Archive for the ‘Cuba’ Category

Che was an avid reader and student of the founders of scientific socialism.  At the end of his short political biography of Marx and Engels, Che presents the following recommended reading list:


Introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (1844)

Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts (1844; published in 1932)

The Holy Family or Critique of Critical Criticism.  Against Bruno Bauer and Company (1845), written with Engels

The German Ideology (1845), written by Engels

The Poverty of Philosophy (1847)

Wage Labour and Capital (1847)

Manifesto of (more…)

by Daphna Whitmore

While holidaying in Mexico I took a side trip to Cuba last week. Here are just some initial impressions.

The first impression getting a taxi from the airport was that the roads were good and the buildings looked adequate, but  nothing very new looking. Once we got to old Havana where we were staying the run down state of the historic area was very evident.  Closer to the centre of the old city there was a lot of really good restoration going on. Possibly 20% of the old buildings have been restored and look amazing.


Old Havana is very rundown but restoration is underway


The people were great, and the music was stunning. Really fantasticmusicians playing on the streets and in the cafes and bars. What talent. It struck me as rather like New Orleans where a whole city is dedicated to music.

The food was either not good, or extremely good. The food was more Spanish style than in Mexico, which makes sense as Cuba’s indigenous population was wiped out rapidly after colonisation. There was also a bit of Caribbean influence in the cuisine. Our hotel was grotty and overpriced. Generally it wasn’t expensive to eat, drink and get about (though we mostly walked).

Cuba is clearly a poor country, but the people look healthy, and the positive aspects of the revolution such as universal education, and excellent health system and a lack of disparity were evident.

The tourism industry has grown enormously and (more…)

Fidel and Che

Fidel and Che

Fidel Castro Ruz, leader of the Cuban Revolution, died on Friday, November 25.  Below is an extract from the speech made in court by Fidel Castro Ruz, during his 1953 trial, following the revolutionaries’ attack on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba on July 26 of that year.  

Those who survived the attack and the state tortures and murders afterwards were initially jailed.  However, they became popular heroes and the dictatorship was forced to release them.  They then established the July 26 Movement.

 In Mexico, they began training and organising and in November 1956 they sailed to Cuba on the yacht Granma to launch the revolutionary struggle that just over two years later toppled the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista.  Batista fled on Thursday, January 1, 1959 and the following Thursday the Rebel Army entered Havana and quickly began implementing the changes that had been promised in History Will Absolve Me.  

This, indeed, was one of the crucial differences between the July 26 Movement and other radical-democratic movements in Latin America and elsewhere.  Under pressure from domestic ruling classes and the imperialists, most such movements backed down – often part of these movements organised a counter-revolution.  But the July 26 Movement was determined to implement their programme of sweeping reforms and when they found that would require carrying through a socialist revolution they did not hesitate to begin abolishing capitalism. 

Rebel Army enters Havana

Rebel Army enters Havana

. . .  In terms of struggle, when we talk about people we’re talking about the six hundred thousand Cubans without work, who want to earn their daily bread honestly without having to emigrate from their homeland in search of a livelihood; the five hundred thousand farm laborers who live in miserable shacks, who work four months of the year and starve the rest, sharing their misery with their children, who don’t have an inch of land to till and whose existence would move any heart not made of stone; the four hundred thousand industrial workers and laborers whose retirement funds have been embezzled, whose benefits are being taken away, whose homes are wretched quarters, whose salaries pass from the hands of the boss to those of the moneylender, whose future is a pay reduction and dismissal, whose life is endless work and whose only rest is the tomb; the one hundred thousand small farmers who live and die working land that is not theirs, looking at it with the sadness of Moses gazing at the promised land, to die without ever owning it, who like feudal serfs have to pay for the use of their parcel of land by giving up a portion of its produce, who cannot

Late August, Indian workers preparing for general strike, in  Sept;  160 million workers went on strike.

Late August, Indian workers preparing for general strike, in Sept; 160 million workers went on strike.

by Susil Gupta, 17 November 2016

I was warned that my controversial article (here) would raise some hackles but, to be truthful, I had hoped for some intelligent counter-blasts. 

Orwell once said that a Communist was “part gramophone, part gangster.” My old comrade Russell is not a gangster, but he is certainly all gramophone. Since his post is so paradigmatic of the rotting or ossified nature of Leftist western thinking, it is worth taking up his post (here) in detail. 

First, note that Russell does not engage with any point made in my article.  Like a tiresome Jehova’s Witness on your doorstep, he just repeats the same old religion.  Let’s take point by point. 

“I hadn’t realised you guys were so down on the metropolitan working classes!”

By ‘metropolitan’ Russell means ‘Western’, a usage that goes back to the 1960s where his thinking is firmly and obdurately stuck. In those distant times there were few non-western cities with a population of more than a million. As I have pointed out on this blog, (, China now has 105 cities with more than a million inhabitants, and by 2030 will have 148 million-people cities. Shanghai alone has 25 million inhabitants, which is about as ‘metropolitan’ as it gets. India has 58, and Latin America has 67. The EU has 34 such urban areas and the US 45. In China and many other Asian countries there are massive industrial areas and factories that have no parallel in the West. 

Russell, and much of the old Western Left, still seem to labour under the self-serving illusion that billions of people in the global ‘South’ live in villages, work in paddy fields, survive on a daily bowl of rice, and are incapable, poor things, of organised radical politics. What else explains such an obstinate refusal to face reality?  (more…)

by Daphna Whitmore

Dunedin hospital’s substandard food has come in for some well deserved criticism. At a protest outside the hospital Andrew Tait of the International Socialist Organisation argued that the public hospital was socialism in action, and he went on to call Britain’s National Health Service socialist:

There’s a lot that is good about the public health system in New Zealand, (excluding the hospital meals) but socialist it is not. Nor could it be. While we have a relatively well-funded public health system it follows a capitalist model adopted by most western countries.

First World countries maintain a centralised government-regulated and funded health-care system at the insistence of the public. It is also out of pragmatism. A public health system is more cost effective than America’s relatively decentralised private-sector system where hundreds of millions of dollars go on health lobbying rather than providing services. New Zealand, like many other western countries, has a large private health sector too, and it is in the business of making money. But that doesn’t make the public sector socialist; even the best health system in a capitalist country will not be socialist. (more…)

On the 47th anniversary of the murder of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, we’re running a review of his book about his involvement in the revolutionary struggle in the Congo following the overthrow of the radical Patrice Lumumba.  The African Dream: the diaries of the revolutionary war in the Congo was published by Harvill Press in 2000, and this review first appeared in issue 19 of revolution magazine in October 2002.

0by Philip Ferguson

In March 1965, after a two-month trip abroad, Che Guevara was greeted at Havana Airport by Fidel Castro.  He was not seen in public again until his corpse was exhibited in Bolivia in October 1967.

Guevara’s exploits in Bolivia hit the headlines at the time and have been relatively well-recorded, in his own published diaries and various biographies and other works.  His April-November 1965 involvement in the Congo, however, has remained obscure.  The African Dream, based on his Congo diaries and papers written by him immediately after leaving the country, therefore fills an important gap.  This is especially the case as, unlike the Bolivian diaries, with their unflagging optimism, or the heroic depiction of the guerrilla war in Cuba in the late 1950s, this is a warts and all account of a disaster, one which affected Guevara deeply and which had an important impact on his future and on future Cuban state policy.


The Congo involvement was important for a number of reasons.  The early 1960s were still very much the Cold War era – indeed this was shortly after the ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’.  Rather than retreat in the face of  US belligerence, the Cubans continued to go on the offensive.

Secondly, unlike Bolivia, which was very much Guevara’s own project, the Congo intervention involved the Cuban state.  High-level Cubans taking part on the ground in the Congo included not only Guevara, but construction minister Osmany Cienfuegos and others.

Thirdly, while it could be argued that there was never any chance of success in Bolivia, the Cubans’ allies in the Congo – essentially the Lumumbist left – had strong bases of support and, on paper anyway, a good chance of defeating the conservative regime backed by Belgium, the United States and apartheid South Africa.  (One of the major figures of the Lumumbist left, a mid-20s Laurent Kabila, did finally succeed in becoming leader of the Congo in 1997, before being overthrown and killed a few years later.)

Fourthly, it was the beginning of Cuba’s long-term involvement in Africa, culminating in Cuban troops playing a key role in driving the South African army out of Angola and helping hasten their retreat from Namibia.  In turn, this hastened the end of apartheid.  After the Congo fiasco, Cuba opted for supporting what it saw as radical regimes in Africa, such as the MPLA in Angola, rather than divided, unreliable and rather feckless ‘liberation’ movements on the continent.

What went wrong?

If the Congolese revolutionaries had a good chance of success, what went wrong?  Essentially, (more…)

imagesby Louis Proyect

(The piece below began life as an article Louis wrote for the Christchurch-based magazine revolution; this is an updated version which Louis posted on his blog last Friday, Nov 22; see here.)

“We thank that whole generation for making America strong, for winning WWII, winning the Cold War, and for the great gift of service which brought America 50 years of peace and prosperity. My parents inspired me to serve, and when I was a high school junior, Kennedy called my generation to service. It was the beginning of a great journey – a time to march for civil rights, for voting rights, for the environment, for women, and for peace. We believed we could change the world. You know what? We did.” – John Kerry, Acceptance speech to the Democratic National Convention Jul 29, 2004

“When discussing the poor, the blacks, the Jews, ‘he used to say, “Poor bastards.” That was it. There were a lot of poor bastards in this world. There were people who either didn’t get jobs they wanted or they didn’t get programs they wanted. That phrase covered so many times when he would have turned someone down for a job, or would have turned down some legislation that was being pressed on him. You know, “Poor bastard, they’re going to feel terrible.”‘ Kennedy seemed to believe that ‘”people who are different have different responses. The pain of poor people is different from “our” pain.’” – An unnamed former lover of JFK, quoted in Seymour Hersh’s Dark Side of Camelot

On January 8, 2005, obituaries for JFK’s 86-year-old retarded sister Rosemary appeared in all the major media. Joseph Kennedy, the patriarch of this American dynasty, treated her like a character out of a 19th century Gothic Tale. Associated Press reported that (more…)