Saturday, January 13, 2007

Confused About Venezuela? By: Eva Golinger -

Confused About Venezuela?
Saturday, Jan 13, 2007

By: Eva Golinger -

Over the past few days, major newspapers in the United States, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal, have published editorials aggressively and harshly criticizing recent declarations and decisions made by re-elected President Hugo Chávez and his cabinet. A large percentage of the content of these editorials, which reflect the viewpoints of the newspapers, are based on a distortion and misconception of new policies being implemented in Venezuela and the overall way government is functioning. In the Washington Post’s “Venezuela’s Leap Backward”, published on January 10, the editorial board intentionally and mistakenly portrays the recent presidential elections this past December in Venezuela as illegitimate and unfair. By falsely claiming that Chávez conducted a “one-sided campaign that left a majority of Venezuelans believing they might be punished if they did not cast their ballots for him”, the Post wants its readers to think Venezuelans who voted for Chávez did so under duress and fear. Nothing could be further from the truth. A majority of Venezuelans publicly express their sincere admiration and approval of President Chávez in an open and fearless way on a daily basis in this country. Most Venezuelans believe Chávez is the best president the nation has ever had, and statistics prove that his government has built more bridges, railroads, hospitals, clinics, universities, schools, highways and houses than any administration in the past. The Post editorial also attempts to downplay the “only 7 million votes” Chávez received, not mentioning that those seven million votes represent more than 63% of total votes – a landslide victory to the opposition candidate’s 37% - and that no president in Venezuelan history has ever, ever received such a large number of votes in an election.

The New York Times editorial, also published on January 10, attacks a recent statement made by President Chávez regarding the nationalization of one telephone company, CANTV, and an electric company. However the Times doesn’t explain that the CANTV is the only non-cellular telephone company in the country, giving it a complete monopoly on national land-line telecommunications and control over a majority of Internet service as well. Furthermore, the CANTV was privatized only in 1991, during the second non-consecutive term of Carlos Andrés Pérez a president later impeached for corruption who implemented a series of privatization measures, despite having run for office on a non-privatization platform just three years before. In fact, as soon as Carlos Andrés Pérez won office in 1988 after convincing the Venezuelan people he would not permit “neo-liberalism” on Venezuelan shores, he immediately began to announce the privatization of several national industries, including telecommunications, education and the medical and petroleum sectors. This deception led to massive anti-privatization protests during February 1989 during which the government ordered the armed forces to “open-fire” on the demonstrators and arrest and torture those not killed. The result was the “Caracazo”, a tragic scar on contemporary Venezuelan history that left more than 3,000 dead in mass gravesites and thousands more injured and detained. The re-nationalizing of Venezuela’s one landline phone company is a strategic necessity and an anti-monopoly measure necessary to ensure that Venezuelans have access to telecommunications service. (Take it from someone who lives here. You can’t even get a landline if it isn’t already installed in your residence. The waiting list is over 2 years and you have to bribe someone to actually do the job). And furthermore, the new Minister of Telecommunications, Jesse Chacón, announced that any company “nationalized” will be fully compensated for its shares and property at market value.

The third issue put forth in the editorials is the recent announcement by President Chávez that the license of private television station RCTV to operate on the public airwaves is up for review in May 2007 and most likely will not be renewed. The government has based its denial of the license renewal on RCTV’s lack of cooperation with tax laws, its failure to pay fines issued by the telecommunications commission, CONATEL, over the past twenty years, and its refusal to abide by constitutional laws prohibiting incitation to political violence, indecency, obscenity and the distortion of facts and information. The public airwaves, as in the case of the United States, are regulated by government. Television and radio stations apply for licenses from the telecommunications commission and are granted those licenses based on conditional compliance with articulated regulations. When a station does not abide by the requirements, it generally is fined and warned, repeatedly, until compliance is assured. In the specific case of RCTV, the station and its owner, multi-millionaire Marcel Granier, have refused to comply with the law and have continued to abuse and violate the clear and concise regulations that are supposed to guarantee Venezuelan citizens their constitutional right to “true and accurate information” (Article 58 of the Constitution).

RCTV’s owner, Marcel Granier, played a key role in the April 2002 coup d’etat against President Chávez and has used his station to engage in an ongoing campaign of anti-Chávez propaganda and efforts to destabilize the nation through distorting and manipulating information to create panic, apathy, fear and violence in Venezuelan society. The station’s clear violations of the telecommunications regulations and the Constitutional guarantees that protect freedom of speech and access to true and accurate information provide sufficient reason to deny the renewal of its license to use the public airwaves. Unlike the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times (Fidel Chávez?, January 11, 2007) mistakenly claims, Chávez and his government are not “shutting down” the private media station. RCTV can continue to operate on the private airwaves, i.e. cable and satellite television. As would be the case in any country where law and order are respected, RCTV will not receive a renewal on its license to remain on the public airwaves because it repeatedly violated the law during more than a decade.

Unfortunately, international groups that allegedly protect freedom of the press and of speech around the world, have fallen under the influence and manipulation of RCTV president Marcel Granier, who through his close relationship with Washington, is conducting a campaign to defend his station by user the banner of freedom and liberty. But consistent lawbreakers and coup leaders should not receive the support of international press watchdog groups and human rights defenders. Rather, those groups should praise the decision of the Venezuelan government to maintain the public airwaves in the hands of the public. The license so abused by RCTV will most likely be granted to various community and alternative media groups and stations in Venezuela that have emerged over the past few years as a result of the direct encouragement and support of the Chávez administration.

Finally, the editorials in the Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal, all criticize President Chávez’s announcement to create a new political party in Venezuela: the United Socialist Party of Venezuela. The editorials inaccurately claim that Chávez will dissolve all political parties in the country and allow only one party to operate. This is a dangerous and false inference. What Chávez really declared was the formation of a new revolutionary party that would be open to all parties that support the revolution. There will be no closing down or abolishing of other political parties in the nation; they can all remain as they wish and those that choose to merger or support the new party can also freely do so. Furthermore, Chávez indicated that the reason for the designing of a new political party is to break free from the old corrupt hierarchical party structures of the past that concentrate power in the hands of few and exclude and ignore the vast majority of supporters. Chávez remarked that the new party he seeks to promote will be formed by grassroots community movements, and that there will be no power structures that isolate and marginalize constituents.

If you only read the US press, you must be very confused about Venezuela. The extreme levels of distortion, lack of fact checking and source verification and outright manipulation of information in the US media on Venezuela is quite troubling and dangerous in a nation that has waged wars based on false data and misleading policies.
My box in a box

Good Bush replies to bad Bush:
"Bush is ruining our country, but my bush has never lied"

Friday, January 12, 2007

Keith's commentary highly critical Bush 'surge' speech

The president's speech could be considered a threat to Iran and Syria. "This is a presidency of Cliff Notes."

The Case of Venezuela's RCTV is Not About Free Speech By GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER


No single news item emerging from Venezuela has made foreigners, and especially North Americans, more queasy than the recent decision by the Chávez government not to renew the broadcasting concession previously granted to Radio Caracas Television (RCTV). Perhaps with some justification, many have a severe allergy to anything that smells of an attack on "free speech." Such hyper-sensitivity, however, obscures a crucial detail of the matter: the non-renewal of RCTV's concession is simply not about free speech.

The claims of the opposition and the foreign press, which assert a veritable "trampling" of human rights and press freedom, rest on a series of faulty claims:

1.) The Venezuelan government is behaving abnormally.

Central to the opposition's framing of the issue is the broad background of a slide toward authoritarianism and fascism. According to many, Venezuela has stepped decidedly outside the democratic norms governing behavior in the post-Cold War world, and the non-renewal of RCTV's concession is proof of this ab-normality.

This, however, could not be further from the case. The Bolivarian Constitution of 1999 does boast the most stringent requirements imposed by any constitution on the private media, enforcing above all a broad notion of "responsibility" on the latter. Media magnates have expressed a clear concern over this provision, and with good reason, since they had been operating irresponsibly for quite some time.

Were this constitutional provision fully enforced and legislated, the private media might be able to claim that their existence is somehow more difficult than other media outlets the world over. But as it stands, legal requirements and enforcement are hardly out of the ordinary. The Ley Resorte, or media responsibility law, has as its objective the "social responsibility of radio and television service providers," and has been credited with both protecting the rights of children and increasing the amount of domestically-produced programming.

However, the idea that media concessions entail responsibility is not at all unique. Even the U.S. FCC maintains a similar position, notwithstanding the swift de-regulation during the early years of the Reagan administration. As we all know, the FCC maintains certain content restrictions on broadcasting (more strict, it should be mentioned, than in many European nations), and is not unwilling to silence those who infringe upon these restrictions. Moreover, ever since the Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction," the enforcement of such restrictions has been ratcheted up (as in, e.g., FCC efforts to shut down infamous radio host Howard Stern, not to mention the continuous closure of smaller outfits).

And we are only speaking here of so-called "obscenity," which doesn't even compare to the charges against RCTV, which as is well-known, actively participated in a conspiracy which brought about several deaths and used those deaths to provoke a coup in April of 2002. This was followed by an equally active participation in the oil sabotage of December of the same year, which crippled the Venezuelan economy toward the same end.

While this provides little justification, it is worth mentioning how many FBI visits have been occasioned by "threats" against George W. Bush, despite the fact that these have been isolated and individual incidents, not the sort of organized rebellion and premeditated murder endorsed by the Venezuelan media.

2.) "Human rights" are being violated.

In his first significant intervention since being named vice president, Jorge Rodriguez spoke on the subject of RCTV at the swearing-in of Chávez's new ministerial train. He began from the dictionary definition of "concession": "the juridical means by which the administration cedes to a person the privative use of something in the public domain, or the management of a public service, for a determinate period of time and under certain conditions." Rodríguez added that "this is not Hugo Chávez saying this, this is in the dictionary."

And yet opposition media outlets attempt to paint the issue of the non-renewal of a concession as the violation of a human right. This "right" presumably means the right of a large private media conglomerate to have unrestricted access to a public good, to use and abuse this public good for profit without acquiring any responsibility. When RCTV head Marcel Granier wants to tug on liberal heartstrings, he adds in the claim that the human rights of the workers are being violated.

Yes, you heard right, RCTV (a division of business group 1BC) is concerned above all with their workers' rights. The government has been quick to point out in response that the concession is not being denied to the workers, and has actively encouraged RCTV workers to organize into a collective and request that the concession be granted to themselves.

3.) The government is "closing" a media outlet.

Many, moreover, have claimed that the government is unilaterally "closing" a media outlet, and that to do so represents a sort of quantitative attack on free speech. The fewer media outlets there are, so the argument goes, the less free the press.

As dubious as such arguments are in and of themselves, it should be clear that they don't even apply to the situation in question. Channel 2 is not being closed; broadcasts will continue. The concession to one private corporation is not being renewed, and will instead be granted to either another private corporation, a mixed public-private corporation, a collective of workers, or some other combination.

In his speech, Rodriguez was clear on this point: "Is the Bolivarian government closing down a television station? Is it violating the freedom of expression? No, it's not even revoking a concession The only television station that was closed during the eight years of this government was Venezolana de Televisión on that tragic night of April 11th."

Despite the current rhetoric, the media magnates running RCTV as well as other opposition outlets like Venevisión and Globovisión demonstrated little concern for "free speech" when they supported this short-lived coup d'etat which immediately closed down the only media outlet representing the poorest majority of the population (as well as various community media outlets like Catia-TV).

Indeed, the very fact that RCTV will be free to continue cable and satellite broadcasts demonstrates that what is at issue is the privative use of a public good (see #2 above) rather than the "silencing" of a media outlet.

4.) The gesture is "anti-democratic."

The claim that the non-renewal of RCTV's concession violates democratic norms is very much tied into those claims mentioned above, as it similarly invokes an indisputable "right" that private corporations have to a public good.

Speaking on Vive TV, influential Venezuelan intellectual Luis Britto García recently made clear that this is indeed a question of democracy, but one which runs contrary to the claims of the opposition media. The non-renewal of RCTV's concession is a step toward the democratization of the airwaves. What socialism could we be constructing, asked Britto, and especially what sort of democratic socialism, if access to the airwaves remained in the hands of a small oligopoly of magnates with international backers?

What could be more democratic than handing Channel 2 over to the 63 percent of Venezuelans who voted for Chávez? What could be more democratic than allowing RCTV workers to organize their own station? And what could be more democratic than allowing access to the airwaves for those traditionally excluded by the media oligarchy?

And, it should be mentioned, if we are speaking of "democracy," RCTV head Marcel Granier has little to say. After all, he and other media leaders actively participated in an anti-democratic and oligarchic coup against a repeatedly-confirmed democratic leader in April of 2002 (for an overview of the role of the media in the coup, see the film The Revolution Will Not Be Televised).

5.) In short, this is an issue of "free speech."

In a recent statement, the head of the Organization of American States, José Miguel Insulza, criticized the Venezuelan government for undermining "the pluralism of the media." Despite recognizing that this is an issue of domestic juridical competencies, Insulza nevertheless felt comfortable arguing that the move "seems to be a form of censorship against the freedom of expression."

Hugo Chávez replied in trademark style: "Insulza is an idiot, from the 'i' to the 't'." The Venezuelan government has interpreted the OAS chief's words as an intervention into what is a sovereign issue, and has called for his resignation (we should bear in mind that Venezuela was among those nations who fought the hard battle to get Insulza confirmed for the position in the first place).

If there remained any doubt about the issue, about whether the non-renewal of RCTV's concession constitutes an attack on free speech, one need only follow the logic of such an argument. In a session of the National Assembly devoted to discussing Insulza's comments, an MVR deputy did just that, pointing out that the OAS head would have Venezuela restore other similar "concessions," specifically those traditionally granted to the multinational oil companies who had looted Venezuela for decades.

There is no qualitative difference between the two sort of concession: both have been traditionally and undemocratically granted to large corporations which have been given free rein to reap unlimited profits from what is undeniably a public good. No, this is not a question of "free speech," but rather in the words of Venezuelan foreign minister Nicolás Maduro, it's about "revoking the disgusting privileges of a communications oligarchy allied with international financiers."

George Ciccariello-Maher is a Ph.D. candidate in political theory at UC Berkeley. He lives in Caracas, and can be reached at gjcm (at)

The Zapatista Year Begins Again: Celebrating the "Sum of the World" in Chiapas By JOHN ROSS

Oventik, Chiapas.

The unmistakable reedy voice of Subcomandante Marcos floated eerily over craggy peaks and deep hollows illuminated by a full moon that had opportunistically parted the ghostly mountain mists just an hour after midnight this past New Year's Eve. Speaking entirely in Tzotzil, the language of the People of the Bat ("Tzotz") or highland Maya, the Zapatistas leader reviewed the pluses and minuses of the past year to thousands of Indians and outlanders gathered at this "caracol" or political/cultural center in Los Altos of Chiapas, on the 13th anniversary of this unique indigenous uprising.

The Subcomandante's words were translated into Spanish by Comandanta Hortencia, a member of the rebels' politico-military structure, the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee (CCRI), the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) General Command. "What we have learned on the road of our struggle is that we could not win unless we united with the people who struggle everywhere." Hortencia's full, dulcet tones rose and fell over the moonstruck mountain landscape, a moment of maximum luminosity in a world that is not often so crystal clear.

The 13th anniversary of the EZLN's taking of the old colonial city of San Cristobal de las Casas and seven other county seats in southeastern Chiapas January 1st, 1994 was encapsulated by an "Encounter Between the Peoples of the Zapatista Communities and the Peoples of the World", a four-day huddle (Dec. 30th-Jan.2nd) up at Oventik, the EZLN's most accessible outpost. The event seemed to mark a return to the roots of civil Zapatismo with more than 200 officials from the 29 autonomous municipalities and five Juntas De Buen Gobierno (JBGs or "Good Government Committees") that administrate the autonomous regions, on hand to discuss the nuts and bolts of building autonomy with 1500 delegates from 47 countries (most from Mexico), "a journey to the heart of the caracoles" as Lieutenant-Colonel Moises, who presided over the conclave at the caracol "Resistance and Rebellion for Humanity", proposed.

In Mayan numerology, 13 is "the perfect number" - "the sum of the world" consider Mayan daykeepers who meet each January in Momostenango in western Guatemala to correct the calendar. 13 represents the number of days for human gestation and is the cornerstone of keeping time on the Mayan calendar: 20 13-day periods compose the 260-day Mayan year. The new Mayan calendar cycle will begin in 2013.

But the Oventik encounter, a kind of gathering of the tribes who "adhere" to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle ("La Zezta" in the new Zapatista orthography), not a few of them spectacularly pierced and tattooed (more kaffias were in evidence than at a good-sized Palestinian demonstration in San Francisco) celebrated another anniversary: the first birthday party of "the Other Campaign", a mobilization convoked by the "Zezta" and launched last January 1st as Subcomandante Marcos, now doing business as "Delegate Zero" began a perambulation that took him all the way to the northern border, summoning activists to band together to build a new Mexican Left from the bottom up.

Judging by the numbers and their enthusiasm at the "Encuentro", the Other Campaign continues to be a viable mechanism for spreading the Zapatista message of unity from below.

But it has been a tentative, turbulent first year for "La Otra." Drawing sparse crowds as he plied the backwaters of a nation preparing for presidential elections, Delegate Zero and the Other Campaign were universally ignored by all but the most marginal of media (the Mexican Left daily La Jornada was the sole exception.) Brutal police repression of militant farmers at San Salvador Atenco in May was a first flawed test of the Other Campaign's capacity to mount a mass movement in defense of its adherents. Marcos's subsequent imposition of a Red Alert on the Zapatista autonomous zone in Chiapas lasted five months, shut down the civil infrastructure, and cut the communities off from commerce.

Delegate Zero's demonization of left-center presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) divided the left at a critical juncture and La Otra's refusal to participate in the post-electoral struggle after the fraud-marred July 2nd election was stolen from AMLO led to charges of sectarianism - the ubiquitous presence of portraits of Joseph Stalin at Other Campaign marches and rallies lent credence to the allegation.

But there were no portraits of Old Joe up at Oventik and the nominal shrillness of the mostly young adherents seemed muted by the presence of civil Zapatismo. Instead, the ambiance was one of respectful interchange between activists learning how to build Zapatismo where they live and the ski-masked autonomous officials.

"We do not have to consult the dictionary to know what the word 'autonomy' means because we live it everyday in our houses and our fields and the community" offered "Beto", a member of the JBG "Whirlwind of Our Word" on the Ejido Morelia.

"We do not charge money to serve our communities because we are all poor. We serve by obeying the will of the people ('mandar obedeciendo".) We serve for three years but if we do not do well, we must go before then" was how a representative from the Caracol at Roberto Barrios explained the Zapatista way of governance.

"I did not know how to read but I did know how to think," observed a young woman from the Caracol at La Realidad, musing on how she came to participate in the autonomous council. Woman comprised about 30-40% of the Zapatista delegates at the Encounter - most of the autonomous authorities represented a new generation that has grown up in the rebellion.

Workshops examining how the rebels organize autonomous education, health services, agrarian projects, their justice system, cultural collectives, and communication presented the Zapatista model of autonomy. A session on fair trade, essential to financing Zapatista infrastructure, featured promoters of anti-capitalist condoms, bicycle power, and organic coffee. Coffee sales are a building block of the EZLN's autonomy but cooperatives of Zapatista farmers such as Muk Vitz and Y'axil are not able to produce enough to meet the spiraling international demand for rebel coffee.

The concept of being a Zapatista where one lives seems to have spilled over both of Mexico's borders with ex-guerilleros from Guatemala and Los Angeles-based Chicano activists ("The Other Campaign on The Other Side") sharing their experiences as did activists from as far a field as Greater Kurdistan.

La Otra, which suspended activities in early December after trekking the nation from border to border will soon be back on the road. Comandante David, an Oventik native, confirmed that small groups of Zapatista comandantes will spread out into the four corners of Mexico to share their experiences with adherents and listen to "los de abajo" ("those from below") with the goal of weaving many little resistances into one great anti-capitalist upsurge from the bottom.

"We are not afraid of what lies ahead" David advised, a pointed reference to the "hard hand" ("mano dura") of new Mexican president Felipe Calderon who has taken to strutting around in a military uniform. The Zapatista rebellion has now outlasted three Mexican presidents (Carlos Salinas, Ernesto Zedillo, and Vicente Fox) and "Fecal", as his detractors dub him, will assuredly have to suffer the EZLN for the next six years - if, in fact, he remains president that long.

"The Encounter of the Peoples of the Zapatista Communities with the Peoples of the World" was a preamble to the long-awaited "Intergalactica", a more ambitious coming together of activists from the five continents and beyond slated for the five Zapatista caracoles July 20th-28th. The first Intergalactica (all sentient beings from other planets were invited) was staged in the jungle mud in the summer of 1996 and became a seedbed for the anti-globalization movement and the nation of Seattle. "Now we are talking about a different globalization - the globalization of rebellion," emphasizes Moises who is coordinating the new edition.

Registration for the Intergalactica is being handled on the World Wide Web ( as befits a rebellion, which has often seemed to take place on the Internet. The first rebel organization to seize upon the reach of the net to disseminate its insurrection, all five EZLN caracoles are now net accessible and the Internet has become a motor of internal cohesion as well as a window through which to tell the Zapatistas' story to the world.

Solidarity was the subtext of the Encuentro at the Caracol "Rebellion and Resistance for Humanity." Mexico 2007 is a motherland with many "ombligos" (unbillicuses) of resistance. San Salvador Atenco and Oaxaca are just two. Delegates from the Oaxaca Peoples Popular Assembly (APPO) which held the streets of their state capital for seven months before government troops came down upon them like Cossacks (over 200 arrests and 19 dead) journeyed up to Oventik to express gratitude to the EZLN for "blazing the path on the road of resistance." A delegation from Atenco, among them the father of Alexis Benuhmea whose 21st birthday would have been January 3rd had not federal and state police murdered him in Atenco last May, came to denounce the brutal indignities forced upon them - 26 militants remain imprisoned.

But notoriously absent from the pronouncements of indignation and solidarity was Lopez Obrador, victim of massive electoral fraud last summer, who now travels the Mexican outback, speaking and listening to "los de abajo", on his own private Other Campaign. According to Sergio Martinez Lescano, who co-edits the EZLN journal "Rebeldia" and is considered Subcomandante Marcos's key advisor (reporters label him "the ayatollah"), the Other Campaign abstained from participating in the post-electoral marches and encampments that brought millions of Mexicans into the streets because that movement was "declared from the top down." Lescano made his observations at a post-encounter forum at San Cristobal's University of the Tierra during which Sub Marcos regaled the audience with a convoluted creation myth that had to do with falling stars and the origin of popcorn. No encounter with the EZLN would have been complete without such myth making from Marcos, a master storyteller.

Being a Zapatista wherever one lives on the planet could be a hazardous occupation in 2007 and particularly so in this distant neighbor nation where Calderon has invested his fragile authority in the Mexican military - 18,000 troops remain in Chiapas with large encampments in the Zapatista zone.

Yet as their anthem enjoins, the compas advance steadily on the horizon. At the closing ceremony of the "Encounter Between the Peoples of the Zapatista Communities and the Peoples of the World" in drizzle and mud that is often a condition of life in the highlands of Chiapas, Beto, the bard from the Ejido Morelia whose silver tongue makes him an heir to Marcos, poetized about being immersed in a sea of dreams and proclaimed his "Alegria para la Rebeldia" (joy at rebelliousness) as the banda de guerra cranked up "Horizontes" the Zapatista hymn based on the old revolutionary corrido "Carbine 30-30", and the adherents danced crazily in the mud. The Zapatista year had begun again.

John Ross will be on the road in the southwest (February), the south and the Midwest (March) and the East Coast (April) with his latest opus ZAPATISTAS! Making Another World Possible--Chronicles of Resistance 2000-2006 Contact him at for bookings (note - dates are disappearing fast.)

Guantánamo is a US torture camp

Evidence of prisoner abuse at Guantánamo is overwhelming - and it hasn't made anyone safer

Vikram Dodd
Friday January 12, 2007

It would be the ideal spot for a beachside birthday party. Surrounded by a turquoise sea, palm trees and white sand, the US detention camp at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba was five years old yesterday. Tony Blair calls it an "anomaly", but the evidence is overwhelming. Camp Delta, which still houses 470 men never convicted of any crime, is a torture camp. That should be the starting point of any debate about what is acceptable in the west's fight with Islamist extremists. More than 750 men have passed through the camp, with nearly half being released. Many prisoners, past and present, have given consistent and repeated testimony of serious abuses and ill treatment. There is also significant evidence from US officials and government documents of widespread abuse at the camp.

The British detainees known as the Tipton Three allege they were repeatedly beaten, shackled in painful positions for long periods and subjected to sleep deprivation. They were also subjected to strobe lighting, loud music and extremes of hot and cold - all meant to break them psychologically. Other detainees have suffered beatings, sexual assaults and death threats. At least one man has been "water boarded" - tied to a board and placed under water so that he had the sensation of drowning.

According to the Red Cross, the regime at Guantánamo causes psychological suffering that has driven inmates mad, with scores of suicide attempts and three inmates killing themselves last year.

Even US officials are shocked. Last week FBI documents revealed that an inmate's head had been wrapped in tape for quoting from the Qur'an. Another was humiliated for his religious beliefs and "baptised" by a soldier posing as a Catholic priest. The documents show FBI agents saw 26 instances of abuse in their time at Guantánamo. The FBI is highly sceptical about alleged confessions gained by its military colleagues. A May 2004 FBI memo branded intelligence gained from "special techniques" as "suspect at best". Indeed, one of the Tipton Three confessed to being in a video shot at an Afghan terror camp alongside Osama bin Laden - in fact, at the time he was working in an electronics store in the Midlands.

But the US should not shoulder all the blame. Some of the material from Guantánamo has been used by Britain's counter-terrorism agencies. In June 2003 Tony Blair told the Commons: "Information is still coming from people detained there ... That information is important." George Bush, his aides and the US military define what they have been doing as a special programme using special measures: their position appears to be that as long as blood is not drawn, it is not torture.

One official investigation found an inmate had been sexually humiliated and forced to perform dog tricks on a leash. It said the conduct was "abusive and degrading" but not torture. In a UK court hearing over Guantánamo, a senior British judge, Mr Justice Collins, declared: "America's idea of what is torture is not the same as ours." A UN report has confirmed evidence of torture, and Amnesty International has declared Guantánamo "the gulag of our time". Guantánamo is not the only US torture camp. Bagram in Afghanistan has been dogged by stories of abuse, and there are secret US prisons around the world where it is widely feared new horrors are occuring.

Human rights have been traded away in Guantánamo in the hope of gaining security, and it has not worked. One of the US's founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, stated: "He who trades liberty for security deserves neither and will lose both." Adorned on the walls of the Guantánamo camp is its mission statement: "Honour-bound to defend freedom". After five years of Guantánamo, do you feel any safer?


Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007

Different Set of Rules for Neolibs, Israel Firsters

Once again, we are served up an object lesson on who runs things in Washington.

“A major loophole in the Democrats’ recently unveiled ethics package will allow non-profit arms of controversial lobbying organizations to fund travel excursions for members of Congress,” reports Raw Story.

And who benefits from this “ethics exemption”?

AIPAC, of course.

“All-expense-paid tours to Israel are among the most common overseas trips made by members of Congress and their aides,” writes the Jewish Daily Forward. “Watchdog groups, using data from congressional filings, have reported that Israel is the leading destination for privately sponsored congressional trips.”

I have referred to these “trips” as “walking tours” that produce stepfordized pro-Israelites, returning to America and Congress in prime shape to vote for whatever outrage the political establishment in Israel have in mind, from pushing for an attack against Iran to continued brutality against the Palestinians.

According to AIPAC’s Josh Block, these walking tours are “substantive, educational, and valuable,” that is to say they serve well the Israel First agenda, so a Mack truck sized loophole will be provided under the 501(c)(3) ruse, designed for “educational trips for private citizens and public officials.” According to Raw Story, “organizations with that designation do not conduct lobbying directly and therefore are allowed to fund travel for members.” How AIPAC, the largest and most pernicious “lobbying group” in Washington, falls under this designation remains a mystery.

Incidentally, the other organization exempt from the ethics bill is the Aspen Institute, a pet project of the Carnegie Corporation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the Ford Foundation, a ruling elite cabal dedicated to “fostering enlightened leadership, the appreciation of timeless ideas and values, and open-minded dialogue on contemporary issues,” that is to say pushing the Neolib World Order agenda outside of ethical boundaries that apply to the rest of us, mere commoners.

Lest you think the Aspen neolibs are simply east coast banksters, consider they count as members “Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, former Vice President Al Gore, Clinton Secretary of State Madeline Albright, and former New York Times reporter Judith Miller,” a regular rogue’s gallery of war criminals, neocons, One World free traders, and quislings.

This “loophole” should serve as an example that our political system is a rigged game, a fixed horse race, no matter who is in office. Of course, examples are worthless if they are ignored, and the corporate media has dutifully ignored this story, as should be expected.

Not only did the Democrat Queen of AIPAC, Nancy Pelosi, decline to comment, so did Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Both understand well what side of the bread gets the butter.

In short, there is nothing to see here, so move on. Naturally, this story, not even registering on the corporate media radar screen, will dissipate soon enough, swept aside by more important news, for instance the paparazzi feeding frenzy over Prince William and his girlfriend and the introduction of the iPhone.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join with you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statement of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: "A time comes when silence is betrayal." That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.

Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation's history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don't mix, they say. Aren't you hurting the cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.

In the light of such tragic misunderstandings, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church - the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate - leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.

I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi or to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia.

Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they can play in a successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reason to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.

Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the NLF, but rather to my fellow Americans, who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents.

The Importance of Vietnam

Since I am a preacher by trade, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor - both black and white - through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.

My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years - especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked - and rightly so - what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today - my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.

For those who ask the question, "Aren't you a civil rights leader?" and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957 when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: "To save the soul of America." We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself unless the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear. In a way we were agreeing with Langston Hughes, that black bard of Harlem, who had written earlier:

O, yes,

I say it plain,

America never was America to me,

And yet I swear this oath -

America will be!

Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.

As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964; and I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission - a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for "the brotherhood of man." This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men - for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the "Vietcong" or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this one? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?

Finally, as I try to delineate for you and for myself the road that leads from Montgomery to this place I would have offered all that was most valid if I simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of sonship and brotherhood, and because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially for his suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them.

This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation's self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.

Strange Liberators

And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond to compassion my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them too because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.

They must see Americans as strange liberators. The Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1945 after a combined French and Japanese occupation, and before the Communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Instead, we decided to support France in its re-conquest of her former colony.

Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people were not "ready" for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long. With that tragic decision we rejected a revolutionary government seeking self-determination, and a government that had been established not by China (for whom the Vietnamese have no great love) but by clearly indigenous forces that included some Communists. For the peasants this new government meant real land reform, one of the most important needs in their lives.

For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to re-colonize Vietnam.

Before the end of the war we were meeting eighty percent of the French war costs. Even before the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, they began to despair of the reckless action, but we did not. We encouraged them with our huge financial and military supplies to continue the war even after they had lost the will. Soon we would be paying almost the full costs of this tragic attempt at re-colonization.

After the French were defeated it looked as if independence and land reform would come again through the Geneva agreements. But instead there came the United States, determined that Ho should not unify the temporarily divided nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious modern dictators - our chosen man, Premier Diem. The peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly routed out all opposition, supported their extortionist landlords and refused even to discuss reunification with the north. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by U.S. influence and then by increasing numbers of U.S. troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem's methods had aroused. When Diem was overthrown they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictatorships seemed to offer no real change - especially in terms of their need for land and peace.

The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received regular promises of peace and democracy - and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us - not their fellow Vietnamese - the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move or be destroyed by our bombs. So they go - primarily women and children and the aged.

They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals, with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one "Vietcong"-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them - mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children, degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.

What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?

We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation's only non-Communist revolutionary political force - the unified Buddhist church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men. What liberators?

Now there is little left to build on - save bitterness. Soon the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call fortified hamlets. The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these? Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. These too are our brothers.

Perhaps the more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been designated as our enemies. What of the National Liberation Front - that strangely anonymous group we call VC or Communists? What must they think of us in America when they realize that we permitted the repression and cruelty of Diem which helped to bring them into being as a resistance group in the south? What do they think of our condoning the violence which led to their own taking up of arms? How can they believe in our integrity when now we speak of "aggression from the north" as if there were nothing more essential to the war? How can they trust us when now we charge them with violence after the murderous reign of Diem and charge them with violence while we pour every new weapon of death into their land? Surely we must understand their feelings even if we do not condone their actions. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts.

How do they judge us when our officials know that their membership is less than twenty-five percent Communist and yet insist on giving them the blanket name? What must they be thinking when they know that we are aware of their control of major sections of Vietnam and yet we appear ready to allow national elections in which this highly organized political parallel government will have no part? They ask how we can speak of free elections when the Saigon press is censored and controlled by the military junta. And they are surely right to wonder what kind of new government we plan to help form without them - the only party in real touch with the peasants. They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again and then shore it up with the power of new violence?

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence when it helps us to see the enemy's point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.

So, too, with Hanoi. In the north, where our bombs now pummel the land, and our mines endanger the waterways, we are met by a deep but understandable mistrust. To speak for them is to explain this lack of confidence in Western words, and especially their distrust of American intentions now. In Hanoi are the men who led the nation to independence against the Japanese and the French, the men who sought membership in the French commonwealth and were betrayed by the weakness of Paris and the willfulness of the colonial armies. It was they who led a second struggle against French domination at tremendous costs, and then were persuaded to give up the land they controlled between the thirteenth and seventeenth parallel as a temporary measure at Geneva. After 1954 they watched us conspire with Diem to prevent elections which would have surely brought Ho Chi Minh to power over a united Vietnam, and they realized they had been betrayed again.

When we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be remembered. Also it must be clear that the leaders of Hanoi considered the presence of American troops in support of the Diem regime to have been the initial military breach of the Geneva agreements concerning foreign troops, and they remind us that they did not begin to send in any large number of supplies or men until American forces had moved into the tens of thousands.

Hanoi remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about the earlier North Vietnamese overtures for peace, how the president claimed that none existed when they had clearly been made. Ho Chi Minh has watched as America has spoken of peace and built up its forces, and now he has surely heard of the increasing international rumors of American plans for an invasion of the north. He knows the bombing and shelling and mining we are doing are part of traditional pre-invasion strategy. Perhaps only his sense of humor and of irony can save him when he hears the most powerful nation of the world speaking of aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a poor weak nation more than eight thousand miles away from its shores.

At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless on Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called enemy, I am as deeply concerned about our troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure while we create hell for the poor.

This Madness Must Cease

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.

This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words:

"Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism."

If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. It will become clear that our minimal expectation is to occupy it as an American colony and men will not refrain from thinking that our maximum hope is to goad China into a war so that we may bomb her nuclear installations. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horribly clumsy and deadly game we have decided to play.

The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways.

In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war. I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do immediately to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:

End all bombing in North and South Vietnam

Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation.

Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in Laos.

Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and in any future Vietnam government.

Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva agreement.

Part of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an offer to grant asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his life under a new regime which included the Liberation Front. Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done. We most provide the medical aid that is badly needed, making it available in this country if necessary.

Protesting The War

Meanwhile we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must continue to raise our voices if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative means of protest possible.

As we counsel young men concerning military service we must clarify for them our nation's role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of conscientious objection. I am pleased to say that this is the path now being chosen by more than seventy students at my own alma mater, Morehouse College, and I recommend it to all who find the American course in Vietnam a dishonorable and unjust one. Moreover I would encourage all ministers of draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors. These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.

There is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter the struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing. The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy- and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. Such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.

In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military "advisors" in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counter-revolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia and why American napalm and green beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken - the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life's roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: "This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.

This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism. War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and through their misguided passions urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not call everyone a Communist or an appeaser who advocates the seating of Red China in the United Nations and who recognizes that hate and hysteria are not the final answers to the problem of these turbulent days. We must not engage in a negative anti-communism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.

The People Are Important

These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression and out of the wombs of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light." We in the West must support these revolutions. It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has the revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed the day when "every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain."

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept - so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force - has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John:

Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says :

"Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word."

We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The "tide in the affairs of men" does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: "Too late." There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. "The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on..." We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.

We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world - a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter - but beautiful - struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.

As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:

Once to every man and nation

Comes the moment to decide,

In the strife of truth and falsehood,

For the good or evil side;

Some great cause, God's new Messiah,

Off'ring each the bloom or blight,

And the choice goes by forever

Twixt that darkness and that light.

Though the cause of evil prosper,

Yet 'tis truth alone is strong;

Though her portion be the scaffold,

And upon the throne be wrong:

Yet that scaffold sways the future,

And behind the dim unknown,

Standeth God within the shadow

Keeping watch above his own.

This speech and others by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are posted at Peace Race: The Better Alternative to an Arms Race.

The Work of Karl Marx and the Challenges of the 21st Century By Ricardo Alarcón

The Work of Karl Marx and the Challenges of the 21st Century By Ricardo Alarcón

Editor's Note: This speech was delivered by Cuban National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada on May 3, 2006. It was translated by Joe Bryak and Walter Lippmann of Cuba News. We invite the comment of our readers (

Let us remember that he said that it was not enough that the idea clamored to be made reality, but that it was also necessary that reality shout out to be made into idea. – Franz Mehring

I will not attempt to delineate here the ample and rich intellectual production of Karl Marx, his deep analysis of capitalism or the principal events of his era, nor will I touch upon his exemplary life as a social fighter and revolutionary leader. I know that these themes are familiar to you all.

I propose, if you allow me, to separate Marx from Marxism. With that I allude to the necessity of thinking of Marx as Marx, rather than from any of the versions of Marxism, to imagine him declaring the challenges of the 21st century, separating what is essential of his work from what others made of his work. Instead of embarking on the endless succession of reviews of his thinking that goes along with those who have claimed him as their own, as well as with those who have tried unsuccessfully to bury him, it is necessary to rescue his fundamental legacy, that which makes him transcend his era to be with us here and now in the struggle for human emancipation.

I take as a starting point the warning, not always heeded, of Rosa Luxemburg:

The work Capital of Marx, like all his ideology, is not gospel in which we are given revealed truth, set in stone and eternal, but an endless flow of suggestions to keep working on with intelligence, in order to continue researching and struggling for truth.

To take his work, on top of any other consideration, as a source of inspiration and guide for those who, like he, want not only to explain the world but, more than anything, transform it, fighting until achieving socialism.

Our obligation is to arm ourselves with all of his ideology and from that build a theory and practice that corresponds with that reality and helps to transform it.

There is probably no higher nor more urgent priority for socialists than this: to define a strategic conception and precisely delineate the tactics and methods of struggle adequate for confronting the capitalism that exists now. The theoretical tools at our disposal need to be sharpened for their efficient employment in this era that presents new challenges for the revolutionary movement.

These notes do not have any other aim than contributing to the discussion of that crucial theme and obviously lack any pretension of exhausting it. They have been edited having in mind that which from the great unfinished text declared Rosa Luxemburg:

Incomplete as they are, these two volumes enclose values infinitely more precious than any definitive and perfect truth, the spur for the labor of thought and that critical analysis and judgment of ideas, which is what is most genuine in the theory that Karl Marx has left to us.

Another indispensable observation: The necessity of elaborating a revolutionary theory that brings victory confronted with what has been called neoliberal globalization has absolutely nothing to do with a supposed liquidation of Marxism and much less with the imaginary disappearance of class struggle, which some intended to convert into immovable dogmas in rushed texts that inundated the planet at the beginnings of the last decade of the twentieth century.

The collapse of the USSR and the bankruptcy of the so-called "real socialism" gave way for a triumphalist operation skillfully launched by the main centers of imperialism which, nevertheless, could hardly hide their essentially defensive character with its apparently total and definitive victory, capitalism, in reality, entered a new phase that could be terminal, in which its contradictions and limitations are manifested with a frank crudeness and in which arise new, unsuspected possibilities for revolutionary action.

That paradox perhaps may explain the short duration of that triumphalism in the academic level. Few today repeat that nonsense about the "end of history." Not even Fukuyama does it, more busy these days in criticizing the failure of the policies of Bush which are, nevertheless, much due to his own laborious and wordy work. The present crisis within the US neoconservative movement suggests that not a few question now if they were the true winners of the cold war. Self-critical reflection is called for on our side as well.

We should admit our own errors, especially those that served as fertile ground for the bourgeois manipulation of the destruction of the Soviet model. This is not the time for profound analysis of the failure of an experience that now belongs to historians. But it is inevitable that we underline here something that led to the defeat and to its advantageous use by the enemy.

That project – independently of Lenin and of the creative spirit that animated the first years of the Bolshevik revolution – reduced Marxism to a determinist and mechanist school of thought, transformed research into dogma, thought into propaganda, until the point of confining it to a condition of terminal hardening of the arteries. It constructed a simplified "science" that thought it had demonstrated that socialism would inevitably come about, by itself, as an unavoidable consequence of a predetermined history and that that socialism would continue its march, also uncontestable, according to laws and rules codified in a strange ritual. Socialism, therefore, was inevitable and invincible; with it one would truly arrive to the end of history. Not any socialism, but that one in particular, that which, with admirable struggle, Lenin and the Bolsheviks tried to achieve, whose enormous meaning no one will be able to tear out of the memory of the proletariat but which was a specific project – that is to say, a human work, with virtues and defects, glories and shadows, a result of immense sacrifice of a concrete people in circumstances and conditions likewise concrete – and not the outcome of a predestined and universal idea.

The conversion of the Soviet experience into a paradigm for those who in other places fought their own anti-capitalist battles, and the imperative obligation of defending it from its inflamed and powerful enemies, led to the subordination of a great part of the revolutionary movement to the policies and interests of the USSR, which did not always correspond to those of other peoples. The cold war and the division of the world into two blocks of antagonistic states that threatened each other with mutual nuclear annihilation, reduced to a minimum the capacity of critical thought and reinforced dogmatism. In honor of the truth one must render homage to the numberless men and women who sacrificed their lives, the greater part in total anonymity, and died heroically in any corner of the planet defending the land of the Soviets, its policies and its application in its own native soil, as wrong as it may have been in more than a few cases. For them, respect and admiration. But what is being considered now is recognizing the very harmful consequences of that tendency.

The tendency to blindly "tail" thoroughly penetrated many organizations and individuals, and they couldn't react rationally when the system that supported their faith collapsed. They had lived convinced that they were part of an unbeatable force, owners and administrators of truths scientifically demonstrated, and they marched in an enthusiastic procession in which, curiously, the founder did not march, having declared, with all naturalness, "I am not a Marxist."

The myth destroyed, old dogmatists were incapable of appreciating the new possibilities in the revolutionary movement, the spaces heretofore nonexistent that were necessary to explore with audacity and creativity. There were those who, in unsurpassed acrobatics, joined the "conquerors," converting treason into their new religion.
The third world penetrates the first. The latter needs the former and at the same time rejects it. In Europe and North America appears an undesirable protagonist, a mute guest that demands its rights. While here we carry out this important collective reflection animated by the example of a truly creative and humanist thinker and try to find the paths toward a better world, the US Congress continues discussing what to do with those who number at least 11 million people – that is, the Cuban population – the so-called undocumented, searching for formulas that allow them to continue to be exploited while access to that society is closed.

But there is a growing number of those who do not conform, are unsatisfied and rebel. All the rhetoric about US hegemony falls to pieces with its bogging down in Iraq, the undeniable contradictions and limitations of its economy, the awakening of masses that were supposed to be asleep there, and the corruption and moral fissure that undermine its political system.

Their associates in Europe are in the same boat. Accustomed as well to the "bloc" discipline and "tailism," they don't arrive at the knowledge of the depth of the insurmountable crisis of that which it was, but no longer is, omnipotent boss.

In Latin America and in other parts of the third world, meanwhile, radical processes are affirmed and plans are put forth that seek to eliminate, or at least reduce, imperialist domination.

For the first time, anti-capitalist malaise is manifested, simultaneously and everywhere, in advanced countries and in those left behind and is not limited to the proletariat and other exploited sectors. This is not only expressed today in the struggles that we could call "classics" – between classes and nations that are exploited and exploiters – but in those that are added, at times with more vigor, those that demand the preservation of the environment, or work for the rights of women and discriminated people and those excluded because of gender, ethnicity or religion.

A diverse group, multicolor, in which there is no shortage of contradictions and paradoxes grows in front of the dominant system. It is not yet the rainbow that announces the end of the storm.

Spontaneity characterizes it; it needs articulation and coherence that need to be stimulated without sectarianism, without being carried away with wildness. The great challenge of revolutionaries, of communists, is to define our part, the place that we should occupy in this battle. For that we need a theory.

In that sense one must return to the well known but forgotten definition of Lenin: "A correct revolutionary theory is only formed in a definitive manner in close connection with practical experience in a movement that is truly mass and truly revolutionary."

That theory, on a world scale, does not exist in fact, to serve as a guide in the struggle to substitute the present order and transform it in the direction toward socialism. That theory has to be formed and its definitive formation has to take place in constant interrelation with practice, in a process in which both form an inseparable whole. But we are not speaking of just any practice but that of a movement that is both "truly mass and truly revolutionary."

When can a movement be defined as truly a mass movement and when does it acquire the quality of being truly revolutionary? The answers will not be found in a research laboratory, nor will they erupt from academic debate. Revolutionaries themselves will have to create them, men and women of flesh and blood, acting from the masses, building their movement and trying to make it ever more revolutionary. The entire life of the genial Bolshevik leader can be described in that commitment. A persistent legend attributes to the author of Capital the saying "Man [sic] thinks as he lives," which more than a few militants still repeat, without warning of the mistake nor of its paralyzing effects. The relation between man and his surroundings is of decisive importance for ethics and politics and in order to understand the Eleventh Thesis on Feuerbach. To transform the world the key is in the Third Thesis. Let's remember the statements of Marx:

The materialist theory that men are product of circumstances and of education, and that, therefore, changed men are a product of different circumstances and of a modified education, forgets that it is men, precisely, who make circumstances change and that even the educator needs to be educated. This leads, then, inevitably, to the division of society in two parts, one of which is on top of society (this, for example, in Robert Owen).

The coincidence of the modification of circumstances and of human activity can only be conceived and understood rationally as revolutionary practice.

In the Second Declaration of Havana, Cubans proclaimed that "the duty of every revolutionary is to make revolution." To make it means to create a new world in spite of the obstacles and limitations that circumstances impose, in a ceaseless battle in which both man and reality will go on transforming each other reciprocally.

A certain form of socialism will emerge inevitably from the also inevitable decay of capitalism. – Joseph A. Schumpeter

The prediction that I just cited has been the object of implacable denunciation on the part of bourgeois thinkers. In 1942 it was difficult to see the fall of capitalism as something inevitable. Its author, nevertheless, did not cease believing in it until the end. Eight years afterward, just before dying, he said: "Marx was wrong in his diagnosis of how capitalist society would fall; but he was not wrong in the prediction that finally it would fall."

In 1950 US capitalism reached the zenith of its hegemony. It was the only nuclear power, it hadn't suffered the devastation that the world war had wreaked on the other developed countries, it dominated Western Europe and Latin America economically and politically, it possessed a superiority in science and technology.

At the middle of the last century the world was quite different from what it is today. By a route that they probably did not foresee we are now nearer the fulfillment of the prophecy in which, paradoxically, both the author of Capital and his tenacious Austro-North American critic coincided.

The protagonist has changed, the subject of history, humanity. The world population has grown in an exponential manner since the days of the publication of the Communist Manifesto and it continues doing so. Humanity traveled through tens of thousands of years to arrive at the first billion. It took a century to triple the double of that figure.

Every 25 years is added to that figure a quantity similar to that which represented the whole planet when Karl Marx was born. At a similar rhythm the natural resources of the earth are exhausted and animal and vegetable species are annihilated forever. Humanity is the only life form that has dedicated itself with so much fury and efficiency to destroy life.

Irreversible climactic changes, forests transformed into deserts, poisoned waters, unbreathable air, irremediably degraded soils, astounding conglomerations of human beings in uninhabitable and always growing urban clogs are distressing worries that compose a reality not known before.

Beyond ideologies the people continue discovering that which is obvious. In 1992, at the Earth Summit at Rio de Janeiro, governments and civil society put ourselves in agreement that in order to save the earth it was necessary "to change the patterns of production and of consumption," words subscribed to by many, including Bush senior. They were words, certainly. But they imply explicit recognition although in the text of a document, of the necessity of the radical transformation of the relations between men and between them and nature.

The subject, besides, inevitably moves. Population grows exponentially but it doesn't do so equally in all parts of the world.

In the so-called developed countries it is frozen and even tends to shrink. In the rest, in that part of the world that was baptized as the third, they are more, ever many more – in spite of early death, misery, hunger – and also those who in an unstoppable spiral, are displaced toward the enclaves of opulence.

The third world penetrates the first. The latter needs the former and at the same time rejects it. In Europe and North America appears an undesirable protagonist, a mute guest that demands its rights. While here we carry out this important collective reflection animated by the example of a truly creative and humanist thinker and try to find the paths toward a better world, the US Congress continues discussing what to do with those who number at least 11 million people – that is, the Cuban population – the so-called undocumented, searching for formulas that allow them to continue to be exploited while access to that society is closed.

The migratory phenomenon will be maintained and will gain in size along with capitalism, with its present characteristics, as it is expanded through the whole world. Capitalism cannot stop it, just as it is neither capable of abandoning those characteristics and much less transform itself into another thing.

The Central Intelligence Agency of the United States has prognosticated that, as a consequence of that phenomenon, very soon deep changes will have been produced in the cultures of several European countries. The struggle for the rights of immigrants and against discrimination expressed in public demonstrations that mobilized millions of people and in the historic May Day protest – a date that never before had been expressed in this way in the United States – brings to the forefront a political force that now cannot be easily ignored.

The presence of millions of people discriminated against and lacking civil and political rights raises an essential question that goes to the very roots of the political system that the West has attempted to set as an obligatory model for all. There is an increasingly growing number of those who work hard there, pay their taxes, die in their wars, but cannot vote nor be elected. In today's Rome the participation of the citizens is reduced while the mass of those excluded is constantly growing, the modern "barbarians." In this very building, recently, Professor Robert Dahl – prominent apologist for the archetypical capitalist – recognized in such marginalization the principal lack of contemporary liberal democracy.

The end of that exclusion, the struggle for democracy, specifically including the democratization of Western societies, should be a priority for those who wish to transform the world. This is yet more urgent if we perceive the other face of the migratory phenomenon together with it grows, in parallel, racial hatred, xenophobia, which feeds fascist tendencies today present in an obvious manner in those societies.

The migratory problem reflects, thus, an aspect of capitalism today that it is also worthwhile reflecting on. While the emigrants are humiliated and superexploited in the countries where they end up, there they are used also as instruments for the oppression of the local workers. Being used as the international reserve army, stripped of rights, and until now not organized, they serve to lower wages, are forced to accept conditions that, as Bush the lesser likes to say, US workers do not accept.

To free the immigrants from their exploitation becomes, therefore, essential for the emancipation of the workers in the developed countries. To forge a union between both exploited sectors, in an area that has had advances that are still insufficient but whose importance cannot be underestimated, is today a task that cannot be postponed. To rescue the role of the labor union, true bulwark of civil society and to guarantee the rights of all workers, without exceptions, to organize oneself is an indispensable response to a capitalism that ever more openly casts off its "liberal" mask and demonstrates the perverse face of tyranny.

Fascism must be stopped. It is necessary to prevent it from being able to gather its own victims into a senseless opposition. Never again should a Nixon be able to mobilize construction workers against the youth who, in the 1970's, rebelled against the war in Vietnam. It is possible to unite them. We saw them united, in Seattle, both opposing neoliberal globalization.

One must help them to converge, and it is possible to propose this to them, and it is a crucial aspect of the world today and in the struggle to change it.

The poor try to emigrate to the rich world to escape poverty. The rich, meanwhile, try to place their capital in the poor countries in order to increase their profits with the misery of others and inevitably worsen the conditions of work and of life for workers in the developed countries. Few in the United States and Europe would identify themselves as members of a worker aristocracy, beneficiary of the dropping of crumbs coming from the colonies. Today they are seen as those defeated by a system that, among other things, depends ever more on "outsourcing" and the maquila and that imposes everywhere the dogma of the omnipotent market and "free trade."

To forge convergence, to later on reach unity between the exploited people of the first and third world, is now not only possible but necessary. But it is not enough to work for unity between all the proletariat of the world, of the first and third world, of the South and of the North. Antifascist unity is essential for democracy, peace and life. To fight to create new models, to forge alliances where possible or meanwhile promote points or moments of coincidence between the diverse forces that today, for the most varied motives, are out of step with the world as it is, should constitute the principal guide for revolutionaries.

To struggle so that the anti-war and anti-globalization movements flow into the same great stream and that all those discriminated against, all the marginalized be included is the main duty of revolutionaries today. It is the way to create a better world. It is the road to take in advancing toward socialism. To achieve socialism in this century there must be "heroic creation," a creation that is authentic, independent, and therefore diverse and unique.