Sunday, November 27, 2016

Trump’s USA: Global Empire or Fortress America? The Saker

Fidel Castro: 90 Revolutionary Years Dr Francisco Dominguez

Fidel Castro: 90 Revolutionary Years
EDITOR'S CHOICE | 17.08.2016

Dr Francisco Dominguez is Head of the Latin American Studies Research Group, Middlesex University, London

“A great man is great not because his personal qualities give individual features to great historical events, but because he possesses qualities which make him most capable of serving the great social needs of his time, needs which arose as a result of general and particular causes.” — GV Plekhanov. London
In the contemporary world nobody else symbolises the modern revolutionary spirit better than Fidel Castro. From his very first incursions into politics he seemed to have been imbued with an almost insane, verging on the irrational, faith in the victory of his undertakings, many of which were carried out against extraordinary odds.
It was with this spirit that he organised and led the military attack against the Moncada Barracks on the now historic date of of 26 July 1953 when he was not yet 27 years old.
The attack was a huge risk, involving 137 badly equipped, poorly trained fighters against one of the largest and best armed military garrisons in the country, housing more than 500 soldiers. Fidel’s insurgents faced far superior firepower and had a slim chance of success, but only if the surprise factor worked. It did not.
Following his capture after the attack, Fidel took the gamble to defend himself at the trial in a political context dominated by the intensely repressive Batista dictatorship.
In October 1960, Senator John Kennedy said: “Fulgencio Batista murdered 20,000 Cubans in 7 years – a greater proportion of the Cuban population than the proportion of Americans who died in both World Wars, and he turned democratic Cuba into a complete police state – destroying every individual liberty.” This gives a measure of Fidel’s audacity to undertake his own legal and political defence.
His closing defence speech, ‘History Will Absolve Me’, would make history as perhaps one of the most impressive political statements on why Cuba not only needed a revolution, but what the revolution’s intellectual, moral, historic, social and political foundations were. In it Fidel made the dictum that has informed his politics: “No weapon, no force is capable of defeating a people who have decided to fight for their rights.” Furthermore, in it we find the post-Batista programme of structural transformations to be implemented. It was a trait that was to inform his long political career: consistency between rhetoric, principles and practical action.
The Moncada adventure, and Fidel’s exceptional political performance at the trial, catapulted him to national prominence from which he drew the key political lesson of his politics: audacity, regardless of the odds. Hence, the training camp in Mexico; his apparently ill-advised naval expedition to  Cuba in the Granma yacht with 89 fighters; the establishment of the guerrilla HQ in the Sierra Maestra with the 12 survivors of the disastrous Granma landing; and his unwavering conviction that Cuba was mature for Revolution. This continued all the way to the 1962 October Missile Crisis, when Fidel skilfully steered his country through one of the most dangerous moments in the twentieth century’s history. It was under his political and military leadership that Cuba inflicted the very first defeat of US imperialism in Latin America on 17 April 1961 at the Bay of Pigs. A battle he led as field commander from a tank in the theatre of war itself.
Fidel’s view of revolution is based on a Third World perspective of liberation against imperialism. Thus, Fidel’s internationalism was predicated on the need to build the broadest anti-imperialist unity in action in solidarity with the struggles of the peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America.
However, solidarity for Fidel went well beyond strongly worded statements and declarations of support, since he took it to unprecedented levels, which on many occasions involved the actual participation of tens of thousands of Cuban fighters in highly complex and dangerous areas. Fidel shared Che Guevara’s dictum that to “always be capable of feeling deeply any injustice committed against anyone, anywhere in the world”, was “the most beautiful quality of a revolutionary.”
The Cuban Revolution is also profoundly Latin Americanist, as espoused by Fidel in the very first pronouncements that defined the Revolution’s nature. Thus, in the ‘First Declaration of Havana’, he presents the Revolution as a continuum of the struggles of Bolivar, Hidalgo, Suarez, San Martin, O’Higgins, Sucre, Tiradentes and, of course, Cuban independence leader  José Martí himself. But the people are key. Fidel poetically formulates this in the ‘Second Declaration of Havana’:
“…the dark-skinned, the poor, the indigenous, peasants, workers, women, have said enough and got on the march for their rights which have been suppressed for 500 years, and its inexorable march as a Giant will not stop until total success. This coming epic will be written by the masses, by the starving indigenous communities, landless peasants, exploited workers, mestizos, mulattoes, poor whites, our peoples in Latin America, those despised by imperialism, they will be the gravediggers of imperialist monopoly capital.”
US imperialism understood the highly emancipatory and contagious significance of the Cuban Revolution and thus has sought to crush it ever since 1 January 1959. This never led to any weakening of Fidel’s principles to the Cuban people, the Revolution or his internationalism. Under Fidel’s leadership Cuba not only developed the most sophisticated knowledge of Latin America as a whole, but it also strongly influenced the healthiest political currents in the region. Thus Fidel’s leadership and Cuba’s example were not just an inspiration of what a better world would be like, but also a spur to political action.
Fidel’s Latin Americanist conviction led him to give political support to Salvador Allende, even when the Chilean road seemed to squarely contradict, Cuba’s strategy of Revolution. He understood the deeply revolutionary nature of Allende’s government and visited Chile in 1971 and his words still resonate as strongly as at the time. He steered the revolution to also lend support to both the Nicaraguan and Grenadan revolutions thus eliciting the wrath of the US. The aggressive Reagan administration had both unleashed a horrific war of attrition against Nicaragua and ordered the US military to invade Grenada in the 1980s.
From the 1960s, consistent with the Revolution’s internationalism, Fidel gave Cuban support, usually soldiers and doctors, to revolutionary struggles in Africa including national liberation movements in Algeria, the Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Angola, Ghana, Ethiopia, Central Africa, Eritrea.
After the collapse of Africa’s Portuguese empire, Fidel took the momentous decision to send thousands of Cuban volunteer troops to Angola, twice. Once in 1975, which decisively tilted the three-way anti-colonial struggle in favour of the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola Party (MPLA), the left wing nationalist guerrilla movement, thus guaranteeing the country’s independence. Cuba’s 1975 intervention took place when apartheid South African troops were racing to crush the MPLA. By early 1976 Cuba’s contribution had helped both in pushing the South Africans out of Angola and in winning the war for the MPLA. One African newspaper wrote at the time “Black Africa is riding the crest of a wave generated by the Cuban success in Angola. Black Africa is tasting […] the possibility of realising the dream of total liberation.” Speaking at the United Nations, in response to US criticisms, Fidel said that Cuba was not guided by any materialistic concerns: “We are carrying out our international duty in helping the people of Angola.”
Then again in 1987. Fidel, at the request of the beleaguered MPLA government of Angola who were facing an all out military assault and invasion by tens of thousands of apartheid South African elite troops, took the extraordinary decision to send 50,000 troops. They defended Angola at the invasion of Cuito Cuanavale, in the country’s southeast. Fidel himself explained the significance of the undertaking:
“…the Cuban Revolution had put its own existence at stake, it risked a huge battle against one of the strongest powers located in the area of the Third World, against one of the richest powers, with significant industrial and technological development, armed to the teeth, at such a great distance from our small country and with our own resources, our own arms. We even ran the risk of weakening our defenses, and we did so. We used our ships and ours alone, and we used our equipment to change the relationship of forces, which made success possible in that battle. We put everything at stake in that action…”
The geopolitical impact of South Africa’s defeat was so huge that it would substantially contribute to the end of apartheid, the liberation of Mandela, and the independence of Namibia. No other non-African political leader has contributed more to the liberation of Africa from colonialism and imperialism than Fidel Castro, using the meager resources of a small but great Caribbean island. A scholar wrote with a great deal of justice: “Cuba is the only Third World nation with the foreign policy of a world power.”
The defeat of the Nicaraguan and Grenadan revolutions and the fall of the Berlin Wall, leading to the eventual disappearance of the socialist bloc and the collapse of the Soviet Union itself, left Cuba severely isolated and the Revolution faced extreme danger. The US sharply intensified the blockade seeking to strangle the island. Cuba’s Eastern bloc former allies turned nasty enemies. With the economy almost in a state of collapse, Fidel defended the socialist nature of the Revolution at whatever cost: “Cuban socialism was not constructed after the arrival of victorious Red Army divisions, our socialism was forged by Cubans in real struggles.”
Fidel’s unique ability to combine hard principles with a pragmatic nimbleness led Cuba to adopt the ‘Special Period’. Although this permitted small elements of capitalist entrepreneurship and joint ventures with foreign investment, it allowed Cuba to reinsert itself into the world economy, pretty much under its own conditions. It took the country out of the economic precipice in barely five years. The same nimbleness led Fidel to invite arch-reactionary Pope John Paul II to visit Cuba in 1998. The Pope took the opportunity to castigate Cubans for engaging in pre-marital sex and uttered a few generalities about liberty and democracy, however, Fidel scored a massive coup when John Paul II condemned both savage capitalism and the US blockade, committing US Catholics to actively campaign against the latter.
Fidel was the only political leader to realise Hugo Chávez’s political significance and invite the then presidential candidate to Cuba to engage in discussions and explore ways of collaborating with what at the time was a foggy thing called the Bolivarian Revolution. A young Hugo Chávez visited Havana and was warmly welcomed by the Comandante. It was there that he made one of his best formulations of the Bolivarian project. It was also the first sign that the three-decades-long neoliberal nightmare in the region was on the wane, that Cuba’s isolation was coming to an end, and that Fidel’s vision of a radical, united, independent and integrated Latin America could become a reality.
This was in 1994, four years before Chávez became Venezuela’s president and well before there was any inkling it would inaugurate the ‘Pink Wave’. Fidel’s vision and Cuba’s example, after half a century of resistance and adherence to socialist principles, had not only paid off, but the emulation of Cuba’s policies by the ‘Pink Wave’ governments ensured that tens of millions of hitherto impoverished and marginalised people began to experience the fruits of a better world. In his welcome to Chávez, Fidel combined rhetoric, eloquence, eulogy and rigour: “Chávez says he does not deserve the honours we are awarding him, but somebody who spent ten years (clandestinely) educating young Venezuelan military officers and soldiers in the Bolivarian ideas deserves these and many more honours.”
The United States 50-year-long aggression has been defeated by Fidel’s leadership on a large number of occasions. It began in 1960 with President Eisenhower’s attempt to humiliate the Cuban delegation to the UN by throwing them out of the Manhattan Shelburne Hotel. Fidel turned this into a sensational political victory by staying in Harlem’s Theresa Hotel and receiving a rapturous welcome by African-Americans. Ever since, Fidel has inflicted defeat after defeat to imperialism, not only by defending Cuba’s Revolution, but by also providing tangible material support to anti-imperialist struggles around the world. No wonder they hate him so much and little wonder that they have tried to assassinate him at least 638 times. US efforts to assassinate Fidel are the clearest manifestation of their utter failure to counteract, let alone defeat, the attractiveness of Cuba as a good example to imitate and emulate.
A scholar commenting on Fidel in a TV documentary was asked to sum him up in one phrase. He replied: ‘It is the year 2025, the US has finally lifted the blockade against Cuba, and Fidel has finally decided to die’. Or to put it another way, in Fidel Castro’s famous words: “Patria, socialismo o muerte!” (Homeland, socialism or death).
Happy Birthday Comandante!

Rückblick: "Friede und Recht sind schwer verwundet"

Walther von der Vogelweide 
Der Reichston
Ich saz ûf eime steine

Ich saz ûf eime steine,
und dahte bein mit beine;
dar ûf satzt ich den ellenbogen;
ich hete in mîne hant gesmogen
daz kinne und ein mîn wange.
dô dâhte ich mir vil ange,
wie man zer werlte solte leben:
deheinen rât kond ich gegeben,
wie man driu dinc erwurbe,
der deheinez niht verdurbe.
diu zwei sint êre und varnde guot,
der ietwederz dem andern schaden tuot,
daz dritte ist gotes hulde,
der zweier übergulde.
die wolte ich gerne in einen schrîn.
jâ leider desn mac niht gesîn,
daz guot und werltlich êre
und gotes hulde mêre
zesamene in ein herze komen.
stîg unde wege sint in benomen:
untriuwe ist in der sâze,
gewalt vert ûf der strâze;
fride unde reht sint sêre wunt.
diu driu enhabent geleites niht,
diu zwei enwerden ê gesunt. 

Ich saß auf einem Stein / und schlug ein Bein über das andere; / darauf setzte ich den Ellenbogen; / in meine Hand hatte ich das / Kinn und eine Wange geschmiegt. / So dachte ich eindringlich nach, / auf welche Weise man auf der Welt leben müsse: / Keinen Rat konnte ich aber geben, / wie man drei Dinge so erwerben könne, / ohne daß eines von ihnen zugrunde ginge. / Zwei von ihnen sind Ehre und Besitz, / die einander oft schaden, / das dritte ist Gottes Gnade, / die viel mehr wert ist als die beiden andern. / Diese wollte ich gerne zusammen in einem Kästchen. / Aber leider ist es nicht möglich, / daß Besitz und weltliche Ehre / und Gottes Gnade / zusammen in ein Herz kommen. / Weg und Steg sind ihnen genommen: / Verrat liegt auf der Lauer, / Gewalt beherrscht die Straße; / Friede und Recht sind schwer verwundet. / Die drei haben keine Sicherheit, bevor die zwei nicht gesund werden. 

Fidel Castro Defies US Imperialism Even in Death by FINIAN CUNNINGHAM

Fidel Castro Defies US Imperialism Even in Death
 27.11.2016 | OPINION

At age 90, Fidel Castro passed away after decades of heroic struggle for social justice, not just for his native Cuba but for all people around the world. Even in his final decade of illness, the iconic revolutionary was still actively fighting; writing articles on international politics and upholding the cause for socialism.

One measure of his historical significance is expressed in the fact that he outlasted 10 US presidents by the time of his official retirement from politics in 2008 due to declining health. Counting incumbent Barack Obama, Fidel’s political life spanned 11 US presidencies. All of them oversaw a barbarous policy to economically strangle Cuba with a trade blockade on the tiny Caribbean island nation. Several of these US leaders sanctioned criminal plots to assassinate Fidel and incite regime change. They all failed. Castro beat them all and died peacefully in his bed having lived his life to the full.
As news of his death reverberated around the world, even Western countries which had conspired to varying degrees to thwart the Cuban revolution were compelled to acknowledge Fidel’s towering legacy. News channels were interrupted with «breaking news» of his death. America’s CNN and Britain’s BBC immediately ran biographical portraits of the man and his revolutionary past. Among the predictable slights referring to an «authoritarian figure», even the Western propagandists had to admit that Fidel liberated his people from squalor and poverty, bequeathing Cuba with immense social development, and, probably more importantly, giving the world’s people monumental inspiration to continually strive in order to make this world a place of justice for everyone. To the end, he championed socialism, while denouncing capitalist exploitation, destruction and its imperialist warmongering.
Two early headlines about his passing stood out. The Washington Post couldn’t refrain from denigration with this: «Former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro has died». The use of the word «dictator» was gratuitous and doubtless intended to slur the man’s greatness even at his moment of death. 
The New York Times appeared to be a little more magnanimous with its headline: «Fidel Castro has died at 90. The Cuban revolutionary was a nemesis for 11 American presidents».
But its florid words of apparent tribute contained the poison of defamation. The NY Timeswent on to ascribe the «fiery apostle of revolution» as having «brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in 1959… and briefly pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war [in 1962]».
It wasn’t Castro who brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere, nor was it he who nearly incited nuclear war. On both counts, it was US governments. Yet, insidiously, the US media impute Fidel with the evil of their own governments.
In 1960, months after Fidel overthrew the corrupt US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista, the leader of the revolution made an official visit to the US in a gesture of regional friendship. But he was snubbed by then President Eisenhower who refused to meet him.
Eisenhower then enacted diplomatic and trade embargoes on Cuba in revenge for Fidel’s economic policies aimed at lifting the majority of Cubans out of decades of US-induced poverty.
In April 1961, under the new presidency of John F Kennedy, the CIA and Pentagon launched the Bay of Pigs invasion with a private mercenary army made up of Batista loyalists. JFK backed down on a full-scale military assault and Fidel’s forces eventually routed the attackers. The CIA and Cuban exiles never forgave JFK for this «betrayal» and exacted retribution by blowing the president’s head off as his motorcade drove through Dallas on November 22, 1963.
Contrary to the above portrait in the NY Times, it was the US under Eisenhower and subsequently Kennedy that brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere. Not Fidel Castro.
If Castro responded to US aggression by embracing the Soviet Union and its nuclear missiles, it was evidently a policy of self-defense. The Cuban missile crisis during October 1962, when JFK and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev faced off in a dramatic nuclear showdown, was the outcome of the US having already embarked on a war policy against Cuba. The installation of Soviet nuclear weapons on Cuban territory 90 miles from the US mainland was first of all a legitimate act of sovereignty by the Cuban government, and, secondly, a reasonable act of self-defense given the US criminal aggression the year before at the Bay of Pigs.
Again, it was not Fidel Castro who «brought the world to the brink of nuclear war». It was US aggressive policy towards a newly independent impoverished nation whose people exercised their right to self-determination by supporting a socialist government.
US official vanity likes to recount that JFK forced the Soviets to withdraw their nuclear missiles from Cuba. But an important overlooked fact is that the deal to avert nuclear war worked out by Kennedy and Khrushchev relied on a commitment from the US to abandon its covert war plans against Cuba.
The US never fully lived up to its promise to leave Cuba in peace. Assassination plots against Castro and other Cuban leaders continued during subsequent US administrations, as did other acts of state-sponsored sabotage and terrorism such as the downing of a Cuban civilian airliner in 1976. The US-imposed trade embargo on the island nation of 11 million people that began in 1961 continues to this day under Barack Obama, albeit with a slight – some would say «cosmetic» – loosening.
However, one small mercy that came out of the «brink of nuclear war» in 1962 was that the US desisted from repeating the kind of overt aggression that was seen in the Bay of Pigs.
Fidel Castro was a giant who strode across two centuries. He was a giant of intellect and humanity, whose compassion for the oppressed and their liberation from under man-made exploitation and hegemony was as luminous as in the days of his youth. Fidel was a light for the world, and even in death his light for social justice shines on. Not even formidable political enemies can diminish this radiant revolutionary.
The NY Times said he «bedeviled 11 US presidents». That’s another contemptible attempt to slander. Fidel didn’t bedevil them; he transcended all of them and their malfeasant schemes with a humanity that outshines their corruption.
Of his splendid legacy, perhaps one attribute is that Fidel’s life and struggle demonstrates with eloquent clarity the aggressive, destructive, warmongering nature of the US political system. In his lifetime, the world can clearly see that, despite the attempts to slander, it was the US governments that unleashed Cold War hostility and that were criminally reckless enough to push the world to nuclear war. This is an historical lesson bequeathed by Fidel that is as important now as it was then.
The aggression that the US inflicted on Cuba is extant today in its belligerence towards Russia, China or any other country that defies its hegemonic conduct. Understanding the history of Cuba and Fidel Castro’s defiant revolution empowers us to understand the real cause and culprits of aggression in the world today.
Even in death, Fidel’s revolutionary spirit lives, teaches, inspires.

Trauer um Fidel: Vivat Cuba! Möge Fidel Castros Werk weiter reichen!

Mit freundschaftlichen Grüßen und  in vollem Einverständnis mit allen um Gerechtigkeit ringenden Menschen und Völkern trauern wir um Fidel Castro.  Tragen  wir Fidels Geist und  Tatkraft, seinen Mut und seine Entschlossenheit weiter. Irene

Presseerklärung der Freundschaftsgesellschaft BRD-Kuba:

Zum Tod von Fidel Castro

Millionen Menschen in aller Welt, besonders im revolutionären Kuba, trauern um den Kommandanten der Kubanischen Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz. Er starb am späten Abend des 25. November in Havanna. Die Freundschaftsgesellschaft BRD-Kuba übermittelt ihr Beileid an die engsten Verwandten von Fidel, seine Nachkommen, an seine Geschwister, darunter den Staatspräsidenten Raúl Castro, an die Kommunistische Partei und an das ganze Volk Kubas.

Nur wenige Präsidenten können von sich sagen, das sie die Geschicke ihres Volkes so positiv beeinflusst haben wie Fidel Castro. Kuba ist heute ein Lande frei von Analphabetismus, ein Land mit maximal möglicher gesellschaftlicher Gleichheit, mit politischer Partizipation auf allen Ebenen. Es handelt sich um eine Gesellschaft, die durch die Revolution, die angeführt wurde von Fidel Castro, heute auf dem Weg zum Sozialismus ist. Fidel Castro und das kubanische Volk haben der Welt gezeigt, dass es möglich und nötig ist, einen anderen Weg als den der kapitalistischen Gesellschaft des inneren und äußeren Krieges zu gehen: einen Weg der Solidarität und des Ausgleichs, in der alle das Recht und die Möglichkeit der gesellschaftlichen Teilhabe an Bildung, Gesundheit und Mitbestimmung haben.
Gleichzeitig hat Kuba immer auch ein Beispiel für internationale Solidarität gegeben, das nahezu einzigartig in der Geschichte ist. Dabei hat Fidel seinen eigenen Internationalismus seinem Volk weitergegeben; bis heute sind viele Kubanerinnen und Kubaner stolz auf die internationalistischen Missionen, die zum Ende der Kolonien und der Apartheid im südlichen Afrika führten. Und nach dem scheinbaren Ende der Systemauseinandersetzung blieb Kuba seinem Ideal treu: es entsendet Zehntausende Lehrerinnen und Lehrer, Zehntausende Ärztinnen und Ärzte in die Länder der Welt.
In ihrer Erklärung zum 90. Geburtstags Fidel Castros am 13. August hat die FG BRD-Kuba gesagt, dass „die Solidarität stärker ist als der Irrationalismus, mit dem Kubas Revolution bekämpft wird. Diese Solidarität geht über den Menschen Fidel Castro, dem wir noch viele Jahre an der Seite seines Volkes wünschen, hinaus. Sie wird eines Tages auch sein Leben überdauern.“
Genau das wird sie tun. Die heute um ihn trauern, werden der Kubanischen Revolution am besten gerecht, wenn sie das Beispiel Fidel Castros fortführen, auf die Art, die ihnen möglich ist.
Bundesvorstand der Freundschaftsgesellschaft BRD-Kuba
Köln, 26. November 2016

Freundschaftsgesellschaft BRD-Kuba online:Homepage: