]
James remained part of the Trotskyist movement until 1951, adopting the party name "J.R. Johnson."  In 1940, when Shachtman and many others split from the SWP and set up the rival Workers Party, James initially lined up with the Shachtmanites.  At the same time, along with an energetic theorist-in-the-making named Rae Spiegel, later known as Raya Dunayevskaya, who took the party name "Freddie Forest," James formed a very distinctive political current: the Johnson-Forest tendency.

The Johnson-Forest tendency, which never had more than a few dozen adherents, mapped out an ambitious project for U.S. revolutionaries: to develop an Americanized Marxism, and an Americanized Bolshevism, that would involve a dynamic interpenetration of the U.S. and international revolutionary traditions.

This was to include intellectual efforts that have had an impact on later scholars and social critics: the development of substantial analyses of U.S. history, studies of modern culture (including a serious attitude toward popular culture), historical and sociological labor studies, the development of Marxist economic analysis, and an awesome embrace of dialectical materialism which involved an immersion in the philosophical writings of Hegel.  Among the contributions of the Johnson-Forest tendency was to produce the first English-language translation of Marx's important Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of the early 1840s.

Shachtman and those who were close to Shachtman had little use for the Johnson-Forest tendency, which attracted some of the more energetic young comrades and—among other things- -sought to inspire them with the ambition to master the complexities of Marx's Capital and Hegel's Phenomenology of the Mind. As one veteran of Shachtmanites later recalled: "You would see these 17 year olds who could barely spell, and they were carrying Hegel."  A one-time Shachtmanite youth leader agreed: "In the youth group, with Hegel, they would get up and start espousing Hegel, and it was utterly incoherent."

There were three other sins of the Johnson-Forest tendency that aggravated Shachtman and his co-thinkers: 1) the position that the African- American struggle, rather than being subsumed under the general struggle of the working class, had a powerful dynamic of its own and would be central to the socialist revolution in the U.S.; 2) the position that the American working class was far more radical, having a greater revolutionary character, than many of the Shachtmanites imagined; and 3) that the Socialist Workers Party of James P. Cannon was much better than Shachtman and others were willing to admit, and that the two groups should reunify.

This finally led to a split from the Workers Party in 1947, and the Johnson-Forest group returned to the SWP. While many SWPers were not inclined to accept much of the Johnson-Forest theoretical output, and especially rejected the Johnson-Forest notion that the Soviet Union was a "state-capitalist" society, the tendency's members were seen as serious and hardworking revolutionaries.  The contributions that James had to make regarding the so-called "Negro Question" were also highly valued.  And yet disappointed hopes regarding the failure of the U.S. working class to turn in a revolutionary direction, growing difficulties and frustrations brought on by the Cold War and McCarthy periods, and deepening political differences, caused James and his followers to leave the SWP within five years.  In doing this, they also openly rejected Trotskyism and any commitments to building a Leninist-type party in the United States.

Shortly after this 1951 split, James—who was not a U.S. citizen—was arrested and thrown out of the country because of his revolutionary politics.  In 1955, Raya Dunayevskaya and others split away to establish their own "Marxist-Humanist" News and Letters group; in 1962 the Johnsonmites—known by the name of their own paper Correspondence—suffered another split led by James Boggs and Grace Lee Boggs.  James and his cothinkers regrouped around the name "Facing Reality" (the title of a major Johnsonite document).  By the end of the 1960s, the remnants of the Facing Reality group (led by James's close associate Marty Glaberman) decided to dissolve.

In the meantime, however, two of James's proteges in other countries—Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana and Eric Williams in Trinidad—assumed state power, and welcomed their mentor's support and assistance.  To a limited extent in Ghana, and to a much greater extent in Trinidad, James contributed what he could—especially important writings—to advance the revolutionary struggle.  In both cases, he was forced to break with the political course adopted by Nkrumah and Williams, each in their own way veering off from the revolutionary-democratic and socialist perspectives which he represented.
In the final decades of his life, James was able to see his influence grow in England, the United States, and in the Caribbean among activists who were attracted to these revolutionary perspectives.

James's Method and Contributions
It would be wrong to allow James to become—as has been done by some over the years—a cult figure.  He is not some sort of earthly deity whose judgments must be worshipped, but a comrade from whom one can learn (sometimes even as one is challenging him and clarifying a disagreement).  Rather than offering criticisms or noting contradictions in his ideas and work, I want to focus on certain of his strengths and insights that I believe can be beneficial for the revolutionary socialist movement.  At the end of this presentation, however, I will touch on one aspect of his thought which strikes me as somewhat problematical.
James's general approach to reality seems to me to be very dynamic and exciting.  An essential aspect of his method is to make links between seemingly diverse realities, sometimes to take something that is commonly perceived as being marginal and to demonstrate that it is central, for example: the relation of the Haitian Revolution to the French Revolution and later to the fortunes of Napoleon Bonaparte; the relation of blacks to world history, Western civilization, and the class struggle; the relation of popular culture—sports, movies, hit songs, dancing, pulp fiction, comic books, etc.—to more "refined" culture, to social realities and to class consciousness.  James focuses on these so-called "marginal" realities in a manner that profoundly alters (rather than displacing) the traditionally "central" categories.

The attentive reader will find that such a methodological approach generates innumerable fruitful challenges which help to move one's thinking forward on a variety of issues.
Among James's most substantial contributions was his assistance in making revolutionary Marxists aware of the centrality of "the Negro Question" to the class struggle and to any genuinely revolutionary perspective in the United States, and I want to give major attention to that. First of all, he insistently demonstrated that the history of blacks in the Americas was not simply a history of poor victims of oppression, but of a vibrant and conscious people that found innumerable ways to resist their oppression, assert their humanity, and periodically struggle for their own liberation.

But James went much further than this. On the basis of in-depth study and experience in black communities of the United States, creatively utilizing Lenin's views on oppressed nationalities, and in collaboration with Trotsky (with whom he had extensive discussions in Mexico), James developed a profound theoretical orientation to help guide the practical work of U.S. revolutionaries.

"The American Negroes, for centuries the most oppressed section of American society and the most discriminated against, are potentially the most revolutionary elements of the population," James explained in one resolution which he wrote in 1939.  "They are designated by their whole historical past to be, under adequate leadership, the very vanguard of the proletarian revolution."  He added that "the broad perspectives of [Trotsky's theory of] the permanent revolution will remain only a fiction" unless revolutionary socialists could find their way to the African-American masses.

The implications of this were that a consistent, uncompromising struggle for the democratic rights of African Americans (largely proletarianized) would necessarily challenge bourgeois power and capitalism, with a potential for growing over into a struggle for working-class power and socialism.  Yet James did not leave things at that. A second resolution noted that African Americans might feel moved, on the basis of their own historic oppression, to advance the demand "for the establishment and administration of a Negro state."  He explained that "in a revolutionary crisis, as they begin to shake off the state coercion and ideological domination of the American bourgeois society, their first step may well be to demand the control, both actual and symbolical, of their own destiny."

Rejecting schematic definitions having to do with whether blacks in the U.S. constituted "a nation," James pointed out that "the raising or support of the slogan by the masses of Negroes will be the best and only proof required."  Under such circumstances, revolutionary socialists should support the demand, the realization of which could constitute, as James put it, a "step forward to the eventual integration of the American Negroes into the United Socialist States of America."

James added: "The advocacy of the right of self-determination does not mean advancing the slogan of self-determination.  Self-determination for Negroes means that Negroes themselves must determine their own future."  It is worth noting that there are, in fact, two meanings attached to the term self-determination here. One meaning involves separation, setting up a politically-distinct nation—which may or may not take place, depending on what blacks themselves wish to do. The other meaning involves the right of an oppressed people to define what they shall be and to determine their own future—which, James insisted, must be a constant principle for revolutionary Marxists.

He also observed that "the awakening political consciousness of the Negro not unnaturally takes the form of independent action uncontrolled by whites.  The Negroes have long felt, and more than ever feel today the urge to create their own organizations under their own leaders and thus assert, not only in theory but in action, their claim to complete equality with other American citizens.  Such a desire is legitimate and must be vigorously supported even when it takes the form of a rather aggressive chauvinism."  James's next point is of particular interest: "Black chauvinism in America today is merely the natural excess of the desire for equality and is essentially progressive while white American chauvinism, the expression of racial domination, is essentially reactionary."

This general orientation was so advanced for its time that the SWP proved incapable of fully assimilating it, and even today many socialists, even some who identify with Trotskyism, don't accept it. But in the 1960s James's position provided a basis for understanding the rising tide of militant struggles and nationalist consciousness in the Black community.  While these new developments proved to be unexpected by and utterly confusing to many observers, Trotskyist analyst George Breitman was able to draw on the earlier perspectives to provide a revolutionary Marxist explanation.  Especially important was Breitman's ability to highlight, document and help popularize the profoundly revolutionary meaning of the ideas and life of Malcolm X—which would have been impossible without the kind of analysis pioneered by James a quarter of a century before.

As I have already indicated, James by no means confined himself to "the Negro Question."  His approach to the world around him was comprehensive, multifaceted and penetrating.  As a revolutionary interenationalist, he concerned himself with revolutionary events in Europe, Asia, Latin America, Africa—and also with the real struggles of working people and the oppressed in the United States, in which he saw genuinely revolutionary qualities.  There is a profound continuity in how he viewed these struggles and the manner in which he defined socialism.  This comes through in this passage from a 1947 document of the Johnson-Forest tendency entitled The Invading Socialist Society.

The struggle for socialism is the struggle for proletarian democracy.  Proletarian democracy is not the crown of socialism.  It is its basis.  Proletarian democracy is not the result of socialism.  Socialism is the result of proletarian democracy.  To the degree that the proletariat mobilizes itself and the great masses of the people, the socialist revolution is advanced.  The proletariat mobilizes itself as a self-acting force through its own committees, unions, parties and other organizations.

An essential aspect of James's approach is not that members of small revolutionary socialist groups need to persuade the working class to become such a "self-acting force."  Rather, he insisted, the working-class already is such a force, carrying out innumerable forms of resistance and struggle in everyday life in their own workplaces and communities and personal lives which—while not necessarily conforming to the blueprints and schemas of revolutionary socialist groups, and often not noticed by these groups—effectively combat, undermine, subvert capitalist power, creating elements of a new democratic-collectivist society within the shell of the capitalist society around us.

In 1943 James expressed this outlook in a brilliant polemic against Sidney Hook (a pioneering post-Marxist whose 1943 volume The Hero in History is being echoed today in fashionable ex-leftist critiques of Marxism and Leninism).  Here James wrote eloquently about the relationship between the working class and genuinely revolutionary socialist groups.  Noting that one aspect of Lenin's strength was that he was an organic part of Russian culture, he went on to say:

"As to the outstanding role Lenin played inside his own party, even Marxist histories tend to give it a false significance.  Lenin fought for the Bolshevik principles in 1903 and won. He was constantly winning, which means that he expressed ideas which stood the test of practice.  The proletariat as a whole, at all critical moments, followed the Bolsheviks.

"More important than this, however, is the fact that the Russian proletariat taught and disciplined Lenin and the Bolsheviks not only indirectly but directly.  Basically the organization of the party paralleled the organization of the productive power of the proletariat in revolution.  In 1917, Lenin thought the struggle hopeless, and was thinking of giving it up. A few weeks later came the massacre of January, and the magnificent response of the Russian proletariat revived the faltering leader.  The proletariat created the soviets [democratic workers' councils].  The Bolsheviks learned here to understand the vitality and creative power of the proletariat in revolution....  The great change in policy in April was only a manifestation of the essential policy of the Bolshevik Party, to express and organize the instinctive desires and aims of the proletariat....
"The proletariat repeatedly led the Bolsheviks and gave Lenin courage and wisdom.  Between 1890 and 1921 the interrelation between leader, party, class and nation was indivisible.  The transformation of Bolshevism into totalitarianism is adequately dealt with in the literature of Trotskyism.  The analysis is embodied in history, and the lessons are plain.  With the proletariat or against it, that is the future of every modern nation.  The secret of Lenin's greatness is that he saw this so clearly, and he saw this so clearly because this choice was the inescapable product of the whole past of Russia...."

We have here a vision of revolutionary organizations being organically connected with the history and culture of their own countries, and especially with their own working classes, the insight that a revolutionary organization must be able to learn from the working class if it hopes to be able to have anything to teach the working class, that it must follow the workers in order to be able lead, that the relationship between the revolutionary group and the working class must be profoundly interactive.

A Challenge to Revolutionary Marxists
Here I want to turn to a problematical aspect of James's thought, which hopefully will provide a challenging conclusion to this presentation.  James never altered his analysis of and admiration for Lenin and the Bolshevik party.  But by the early 1950s he discarded the conception of building a revolutionary vanguard party in the United States because he felt this conception—as understood by most U.S. Leninists—got in the way of cultivating the necessary interactive relationship between revolutionary Marxists and the actually-existing, self-acting working class.

He came to the conclusion that Trotsky and other revolutionary Marxists had been wrong about believing that, after a working-class revolution, a transitional period between capitalism and socialism would be necessary.  He felt that before the working class made its revolution it would already have created—spontaneously, or semi-spontaneously, through its own activity—democratic, collectivist, socialist relations through its resistance to capitalist oppression.

Even if the working class did not put a "socialist" label on its own consciousness, activities, and relationships, these were developing in a socialist direction within the very framework of capitalist society, through the class struggle which—as noted in the Communist Manifesto—is "now hidden, now open."  The transition to socialism, he felt, is taking place now in the consciousness and struggles of working people in their workplaces and in their communities, and the transition will be completed (not begun) by a working-class revolution.

I believe that there are elements of truth in all of this, but that James took it too far. Socialism is not inevitable.  There are countervailing tendencies—anti-socialist, anti-democratic, anti-humanist tendencies—in our society, in our culture, and within the working class.

The genuinely revolutionary and socialist tendencies that James points to are there in the consciousness, the struggles, and the everyday life of those who are part of the working class.  But these can become triumphant only to the extent that they become conscious, are organized and mobilized--and there are no guarantees that this will happen on its own. Elements within the working class, including people like ourselves, will need to work hard to help make it happen.

To be effective in this, we will need to organize ourselves, we will need to learn how to work collectively and carry out coherent activities that contribute to the growth of a working-class socialist movement, creating organizational structures that can facilitate all of this. This means that, contrary to what James argued in the 1950s and afterward, we will be moving to create a U.S. variant of the Bolshevik-Leninist party.

As we do that, however, we will be well served if we critically draw from the rich contributions offered to us by our comrade C.L.R. James.  There is much that recommends him to us—his great intellectual breadth, which is reflected in the quality of his Marxism, combining a serious concern with philosophy, history, economics, culture, and practical political work. There is also his capacity to see things which aren't quite "there" yet, but which are in the process of coming into being.

Related to this is his capacity to identify fruitful connections between seemingly disparate phenomena, and his consequent ability to take what is "peripheral" and show that it is, in fact, central to an adequate understanding of politics and society.  In addition, there is the deep humanism which is essential to revolutionary Marxism but which James makes very much his own, which opens to us a crucial insight: socialism is not something that is simply thought up by brilliant intellectuals—it is an integral part of the reality around us. Essential elements of it can be found in the thinking, the perceptions, the values, the desires, the everyday life- activities, the many ongoing struggles of the human beings who are part of the working-class majority.

Writings of C.L.R. James referred to in this presentation:
American Civilization, ed. by Anna Grimshaw and Keith Hart, with an afterword by Robert A. Hill (London: Basil Blackwell, 1993)
Beyond a Boundary (Durham: Duke University Press, 1993) Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (New York: Vintage Books, 1962)
C.L.R. James's Caribbean, ed. by Paget Henry and Paul Buhle (Durham: Duke University Press, 1992) The C.L.R. James Reader, ed. by Anna Grimshaw (London: Basil Blackwell, 1992)
C.L.R. James and Revolutionary Marxism, Selected Writings, 1939-1949, ed. by Scott McLemee and Paul Le Blanc (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1993) ____ with F. Forest (Raya Dunayevskaya) and Ria Stone (Grace Lee),
The Invading Socialist Society (Detroit: Bewick Editions, 1972) Modern Politics (Detroit: Bewick Editions, 1973); scheduled to be republished by Humanities Press "Philosophy of History and Necessity: A Few Words with Professor Hook," The New International, October 1943
World Revolution 1917-1936, The Rise and Fall of the Communist International (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1993)

(My thanks to Paul Buhle, Scott McLemee and Martin Glaberman, who read and commented on earlier versions of this article, and to participants in the Solidarity summer school class which was the occasion for its composition.)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

2723. Ernesto Che Gueara's Message to the 1967 Tricontinental Conference

By Ernesto Che Guevara, Redline, October 10, 2017
The Founding on Tricontinental conference in Havana, Cuba, August 1967. 
Editor's note: In April 1967, while he was still leading a guerrilla force in Bolivia, and about six months before he was executed there, Che sent a message to The Tricontinental, the Cuba-based international magazine that came out of the Tricontinental Conference of 1966.  The conference and the magazine were part of the Cubans’ efforts to establish an international political current to fight for national liberation and socialism, in particular in the Third World.  Below are the publishing details of Che’s document, followed by the document itself.  The document provides a flavor not only of the revolutionary spirit of Guevara but also of the time: it was a ‘time of the furnaces’, a time when the revolution was in the air.
*       *      *

“Now is the time of the furnaces, and only light should be seen.” Jose Marti


Twenty-one years have already elapsed since the end of the last world conflagration; numerous publications, in every possible language, celebrate this event, symbolized by the defeat of Japan. There is a climate of apparent optimism in many areas of the different camps into which the world is divided. Twenty-one years without a world war, in these times of maximum confrontations, of violent clashes and sudden changes, appears to be a very high figure. However, without analyzing the practical results of this peace (poverty, degradation, increasingly larger exploitation of enormous sectors of humanity) for which all of us have stated that we are willing to fight, we would do well to inquire if this peace is real.
It is not the purpose of these notes to detail the different conflicts of a local character that have been occurring since the surrender of Japan, neither do we intend to recount the numerous and increasing instances of civilian strife which have taken place during these years of apparent peace. It will be enough just to name, as an example against undue optimism, the wars of Korea and Vietnam.

In the first one, after years of savage warfare, the Northern part of the country was submerged in the most terrible devastation known in the annals of modern warfare: riddled with bombs; without factories, schools or hospitals; with absolutely no shelter for housing ten million inhabitants.


Under the discredited flag of the United Nations, dozens of countries under the military leadership of the United States participated in this war with the massive intervention of U.S. soldiers and the use, as cannon fodder, of the South Korean population that was enrolled. 
On the other side, the army and the people of Korea and the volunteers from the Peoples’ Republic of China were furnished with supplies and advise by the Soviet military apparatus. The U.S. tested all sort of weapons of destruction, excluding the thermo-nuclear type, but including, on a limited scale bacteriological and chemical warfare.

In Vietnam, the patriotic forces of that country have carried on an almost uninterrupted war against three imperialist powers: Japan, whose might suffered an almost vertical collapse after the bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; France, who recovered from that defeated country its Indo-China colonies and ignored the promises it had made in harder times; and the United States, in this last phase of the struggle.

There were limited confrontations in every continent although in our America, for a long time, there were only incipient liberation struggles and military coups d’etat until the Cuban revolution resounded the alert, signaling the importance of this region. This action attracted the wrath of the imperialists and Cuba was finally obliged to defend its coasts, first in Playa Giron, and again during the Missile Crisis.

This last incident could have unleashed a war of incalculable proportions if a US-Soviet clash had occurred over the Cuban question.


But, evidently, the focal point of all contradictions is at present the territory of the peninsula of Indo-China and the adjacent areas. Laos and Vietnam are torn by a civil war which has ceased being such by the entry into the conflict of U.S. imperialism with all its might, thus transforming the whole zone into a dangerous detonator ready at any moment to explode.
In Vietnam the confrontation has assumed extremely acute characteristics. It is not our intention, either, to chronicle this war. We shall simply remember and point out some milestones. In 1954, after the annihilating defeat of Dien-Bien-Phu, an agreement was signed at Geneva dividing the country into two separate zones; elections were to be held within a term of 18 months to determine who should govern Vietnam and how the country should be reunified. The U.S. did not sign this document and started manoeuvering to substitute the emperor Bao-Dai, who was a French puppet, for a man more amiable to its purposes. This happened to be Ngo-Din-Diem, whose tragic end – that of an orange squeezed dry by imperialism — is well known by all.

During the months following the agreement, optimism reigned supreme in the camp of the popular forces. The last pockets of the anti-French resistance were dismantled in the South of the country and they awaited the fulfillment of the Geneva agreements. But the Patriots soon realized there would be no elections -unless the United States felt capable of imposing its will in the polls, which was practically impossible even resorting to all its fraudulent methods. Once again the fighting broke out in the South and gradually acquired full intensity. At present, the U.S. army has increased to over half a million invaders while the puppet forces decrease in number and, above all, have totally lost their combativeness.

Almost two years ago the United States started bombing systematically the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, in yet another attempt to overcome the belligerence of the South and impose, from a position of strength, a meeting at the conference table. At first, the bombardments were more or less isolated occurrences and were adorned with the mask of reprisals for alleged provocations from the North. Later on, as they increased in intensity and regularity, they became one gigantic attack carried out by the air force of the United States, day after day, for the purpose of destroying all vestiges of civilization in the Northern zone of the country. This is an episode of the infamously notorious “escalation”.

The material aspirations of the Yankee world have been fulfilled to a great extent, regardless of the unflinching defense of the Vietnamese anti-aircraft artillery, of the numerous planes shot down (over 1,700) and of the socialist countries aid in war supplies.

There is a sad reality: Vietnam — a nation representing the aspirations, the hopes of a whole world of forgotten peoples — is tragically alone. This nation must endure the furious attacks of U.S. technology, with practically no possibility of reprisals in the South and only some of defense in the North — but always alone.

The solidarity of all progressive forces of the world towards the people of Vietnam today is similar to the bitter irony of the plebeians coaxing on the gladiators in the Roman arena. It is not a matter of wishing success to the victim of aggression, but of sharing his fate; one must accompany him to his death or to victory.

When we analyze the lonely situation of the Vietnamese people, we are overcome by anguish at this illogical moment of humanity.

U.S. imperialism is guilty of aggression — its crimes are enormous and cover the whole world. We already know all that, gentlemen! But this guilt also applies to those who, when the time came for a definition, hesitated to make Vietnam an inviolable part of the socialist world; running, of course, the risks of a war on a global scale-but also forcing a decision upon imperialism. And the guilt also applies to those who maintain a war of abuse and snares — started quite some time ago by the representatives of the two greatest powers of the socialist camp.

We must ask ourselves, seeking an honest answer: is Vietnam isolated, or is it not? Is it not maintaining a dangerous equilibrium between the two quarreling powers?

And what great people these are! What stoicism and courage! And what a lesson for the world is contained in this struggle! Not for a long time shall we be able to know if President Johnson ever seriously thought of bringing about some of the reforms needed by his people – to iron out the barbed class contradictions that grow each day with explosive power. The truth is that the improvements announced under the pompous title of the “Great Society” have dropped into the cesspool of Vietnam.

The largest of all imperialist powers feels in its own guts the bleeding inflicted by a poor and underdeveloped country; its fabulous economy feels the strain of the war effort. Murder is ceasing to be the most convenient business for its monopolies. Defensive weapons, and never an inadequate number, is all these extraordinary soldiers have – besides the love for their homeland, their society, and unsurpassed courage. But imperialism is bogging down in Vietnam, is unable to find a way out and desperately seeks one that will overcome with dignity this dangerous situation in which it now finds itself. Furthermore, the Four Points put forward by the North and the Five Points of the South now corner imperialism, making the confrontation even more decisive.

Everything indicate [sic] that peace, this unstable peace which bears that name for the sole reason that no worldwide conflagration has taken place, is again in danger of being destroyed by some irrevocable and unacceptable step taken by the United States.

What role shall we, the exploited people of the world, play? The peoples of the three continents focus their attention on Vietnam and learn their lesson. Since imperialists blackmail humanity by threatening it with war, the wise reaction is not to fear war. The general tactics of the people should be to launch a constant and a firm attack in all fronts where the confrontation is taking place.

In those places where this meager peace we have has been violated which is our duty? To liberate ourselves at any price.

The world panorama is of great complexity. The struggle for liberation has not yet been undertaken by some countries of ancient Europe, sufficiently developed to realize the contradictions of capitalism, but weak to such a degree that they are unable either to follow imperialism or even to start on its own road. Their contradictions will reach an explosive stage during the forthcoming years-but their problems and, consequently, their own solutions are different from those of our dependent and economically underdeveloped countries.

The fundamental field of imperialist exploitation comprises the three underdeveloped continents: America, Asia, and Africa. Every country has also its own characteristics, but each continent, as a whole, also presents a certain unity.

Our America is integrated by a group of more or less homogeneous countries and in most parts of its territory, U.S. monopolist capitals maintain an absolute supremacy. Puppet governments or, in the best of cases, weak and fearful local rulers, are incapable of contradicting orders from their Yankee master. The United States has nearly reached the climax of its political and economic domination; it could hardly advance much more; any change in the situation could bring about a setback. Their policy is to maintain that which has already been conquered. The line of action, at the present time, is limited to the brutal use of force with the purpose of thwarting the liberation movements, no matter of what type they might happen to be.

The slogan “we will not allow another Cuba” hides the possibility of perpetrating aggressions without fear of reprisal, such as the one carried out against the Dominican Republic or before that the massacre in Panama — and the clear warning stating that Yankee troops are ready to intervene anywhere in America where the ruling regime may be altered, thus endangering their interests. This policy enjoys an almost absolute impunity: the OAS is a suitable mask, in spite of its unpopularity; the inefficiency of the UN is ridiculous as well as tragic; the armies of all American countries are ready to intervene in order to smash their peoples. The International of Crime and Treason has in fact been organized. On the other hand, the autochthonous bourgeoisie have lost all their capacity to oppose imperialism — if they ever had it — and they have become the last card in the pack. There are no other alternatives; either a socialist revolution or a make-believe revolution.

Asia is a continent with many different characteristics. The struggle for liberation waged against a series of European colonial powers resulted in the establishment of more or less progressive governments, whose ulterior evolution have brought about, in some cases, the deepening of the primary objectives of national liberation and in others, a setback towards the adoption of pro-imperialist positions.

From the economic point of view, the United States had very little to lose and much to gain from Asia. These changes benefited its interests; the struggle for the overthrow of other neocolonial powers and the penetration of new spheres of action in the economic field is carried out sometimes directly, occasionally through Japan.

But there are special political conditions, particularly in Indo-China, which create in Asia certain characteristics of capital importance and play a decisive role in the entire U.S. military strategy.

The imperialists encircle China through South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, South Vietnam, and Thailand at least.


This dual situation, a strategic interest as important as the military encirclement of the Peoples’ Republic of China and the penetration of these great markets — which they do not dominate yet — turns Asia into one of the most explosive points of the world today, in spite of its apparent stability outside of the Vietnamese war zone.

The Middle East, though it geographically belongs to this continent, has its own contradictions and is actively in ferment; it is impossible to foretell how far this cold war between Israel, backed by the imperialists, and the progressive countries of that zone will go. This is just another one of the volcanoes threatening eruption in the world today.

Africa offers an almost virgin territory to the neocolonial invasion There have been changes which, to some extent, forced neocolonial powers to give up their former absolute prerogatives. But when these changes are carried out uninterruptedly, colonialism continues in the form of neocolonialism with similar effects as far as the economic situation is concerned.

The United States had no colonies in this region but is now struggling to penetrate its partners’ fiefs. It can be said that following the strategic plans of U.S. imperialism, Africa constitutes its long-range reservoir; its present investments, though, are only important in the Union of South Africa and its penetration is beginning to be felt in the Congo, Nigeria and other countries where a violent rivalry with other imperialist powers is beginning to take place (in a pacific manner up to the present time).

So far it does not have their great interests to defend except its pretended right to intervene in every spot of the world where its monopolies detect huge profits or the existence of large reserves of raw materials.


All this past history justifies our concern regarding the possibilities of liberating the peoples within a long or a short period of time.

If we stop to analyze Africa we shall observe that in the Portuguese colonies of Guinea, Mozambique and Angola the struggle is waged with relative intensity, with a concrete success in the first one and with variable success in the other two. We still witness in the Congo the dispute between Lumumba’s successors and the old accomplices of Tshombe, a dispute which at the present time seems to favor the latter: those who have “pacified” a large area of the country for their own benefit — though, the war is still latent.

In Rhodesia, we have a different problem: British imperialism used every means within its reach to place power in the hands of the white minority, who, at the present time, unlawfully holds it. The conflict, from the British point of view, is absolutely unofficial; this Western power, with its habitual diplomatic cleverness — also called hypocrisy in the strict sense of the word — presents a facade of displeasure before the measures adopted by the government of Ian Smith. Its crafty attitude is supported by some Commonwealth countries that follow it, but is attacked by a large group of countries belonging to Black Africa, whether they are or not servile economic lackeys of British imperialism.

Should the rebellious efforts of these patriots succeed and this movement receive the effective support of neighboring African nations, the situation in Rhodesia may become extremely explosive. But for the moment all these problems are being discussed in harmless organizations such as the UN, the Commonwealth, and the OAU.

The social and political evolution of Africa does not lead us to expect a continental revolution. The liberation struggle against the Portuguese should end victoriously, but Portugal does not mean anything in the imperialist field. The confrontations of revolutionary importance are those which place at bay all the imperialist apparatus; this does not mean, however, that we should stop fighting for the liberation of the three Portuguese colonies and for the deepening of their revolutions.

When the black masses of South Africa or Rhodesia start their authentic revolutionary struggle, a new era will dawn in Africa. Or when the impoverished masses of a nation rise up to rescue their right to a decent life from the hands of the ruling oligarchies.

Up to now, army putsches follow one another; a group of officers succeeds another or substitute a ruler who no longer serves their caste interests or those of the powers who covertly manage him — but there are no great popular upheavals. In the Congo these characteristics appeared briefly, generated by the memory of Lumumba, but they have been losing strength in the last few months.

In Asia, as we have seen, the situation is explosive. The points of friction are not only Vietnam and Laos, where there is fighting; such a point is also Cambodia, where at any time a direct U.S. aggression may start, Thailand, Malaya, and, of course, Indonesia, where we can not assume that the last word has been said, regardless of the annihilation of the Communist Party in that country when the reactionaries took over. And also, naturally, the Middle East.


In Latin America the armed struggle is going on in Guatemala, Colombia, Venezuela, and Bolivia; the first uprisings are cropping up in Brazil [sic]. There are also some resistance focuses which appear and then are extinguished. But almost all the countries of this continent are ripe for a type of struggle that, in order to achieve victory, cannot be content with anything less than establishing a government of socialist tendencies.

In this continent, practically only one tongue is spoken (with the exception of Brazil, with whose people, those who speak Spanish can easily make themselves understood, owing to the great similarity of both languages). There is also such a great similarity between the classes in these countries, that they have attained identification among themselves of an international americano type, much more complete than in the other continents. Language, habits, religion, a common foreign master, unite them. The degree and the form of exploitation are similar for both the exploiters and the men they exploit in the majority of the countries of Our America. And rebellion is ripening swiftly in it.

We may ask ourselves: how shall this rebellion flourish? What type will it be? We have maintained for quite some time now that, owing to the similarity of their characteristics, the struggle in Our America will achieve in due course, continental proportions. It shall be the scene of many great battles fought for the liberation of humanity.


Within the frame of this struggle of continental scale, the battles which are now taking place are only episodes — but they have already furnished their martyrs, they shall figure in the history of Our America as having given their necessary blood in this last stage of the fight for the total freedom of man. These names will include Comandante Turcios Lima, padre Camilo Torres, Comandante Fabricio Ojeda, Comandantes Lobaton and Luis de la Puente Uceda, all outstanding figures in the revolutionary movements of Guatemala, Colombia, Venezuela, and Peru.

But the active movement of the people creates its new leaders; Cesar Montes and Yon Sosa raise up their flag in Guatemala; Fabio Vazquez and Marulanda in Colombia; Douglas Bravo in the Western part of the country and Americo Martin in El Bachiller, both directing their respective Venezuelan fronts.

New uprisings shall take place in these and other countries of Our America, as it has already happened in Bolivia, and they shall continue to grow in the midst of all the hardships inherent to this dangerous profession of being modern revolutionaries. Many shall perish, victims of their errors, others shall fall in the touch battle that approaches; new fighters and new leaders shall appear in the warmth of the revolutionary struggle. The people shall create their warriors and leaders in the selective framework of the war itself – and Yankee agents of repression shall increase. Today there are military aids in all the countries where armed struggle is growing; the Peruvian army apparently carried out a successful action against the revolutionaries in that country, an army also trained and advised by the Yankees. But if the focuses of war grow with sufficient political and military insight, they shall become practically invincible and shall force the Yankees to send reinforcements. In Peru itself, many new figures, practically unknown, are now reorganizing the guerrilla. Little by little, the obsolete weapons, which are sufficient for the repression of small armed bands, will be exchanged for modern armaments and the U.S. military aids will be substituted by actual fighters until, at a given moment, they are forced to send increasingly greater number of regular troops to ensure the relative stability of a government whose national puppet army is disintegrating before the impetuous attacks of the guerrillas. It is the road of Vietnam it is the road that should be followed by the people; it is the road that will be followed in Our America, with the advantage that the armed groups could create Coordinating Councils to embarrass the repressive forces of Yankee imperialism and accelerate the revolutionary triumph.

America, a forgotten continent in the last liberation struggles, is now beginning to make itself heard through the Tricontinental and, in the voice of the vanguard of its peoples, the Cuban Revolution, will today have a task of much greater relevance: creating a Second or a Third Vietnam, or the Second and Third Vietnam of the world.

We must bear in mind that imperialism is a world system, the last stage of capitalism — and it must be defeated in a world confrontation. The strategic end of this struggle should be the destruction of imperialism. Our share, the responsibility of the exploited and underdeveloped of the world is to eliminate the foundations of imperialism: our oppressed nations, from where they extract capitals, raw materials, technicians and cheap labor, and to which they export new capitals — instruments of domination — arms and all kinds of articles; thus submerging us in an absolute dependence.

The fundamental element of this strategic end shall be the real liberation of all people, a liberation that will be brought about through armed struggle in most cases and which shall be, in Our America, almost indefectibly, a Socialist Revolution.


While envisaging the destruction of imperialism, it is necessary to identify its head, which is no other than the United States of America.

We must carry out a general task with the tactical purpose of getting the enemy out of its natural environment, forcing him to fight in regions where his own life and habits will clash with the existing reality. We must not underrate our adversary; the U.S. soldier has the technical capacity and is backed by weapons and resources of such magnitude that render him frightful. He lacks the essential ideological motivation which his bitterest enemies of today — the Vietnamese soldiers — have in the highest degree. We will only be able to overcome that army by undermining their morale — and this is accomplished by defeating it and causing it repeated sufferings.

But this brief outline of victories carries within itself the immense sacrifice of the people, sacrifices that should be demanded beginning today, in plain daylight, and which perhaps may be less painful than those we would have to endure if we constantly avoided battle in an attempt to have others pull our chestnuts out of the fire.

It is probable, of course, that the last liberated country shall accomplish this without an armed struggle and the sufferings of a long and cruel war against the imperialists — this they might avoid. But perhaps it will be impossible to avoid this struggle or its effects in a global conflagration; the suffering would be the same, or perhaps even greater. We cannot foresee the future, but we should never give in to the defeatist temptation of being the vanguard of a nation which yearns for freedom but abhors the struggle it entails and awaits its freedom as a crumb of victory.

It is absolutely just to avoid all useless sacrifices. Therefore, it is so important to clear up the real possibilities that dependent America may have of liberating itself through pacific means. For us, the solution to this question is quite clear: the present moment may or may not be the proper one for starting the struggle, but we cannot harbor any illusions, and we have no right to do so, that freedom can be obtained without fighting. And these battles shall not be mere street fights with stones against tear-gas bombs, or of pacific general strikes; neither shall it be the battle of a furious people destroying in two or three days the repressive scaffolds of the ruling oligarchies; the struggle shall be long, harsh, and its front shall be in the guerrilla’s refuge, in the cities, in the homes of the fighters – where the repressive forces shall go seeking easy victims among their families — in the massacred rural population, in the villages or cities destroyed by the bombardments of the enemy.

They are pushing us into this struggle; there is no alternative: we must prepare it and we must decide to undertake it.

The beginnings will not be easy; they shall be extremely difficult. All the oligarchies’ powers of repression, all their capacity for brutality and demagoguery will be placed at the service of their cause. Our mission, in the first hour, shall be to survive; later, we shall follow the perennial example of the guerrilla, carrying out armed propaganda (in the Vietnamese sense, that is, the bullets of propaganda, of the battles, won or lost — but fought — against the enemy). The great lesson of the invincibility of the guerrillas taking root in the dispossessed masses. The galvanizing of the national spirit, the preparation for harder tasks, for resisting even more violent repressions. Hatred as an element of the struggle; a relentless hatred of the enemy, impelling us over and beyond the natural limitations that man is heir to and transforming him into an effective, violent, selective and cold killing machine. Our soldiers must be thus; a people without hatred cannot vanquish a brutal enemy.

We must carry the war into every corner the enemy happens to carry it: to his home, to his centers of entertainment; a total war. It is necessary to prevent him from having a moment of peace, a quiet moment outside his barracks or even inside; we must attack him wherever he may be; make him feel like a cornered beast wherever he may move. Then his moral fiber shall begin to decline. He will even become more beastly, but we shall notice how the signs of decadence begin to appear.

And let us develop a true proletarian internationalism; with international proletarian armies; the flag under which we fight would be the sacred cause of redeeming humanity. To die under the flag of Vietnam, of Venezuela, of Guatemala, of Laos, of Guinea, of Colombia, of Bolivia, of Brazil — to name only a few scenes of today’s armed struggle — would be equally glorious and desirable for an American, an Asian, an African, even a European.
Each spilt drop of blood, in any country under whose flag one has not been born, is an experience passed on to those who survive, to be added later to the liberation struggle of his own country. And each nation liberated is a phase won in the battle for the liberation of one’s own country.

The time has come to settle our discrepancies and place everything at the service of our struggle.

We all know great controversies rend the world now fighting for freedom; no one can hide it. We also know that they have reached such intensity and such bitterness that the possibility of dialogue and reconciliation seems extremely difficult, if not impossible. It is a useless task to search for means and ways to propitiate a dialogue which the hostile parties avoid. However, the enemy is there; it strikes every day and threatens us with new blows and these blows will unite us, today, tomorrow, or the day after. Whoever understands this first, and prepares for this necessary union, shall have the people’s gratitude.


Owing to the virulence and the intransigence with which each cause is defended, we, the dispossessed, cannot take sides for one form or the other of these discrepancies, even though sometimes we coincide with the contentions of one party or the other, or in a greater measure with those of one part more than with those of the other. In the time of war, the expression of current differences constitutes a weakness; but at this stage, it is an illusion to attempt to settle them by means of words. History shall erode them or shall give them their true meaning.

In our struggling world every discrepancy regarding tactics, the methods of action for the attainment of limited objectives should be analyzed with due respect to another man’s opinions. Regarding our great strategic objective, the total destruction of imperialism by armed struggle, we should be uncompromising.


Let us sum up our hopes for victory: total destruction of imperialism by eliminating its firmest bulwark: the oppression exercised by the United States of America. To carry out, as a tactical method, the peoples' gradual liberation, one by one or in groups: driving the enemy into a difficult fight away from its own territory; dismantling all its sustenance bases, that is, its dependent territories.

This means a long war. And, once more we repeat it, a cruel war. Let no one fool himself at the outset and let no one hesitate to start out for fear of the consequences it may bring to his people. It is almost our sole hope for victory. We cannot elude the call of this hour. Vietnam is pointing it out with its endless lesson of heroism, its tragic and everyday lesson of struggle and death for the attainment of final victory.


There, the imperialist soldiers endure the discomforts [sic] of those who, used to enjoying the U.S. standard of living, have to live in a hostile land with the insecurity of being unable to move without being aware of walking on enemy territory: death to those who dare take a step out of their fortified encampment. The permanent hostility of the entire population. All this has internal repercussion in the United States; propitiates the resurgence of an element which is being minimized in spite of its vigor by all imperialist forces: class struggle even within its own territory.

How close we could look into a bright future should two, three or many Vietnams flourish throughout the world with their share of deaths and their immense tragedies, their everyday heroism and their repeated blows against imperialism, impelled to disperse its forces under the sudden attack and the increasing hatred of all peoples of the world!

And if we were all capable of uniting to make our blows stronger and infallible and so increase the effectiveness of all kinds of support given to the struggling people — how great and close would that future be!

If we, in a small point of the world map, are able to fulfill our duty and place at the disposal of this struggle whatever little of ourselves we are permitted to give: our lives, our sacrifice, and if someday we have to breathe our last breath on any land, already ours, sprinkled with our blood let it be known that we have measured the scope of our actions and that we only consider ourselves elements in the great army of the proletariat but that we are proud of having learned from the Cuban Revolution, and from its maximum leader, the great lesson emanating from his attitude in this part of the world: “What do the dangers or the sacrifices of a man or of a nation matter, when the destiny of humanity is at stake.”

Our every action is a battle cry against imperialism, and a battle hymn for the people’s unity against the great enemy of mankind: the United States of America. Wherever death may surprise us, let it be welcome, provided that this, our battle cry, may have reached some receptive ear and another hand may be extended to wield our weapons and other men be ready to intone the funeral dirge with the staccato singing of the machine-guns and new battle cries of war and victory.