Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Tide of Change -- A Century of Struggle

By Anne Rogers

OUR lives and those of our parents and grandparents have all been touched by war. World wars, regional wars, the Cold War and threats of war have seared and scarred the century we are about to leave.
Most of our family albums have photos of at least two generations dressed in military uniform. Many families have those little brass boxes of campaign medals. Every city, town and village has a memorial to its war dead. In northern France and Belgium the lines of graves fill field after field with the headstones of slaughtered young men.
In every corner of the world the markers of war are tended — from the mass graves of the siege of Leningrad to the haunting memorials of Hiroshima, from the resisters’ tunnels in Vietnam to the graves of murdered children in Soweto.
Each of these conflicts seems to have its own separate cause and background. We are taught to regard these events as the result of evil or insane leaders, or of militarism, intolerance and bigotry.
These explanations merely serve to hide the claws of imperialism — the bestial system that lurks behind the violence of our time.
The beast of capitalism has found itself slowly being cornered in this century and, like any cornered beast, it lashes out savagely.
This is not, of course, the way the capitalist classes of the world explain things. Capitalism doesn’t want its countless victims to realise how vulnerable it is. On the contrary, it swaggers and struts around the world with its monstrous weapons and flaunts the fabulous riches that the capitalist minority possess.
On the face of it the beast is thriving — the multi-billionaire bankers, oil magnates, business tycoons, arms manufacturers and other industrialists are richer than ever before. And it is certainly true that the counter-revolution in the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe has given capitalism a breathing space and some fresh meat to chew on.
And yet capitalism has only been able to temporarily rid itself of some of the conditions that caused it to be characterised as being in a state of general crisis. It cannot return to the position it held when this century began.
Then, the system of capitalism held sway in all of the industrialised countries, and the most powerful of those countries dominated almost the entire world through colonial rule. Capitalism was constrained by its own contradictions, the rivalries between the leading powers and the liberation struggles of the peoples it ruled. But it was nonetheless dominant.
The general crisis of capitalism started with the First World War of 1914-18 and the Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917. The latter historic event was to free a sixth of the world’s surface from capitalist control.
Capitalism ceased to be a universal system; a progressive social system took root — socialism began to grow in the soil that had been cleansed by revolution.
This revolution was a catastrophic blow to the imperialist powers. And we can see why this was so when we consider these events in the light of Lenin’s definition of imperialism — the highest stage of capitalism.
Lenin wrote in 1916:'... we must give a definition of imperialism that will include the following five of it’s basic features:
1) the concentration of production and capital has developed to such a high stage that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life;
2) the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of this “finance capital”, of a financial oligarchy;
3) the export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance;
4) the formation of international monopolist capitalist associations which share the world among themselves, and
5) the territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed. Imperialism'is capitalism at that stage of development at which the dominance of monopolies and finance capital is established; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun, in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed.


And then. .. the socialist revolution removes the large land mass of Russia from the clutches of imperialism. There is suddenly a part of the world that is out of imperialism’s reach.
Furthermore, the October Revolution demonstrated to the oppressed peoples of all countries that fundamental change was possible and that workers and peasants could seize state power and sweep the old capitalist order away.
From that moment on imperialism spared no effort, no expense nor hesitated to use any means in order to crush the new born socialist state and to denigrate everything that it did.
The imperialist powers initially tried to defeat Russia by direct military intervention. But the capitalist world, still wearied by the slaughter of the First World War, failed. The Russian Bolsheviks and people had a new spirit — for the first time they were fighting on their own account and not as mere pawns in an army of the class enemy.
Throughout the 1920s the new and developing socialist state advanced. Despite the enormous difficulties and suffering caused by the wars of intervention and the desperate last ditch battles waged by the remnants of the old order, the country moved forwards. Illiteracy in Russia was virtually eradicated, a programme of electrification was completed and great strides were made to build industry, housing and to develop universal systems for education and health care.
The 1920s and 30s were very different for the working class of the capitalist countries. This period was to become a byword for poverty and unemployment. The surviving troops from the First World War returned to homelands that were anything but “countries fit for heroes”.
There unemployment grew and wages and conditions were attacked. Capitalism had no answers and offered no respite. In Britain, as elsewhere, resistance was dealt with crudely and by 1926 the harsh and unjust treatment meted out to the miners became the catalyst for a general strike.
But general strikes, though they do directly hit the bosses and the ruling class, are not in themselves capable of bringing about fundamental change. Even if there had not been any class traitors, which sadly there were, the strike would not have resolved the crisis inflicted by capitalism. So the economic crisis went on after the strike and the working class continued to suffer.
The “Hungry Thirties” showed the total bankruptcy of capitalism for the majority of the people. The great depression gripped the capitalist world. Its brunt was borne by the working class everywhere.
While the rich elites swanned across the Atlantic on luxury ocean liners, lounged in the sunshine at Biarritz and Monte Carlo, the dole queues lengthened in the industrial heartlands. Hunger marches focused attention on the stricken towns of northern England. Unemployed workers, finding even their dole money under attack, had to organise and struggle in order to survive.
American workers also felt the full force of this capitalist-created slump — here in this land of much vaunted “freedom” and plenty, the soup kitchens sprang up and the bailiffs moved in.
In this period of profound crisis capitalism produced the vilest creature of its own making — the monster of fascism.

Fascism unleashed
It is not surprising that the capitalist classes hope they can wash their hands of the monster of fascism and pretend that it was just a phenomenon which sprang up by itself. The capitalist rulers are perfectly happy to let people think that everything can be explained away by simply portraying Adolf Hitler as an evil madman and Mussolini as a puffed-up megalomaniac.
This view, in which the capitalist classes are let off the hook, is unwittingly helped by many dedicated anti-fascists who also subscribe to the idea that fascism has a life of its own — that it arises because racists and ultra-right elements are allowed space in which to grow.
While it is certainly true that racists and fascists should always be opposed, the temporary success of fascism in Spain, Portugal, Germany and Italy before and during the Second World War was a result of the deliberate intent of the ruling classes in those countries.
Bulgarian communist, Georgi Dimitrov, said in 1935: “...fascism in power is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital...
“Fascism is not a power standing above class, nor a power of the petty bourgeoisie or the lumpen proletariat over finance capital. Fascism is the power of finance capital itself.
“It is the organisation of terrorist vengeance against the working class and the revolutionary section of the peasantry and intelligentsia.
“In foreign policy, fascism is jingoism in its most brutal form, fomentmg bestial hatred of other nations.”
The ruling classes which turned to fascist rule did so for a number of different reasons. But common to them all was the background of the severe economic crisis, the fear of Bolshevism — a perpetual dread among all the ruling elites — and the inability of the existing forms of government to deliver the extreme measures the capitalist classes deemed necessary.
In the case of Germany this extreme measure was the need to go to war in order to expand within Europe and to challenge rival imperialisms, especially British imperialism and its global empire of colonies.
The features most commonly associated with fascism — of anti-semitism, racism and the elevation of supremacist ideas — were not the cause of fascism’s rise to power. Rather they were weapons the fascist leaders, and eventually the fascist state, employed to conceal the hand of finance capital and to galvanise the reactionary elements of those societies.
Some in those states which did not choose to go down the fascist path at that time were infected by the climate of reactionary ideas. Britain’s blackshirts, led by Oswald Mosley, were an example of this.
Mosley, even if he had been more successful, was never going to become Britain’s Hitler because the British capitalist class did not need him to be that. But his activities and following brought much anguish to Britain’s Jewish communities, against whom the blackshirt thugs used physical violence, intimidation and harassment, and his movement peddled the most pernicious and reactionary ideas in all sections of British society.
It is to the credit of the Communist Party of Great Britain that it stood shoulder-to-shoulder with those threatened communities, exposed the propaganda of the fascists and fought the fascists both ideologically and, when necessary, on the streets. The victory of the Battle of Cable Street was a victory for working class solidarity and a defeat for reaction.
Communists and many other progressive people around the world recognised the enormous danger posed by fascism. It was going to become an instrument for war, repression and open terror both within and outside of national borders.
This perception of the wider threat of fascism rallied thousands of communists and socialists to take action in defence of the Spanish Republic when it was threatened by the forces of Franco. The International Brigaders fought and died in Spain — but they did so in the knowledge that this was the first major battle in the war against fascism — they were fighting for all of humanity.
The terrible suffering of the Spanish Civil War from 1936-39 showed too that the nature of warfare had changed. Since the ruling classes had appropriated to themselves the technological advances made since the First World War, they had at their disposal new weapons and new means of fighting.
For the first time there were heavy civilian casualties and the aerial bombing of cities. France was assisted by Germany and Italy — this help proved militarily decisive since it is almost certain that France could not have succeeded without it.

World War

It would be quite impossible of course to write all that should be said about the Second World War in this article. But there are three key aspects of the European theatre which must be included.
The first is the imperialist nature of this war when it began. It was launched by German finance capital which saw territorial expansion as necessary and which needed to break free of the constraints placed on Germany by the post First World War settlement.
Annexation, Blitzkrieg and invasions were to bring Nazi forces jackbooting across Europe from Poland in the east to France in the west. Britain, with its strong naval force and its fighter air force held Germany at bay until the allied forces were eventually able to go onto the offensive.
The second aspect is the impact of fascist ideas which led to the most barbarous and inhuman treatment of many people, especially Jews from Germany and the German-occupied countries. This persecution of Jews in Germany and Austria had begun before the war. Concentration and work camps were in use before the war too.
The concentration camps contained those the state deemed to be anti-social elements. This included some of the political opponents of the fascist regime, thousands of Romanies, homosexuals, vagrants, criminals, Jews and others.
Far worse was to come. The persecution of Jews and Romanies became a policy of slave labour and super exploitation, it became murder by brutality and starvation and ultimately it became mass slaughter in the gas chambers of the death camps.
This Holocaust took the lives of six million people — civilians murdered in the most horrific circumstances for being of a certain race or religion.
The third aspect was the war against the Soviet Union. This was more than an attack against a state, it was also a direct attack on socialism. The Nazis even used this fact to try and lure other capitalist leaderships to support its anti-communist crusade against the Soviet Union.
The Soviet Union under the leadership of Joseph Stalin had, years before, realised that it would face a renewed military attack from the forces of imperialism. The rise of fascism in western Europe showed where this attack would come from.
Stalin’s leadership had seen the urgent necessity for the Soviet Union to prepare itself — and this meant engaging in a determined national effort to build up its industrial capacity as quickly as it could.
The signing of the German-Soviet pact in August 1939 has always been portrayed by anti-communists as, at best, an act of appeasement and at worst as a gesture of endorsement for the Nazis. It was of course nothing of the sort — it was a necessary and justifiable measure to enable the Soviet Union to buy some time. Even as this pact was signed Stalin knew that Hitler’s forces would invade the Soviet Union and that war was coming.
When Hitler’s forces did invade in 1941 the most savage onslaught began — civilians were murdered out of hand, the countryside was raped and the most terrible crimes were committed. The Eastern front of the war was to become total war. By the end the Soviet Union had lost 20 million people.
The Soviet people fought as heroes whether as members of the Red Army, Navy or Air Force, as partisans fighting behind German lines or as civilians fighting and working to defend the cities and towns.
Under the leadership of Stalin, the people and forces of the Soviet Union tore the guts out of the Nazi war machine and turned the tide of the war. Stalingrad, Kiev, Leningrad, Moscow — all hero cities of the former Soviet Union — must go down in history as examples of the courage, determination and endurance that was to prove decisive in the defeat of Hitler fascism.
In Asia the Nazis had formed an alliance with the Japanese empire. Japanese militarism sought expansion in south east Asia and the Pacific and had already begun invading other countries in the region. Manchuria had been turned into a Japanese puppet state in 1932 and China had been resisting Japanese forces long before the war in Europe began.
But it was Japan’s attack on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbour which precipitated the Americans into the war.
Just as European fascism had been defined as the work of evil leaders, the militarism of Japan was explained away by the capitalist classes as a characteristic of the Japanese people — a phenomenon that just came to the surface. Reports of Japanese cruel treatment of prisoners of war and subjugated peoples were attributed to the cruel nature of the perpetrators.
In fact, like German fascism, Japanese militarism and expansionism was a creature of capitalism itself. Though it was not the same as European fascism, the impetus for Japan’s move to war was the need for Japanese capitalism to acquire new sources of raw materials, especially oil.
At the war’s end the world witnessed the use of the most terrifying and devastating weapon — the nuclear bombing by the United States of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. At Hiroshima the bomb used (called “Little Boy” by the United States) was a uranium bomb and at Nagasaki the bomb used was a plutonium bomb (called “Fat Man”). The element of testing was quite clear.
Over 250,000 people were killed by these bombs. Many thousands more have since died from the effects of radiation and birth defects continue to this day.

Cold War and the nuclear threat

Even as the Second World War was being fought, and even though the Soviet Union was an ally of the United States, Britain and France, the ruling capitalist classes of the western alliance were preparing for a renewal of their offensive against the Soviet Union and socialism. The Hiroshima bomb was the warning shot.
Initially, some reactionary elements hoped the war in Europe could be continued and turned into a new war against the Soviet Union. This was unrealistic. Not only was the Soviet Union held in high esteem by working class people who recognised the struggle and sacrifice of their Soviet allies, but the peoples of Europe and the allied forces wanted peace.
The imperialists on the other hand began the anti-communist propaganda offensive as quickly as they could. The nuclear bombing of Japan was claimed to have a military objective in hastening the end of the war against Japan, was clearly intended as a threat to the Soviet Union.
Unlike the period following the First World War, the Second World War led to a period of boom in the advanced western economies. This was partly due to the enormous material destruction of this war — a war in which whole cities had been bombed to the ground and colossal damage done.
Reconstruction on a huge scale helped to relieve the pre-war crisis of overproduction which had been at the root of the terrible mass unemployment of that time.
Yet while the fifties and sixties were a period of economic boom in the United States and western Europe, the underlying general crisis of capitalism deepened. The cause of this intensification of the general crisis added new impetus to the Cold War.
The general crisis of capitalism deepened because the defeat of fascism and the victory of the Soviet Union enabled socialism to advance in the countries of eastern Europe. As a victorious ally, the Soviet Union shared in the postwar settlement thrashed out at Yalta and Potsdam.
The territory of the world taken out of the hands of imperialism was now even greater.
Furthermore, the socialist states were a progressive force in the world — at last the oppressed countries under the heel of colonialism had found a hand of friendship in their long struggles for freedom.
One by one the former European colonies in Africa and Asia won their independence. This process is almost completed — but sadly the north east of Ireland is still, despite the achievement of the Good Friday Agreement and the devolution process, under the aegis of the Crown — colonialism has not ended yet.
The capitalist world received a second shattering blow — China — the giant of Asia — crushed the barbarism of serfdom and the feudal order and defeated the Kuomintang nationalists. In 1949 the People’s Republic of China was declared by Mao Zedong, thus beginning the long march of the Chinese revolution, through difficult times, to the great developing economic power of today.
This takes us to mid-century. The Marxist dialectic clearly has been vindicated: While China appeared extremely backward, the process of counter-revolution and imperialist intervention ultimately ended the Soviet Union by the 1990s.
But China and other socialist countries carried the torch of socialism forward, and despite invasion and embargo, are clearly examples of how human progress could benefit all rather than the avaricious few. Out of every setback a renewed struggle for socialism makes its indelible mark.

Cold War

THE second half of the 20th century was overshadowed by the Cold War — a war that had begun with the October Revolution of 1917 and which intensified in the second half of the century to become a sword of Damocles hanging over the entire world — the sword being nuclear armed and capable of destroying all of humanity.
The post Second World War phase of the Cold War got under way almost as soon as the war had ended. The Soviet Union, which had been hailed as a heroic ally in the war against fascism just a year or so before, was, by 1946, being held up as a new danger to the “free world”.
Winston Churchill’s notorious “Iron Curtain” speech, delivered to an audience at Westminster College in Fulton Missouri (1946) was an opening shot in this renewal of the Cold War. It is interesting to note that Churchill had to be careful to express his respect for the courage of the Soviet people and Marshal Stalin and give recognition to the wartime alliance — a reflection of the popular goodwill towards the Soviet people that existed then.
But these expressions of regard were drowned by the rest of the speech which sought to portray the Soviet Union and those parts of Europe within the Soviet zone as areas under totalitarian control. And, Churchill went on to assert that the Soviet Union had expansionist intentions. The speech concluded that this threat of expansion by a so-called “totalitarian” state had to be countered by an Anglo-American-led United Nations force that would defend “democracy” wherever necessary.
Churchill was really showing imperialism’s reaction to a further deepening of the general crisis of capitalism — which, despite the post-war economic boom, had intensified with the advance of socialism throughout eastern Europe.
The defeat of fascism and the victory of the Soviet forces on the eastern front had ended the opportunity to inflict military defeat on the Soviet Union, created the conditions for socialism to flourish in eastern Europe, and reduced still further the territory of the world open to imperialist control and exploitation.
Capitalism was not long in lashing out. Just three years after Churchill’s Fulton speech was delivered the imperialist powers formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) — despite objections from the Soviet Union who said its formation was contrary to the United Nations Charter.
In a 1982 CND booklet, No No Nato, John Cox writes: “The formation of Nato was preceded by a year of intense diplomatic activity during which the impending Treaty was opposed vehemently by the Soviet Union, on the grounds that it was directed against the ‘socialist and democratic’ countries.
“The Soviet Union claimed that the Treaty was an exclusive grouping and therefore ‘contrary to the United Nations Charter’.
“The Nato response to this was to issue solemn assurances about its non-aggressive and defensive character. The Soviet Union then applied to join Nato and, by being rejected, proved that the alliance was indeed directed against it”.
Throughout the decades which followed, the imperialists poured out a steady stream of lying propaganda. Part of this propaganda attack was aimed at making Nato appear to be a purely defensive organisation which was merely responding to a variety of alleged Soviet threats. The lies were used to justify a costly and insanely dangerous nuclear arms race.
In truth, the Warsaw Treaty Organisation was not set up until 1955 — six years after the formation of Nato — and the nuclear arms race was, from the start, led by the United States and its Nato allies. The Soviet Union issued no threats and claimed no territory or sphere of influence beyond the terms of the agreement reached at Potsdam in 1945.
This intense period of the Cold War is often spoken of as if it were a long-running stand-of between east and west which fortunately for all of us didn’t degenerate into a “hot” war.
While it’s true that the peoples of the United States of America, Europe and the former Soviet Union did not experience nuclear war or bombing of their countries, the Cold War was neither “cold” and bloodless nor a “stand-off” for millions of people in the developing world.
For example, the United States’ war of aggression against Korea in the early 1950s, albeit cloaked behind the flag of the United Nations, and the later US war against Vietnam, were both terrible and bloody “hot” wars that were part and parcel of the Cold War.
The reason this was so is because the Cold War was not a struggle between east and west nor a national struggle between the US and USSR. It was in fact a global battle launched by the imperialist powers against the ideas and practice of socialism everywhere, though of course, the strongest — the Soviet Union and China — were especially targeted.
Indeed the capitalists’ great fear that socialism and socialist ideas would prosper was expressed by Churchill at Fulton. He said: “However, in a great number of countries, far from the Russian frontiers and throughout the world, communist fifth columns are established ... Except in the British Commonwealth and in the United States where communism is in its infancy, the communist parties or fifth columns constitute a growing challenge and peril to Christian civilisation”.
And so it was that any peoples which turned to the Soviet Union or China for friendship and alliance, that struggled against the oppression of capitalism, that began to follow communist leaderships or even progressive nationalist leaders, were implacably opposed by the imperialist camp.
Rabid anti-communism — the essence of the Cold War — fuelled the West’s response to the post-war struggles of people throughout the world. For instance, this feature was present in Britain’s war against the people of Malaya. It was present in the United States’ war to crush the Huk rebellion in the Philippines. In these anti-colonial struggles communists were at the forefront of the resistance movements.
Imperialism also waged the Cold War in its own heartlands where it sought to deal, often very crudely, with communist parties and other progressive movements. The most blatant of these Cold War attacks on the organised working class within the leading capitalist countries was the persecution of communists in the United Slates unleashed by the chief witch hunter, Senator Joseph McCarthy.
But the West’s worst efforts could not stop the struggle of the oppressed nor douse the flame of socialism that had been well and truly lit in the world.
The people of Korea, along with many troops from China, courageously defended their country against the US-led forces which had launched a bloody war against it in the summer of 1950. (The United States asserted that this war had been started by an invasion of south Korea by the north. This was a lie — but it is a lie that is still repeated by the western media).
Unfortunately Korea remains divided by a vast concrete wall, put up at the behest of the United States, and south Korea continues to have thousands of US troops and weapons (including nuclear weapons) stationed on its soil.
But in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea the total devastation of that war has been overcome by the great efforts of the people under the leadership of the Workers Party of Korea. Modern cities, highways, great dams, energy plants and other sites of industry have grown up where once there was nothing but rubble. Above all the DPRK continues to advance on the socialist path.

Breaking the chains of colonial rule

After the Second World War the struggle of peoples around the world to break free from the bonds of colonial rule gathered pace.
In the decade after the war the long-fought struggle against British imperialism succeeded in the sub- continent and the Republic of India was formed in 1949.
To some extent the anti-colonial developments were regarded in Washington as no bad thing — the break-up of the old European empires could be considered by the rulers of the New World as a chance for extending their own sphere of influence.
But, of course, none of the imperialist leaders, on either side of the Atlantic, wanted newly independent countries to become independent of western capitalism. They certainly didn’t want any to follow a socialist course nor did they want them to forge alliances with the socialist countries.
The West’s economic interests and its Cold War was a clear threat to the developing world and the anti-colonial movements.
Solidarity was needed. This became reality in April 1955 when a great conference was held in Bandung (Indonesia) attended by 29 countries from Africa and Asia.
The conference outlined its ideas of positive neutrality and active non-alignment.
Since the socialist countries had no reason or desire to exploit or economically control the newly founded states, the call for neutrality and non-alignment would in practice be a policy to prevent the developing world’s enforced isolation from the socialist world and to help protect the new states from neo-colonialism — the iron fist of imperialism inside a velvet glove.
From the Bandung conference the Non-Aligned Movement grew. It had its first summit conference in Belgrade in 1961 attended by representatives of 25 countries. Over the years it grew to almost 100 member countries.
The Non-Aligned Movement became a potent advocate of world peace. It opposed the use and threatened use of nuclear weapons and incurred the anger of the West by speaking out on these matters.
The existence of strong socialist countries, Bandung (later the Non-Aligned Movement) and anti-imperialist consciousness among the peoples of the former European colonies, enabled a number of progressive movements to advance and many gains to be won.
Among these was the Nasser’s Free Officer movement in Egypt which in July 1952 had forced the abdication of the pro-British stooge, King Farouk, and proclaimed an anti-colonial and anti-feudal policy.
In 1956 the progressive nationalist government of Gamal Abdel Nasser took British imperialism head on and declared the nationalisation of the Suez Canal. The British government of the day responded with traditional gunboat measures but, with no support from the US, it failed to overthrow Egypt’s right to own the Canal.
A year later the Nasser government announced the nationalisation of all foreign property.
In the same period, Kwame Nkrumah and the Convention People’s Party led a campaign of “positive action” which forced the British to agree to elections in the Gold Coast in 1951.
The CPP won a majority of the vote and Nkrumah became head of what the British termed the “responsible government”. From then until 1957 Nkrumah and the CPP waged a ceaseless struggle for independence — which was proclaimed on 6 March 1957.
Nkrumah was a Pan-Africanist and believed strongly that Africa had to stand together if it was to shake off colonialism and neo-colonialism and advance.
In 1958 he sponsored an All-African People’s Conference in Accra. It was attended by the major national liberation movements of the continent including Algeria’s FLN, and the Congo’s MNC led by Patrice Lumumba.
That conference was to develop into the formation of the Union of African Anti-imperialist Governments — a body which Egypt later joined.

Cuban Revolution

The decade of the 1950s, while it was a time of frenzied Cold War activity instigated by the imperialist powers, was also a decade which witnessed the ending of direct colonial rule in many parts of the world.
The decade ended with another major blow to the forces of imperialism — a new victorious socialist revolution occurred — this time in the western hemisphere and just 90 miles away from the United States. The oppressive Batista dictatorship in Cuba was overthrown and a new order of socialism welcomed in.
The revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro, became Prime Minister in February 1959.
The Cuban Revolution was not just a political blow to the United States — it had a direct economic impact as the Revolutionary Government began to implement its policy of state ownership, including a programme of agrarian reform. Under Batista a good deal of Cuban property had been in the hands of American business interests. On 6 August 1960, the principal US companies were nationalised and a month later all banks with US capital operating in Cuba were taken under the control of the state.
By the end of that year all foreign banks were nationalised as well as the remaining US companies operating in Cuba. All large Cuban companies were also brought under state control.
At the beginning of 1961 the United States broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba.
As the Cuban people began to free themselves of the old order of capitalism and build a socialist society in the interests of the majority, so the imperialist powers, led by the United States, started its Cold War attack on the infant socialist state. This attack has continued unabated to the present day.
The Cold War crusade against Cuba has included military threats, incursions by US-backed forces, an economic blockade, a propaganda campaign which involved the setting up of anti-Cuban radio and TV stations based in the US, attempts to kill Fidel Castro, germ warfare attacks and the cynical use of Cuban exiles — regarded by Washington as potential counter-revolutionary agents.
But Cuba’s Revolution has always had the support of the majority of the Cuban people. The might of the United States has been successfully resisted and the socialist revolution strides forwards.
Cuba has won the respect and friendskip of millions throughout the world and a great movement of solidarity with the revolutionary island now exists in country after country around the world.
At the United Nations it is the US which is isolated — it is Cuba which has won support.

The struggle for peace

In the second half of the 20th century imperialism threatened the whole of humanity with its insane nuclear arms race and with the development of other new weapons of mass destruction The dangers were met with widespread resistance. Peace movements sprang up in every continent and the issue of world peace came to the forefront of the political stage.
Some, like Britain’s Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, grew out of the campaigns in the late 1950s to oppose the above-ground testing of nuclear weapons. Others were focused directly against the surging imperialist war machine.
The peace movements swelled as the Cold War erupted once again into bloodshed with the US government’s war of aggression against Vietnam.
Vietnam This was an appalling crime against the people of Vietnam who had already endured a long war to free their country from French colonial rule. The people of Vietnam won that war when the French forces were defeated at the battle of Dien Bien Phu in May 1954.
But, as elsewhere, the departing colonial power and its allies were unwilling to see the implementation of full independence. The departing French forces retreated to south of the 17th parallel under the terms of the ceasefire and, egged-on by the United States, encouraged the setting up of the pro-French local government of Ngo Dinh Diem. The People’s Army of Vietnam remained to the north of the 17th parallel.
In the south of the country, the imperialist stooge government of the self-proclaimed Republic of Vietnam refused to hold elections.
A resistance movement sprang up in the south where the US was taking over the reigns from the departing French. This movement became the People’s National Liberation Army. By the end of 1960 a Front of National Liberation was formed.
The war became a struggle between the US occupiers and the patriotic resistance forces. By 1964 the US attacked the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the north with bombing raids.
The US leadership’s hysterical determination to wage war on Vietnam was based on its fear that Vietnam, under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh, would become another socialist state and another obstacle to imperialism.
US politicians poured out a stream of propaganda which ludicrously claimed that if Vietnam was allowed to develop into a communist state, it would only be a matter of time before the rest of south east Asia, and even Australia, would topple into the communist camp like falling dorninoes.
In fact, the very opposite was the case — the imperialist powers were themselves concerned with stamping their hegemony on the region and feared the progressive forces in Vietnam would act as a brake on these designs.
The United States threw its full might against this small Asian country. It committed the most obscene crimes against the people including blanket bombing, the use of terrible weapons such as flesh-burning napalm, Agent Orange and defoliants. Many Vietnamese citizens and US veterans and their families are still suffering from the effects of these crimes against humanity.
The enormous suffering caused by this war was matched only by the great heroism of the Vietnamese people. Their’s was the victory and the forces of imperialism had to eventually swallow military defeat at the hands of a small developing country.
Imperialism not only lost to the progressive forces of Vietnam, it had to also face the mounting anger of a growing army of peace activists in every corner of the earth. The huge US losses fuelled the growing anti-war movement in the United States itself. The end of the war was received with relief in the US.
The legacy of that war still affects US foreign and military policy — it feels unable to commit to any engagement that could lead to large numbers of US fatalities.
Vietnam was reunited and in July 1976 the National Assembly declared the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and began the process of reconstruction.
Not a penny was paid to Vietnam in war reparations and the US imposed a blockade against the country.

The Cold War and revisionism

The imperialist powers not only carried out an intense anti-communist propaganda war but spent fortunes on intelligence operations designed to undermine socialist regimes and to assist counter-revolutionary elements within the socialist world.
These efforts included the setting up of propaganda stations such as TV Marti (targeted at Cuba), Radio Free Europe, The Voice of America and so on.
Just as the socialist countries gave solidarity, help and friendship to the national liberation struggles, the peace movements, anti-racist struggles and anti-imperialist campaigns around the world, so too the capitalist heartlands provided every help they could to the remnants of the old orders in the socialist world.
So it was that the Cold War went hand in hand with the spread and growth of revisionism within communist parties, including the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
The tactic is to gradually and bit by bit erode and water-down Marxist-Leninist ideas until a point is reached when a communist party can be led away from its revolutionary path. At the end of the process there is liquidation of the party or its transformation into a social democratic or even liberal organisation.
One of the first examples of this was the adoption by the Communist Party of the USA of the ideas introduced by Earl Browder which became known as Browderism. Fortunately this was exposed and did not last.
A much more damaging and dangerous development was the body of ideas known as Euro-communism which grew throughout the 1970s and 80s. These ideas which often used the writings of the Italian communist Gramsci had a strong influence on the communist parties of Italy, Spain, France and Britain. And the problem was not confined to these parties or to just Europe.
What was not clear at the time was the fact that the disease of revisionism was already well established within the Soviet party and those of its allies in the Warsaw Pact.
In the Soviet Union the defeated remnants of the Czarist regime and the old bourgeoisie were waiting in the wings for things to change and actively assisting whatever negative elements they could find. There was always an element of danger within.
When comrade Stalin died in 1953 a dangerous blow befell the CPSU with the 20th Party Congress and Khrushchov’s supposed “secret” speech in which Stalin was denounced. Whatever its intentions, this opened a door to those who wanted to weaken Marxism-Leninism and undermine the fundamental principles of the revolutionary party. The speech also gave ammunition to the imperialist camp to enable it to intensify its own anti-communist propaganda. In this way revisionism and the Cold War joined hands.
The counter- revolution which took place in the Soviet Union at the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 90s was in fact a moment of qualitative change — a long period of revisionism, of quantitative changes, had already taken place.
As the revisionism advanced so the party degenerated along with the economy. By the time of the counter-revolution the CPSU included many in its ranks who sought only to serve themselves and worse, it included the class enemy and those hell bent on restoring capitalism.
The counter-revolution was undoubtedly a terrible setback for the people of the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe as well as being a setback for the working class everywhere.
Imperialism had gained a breathing space and was relieved of the restraining hand provided by a strong socialist superpower.

And yet, even despite the setback of the counter-revolution in Europe, the 20th century has ended much further along the road to socialism and progress than when the century began.
A quarter of the world is now socialist whereas there were no socialist countries at all in 1900.
Colonialism has almost completely ended — the struggle for Ireland’s freedom continues and will without doubt be won.
The obscenity of Apartheid was brought to an end in South Africa and universal suffrage achieved for that country’s people.
Even the counter-revolution in the former Soviet Union has taught us important lessons so that the mistakes of the past may not be repeated — principally the need for constant vigilance against revisionism of both left and right.
Capitalism no longer holds sway in every corner of the earth and, despite the current short-term economic upturn in the West, is in a state of deepening crisis — a crisis it cannot resolve.
Around the world communist parties exist and flourish — where revisionism did its worst new and healthy Marxist-Leninist forces are rebuilding a new future.
We have every reason to go into the next century with confidence and enthusiasm. Long live the Revolution!