The Review of the Month in this issue (“Chávez and the Communal State” by John Bellamy Foster) focuses on the revolutionary political strategy introduced by Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian movement in Venezuela. In the process it addresses how István Mészáros’s Beyond Capital played a key, strategic role in the development of Chávez’s thinking. Beyond Capital is a daunting philosophical work of around a thousand pages, while many of his other writings are nearly as challenging. MR readers will therefore be pleased to learn that we have just published a new book by Mészáros, The Necessity of Social Control (Monthly Review Press, 2015), expressly designed, as Foster writes in the book’s “Foreword,” as “an easily accessible work,” providing “a way into his thinking for the uninitiated” (9).… Yet, Mészáros’s new book is much more than that.
On October 20, 2012, less than two weeks after being reelected to his fourth term as Venezuelan president and only months before his death, Hugo Chávez delivered his crucial El Golpe de Timón (“Strike at the Helm”) speech to the first meeting of his ministers in the new revolutionary cycle. Chávez surprised even some of his strongest supporters by his insistence on the need for changes at the top in order to promote an immediate leap forward in the creation of what is referred to as “the communal state.” This was to accelerate the shift of power to the population that had begun with the formation of the communal councils (groupings of families involved in self-governance projects—in densely populated urban areas, 200–400 families; in rural areas, 50–100 families). The main aim in the new revolutionary cycle, he insisted, was to speed up the registration of communes, the key structure of the communal state.
On October 7th, 2012, after hearing of his victory as the nation’s candidate with 56 percent of the vote, President Hugo Chávez Frias announced from a balcony in his hometown that a new cycle was beginning the very next day, October 8th.
Only a few days later, on October 20th, he headed the first meeting calling together the ministers of this new cycle, the Comandante called for a series of critiques and self-criticisms in order to expand efficiency, strengthen communal power, and further develop the National System of Public Media, among other themes regarding the construction of socialism.
This document synthesizes his words, as a tool for a debate in which we should all participate.
This issue of Monthly Review is mainly devoted to two commemorations: for Paul Alexander Baran, who died fifty years ago this month; and for Hugo Rafael Chávez Friás, who died one year ago this month.… Paul A. Baran was the author of The Political Economy of Growth (1957) and, with Paul M. Sweezy, Monopoly Capital (1966). Baran’s work on the roots of underdevelopment focused on the way in which the imperialist world system robbed countries of their actual and potential economic surplus, chaining them to conditions of dependency.… Hugo Chávez, president of Venezuela from 1999 until his death in March 2013, provided the crucial inspiration for the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela. Chávez created a new vernacular of revolution linked historically to Latin America’s Bolivarian tradition (marked by Bolívar’s famous statement that “equality is the law of laws”).
Everyone understands that it is impossible to achieve the vision of socialism for the twenty-first century in one giant leap forward. It is not simply a matter of changing property ownership. This is the easiest part of building the new world. Far more difficult is changing productive relations, social relations in general, and attitudes and ideas.… To transform existing relations into the new productive relations, we need first of all to understand the nature of the existing relations. Only then can you identify the mechanisms by which the new relations can be introduced. At this time, there is a great variety of experiments and approaches to changing productive relations which are being pursued. There is no attempt to set out specific proposals here but only to provide the framework in which such changes should be explored in order to move toward socialist productive relations.
The need for the establishment and successful operation of The New International is painfully obvious and urgent today. The enemies of a historically sustainable societal reproductive order, who occupy at the present time still the dominant position in our increasingly endangered world, do not hesitate for a moment to exploit in the interest of their destructive design, with utmost cynicism and hypocrisy, the existing decision-making and opinion-forming organs of the international community, from the Security Council of the United Nations to the great multiplicity of the national and international press and to the other mass media under their direct material stranglehold.… At the same time the adherents of the much needed socialist alternative are fragmented and divided among themselves, instead of internationally combining their strength for the cause of a successful confrontation with their adversaries.
THE human species reaffirms with frustrating force that it has existed for approximately 230 million years. I do not recall any affirmation that it has achieved any greater age. Other kinds of humans did exist, like the Neanderthals of European origin; or a third, the hominid of Denisova in North Asia but, in no case are there fossils more ancient than those of the homo sapiens of Ethiopia.
On the other hand, similar remains exist of numerous species living then, such as dinosaurs, the fossilized remains of which date back more than 200 million years. Many scientists talk of their existence prior to the meteorite which struck the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, provoking the death of these mammals, some of which measured up to 60 meters in length.
Equally known is the prehistory of the planet which we today inhabit, which broke away from the solar nebula and cooled as a compact, almost flat mass, constituted by a growing number of well defined materials which, little by little, acquired visible traits. It is not as yet known how many remain to be discovered, and the previously unknown uses which modern technology can contribute to human beings.
It is known that the seeds of certain edible plants were discovered and began to be used around 40,000 years ago. There is also confirmation of what was a sowing calendar, engraved in stone approximately 10,000 years ago.
Science must teach all of us to be more modest, given our congenital self-sufficiency. In this way, we would be more prepared to confront and even enjoy the rare privilege of existing.
Countless generous and self-sacrificing people, in particular mothers, whom nature endowed with a special spirit of sacrifice, live in this exploited and plundered world.
The concept of fathers, which does not exist in nature, is on the other hand, fruit of social education in human beings and is observed as a norm in any part of the world, from the Arctic, where the Eskimos are to be found, to the most torrid tropical jungles of Africa, in which women not only look after their families, but also work the land to produce food.
Anyone who reads the news arriving every day on old and new behaviors of nature and discoveries of methods for confronting events of yesterday, today and tomorrow, will understand the exigencies of our time.
Viruses are transforming themselves in unexpected forms, hitting the most productive plants or animals which make possible human alimentation, making the health of our species more insecure and costly, generating and aggravating illnesses, above all among the elderly or infants.
How to honorably confront the growing number of obstacles suffered by the inhabitants of the planet?
Let us think that more than 200 human groups are disputing the Earth’s resources. Patriotism is simply the widest sentiment of solidarity achieved. We should never say that it was only a little thing. It evidently began with family activities of reduced groups of people which historians describe as family clans, to explore ways of cooperation among family groups who cooperated with each other in order to undertake tasks within their reach. There was a struggle among family groups in other stages, until they reached higher levels of organization such as, doubtless, tribes. More than 100,000 years went by. Recollections written on sophisticated parchment, however, date back no more than 4,000 years.
The human capacity to think and develop ideas was already notable, and I sincerely do not believe that the Ancient Greeks were less intelligent than contemporary humans. Their poems, their philosophical texts, their sculptures, their medical knowledge, their Olympic Games; their mirrors, with which they set alight enemy ships by concentrating the sun’s rays; the works of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Galen, Archimedes and others, filled the ancient world with light. They were men of exceptional talents.
After a long road, we arrived at the contemporary stage of human history.
Critical days were not long in presenting themselves for our homeland, at 90 miles from the continental territory of the United States, after a profound crisis struck the USSR.
From January 1, 1959, our country took charge of its own destiny after 402 years of Spanish colonialism and 59 as a neo-colony. We no longer existed as indigenous peoples who did not even speak the same language; we were a mix of whites, Blacks and American Indians who formed a new nation with its virtues and defects like all the rest. It goes without saying that the tragedy of unemployment, underdevelopment and an extremely poor level of education ruled on the island. The people were in possession of knowledge inculcated by the press and literature dominant in the United States, which was unaware of, if it did not scorn, the sentiments of a nation which had fought with arms over decades for its independence and, in the end, also against hundreds of thousands of soldiers in the service of the Spanish metropolis. It is essential not to overlook the history of the “Ripe Fruit,” dominant in the colonialist mentality of the powerful neighboring nation, which made its power prevail and not only refused the country the right to be free today, tomorrow and for ever, but attempted to annex our island as part of the territory of that powerful country.
When the U.S. Maine battleship exploded in the port of Havana, the Spanish army, comprising hundreds of thousands of men, was already defeated. Just as one day, on the basis of heroism, the Vietnamese defeated the powerful army endowed with sophisticated equipment, including Agent Orange, which affected so many Vietnamese for life, and Nixon, on more than one occasion, was tempted to use nuclear weapons against that heroic people. It was not by chance that he fought to soften the Soviet position with discussions on food production in that country.
I would not be clear if I do not point to a bitter moment in our relations with the USSR. This was derived from our reaction on learning of Nikita Khrushchev’s decision related to the 1962 October Crisis, the 51st anniversary of which is this October.
When we found out that Khrushchev had agreed with John F. Kennedy to withdraw the nuclear missiles from the country, I published a note of five points which I considered indispensable for an agreement. The Soviet leader knew that initially we warned the Chief Marshal of the Soviet rockets that Cuba was not interested in being seen as an emplacement for USSR missiles, given its aspiration to be an example for other countries in Latin America in the struggle for the independence of our peoples. But despite this the Chief Marshal of those weapons, an excellent person, insisted on the need to have some weaponry which would deter the aggressors. Given his insistence on the issue, I stated that if it seemed to them an essential need for the defense of socialism, that was different, because, above all else, we were revolutionaries. I asked him for two hours so that the leadership of our Revolution could make a decision.
In relation to Cuba, Khrushchev had conducted himself with much dignity. When the United States totally suspended the sugar quota and blocked our trade, he decided to buy what that country had ceased to import, and at the same price; when, a few months later, that country suspended oil quotas, the USSR supplied us with the necessities of that vital product without which our economy would have suffered a major collapse. A fight to the death had been imposed, given that Cuba would never surrender. The battles had been very bloody, as much for the aggressors as for us. We had accumulated more than 300,000 weapons, including the 100,000 we had taken from the Batista dictatorship.
The Soviet leader had accumulated great prestige. As a result of the occupation of the Suez Canal by France and Britain, the two powers which owned the canal and, with the support pf Israeli forces, had attacked and occupied the waterway, Khrushchev warned that he would use his nuclear weapons against the French and British aggressors who had occupied that point. Under Eisenhower’s leadership, the United States was not disposed at that moment to involve itself in a war. I recall a phrase of Khrushchev’s at that time, “Our missiles could hit a fly in the air.”
Not long afterward, the world found itself enveloped in extremely grave danger of war. Unfortunately, it was the most serious as yet known. Khrushchev wasn’t just one more leader, during the Great Patriotic War he was outstanding as Chief Commissar of the defense of Stalingrad, now Volgograd, in the hardest battle waged in the world, with the participation of four million men. The Nazis lost more than half a million soldiers. The October Crisis in Cuba lost him his position. In 1964 he was replaced by Leonid Brezhnev.
It was supposed that, although at a high price, the United States would keep to its commitment not to invade Cuba. Brezhnev developed excellent relations with our country. He visited us on January 28, 1974, developed the military might of the Soviet Union, trained many officers of our forces in the military academy of his great country, continued the free supply of military armaments to our country, promoted the construction of a water cooled electronuclear power station at which maximum security measures were implemented, and gave support to our country’s economic objectives.
Upon his death on November 10, 1982, he was succeeded by Yuri Andropov, director of the KGB, who headed the funeral ceremony for Brezhnev and took possession as president of the USSR. He was a serious man, that is my appreciation of him, and also very frank.
He told us that if we were attacked by the United States we would have to fight alone. We asked him if they could supply weapons free of charge as had been the case. He replied in the affirmative. We then communicated to him, “Don’t worry, send us the weapons which the invaders took from us.”
Only a minimum of compañeros were informed of this matter, given that it would have been highly dangerous if the enemy had this information.
We decided to ask other friends for sufficient weapons in order to organize one million Cuban combatants. Compañero Kim Il Sung, a veteran and impeccable combatant, sent us 100,000 AK rifles and their corresponding park without charging a cent.
What contributed to unleash the crisis? Khrushchev had perceived Kennedy’s clear intention to invade Cuba as soon as the political and diplomatic conditions were prepared, especially after the crushing defeat of the mercenary Bay of Pigs invasion, escorted by assault warships from the Marine Infantry and a yanki aircraft carrier. The mercenaries controlled the airspace with more than 40 aircraft including B-26 bombers, air transport planes and other support aircraft.
A prior surprise attack on the principal airbase did not find our aircraft lined up, but dispersed to various points, those which could be moved and those that lacked parts. It affected just a few. The day of the traitorous invasion our planes were in the air before dawn, headed for Playa Girón. Let us just say that an honest U.S. writer described it as a disaster. Suffice it to say that at the end of that adventure only two or three expeditionaries were able to return to Miami.
The invasion programmed by the U.S. armed forces against the island would have suffered tremendous losses, far higher than the 50,000 soldiers they lost in Vietnam. They did not then have the experience that they acquired later.
It will be recalled that, on October 28, 1962, I stated that I was not in agreement with the decision, not consulted with or known by Cuba, that the USSR would withdraw its strategic missiles, for which launch pads were being constructed, to a total of 42. I explained to the Soviet leader that this step had not been consulted with us, an essential requisite of our agreements. The idea can be put in one sentence, “You can convince me that I am wrong, but you cannot say that I am wrong without convincing me,” and I enumerated five points, to remain sacrosanct. 1. An end to the economic blockade and all measures of commercial economic coercion exercised by the United States in all parts of the world against our country. 2. An end to all subversive activities, the launching of landing of arms and explosives by air and by sea, the organization of mercenary invasions, filtration of spies and saboteurs, all of these actions carried out from U.S. territory and some complicit countries. 3. An end to pirate attacks perpetrated from bases in the United States and Puerto Rico. 4. An end to all violations of our air and maritime space by U.S. warplanes and warships. 5. Withdrawal from the Guantánamo Naval Base and the return of the Cuban territory occupied by the United States.
It is equally very well known that the French journalist Jean Daniel interviewed President Kennedy after the October Crisis; Kennedy recounted the very difficult time he had experienced, and asked him if I was really aware of the danger of that moment. I asked the French reporter to travel to Cuba, to talk with me and clarify that question.
Daniel traveled to Cuba and asked for an interview. I called him that night and conveyed to him that I wanted to see him and converse with him about the issue, and suggested that we talk in Varadero. We arrived there and I invited him to lunch. It was midday. I turned on the radio and at that moment a glacial dispatch announced that the President had been assassinated in Dallas.
There was virtually nothing left to talk about. Of course, I asked him to tell me about his conversation with Kennedy; he was really impressed with his contact with the president. He told me that Kennedy was a thinking machine; he was really traumatized. I didn’t see him again. For my part, I investigated as far as I could, or rather, imagined what happened that day. Lee Harvey Oswald’s conduct was really strange. I knew that he had attempted to visit Cuba not long before the assassination of Kennedy, and that it was supposed that he shot at a moving target with a semi-automatic rifle. I am very well acquainted with the use of that weapon. When one fires, the sight moves and the target is lost in an instant; something which does not happen with other types of firing systems. The telescopic lens, of various degrees of power, is very precise if the weapon is supported, but obstructs when used against a moving object. It is said that two lethal shots were fired consecutively in a fraction of a second. The presence of a lumpen, known for his trade, who killed Oswald in no less than a police precinct, moved by the pain that Kennedy’s wife would be suffering, would seem to be a cynical joke.
Johnson, a good oil magnate, lost no time in taking a plane headed for Washington. I do not wish to make imputations; that is a matter for them, but the plans were to involve Cuba in the assassination of Kennedy. Later, after some years had passed, the son of the assassinated President visited and dined with me. He was a young man full of life, who liked to write. Shortly afterward, traveling in a stormy night to a vacation island in a simple aircraft, it apparently failed to find its goal and exploded. I also met in Caracas with the wife and young children of Robert Kennedy, who was Attorney General, and a negotiator with Khrushchev’s envoy and had been assassinated. Thus the world marched on since then.
Very close now to ending this account, which coincides with the 87th birthday of its author on August 13, I ask you to excuse me for any imprecision. I have not had time to consult documents.
News dispatches talk almost daily about issues of concern accumulating on the world horizon.
According to the Russia Today television channel website, Noam Chomsky stated,”the U.S. policy is designed to increase terror.”
“According to the eminent philosopher, U.S. policy is designed so as to increase terror among the population. ‘The U.S. is conducting the most impressive international terrorist campaign ever seen […] that of the drone planes and the special forces campaign…’”
“The drone planes campaign is creating potential terrorists.”
“In his view, it is absolutely amazing that the North American country performs on one hand a massive terror campaign that can generate potential terrorists against oneself, and on the other hand it proclaims that it is absolutely necessary to have mass surveillance to protect against terrorism.”
“According to Chomsky, there are many similar cases. One of the most striking, in his opinion, is that of Luis Posada Carriles, accused in Venezuela of participating in an attack on a plane aboard which 73 people were killed…”
Today, I am especially recalling the best friend I had in my years as a political activist – a very modest and poor man forged in the Bolivarian Army of Venezuela – Hugo Chávez Frías.
Among the many books which I have read, impregnated with his poetic and descriptive language, there is one which distills his rich culture and his capacity for expressing his intelligence and his sympathies in rigorous terms, through the 2,000-plus questions put to him by the likewise French journalist, Ignacio Ramonet.
On July 26th this year, when he visited Santiago de Cuba on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the assault on the Moncada and Carlos M. de Céspedes garrisons, Ramonet dedicated to me his latest book, Hugo Chávez Mi primera vida. (Hugo Chávez: My First Life).
I experienced the healthy pride of having contributed to the drafting of this work, because Ramonet subjected me to an implacable questionnaire, which, despite everything, served to coach the author on this material.
The worst thing is that I had not completed my task as a leader when I promised him to revise it.
On July 26, 2006, I fell seriously ill. As soon as I understood that it would be definitive, I didn’t hesitate for an instant to announce on the 31st that I was resigning from my posts as President of the Councils of State and Ministers, and proposed that the compañero designated to exercise this task should immediately proceed to occupy it.
I still had to complete the promised revision of One Hundred Hours with Fidel. I was prone, I feared losing consciousness while I was dictating and sometimes I fell asleep. Nevertheless, day by day, I replied to the devilish questions which seemed to me to be interminably long; but persisted until I finished.
I was far from imagining that my life would be prolonged another seven years. Only in this way did I have the privilege of reading and studying many things which I should have learned before. I think that the new discoveries have surprised everyone.
In relation to Hugo Chávez there remained many questions to answer, from the most important moment of his existence, when he assumed his post as President of the Republic of Venezuela. There is not one question to respond to in terms of the most brilliant moments of his life. Those who knew him well know the priority he gave to those ideological challenges. A man of action and ideas, he was surprised by an extremely aggressive illness which caused him great suffering, but he confronted it with great dignity, and with profound pain for his family and close friends who loved him so much. Bolívar was his teacher and the guide who directed his steps through life. Both of them brought together sufficient grandeur to occupy a place of honor in human history.
All of us are now awaiting Hugo Chávez, Mi Segunda Vida (Hugo Chávez: My Second Life). Without him, nobody could write the most authentic of histories better.
Fidel Castro Ruz
August 13, 2013
Millions of people throughout the world mourned the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez on March 5, 2013. Monthly Review responded at the time with numerous pieces posted on MRzine. We would like, however, to record here briefly something of MR‘s own special relationship to the late president, and what we think constitutes his indelible legacy to socialism in the twenty-first century. MR‘s unique connection to Chávez was largely through the influence of István Mészáros—whose relationship to Chávez stretched back for over twenty years, and whom Chávez called “the pathfinder of 21st century socialism”—and through Marta Harnecker and Michael Lebowitz, who both served as consultants to Chávez.… More than a decade followed in which the socialist revolution under Chávez moved forward, creating huge material, social, and cultural improvements for the Venezuelan population, and vastly increased the power of the people over their own lives through new socialist institutions…. The most vital revolutionary achievement in these years was the introduction of the famous “communal councils”—the general idea for which, as Chávez himself stressed on numerous occasions, was taken from Mészáros’s Beyond Capital.
The best friend the Cuban people have had throughout their history died on the afternoon of March 5. A call via satellite communicated the bitter news. The significance of the phrase used was unmistakable.
Although we were aware of the critical state of his health, the news hit us hard. I recalled the times he joked with me, saying that when both of us had concluded our revolutionary task, he would invite me to walk by the Arauca River in Venezuelan territory, which made him remember the rest that he never had.
The honor befell us to have shared with the Bolivarian leader the same ideas of social justice and support for the exploited. The poor are the poor in any part of the world.
“Let Venezuela give me a way of serving her: she has in me a son,” proclaimed National Hero José Martí, the leader of our independence, a traveler who, without cleansing himself of the dust of the journey, asked for the location of the statue of Bolívar.
Martí knew the beast because he lived in its entrails. Is it possible to ignore the profound words he voiced in an inconclusive letter to his friend Manuel Mercado the day before he died in battle? “…I am in daily danger of giving my life for my country and duty – for I understand that duty and have the intention of carrying it out – the duty of preventing the United States from extending through the Antilles as Cuba gains its independence, and from falling, with that additional strength, upon our lands of America. All that I have done thus far, and will do, is for this purpose. I have had to work silently and somewhat indirectly because, there are certain things which, in order to attain them, have to remain concealed….”
At that time, 66 years had passed since the Liberator Simón Bolívar wrote, “…the United States would seem to be destined by fate to plague the Americas with miseries in the name of freedom.”
On January 23, 1959, 22 days after the revolutionary triumph in Cuba, I visited Venezuela to thank its people and the government which assumed power after the Pérez Jiménez dictatorship, for the dispatch of 150 rifles at the end of 1958. I said at that time:
“…Venezuela is the homeland of the Liberator, where the idea of the union of the peoples of America was conceived. Therefore, Venezuela must be the country to lead the union of the peoples of America; as Cubans, we support our brothers and sisters in Venezuela.
“I have spoken of these ideas not because I am moved by any kind of personal ambition, or even the ambition of glory, because, at the end of the day, ambitions of glory remain a vanity, and as Martí said, ‘All the glory of the world fits into a kernel of corn.’
“And so, upon coming here to talk in this way to the people of Venezuela, I do so thinking honorably and deeply, that if we want to save America, if we want to save the freedom of each one of our societies that, at the end of the day, are part of one great society, which is the society of Latin America; if it is that we want to save the revolution of Cuba, the revolution of Venezuela and the revolution of all the countries on our continent, we have to come closer to each other and we have to solidly support each other, because alone and divided, we will fail.”
That is what I said on that day and today, 54 years later, I endorse it!
I must only include on that list the other nations of the world which, for more than half a century, have been victims of exploitation and plunder. That was the struggle of Hugo Chávez.
Not even he himself suspected how great he was.
¡Until victory forever (Hasta la victoria siempre), unforgettable friend!
Fidel Castro Ruz
I took a good look at Obama in the famous “Summit Meeting”. Sometimes he was overcome by tiredness, he unwillingly shut his eyes but, at times, he slept with open eyes.
The Cartagena Summit was not a meeting of a trade union of misinformed presidents, but a meeting among official representatives of 33 countries of this hemisphere. The overwhelming majority of them are asking for solutions to the most pressing economic and social problems that affect the region with the most unequal distribution of wealth in the world.
I do not wish to get ahead of the opinions of millions of persons, capable of making and in-depth and objective analysis of the problems affecting Latin America, the Caribbean and the rest of a globalized world, where a few have it all and the rest have nothing. The system imposed by imperialism in this hemisphere, whatever its name, is worn out and unsustainable.
In the near future, humanity will have to cope, among others, with the problems associated with climate change, security and the production of food for the ever-growing world population.
Excessive rainfall is affecting both Colombia and Venezuela. A recent analysis revealed that on March this year, high temperatures in the US were 4.8 Centigrade degrees hotter than the all-time average. The consequences of those changes, which are well known in the capitals of the main European countries, give rise to catastrophic problems for humanity.
Peoples expect political leaders to provide clear answers to these problems.
Colombians, whose country hosted the disreputable Summit, are a hardworking and self-sacrificing people who need, as much as all others, the cooperation of their Latin American brothers and sisters who are, in this case, the Venezuelans, Brazilians, Ecuadorians, Peruvians and others capable of doing what the Yankees, with their sophisticated weapons, their expansionism and their insatiable craving for material goods will never do. The visionary formula stated by José Martí is now more necessary than ever in history: “The trees must form ranks to keep the giant with seven-league boots from passing! It is the time of mobilization, of marching together, and we must go forward in close ranks, like silver in the veins of the Andes.”
Far off from the brilliant and lucid ideas of Bolivar and Marti are the mulled over, sweetened and relentlessly reiterated words of the illustrious Nobel laureate, expressed during a ridiculous tour around the Colombian countryside, which I heard yesterday in the afternoon. They only served to remind us of the Alliance for Progress’ speeches delivered 51 years ago, when the monstrous crimes that lashed this hemisphere had not been committed as yet, where our country struggled not only for its right to independence but also for its right to exist as a nation.
Obama spoke about the distribution of land. He did not specify how much land would be distributed, when and how.
The Yankee transnationals will never give up their control over the land, the water, the mines and the natural resources of our countries. Their soldiers should vacate the military bases; their troops should be withdrawn from each and every one of our territories. They should renounce to the unequal exchange and plundering of our nations.
Perhaps the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States shall turn into what should be a hemispheric political organization without the presence of the United States and Canada. Their decadent and unsustainable empire has already earned the right to rest in peace.
I think that the images about the Summit should be well preserved as an example of a disaster.
I leave aside the scandal caused by the misconduct attributed to the members of the Secret Service responsible for guaranteeing Obama’s personal security. I am under the impression that the staff entrusted with that task is characterized by its professionalism. This is what I saw during my visit to the United Nations, while they were protecting the Heads of States. They have, no doubt, protected him from those who would not have hesitated to perpetrate an action against him out of racial prejudice.
May Obama be able to sleep with eyes shut, if only for a few hours, without having anyone saddling him with the job of delivering a speech about the immortality of the crab at an unreal Summit.
Fidel Castro Ruz
April 16, 2012
President Chávez presented his annual report on activities carried out in 2011 and his program for 2012 to the Venezuelan Parliament. After thoroughly carrying out the formalities required by this important activity, he addressed the official state authorities, members of parliament from all parties, and supporters and opposition members who had come to the Assembly to participate in the country’s most solemn act.
As usual, the Bolivarian leader was gracious and respectful to all those present. When anyone asked for the floor to make a clarification, he granted it as soon as possible. When one of the members of parliament, who had warmly greeted Chávez as did other opposition members, asked to speak, in a great political gesture Chávez interrupted his report presentation and gave her the floor. What surprised me was the extreme severity of the rebuke, launched against the president with words that really put to test Chávez’ chivalry and cold blood. The MPs statement was undoubtedly an insult, although this was not her intention. He alone was capable of calmly responding to the offensive word ‘thief’ that she had used to judge the president’s conduct in terms of the adopted laws and measures.
After verifying the exact term that was used, Chávez responded to the individual challenge for debate with an elegant and sedated phrase, “An eagle does not hunt flies,” and without adding another word he calmly proceeded with his report.
It represented an insurmountable test of mental agility and self control. Another woman, of unquestionable humble origins, expressed her astonishment in moving and heartfelt words over what she had just witnessed and the overwhelming majority present broke out in applause. Judging by the sheer volume, the applause seemed to be coming from all of Chávez’ friends and many of his adversaries as well.
Chávez’ report lasted more than nine hours without the people ever losing interest. Maybe because of that incident, his words were heard by an immeasurable number of people. Many times I have given extensive speeches on difficult topics, always striving to make the ideas I was transmitting understandable. And I was really at a loss to explain how that soldier of humble origins was able to keep his mind so agile and his incomparable talent to deliver such an address without losing his voice or strength.
To me politics is an extensive and decisive battle of ideas. Publicity is the work of publicists, who perhaps know the techniques to get listeners, spectators and readers to do what they are told to do. If that science, or art, or whatever they call it is employed for the good of human beings, they deserve some respect; the same respect merited by those who teach people how to think.
Venezuela today is the site of a great battle. Internal and external enemies of the revolution prefer chaos—as Chávez has said—to the just, organized and peaceful development of the country. Being accustomed to analyzing the events that have occurred over more than half a century, and to observing, with greater foundations for judgment, the eventful history of our time and human behavior, one learns to almost predict the future development of events.
To promote a far-reaching Revolution in Venezuela was no easy task. Venezuela is a country full of glorious history, but extraordinarily rich in resources that are of vital importance to the imperialist powers that have, and continue to map out guidelines in the world.
Political leaders the likes of Romulo Betancourt and Carlos Andres Perez lack the most minimal personal qualities to carry out such a task. Furthermore, Betancourt was excessively vain and hypocritical. He had many opportunities to learn about the situation in Venezuela. As a young man he was a member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of Costa Rica. He had a strong grasp of Latin American history and the role of imperialism, of poverty rates, and the ruthless plundering of natural resources in South America. He could not ignore that in a vastly rich country such as Venezuela, the majority of the people lived in extreme poverty. The archival footage is irrefutable proof of that reality of life.
As Chávez has explained many times, for more than half a century Venezuela was the world’s major oil exporter. At the beginning of the 20th century, European and Yankee warships intervened to support an illegal and tyrannical government that handed the country over to foreign monopolies. It is well known that incalculable funds flowed out of Venezuela to swell the wealth of monopolies and the Venezuelan oligarchy.
I remember when I visited Venezuela for the first time—after the triumph of the Revolution, to give thanks for the support and friendliness afforded to our struggle—, oil was worth barely two dollars a barrel.
Afterwards when I went to Venezuela to take part in the swearing-in ceremony for Chávez, the day he took an oath on the “dying constitution” held by Calderas, oil was worth seven dollars a barrel, despite 40 years having passed since my first visit and almost 30 years since the “distinguished” Richard Nixon had cancelled the direct convertibility of the United States dollar to gold and the US began to buy the world with pieces of paper. For a century, Venezuela was a supplier of cheap fuel to the empire’s economy and a net exporter of capital to developed and rich countries.
Why did these repugnant situations dominate for more than a century?
Latin American Armed Forces’ officials went to their privileged schools in the United States, where the Olympic champions of democracies gave them special courses on maintaining imperialist and bourgeois order. Coups d’état were always welcomed if their objective was to “defend democracies,” safeguarding and guaranteeing this repugnant system, in league with the oligarchies. Whether voters knew how to read and write, whether they had homes, employment, medical services and education were unimportant as long as the sacred right to property was maintained. Chávez brilliantly explains this situation. No one knows as well as him what happened in our countries.
Even worse was that the sophisticated nature of weapons, the complex workings and use of modern armaments that require years of learning, the training of highly qualified specialists, and the almost prohibitive cost of such weapons for the weak economies of the continent created a very strong mechanism of subordination and dependence. The US Government, employing mechanisms that did not require prior consultation with the other governments, set guidelines and policies for the military. The most sophisticated techniques of torture were passed on to the so-called security agencies to interrogate those who rebelled against the dirty and repugnant system of hunger and exploitation.
Despite all this, many honest officials, tired of so many indignations, bravely attempted to eradicate that embarrassing treason against the history of our independence struggles.
In Argentina, military official Juan Domingo Peron was able to design an independent and worker-based policy in his country. A bloody military coup overthrew him, expelled him from his country, and kept him in exile from 1955 to 1973. Years later, under the aegis of the Yankees, they once again attacked the government, murdering, torturing and disappearing tens of thousands of Argentines. They were not even able to defend the country during the colonial war that England carried out against Argentina with the conspiratorial support of the United States and henchman Augusto Pinochet with his cohort of fascists officers trained at the School of the Americas.
In Santo Domingo, Colonel Francisco Caamaño Deño; in Peru, General Velazco Alvarado; in Panama, General Omar Torrijos; and in other countries captains and officers who gave their lives anonymously were the antithesis of the traitorous behavior embodied by Somoza, Trujillo, Stroessner and the cruel tyrannies in Uruguay, El Salvador and other countries in Central and South America. The revolutionary military personnel did not expound elaborate theories, nor was this to be expected. They were not academicians educated in political science, but rather men with a sense of honor who loved their country.
But how far can honest men—who deplore injustice and crime—go along the path of revolution?
Venezuela is an outstanding example of the theoretical and practical role that the military can play in the revolutionary struggle for the independence of our peoples, as they did two centuries ago under the brilliant leadership of Simon Bolivar.
Chávez, a Venezuelan military officer of humble origins, stepped into the political life of Venezuela inspired by the ideas of the Liberator of America. On Bolivar, an inexhaustible source of inspiration, Marti wrote: “he won sublime battles with soldiers barefoot and half naked […] who never fought so much, nor fought better, in the world for freedom …”
“… Of Bolivar, he said, you can talk only after climbing up a mountain to use it as a platform […] or after freeing a bunch of peoples united in one fist …”
“… what he did not do, still remains undone today, because Bolivar still has things to do in the Americas.”
More than half a century later the famous, award-winning poet Pablo Neruda wrote a poem on Bolivar which Chávez frequently quotes. The final stanza reads:
“I met Bolivar one long morning, in Madrid, at the head of the Fifth Regiment, Father, I said, you are or not or who you are? And looking at the Mountain Headquarters, he said:
‘I wake up every hundred years when the people awaken.’ ”
But the Bolivarian leader is not limited to theoretical elaborations. His concrete measures are implemented without hesitation. The English-speaking Caribbean countries, which have to contend with modern and luxurious Yankee cruise ships for the right to receive tourists in their hotels, restaurants and recreation centers, quite often foreign-owned, but at least they generate employment, will always welcome fuel from Venezuela, supplied by that country with special payment facilities, when the barrel reached prices that sometimes exceeded US $100.
In the tiny state of Nicaragua, the land of Sandino, the “General of Free Men”, the Central Intelligence Agency organized the exchange of guns for drugs through Luis Posada Carriles after he was rescued from a Venezuelan prison. This operation resulted in thousands of deaths and mutilations among that heroic people. Nicaragua has also received the solidarity support of Venezuela. These are unprecedented examples in the history of this hemisphere.
The ruinous Free Trade Agreement that the Yankees intend to impose on Latin America, as they did with Mexico, would turn Latin America and the Caribbean not only into the region with the world’s worst distribution of wealth, which already is. It will turn it into a huge market where corn and other staple foods that are traditional sources of plant and animal protein would be displaced by subsidized U.S. crops, as is already happening in Mexico.
Used cars and other goods are displacing Mexican industry manufactures; job opportunities are decreasing in both cities and the countryside; the drug and arms trades are escalating, growing numbers of youngsters aged 14 or 15 years are turned into fearsome criminals. Never before, buses or other vehicles full of people who even paid to be transported across the border in search of employment, have been kidnapped and mass murdered. Known figures grow from year to year. More than ten thousand people are now losing their lives each year.
It is impossible to analyze the Bolivarian Revolution without taking these realities into account.
The armed forces, in such social circumstances, are forced into endless and wearisome wars.
Honduras is not an industrialized, financial or commercial country, or even a major producer of drugs. However, some of its cities break the record of drug-related violent deaths. There instead stands the banner of a major base of the strategic forces of the United States Southern Command. What is happening there, and is already happening in more than one Latin American country, is the Dantesque picture painted above, from which some countries have begun to escape. Among them and first, Venezuela, not just because it has considerable natural resources, but because it has been rescued from the insatiable greed of foreign corporations and has sparked considerable political and social forces capable of great achievements. Venezuela today is quite another from that I went to only 12 years ago, which had already deeply impressed me, seeing it as a Phoenix rising again from the ashes of its history.
Mentioning the mysterious computer of Raul Reyes, in the hands of the U.S. and the CIA after the attack organized and supplied by them in full Ecuadorian territory, which killed Marulanda’s replacement as well as several unarmed American youths, a version has been released that Chávez supported the “narco-terrorist organization FARC.” The true terrorists and drug traffickers in Colombia are the paramilitaries that supplied drugs to American dealers to sell them in the largest drug market in the world: the United States.
I never spoke with Marulanda, but I did speak with honored writers and intellectuals who came to know him well. I discussed his thoughts and history. He was undoubtedly a brave and revolutionary man, which I do not hesitate to affirm. I explained that I did not agree with him on his tactics. In my view, two or three thousand men would have been more than enough to defeat a conventional army in the territory of Colombia. His mistake was to devise a revolutionary army with almost as many soldiers as the enemy. That was extremely expensive.
Today, technology has changed many aspects of war; the forms of struggle also change. In fact, the clash of conventional forces between powers possessing nuclear weapons has become impossible. We do not have to have the knowledge of Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking and thousands of other scientists to understand that. It is a latent danger and the result is known or should be known. Thinking beings could take millions of years to repopulate the planet.
Nevertheless, I hold the duty to fight, which in itself is something innate in man, to find solutions that will enable a more reasoned and dignified existence.
Since I met Chávez, now as president of Venezuela, from the final stages of the Pastrana administration, I always saw him interested in promoting peace in Colombia. He facilitated meetings between the Colombian government and the revolutionaries that took place in Cuba, note well, on the basis of reaching a true peace agreement and not a surrender.
I do not recall ever having heard Chávez promote anything but peace in Colombia, nor mention Raul Reyes. We always addressed other issues. He particularly appreciates the Colombians, millions of them live in Venezuela and everyone benefits from the social measures taken by the Revolution, and the people of Colombia appreciate that almost as much as those of Venezuela.
I wish to express my solidarity and appreciation to General Henry Rangel Silva, Head of Strategic Operational Command of the Armed Forces, and newly appointed Minister of Defense of the Bolivarian Republic. I had the honor of meeting him when he visited Chávez in Cuba a few months ago. I could see in him an intelligent, well-meant, capable, and yet modest man. I heard his calm, brave and clear speech, which inspired confidence.
He led the organization of the most perfect parade of a Latin American military force that I have ever seen. We hope it will serve as encouragement and example to other brother armies.
The Yankees had nothing to do with that parade, and would not be able to do better.
It is extremely unfair to criticize Chávez for the resources invested in the excellent weapons which were displayed there. I’m sure they will never be used to attack a neighboring country. The weapons, resources and knowledge must go along the paths of unity to see America, as The Liberator dreamed, ”… the greatest nation in the world, greatest not so much by virtue of her area and wealth as by her freedom and glory..”
Everything unites us more than Europe or the United States itself, except the lack of independence imposed on us for 200 years.
Fidel Castro Ruz
January 25, 2012
Yesterday I spoke about the time when Venezuela was an ally of the US empire and the country where Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch carried out their plans for the brutal in-flight bombing of a Cuban plane that caused the death and disappearance of all people aboard, including the youth fencing team that had just won all the gold medals at the Central-American and Caribbean Championships held in Venezuela. With the Pan-American Games underway in Guadalajara, we remember them with great sadness.
It was not the Venezuela of Rómulo Gallegos and Andrés Eloy Blanco but that of the scoundrel, traitor and venomous Rómulo Betancourt. A man who was jealous of the Cuban Revolution and who, as an ally of the imperialists, cooperated so much with their attacks against our homeland. At the time Venezuela was an oil property of the United States and, after Miami, represented the epicenter for counterrevolutionary actions against Cuba. History recalls how Venezuela played a significant role in the imperialist attack on Playa Giron (Bay of Pigs), the economic blockade and countless other crimes against our people. It was the beginning of the dark ages in Venezuela that came to an end when Hugo Chávez was sworn in on the “dying constitution” held in the trembling hands of former President Rafael Caldera.
Forty years had passed since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution and more than a century since the Yankee plundering of Venezuela’s oil, natural resources and sweat.
Many Venezuelans died amidst the ignorance and misery imposed by US and European gunboats!
Fortunately the other Venezuela exists, the Venezuela of Bolívar and Miranda, of Sucre and of a legion of brilliant leaders and thinkers who were able to conceive that great Latin American homeland of which we feel a part of and for which we have resisted aggressions and blockades for more than half a century.
“…so that Cuba’s independence will prevent the expansion of the United States throughout the Antilles, allowing that nation to fall, ever more powerfully, upon our American lands. Everything I have done, everything I will do, is toward this end,” wrote the apostle of our independence Jose Marti the day before he died in combat.
Included among us today is Hugo Chávez who is visiting a part of that great Latin American and Caribbean homeland envisioned by Simón Bolívar. Hugo Chávez understands better than anybody the José Martí principal that “…what Bolívar left undone, is still undone today. Bolívar has things yet to do in America.”
I spoke with him at length yesterday and today. I told him about the great passion with which I dedicate the energy I have left to the dreams of a better and more just world.
It is not difficult to share dreams with the Bolivarian leader when the empire is already showing unequivocal signs of a terminal illness.
Saving humanity from an irreversible disaster is something that today may be compromised by the stupidity of any of those mediocre presidents who in the most recent decades have led that empire or by one of those increasingly powerful leaders of the industrial military complex that rules the destiny of that country.
Friendly nations that have become increasingly important in the world economy —given their economic and technological advances and their condition as permanent members of the Security Council, such as the Popular Republic of China and the Russian Federation, along with the peoples of the so-called Third World in Asia, Africa and Latin America— could achieve this goal. The peoples of the developed and rich nations, increasingly sucked dry by their own financial oligarchies, are also starting to play a role in this battle for human survival.
Meanwhile, the Bolivarian people of Venezuela are organizing themselves and uniting to challenge and defeat the sickening oligarchy at the service of the empire that once again is attempting to take over the government of this country.
Venezuela, given its extraordinary educational, cultural and social developments, and its vast energy and natural resources, is called on to become a revolutionary model for the world.
Chávez, who came out of the ranks of the Venezuelan Army, is methodical and tireless. I have observed him over the course of 17 years, since his first visit to Cuba. He is an extremely humanitarian and law-abiding person; he has never taken revenge on anybody. The most humble and forgotten sectors of his country are profoundly grateful to him that for the first time in history there is a response to their dreams of social justice.
Hugo —I told him—, I clearly see that in a very short time the Bolivarian Revolution will create jobs, not only for the Venezuelan people, but also for their Colombian brothers, a hardworking people, who fought along with you for the independence of America, and of whom 40 percent live in poverty; a significant portion of them in extreme poverty.
I had the honor to speak with our distinguished visitor, the symbol of this other Venezuela, about these and many other topics.
Fidel Castro Ruz
October 18, 2011