Following are the articles received from A World To Win News Service on the genocide of palastinians
Gaza: The political goals of both sides and possible outcomes of this war
12 January 2009. A World to Win News Service. Gaza suffered terrible civilian casualties during "stage one" of Israel's assault, the aerial bombardment of one of the world's most densely populated areas. As Israeli ground troops moved in for "stage two", the number of dead and injured grew enormously, as did the proportion of civilian casualties among the overall dead and wounded. Children under 16 and women accounted for 40 percent as of 11 January, according to Gaza medical personnel (Al Jazeera, BBC). Many families dare not move through the streets to take their dead to hospital.
As the Israeli army added tank, mortar and sniper fire to the weapons being used against Gaza, they began to commit atrocities even more horrendous than the initial bombings. Among them were:
• Three shellings of schools run by the UN being used as civilian shelters. Israeli mortars killed more than 40 people outside one school in the Jabalya refugee camp. The Israeli armed forces had been informed of the geographical coordinates of these schools. The head of the United Nations refugee relief agency (UNWRA) in Gaza refuted Israeli claims that the school had been used by Hamas, and called for a war crimes investigation. Israel responded by releasing a video purportedly showing Hamas fighters in the building, but later had to admit that the footage was from 2007, when the UNWRA was not using the school. (Haaretz, 9 January)
• The shelling of homes in Zeitun, near Gaza City. Israeli troops surrounded the area, building earthen barriers and keeping out rescue teams for four days. When paramedics eventually entered 7 January, in one destroyed home they found four half-dead children clinging to the corpses of their mothers in the rubble.
• In a warehouse, they found the bodies of about 25 members of the Samouni extended family, 10 adults and the rest children. Israeli troops had destroyed five of their homes, and then told them to take shelter in the unfinished building. Some of them were escorted there by Israeli soldiers. When a small group ventured outside the next day to bring in other relatives, they were hit by a tank shell. Then another shell or a missile hit the roof. When the survivors came out, carrying improvised white flags and shouting, "We have kids" in Hebrew, Israeli soldiers shot at them. The soldiers later gave some children first aid, but detained some adults in their firing positions to use as human shields. Not long after the rescue convoy led by the International Committee of the Red Cross arrived, Israeli gunfire forced them to flee without searching for more bodies (as many as 70 of the 100 family members may have been killed). Some injured were reportedly left behind.
• Israeli snipers have been filmed shooting at ambulances and medical personnel on foot trying to reach the wounded and dead lying in the streets. The World Health Organisation counted 21 medical workers killed as of 12 January. (UK Telegraph, 8 January; Independent, 10 January; UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs)
• The UN temporarily suspended aid conveys ferrying emergency supplies into Gaza when Israelis fired at several of them, killing three drivers, even though the Israeli army had cleared the trucks to enter at the border. A tank shell killed a forklift driver as he loaded supplies for one of these convoys. The International Committee of the Red Cross also suspended operations when Israeli troops fired on a convoy transferring intensive care patients to Egypt, again after the Israel army had cleared the vehicles to travel. (Independent, 9 January)
• Amnesty International accused the Israelis of "frequently" forcing civilians to remain in the ground floor of their homes while using the upper floors for sniper positions or as observation posts for extended periods. It also charged Hamas with firing at the invaders from homes, but refuted Israeli claims that this justifies attacking civilians: "The army is well aware gunmen usually leave the area after having fired and any reprisal attack against these homes will in most cases cause harm to civilians," an Amnesty director said.
• When asked on Al Jazeera (11 January) to confirm or deny reports that his government was using white phosphorous bombs in Gaza, Israeli spokesman Mark Regev implicitly confirmed them by arguing that his government was not using any weapons banned by international law, and that at any rate, Nato forces, too, are equipped with the substance and have plans to use it (as the U.S. did in Falluja, Iraq). While it is true that international conventions do not prohibit the use of these incendiary bombs for illumination or to produce smoke to hide troop movements, their use against humans is illegal, especially civilians, because they set fire to everything they touch until the phosphorous burns itself out. The tell-tale dazzling white plumes over Gaza City visible to the whole world on television verify what hospitals on the ground have reported: that the Israelis are burning human flesh.
These atrocities are not just the inadvertent side effects of Israel's targeting of Hamas, which is itself a crime, since Israel is admittedly trying to kill anyone associated in any way, armed or not, with the elected government of Gaza. They are an integral part of the strategy guiding Israel's war: the collective punishment of all of Gaza's people in order to weaken the influence of Hamas. Israel is trying to bend or break Hamas, but it is doing more than that. It is trying to teach the people of Gaza a lesson: submit or die. In this sense, Israel massacres in Gaza serve the same purpose as the year-and-a-half- long blockade before the massive assault began.
What goals these atrocities serve
All wars and armed actions are meant to achieve political goals. Israel's central and long-term aim is unchanged from what it pursued before this war: "The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people." (Moshe Yaalon, then chief of staff of the Israeli armed forces, in 2002, quoted by professor Rashid Khalidin, International Herald Tribune, 9 January 2009)
At the same time, it's impossible to understand Israel's ferocity without taking the broader context into account. Many commentators have said that Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak at first resisted pressure from others in his government to invade Gaza, although when he decided to do so, he went all out. ("Ending the war in Gaza," International Crisis Group, 5 January 2009) The New York Times wrote, "Barak never took Hamas as serious as many others did, considering it a relatively small strategic challenge whose rockets and arms build-up could be tolerated for a while to allow bigger problems to be handled... 'His eyes are focused on Iran,' noted Gilead Sher, who was Barak's chief of staff when he was prime minister a decade ago. 'Hamas and Hezbollah largely worry him in relation to Iran.'" (NYT, 9 January 2009).
By attacking the much weaker and geographically isolated Hamas, Israel wants to get revenge and prove its might after the humiliating setbacks it suffered at the hands of the Islamic movement Hezbollah in its 2006 invasion of Lebanon. "For Israel, it was important to persuade not only Hamas but others in the region that the Islamist movement could not extract concessions through violence — that it was not Israel's equal." (International Crisis Group)
Israel did not live up to the terms of its ceasefire with Hamas by opening Gaza's borders for food and other supplies because it did not want the Islamic organisation to show Palestinians that it could rule despite Israeli opposition. When in retaliation, Hamas let a few rockets be fired, and after Hamas responded to an Israeli attack by firing more in December in what the Crisis Group calls an armed attempt at obtaining a stronger negotiating position, Israel felt it had to prove that it alone had a monopoly on the use of violence. This is the point no matter what it decides to do next — whether Tel Aviv accepts a ceasefire that might weaken Hamas but lets it survive, for fear that no one else could restrain Palestinians like this Islamic group, a solution that the ICG favours, or whether, as the ICG warns, "the dynamics of warfare ... push the undertaking much further."
Hamas has its own political goals in this war. It never even dreamed of defeating Israel militarily at this point. It may need only to survive to gain a political victory, bolstering its standing as the leadership of any possible Palestinian resistance. In the ICG's analysis, Israel faces the contradiction that the more they attack Hamas, the more they improve its political standing. This could lead Israel to stop short at some point, or it could lead it to fight for a more drastic solution.
Either way, from the start Israel's decision to assault Gaza was intended to draw civilian casualties. A former senior Israeli defence ministry advisor told the Crisis Group, "Israel decided to play the role of mad dog for the sake of future deterrence." The fact that these massacres are a part of a cold-blooded strategy makes them all the more criminal.
What the U.S. and Israel share
As the U.S. government arrogantly admits, it has acted to prevent a ceasefire until Israel's aims are accomplished. If and when this particular assault halts, the U.S and Israel will continue to pursue those aims in new forms. Israel's war aims are shared by the U.S., which also shares the infamy for the deaths inflicted with American weapons and munitions. These aims include the protection of the Jewish state, the U.S.'s only thoroughly reliable outpost in a region whose population seethes with indignation. They also include confronting Islamic fundamentalism and the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is a central necessity in the US crusade to more thoroughly impose its will on the region and achieve the incontestable world hegemony on the political and economic fronts that has so far eluded the world's only superpower.
The U.S.'s unabashed support for Israel means that it also shares the risks inherent in this war: that it "will inflame the region, and Iran will take advantage of this," as a Hamas leader told the ICG. Hamas is just as logical in its thinking as Israel, both in its acceptance of the existence of Israel under present world conditions and in its hopes for what Israel fears, a radical change in that world situation.
The Crisis Group, an international advisory organisation whose aim is to maintain the present world order, which inherently means the imperialist economic and political system that underlies it, cynically fears that civilian deaths may bring "political damage (regional polarisation and radicalisation, further discrediting of any 'moderates' or 'peace process'… What is required is a Lebanon-type diplomatic outcome."
Certainly any diplomatic outcome will be as squarely aimed at the Palestinian people as this war has been. Israel can't solve its "Palestinian problem" without wave after wave of oppression and cruelty. Therefore, no matter what the terms are, more "radicalisation" seems possible. What form that radicalisation may take — what political goals and ideology guide it — is a critical question for the future of the Palestinian people and the region. That also applies to the mounting radical anger we have seen in protests on every continent.
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The Nazi genocide of Europe's Jews and Israel's massacres of Palestinians
12 January 2009. A World to Win News Service. The following is excerpted from a longer article in AWTWS 31 January 2005, with new beginning and final paragraphs.
It's intolerable for the Nazi genocide of Europe's Jews to be used as an argument to support the murders committed by Israel. Now, as in the past, these imperialist powers and their leaders have never had any special love for Jews, and still less have they ever really opposed any oppression.
The truth is that the U.S. and UK failed to lift a finger to stop that genocide, covered it up while it was happening, and after the war protected the men who did it.
When the Nazis came to power in the German elections of 1933, they aimed to drive the Jews out of Germany. But few countries let them in. In fact, only one welcomed them in unlimited numbers: the then socialist U.S.SR. In 1938, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt convened the Evian Conference, a meeting of 32 countries held in France, to decide what to do about Jewish refugees. Although the U.S. and UK were admitting tens of thousands of a year, ten times more were applying for visas. The two main powers asked other countries to take them instead. France refused. The only country in attendance that agreed to increase its quotas was the Dominican Republic. The Nazi press saluted the conference as a sign that the world was coming around to its racial policies.
The SS Saint Louis departed Hamburg, Germany, in May 1939 bound for Cuba with 937 desperate refugees aboard, nearly all German Jews. Most had applied for visas to the U.S. Cuba had given them permission to land there while they waited for an answer. Just before they arrived, the U.S. pushed Cuba to change its mind and forbid the refugees to leave the ship. No other Latin American country would take them either. The ship sailed so close to American shores that passengers could see the lit streets of Miami at night. It waited offshore for a response to a cable sent to Roosevelt asking for humanitarian refuge. The U.S. government had already decided against them, but sent no reply. In June, the ship was forced to return to Europe, where many of its passengers ended up in Nazi death camps.
By 1941, when the Nazis officially forbade Jewish emigration, more than 80 percent of German Jews had already left. But the German invasion of Poland had brought Europe's main concentration of Jews under the control of the Third Reich. As the Nazi armies moved through Eastern Europe and into the Soviet Union, rampaging through heavily Jewish areas in Byelorussia and Ukraine, many millions of Jews came under their boot. In January 1942, at a conference in a leafy green suburb of Berlin called Wansee, they adopted a plan for "the final solution": all Jews would be sent to camps in the east. Those too weak to work would be exterminated. The rest would be worked and starved to death. Those who survived would also be exterminated.
The Western Allies knew about this, but kept it secret. When the World Jewish Council in Geneva sent the U.S. State Department a cable detailing the Wansee plans, the government not only ignored it but also told a leading American rabbi who had also received the report to keep his mouth shut. The Vatican knew the full story from the beginning through Catholic sources, but despite requests from below, Pope Pius XII refused to make a public statement against killing Jews, whom the Church still officially considered "Christ killers". Today the Vatican is trying to have that pope declared a saint.
In the Warsaw ghetto, a Jewish fighting organisation led by communists and other resistance forces sent scouts through the sewers and beyond the walls where the Nazis had locked them in. They followed the trains that were taking families away by the thousands to an unknown destination. At the end of the line was Auschwitz, where eventually more than a million Jews, 75,000 non-Jewish Poles, 18,000 Roma (Gypsies) and 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war were to perish, killed by poison gas, their bodies burned in ovens.
A representative of the pro-British Polish government overthrown by the Nazis was brought into the ghetto to hear their story. They described the camp and told him that the trains were carrying 10,000 Jews a day to their deaths from Warsaw alone. Although not particularly inclined toward Jews, he agreed to slip out of Poland and tell the British and American authorities, thinking that as a political ally they would listen to him. He was the kind of man who expected to meet with Churchill, and he had a long talk with Roosevelt. Nothing happened.
Auschwitz, like the other concentration camps, was fed its constant intake of Jewish lives and coal by rail starting in 1942. Without those railroad tracks, the death factory would have ground to a halt and the gas ovens grown cold. Why didn't the Allies bomb them?
Auschwitz was approaching its infernal climax. Poland was emptied of Jews. The trains brought 440,000 Hungarians, half of the country's Jewish population, to their deaths over the course of only a few weeks in May and June. The U.S. and Britain merely watched.
In August and September of that year, the U.S. Air Force staged bombing runs on an industrial complex less than five minutes by air away from the gas chambers. An Auschwitz survivor speaking in a recent BBC documentary bitterly recalls how she and other prisoners watched hundreds of warplanes pass over their heads. They said to each other, Why don't they bomb this place? Even if they kill many of us, that's the only chance any of us have to live.
October 1944 saw one of the known prisoner revolts at Auschwitz. Hundreds of prisoners attacked the guards with axes and rocks. They used smuggled explosives to blow up a gas chamber and set a crematorium on fire. The Allies were considering airdropping guns on the camp. They never did.
In fact, the camps continued running without outside interference until 27 January 1945, when the Soviet Red Army arrived at its gates. They found about 7,000 survivors, all too weak to walk. The Nazis had taken another 58,000 with them on a death march as they fled to the west. They were determined that even if they were defeated, no Jews would remain alive.
The crimes of the U.S., however, did not stop on that date. Very few Nazi leaders and executioners were ever brought to justice for the simple reason that the U.S. protected them. Shortly after the war, the U.S. recruited many former leading Nazis as partners in their efforts against the Soviet Union.
The vicious Allied powers identified three million Germans as having committed crimes during the war. A million were tried. Eleven were sentenced to death. A few received short prison sentences. Most of the rest had to pay a fine or were briefly ineligible to hold public office. In 1951, almost all of them were amnestied. Big capitalists like Krupp whose factories had used concentration camp labour were given their fortunes back. The Nazi commandant at Auschwitz was hung. But of the 10,000 members of the elite Nazi SS who administered the murders there, only about 750 suffered even the slightest punishment.
As recently reaffirmed by the book U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis by Norman J. W. Goda, based on official American archives, thousands of Nazis and SS officers were brought to the U.S. where "they could be useful in countering communist leanings in immigrant communities, " as an Associated Press article put it. The Catholic Church and American military intelligence worked together to smuggle some of the most notorious Nazis out of Germany. In fact, Goda says, the CIA took a group of German officers who had been responsible for intelligence on the Eastern Front and used them as the core around which to build West Germany's future intelligence service, still at work today.
One big reason explaining the conduct of the U.S., UK, France and other Western powers during the war is this: If the truth about the extermination camps became known, public pressure to do something about it would have interfered with their freedom to set military priorities according to their overall war aims. They also believed, not without justification, that many Jews were sympathetic to the Soviet Union. The Bolsheviks emancipated the Jews in a country, Tsarist Russia, which had been a hellhole for them for centuries. They welcomed Jews into the revolutionary movement and the public life from which they were previously banned. In the course of World War 2, the Red Army saved the lives of 1.5 million of the 4 million Jews in German-occupied or invaded territory. (Arno Mayer, Why Did the Heavens Not Darken?)
If you want to know what the U.S.'s aims were, look at what came out of it when they won: America became the chief imperialist power, able to fatten on exploitation around the world. The UK, although taken down a peg from its former position, survived as a major power and became the U.S.'s chief partner. Germany and Japan, which had tried and failed to achieve the kind of global dominance the U.S. did achieve, had no choice but to become associate members in the U.S.-led crime syndicate. The U.S. and UK could not spare a single bomb to save Jewish lives because they had other aims. They protected Nazis after the war for the same kind of imperialist reasons.
Today, in one of history's most cruel ironies, the rulers of all the Western powers — today's representatives of the same monopoly capitalist ruling classes active or complicit in the genocide of Europe's Jews — use it to justify yet more murder: Israel's oppression and massacres of the Palestinian people. The U.S., in particular, with the support of all the other imperialist powers, has built up Israel as a key outpost in the enforcement of imperialist interests in the region, not because of supposed Jewish influence in public life but for the same reasons they allowed the Jewish genocide in the first place: imperialist interests.
Today's ruling reactionaries equate opposition to Israel with anti-Semitism in a cynical effort to cover up the real nature of Israel and the role it plays, which many Jews oppose. Israel does have a special relationship with Washington, as American politicians so often proclaim, because its citizens enjoy benefits from their country's services to the U.S., while people in other countries in the region reap misery from their country's subservience to it. But while equating Israel and Jewish people in general promotes Zionism, it also foments anti-Semitism, as if the reason for the crimes that fill most of humanity with revulsion were some supposedly inherent Jewish nature and not imperialism and its Zionist partners.
Some pro-Palestinian protestors in Europe have been carrying signs that cut to the heart of the matter: "Gaza = Warsaw ghetto". That's a correct position in the face of the efforts to use a genocide to justify massacres.
We shouldn't take events out of their historical context, like the promoters of Zionism do, and get lost in unscientific comparisons. But one profound lesson of the genocide of the Jews is the same as what we're seeing in Gaza and Palestine today: the imperialist system will produce horrors, again and again, in different forms and often beyond our imagination, until it is overthrown throughout the world. In building opposition to the crimes of today, we need to link this to ending a criminal system
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Friday, January 2, 2009
Yesterday world celebrated 50 years of Cuban revolution. On this occassion i post this article published in the website of Communist Party of Great Britian (ML)
New Year’s Day is a day for celebrating, not only as it is the dawn of a new calendar year but also as it marks the triumphant day on which the Cuban people ousted the military dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, so ridding themselves of the shackles of capitalism and setting out on the road toward socialism.
This New Year, 2009, is especially significant as it will be the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution. No doubt there will be big celebrations across Cuba, and these are bound to be mirrored around the world by the masses of exploited and oppressed people who recognise the huge achievements brought about by the Cuban revolution and who hold dear the shining example of the Cuban people, who have demonstrated for half a century what working people are capable of when they take power.
A Spanish colony
Cuba spent some 400 years as a Spanish colony, having been ‘discovered’ by Columbus in 1492. During the latter part of the nineteenth century, a fierce anti-colonial struggle developed, lead by José Martí and the Cuban Revolutionary Party.
By 1897, the success of the independence movement seemed within reach, with the Spanish prime minister making the following statement: “After having sent 200,000 men and shed so much blood, we don’t own any more land on the island than what our soldiers are stepping on.” (Quoted in Prof J Cantón Navarro, History of Cuba)
However, just a few months later, in February 1898, the US battleship Maine blew up in Havana Bay and drew the US into a war with the Spanish. It is widely believed that the attack on the battleship was actually instigated by the US in order to pull Spain into a war for the ‘ownership’ of Cuba.
The US were the victors of that war, and so, in 1899, dominion over Cuba was transferred to the US, which granted nominal independence to the island in 1902, but retained economic control until the revolution in 1959.
A US neo-colony
The first half of the 20th century saw Cuba descend into a haven for drugs, prostitution and gambling, as the US ruling class, with the help of the Cuban comprador bourgeoisie, turned the small island into an offshore playground.
Successive Cuban governments showed themselves to be nothing more than puppets of US imperialism, maintaining the status quo and allowing the wealth of the land to be leeched by foreign imperialists while the average Cuban was left to serve the colonisers or starve.
Nevertheless, throughout this period, progressive forces continued to mobilise and struggle against the reactionary governments. The increasing strength of the movement was illustrated on 10 March 1952, when Fulgencio Batista, in a bid to prevent a communist candidate winning the elections, seized power by force.
Batista had been a military man for many years and had served the establishment well, suppressing uprisings during the 1930s and 40s. In 1940, he served a term of four years as elected president, during which time US trade relations increased and Cuba entered the second world war on the side of the allies.
Following the coup d’etat in 1952, Batista ruled Cuba with an iron fist. He abolished the constitution, dismissed the Congress of the Republic and firmly held open the door to US imperialism.
Fidel Castro, then a young revolutionary, denounced the coup and called on all Cubans to fight the dictatorship, warning: “once again there is tyranny, but there will also be men like Mella, Trejo and Guiteras [revolutionaries who had fought Spanish and US forces]. There is oppression in the homeland, but there will be a day of liberty again”. (Quoted in History of Cuba, op cit)
Following this call to fight, Castro got together with a group of other revolutionaries who had fought in previous uprisings, with the intention of carrying out an attack on the military regime and thus providing a catalyst for further uprisings.
The target of this attack was to be the Moncada Barracks, the second-largest barracks in Cuba, located a fair distance from any potential back-up forces, as well as being on the outskirts of Santiago de Cuba, where the independence movement had always been strong.
During the night of 26 July 1953, a group of 131 combatants led in three groups by Fidel Castro, Abel Santamaria and Raúl Castro attacked the barracks. Despite extensive and secretive preparation by Fidel and others, the first attacking column was intercepted by an unscheduled patrol of Batista’s forces, sparking a battle and alerting the rest of the barracks to the attack.
Almost all the combatants were captured, eight being killed in battle while a handful escaped. The following day, a further 50 fighters were executed as a warning to others. The rest were tried, along with others who had been rounded up but had no involvement in the attack.
It was during the Moncada Barracks trial that Fidel gave one of his most famous speeches, now recognised by his final statement: “History will absolve me”. Fidel used the speech to expose the brutality of the Batista regime, the downtrodden existence of the Cuban people and the need to fight for liberty and freedom.
He also outlined five revolutionary laws that would have been proclaimed if the attack had been successful. These laws were to “return power to the people”, “give non-mortgageable and non-transferable ownership of land to all tenants”, “grant workers and employees the right to share 30 percent of the profits of all large industry”, “grant all sugar planters the right to share 55 percent of sugar production”, and to confiscate “all holdings and ill-gotten gains … of previous regimes … Half of the property recovered would be used to subsidise retirement funds for workers and the other half would be used for hospitals, asylums and charitable organisations.”
The success of the defence team, in spite of limitations imposed on them by the court, meant that only 26 were found guilty, and a large proportion of these were given lenient sentences.
Movement of 26 July
Fidel, however, along with several others involved in the attack, was sentenced to 15 years and imprisoned in Isle of Pines. Two years later, following continued protests for their release, and in the face of increasing unrest, Batista granted the release of Castro and the other imprisoned combatants.
On their release, they were greeted with great popular acclaim and determined to continue the work they had started. So, in June 1955, Castro and several other revolutionaries who had attacked the Moncada Barracks held an official meeting and formed the Movement of 26 July (M 26-J).
As M 26-J increased its activity, so too did the repressive measures of the Batista regime. By July, Fidel had decided that, in order to effectively organise, he needed to leave the country and train elsewhere.
Mexico and Guevara
Having relocated to Mexico, Castro and several others set up camp, specifically choosing remote terrain similar to Cuba’s in order to prepare themselves for the next stage of the struggle. It was here that they met Che Guevera.
Che had fled persecution in Guatemala and, having met some of the M 26-J comrades previously, was introduced to Castro and so began his involvement in the preparations for the Cuban revolution.
M 26-J members in Mexico maintained constant communication with the workers’ and peasants’ struggles taking place in Cuba. Fidel wrote manifestos for the movement analysing the struggle and the tasks ahead, which were distributed in Cuba.
While the revolutionaries trained in Mexico, hardships suffered by the Cuban population under Batista increased the support for the goals set out by the M 26-J.
After a year of mobilising troops and building up the forces both in Mexico and in Cuba, the M 26-J planned coordinated attacks across the country, with the Mexican contingent travelling across the Gulf to reinforce the eastern front.
On 25 November 1956, from the port of Tupax, Mexico, the Granma, only a small boat, carried 82 members of the M 26-J across the Gulf of Mexico, aiming for Cuba’s eastern coast. However, the heavy load on the boat slowed the journey, delaying its landing to 2 December, two days after the attacks of the M 26-J were to be launched.
This proved almost fatal for the insurrection as, despite the forces within Cuba mounting uprisings and making some gains, they had not been the outright victors. The delay of the Granma meant that Batista’s forces were at the boat’s landing site within an hour with all the planes and troops they could muster.
In the face of this military onslaught, and against all odds, the rebels continued towards the mountains of the Sierra Maestra. However, a large part of their contingent was captured and over 20 executed on the spot. The remaining 10 members moved deeper into the mountains and regrouped, ready to continue the fight against the regime.
During the next 24 months, the 10 members of M 26-J in the Sierra Maestra recruited workers and peasants from across the countryside and towns as a fierce war ensued against the regime.
As Fidel recounted on the 40th anniversary of the revolution: “the infallible tactic of attacking the enemy when it was on the move was a key factor [to success]. The art of provoking those forces into moving out of their well-fortified and generally invulnerable positions became one of our commands’ greatest skills.” (Speech made in Céspedes Park, Santiago de Cuba, 1 January 1999)
By December 1958, the rebel army, with Fidel as commander-in-chief, and Che Guevara, Camilio Cienfuegos, Raúl Castro, Juan Alemida and Celia Sánchez as leaders of the columns, led the forces across the country taking city after city and growing in number by the day.
Che Guevara’s Column No. 8, by this time made up of 300 well-armed and experienced troops, was joined on 29 December by 5,000 recruits trained in the Escambray mountains in the battle for Santa Cruz.
This was the dictatorship’s last and most powerful stronghold. The rebels captured enemy positions one by one, cutting off communication and finally taking all government troops prisoner and seizing control of the city.
At 2.00am on 1 January 1959, Batista fled the country, leaving the rebel army victorious. Thus it was, five years, five months and five days after the attack on the Moncada Barracks, that the programme publicised during the Moncada trial for developing a Cuba for the Cuban people was finally put into action.
Soy Cuba – depiction of Cuban life
For a real flavour of this struggle, it is well worth watching the beautifully filmed and choreographed epic Soy Cuba (I am Cuba).
Using the lives of several Cubans, from a farmer forced to sell all his land to the United Fruit Company to a young girl living in a tin shack having to serve opulent US and foreign ‘diplomats’, it shows graphically the disparity between the life of a Cuban and that of the foreign and comprador bourgeoisie under Batista.
The film aptly portrays the struggle in the towns by the students and workers and how this eventually combined with the guerrilla war led by Fidel, Che, Camilo Cienfuegos and the other fighters and the thousands of recruits who joined the guerrillas from the countryside.
The film ends with the triumphant scene of the guerrilla army advancing victoriously towards Havana.
The revolution continues
The revolutionary government began by addressing the poverty, hunger and illiteracy that had plagued the lives of Cubans for the past century.
The sentiment of the five revolutionary laws outlined in Fidel’s ‘History will absolve me’ speech was put into action. In May 1959, under the Agrarian Reform act, Cuba began expropriating land and private property for the benefit of more than 100,000 rural families.
Rental costs were reduced by 50 percent. Social security measures were extended across the entire population.
The revolution embarked upon creating 10,000 classrooms for the 10,000 teachers without jobs to be able to teach the 600,000 children not then in school. They also began training voluntary teachers, who were then sent to wherever they were needed, thus becoming part of the campaign to rid Cuba of illiteracy.
By 1960, the government had nationalised more than $25bn worth of private property in Cuba, and on 6 August 1960, Cuba nationalised all US-owned property, as well as all other foreign-owned property.
This move unsurprisingly brought the wrath of the already fuming imperialist power. The US government seized all Cuban assets abroad and tightened the embargo that it had imposed following the success of the revolution.
Since 1962, the US has maintained a full economic blockade of the country.
Bay of Pigs
Cuba became one of US imperialism’s most hated states, not only because it seized assets previously under the control of US corporations, directly hitting the US economy, but also because of the example it set to all the downtrodden exploited masses in the US and elsewhere of what is possible when power is seized by the working class and peasantry.
Thus it was that the wrath of US imperialism was not only felt economically through the embargo but also militarily.
In 1961, the US staged an attack on the Bay of Pigs in an attempt to oust Fidel and the Communist Party from Cuba. The invasion was defeated, however, through the coordination of the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution (who rounded up all pro-Batista and US forces, preventing them from mobilising a coup within towns), combined with a strong military response led by Fidel.
Economic blockade and subversive attack
Having failed to get rid of socialist Cuba by direct invasion in 1961, US imperialism has not relented and continues to this day in its attempts to undermine the revolution.
This is done through encouraging and financing counterrevolutionary and terrorist activities against Cuba, from backing Luis Posada Carriles, the self-confessed terrorist who has attacked Venezuela and Cuba and now is protected by the US, to funding Hermanos al Rescate (Brothers to the Rescue [!]), a terrorist group created in the US to attack Cuba.
The period from 1959 to 1997 saw “5,780 terrorist actions against Cuba, 804 of them considered as terrorist attacks of significant magnitude, including 78 bombings against the population that caused thousands of victims”. (‘Fifty years of US terrorism against Cuba’, Voltaire.net, 15 December 2005)
This is in addition to the economic blockade that the US has held Cuba under for almost 50 years, which prevents a vast number of goods entering Cuba, from food to medicine, affecting every area of Cuban life. Estimates in 2004 calculated the total direct damage to the economy caused by the blockade at $80bn. (‘The US blockade of Cuba’, Cuba Solidarity Campaign)
In 1992, just after Cuba had lost 85 percent of her trade with the Soviet Union following the latter’s collapse, the US senate tightened the blockade passing the Cuban Democracy Act[!], known as the Torricelli Act. The act, as outlined by Congressmen Torricelli himself, was designed to “wreak havoc on the island”, extending the blockade to countries outside the US and thus preventing the purchase of vital goods by Cuba.
Then, in 1996, the US passed the equally inappropriately titled Cuban Liberty and Democracy Solidarity Act, aka the Helms-Burton Act, extending the embargo to penalise any foreign company that trades with Cuba. It also called for more active interference in the running of the country, through funding subversive activity as mentioned above and increasing the use of external radio and TV broadcasts into Cuba from Miami, notably Radio Marti and TV Marti.
The Helms-Burton Act also further restricted the sale of Cuban goods within the US, which for a moment in 1999 was broken following Cuba’s development of a vaccine against meningitis B. After an outbreak in the US, the Treasury Department finally relented and granted a licence in 1999, having refused to do so for over 10 years.
It is in the face of this that the Cuban people, led by the Communist Party of Cuba, have not only survived but made massive strides in improving the standard of living of all Cubans.
A Cuban diplomat at a recent meeting of the UN member states, at which, for the 17th consecutive year, an overwhelming majority of members (96 percent) voted to condemn the US blockade, stated: “[The US] will never be able to bring the Cuban people to their knees. Neither blockades nor hurricanes will be able to take away our spirit. There will be no human or natural force capable of subjugating the Cuban people”. (‘UN General Assembly condemns US economic blockade against Cuba for the 17th consecutive year’, Cuba News Daily, 30 October 2008)
The Cuban people enjoy a standard of living incomparable in the western world. Incomparable not because of the material goods they have, as these are undoubtedly limited, but because of the freedoms that they benefit from: the freedom that ensures every Cuban lives under shelter, has the right to universal free education and access to a healthcare system that is not dependant on income. In short, the freedom to live a full life no matter who you are or which family you are born into.
Decent housing for all is a right guaranteed by the Cuban constitution. Homelessness is unheard of. Housing costs in Cuba have been maintained at a low level, with many either owning their homes outright or paying an average of 10 percent of income towards their homes.
This is in stark contrast to the insecurity of many in Britain, one of the world’s richest countries, where mortgage rates are such that house repossessions have increased by over 45 percent, with estimations of over 45,000 homes being taken back by lenders by the end of the year. (‘Figures from house repossessions soar to 12-year-high’, The Independent, 8 August 2008)
As for education, the initial ambition of the revolution to rid Cuba of illiteracy has long since been achieved, something not all so-called developed countries can lay claim to. Education is taken very seriously, with 10 percent of Cuba’s GDP being spent on providing free, universal education for all.
Education is compulsory to ninth grade, with one teacher for every 36.8 inhabitants, as compared to one teacher for every 802 inhabitants in the UK. (Figures from ‘Eye-witness to socialism: school education in Cuba’, Proletarian, February 2007)
Unlike the increasingly expensive university education that is a privilege rather than a right in the imperialist world, all Cubans can attend any of Cuba’s 47 universities free of charge. Scholarships are also open to less privileged students from Latin America, the Caribbean, and even the US and Europe, many of whom study medicine and are encouraged to return to their homelands after graduation to implement their skills there.
Before the revolution, only 8 percent of the rural population had access to health care, but today Cuba can boast of a system that provides free health care to its entire population, as highlighted in the recent Michael Moore film Sicko.
The doctor to patient ratio in Cuba is higher than any other country, with a doctor for every 169 inhabitants. In Britain, on the other hand, the average doctor has to attend to 600 inhabitants. The effect of this is that general check-ups are far more frequent and monitoring for potential illness or disease is much easier in Cuba.
Consequently, Cuban life expectancy matches that of the US or Britain, and is way above other developing countries, yet for a fraction of the cost, since the emphasis is on preventative medicine and full health, rather than the system only dealing with those who are already sick and in need of expensive treatments.
The advances in medical research and techniques in Cuba have also been astounding. Not least, the meningitis B vaccine previously mentioned, which was developed in the 1980s, despite the blockade severely limiting the medical supplies that are allowed into Cuba owing to the extent of US patents on treatments.
It is to the credit of the well-managed, centrally organised socialist system that it is able to provide treatment and operations for 11.2 million Cubans despite these limited supplies from abroad.
Cuba puts paid to myth of the ‘inefficiencies of public money’ that has been peddled by our bourgeoisie to justify the dismantling of the NHS in Britain. If the will is there, the funding and results can be found.
The difference between Britain and Cuba is not that the doctors and nurses in Britain do not care, but rather that that, in a system where profit is the driving force, corners will be cut wherever possible, whether the company in question is making cars or providing health care. In socialist Cuba, where people come first, health care, education, shelter and security are the focus, and everything else comes second.
The achievements Cuba has made have also benefited hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people across the globe.
During the 1960s and 1970s Cuba gave much-needed political and military support to independence struggles in Africa, not least those of Angola and Namibia. In 1979, Cuba’s military support to the Sandinistas in Nicaragua assisted them in the defeat of Somoza’s dictatorship.
Cuba’s medical expertise has been shared the world over, with over 25,000 doctors sent to 68 countries. This is in stark contrast to the ‘brain drain’ of doctors who are tempted away from third world countries to serve in the NHS in Britain.
Cuba has given support to many afflicted peoples at times of great need. After the south Asian tsunami, Cuba sent teams of medics to give support, as she did also in the aftermath of earthquakes in Pakistan.
It is also well known that after the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2007, Cuba was one of the first countries to offer assistance in the form of 1,500 doctors. The US, despite a severe shortage, never accepted this offer.
In collaboration with Venezuela, the continent-wide Operación Milagro (Operation Miracle) has been underway for three years, treating vast numbers of poor people who have lost, or are losing, their eyesight, by providing free ophthalmology operations. Cuba provides the doctors and expertise while Venezuela provides transportation, accommodation and food, in effect giving sight back to over 6 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean, with the potential for the programme to be extended even further.
As part of ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative for the Americans), Cuba and Venezuela have also agreed to share expertise and goods. Cuba is providing doctors, who work in neighbourhoods across Venezuela as part of Mission Barrio Ardentro. In return, Cuba purchases crude oil at reduced rates.
Support socialist Cuba
The developments in Latin America as a whole have been tremendously positive for the small island of Cuba. From the collapse of the USSR in 1991 until recently, Cuba was an isolated socialist country, struggling alone in the Americas against the might of US imperialism just 90 miles to the north, with a host of US puppet regimes to the south.
Now, with Venezuela and Bolivia standing as strong allies, along with several other progressive Latin American countries, Cuba’s position has been strengthened. In addition, the increased trade links with China and Russia will also strengthen Cuba’s presence and stability in the region.
While capitalism is deep in crisis, the example that Cuba sets the working class and oppressed people should be broadcast as widely as possible. Cuba is a country that all progressive people should be proud of. When asked what alternative there is to capitalism, we should outline what the Communist Party of Cuba, supported by the people of Cuba, has been able to achieve in the face of constant imperialist aggression.
The proletariat in the imperialist countries must stand shoulder to shoulder with the Cuban people in their heroic defence of Cuban independence and socialism and against US imperialist bullying, trade blockades and threats of invasion and aggression.
Celebrate New Year’s Day this year with added vigour, remembering what has been achieved in Cuba and what could be achieved by a successful socialist revolution in Britain.