Monday, October 9, 2017

Che Guevara, communist networks, and a terrible legacy in America

 Observing the death of a war criminal and the disastrous legacy he inspired.

Che Guevara executed for trying to overthrow government of Bolivia on this day in 1967
 Ireland has issued a Che Guevara stamp on the 50th anniversary of his execution in Bolivia. In too many places he is an admired figure. The facts say otherwise. Ernesto "Che" Guevara, as Fidel Castro's right hand man, killed a lot of people and did a lot of harm in Cuba. Armando Valladares, the Cuban dissident, writer, poet and former prisoner of conscience who served 22 years in Cuban prisons starting in 1960 described him as follows: 
"He was a man full of hatred … Che Guevara executed dozens and dozens of people who never once stood trial and were never declared guilty … In his own words, he said the following: 'At the smallest of doubt we must execute.' And that's what he did at the Sierra Maestra and the prison of Las Cabañas."    
If one doubts the above observation by Valladares characterizing Guevara as a hateful mass murderer then one need only look to the Argentine guerrilla's own words embracing violence, armed struggle and "annihilating" capitalists in letters to his Aunt and parents. He was a communist who in 1953 in a letter written from Guatemala to his Aunt Beatriz reported on an oath he made, "I have sworn before a picture of the old and mourned comrade Stalin that I won't rest until I see these capitalist octopuses annihilated." In 1965, two years prior to his death in Bolivia, he wrote his last letter to his parents explaining that his "Marxism has taken root and become purified. I believe in armed struggle as the only solution for those peoples who fight to free themselves, and I am consistent with my beliefs."

The Argentine communist guerrilla did not care much for university autonomy or academic freedom and in a 1959 address to university students said as much: "A number of students denounce state intervention and the loss of university autonomy. This student sector reflects its class background while forgetting its revolutionary obligation." Fidel Castro went on to declare that the "university was for revolutionaries." Students with dissenting views or insufficient revolutionary vigor were expelled or not even allowed to enter university. This still happens in Cuba today.

Guevara did not just advocate armed struggle but the kind of mindset that guarantees war crimes and crimes against humanity.  On April 16, 1967 in his Message to the Tricontinental he embraced extreme hatred as a revolutionary instrument: “Blind hate against the enemy creates a forceful impulse that cracks the boundaries of natural human limitations, transforming the soldier in an effective, selective and cold killing machine. A people without hate cannot triumph against the adversary.” He also did not fear the use of nuclear weapons in retaliation to a conventional attack. Just days after the Cuban Missile Crises, when the world came to extremely close to nuclear armageddon, he was quoted in November of 1962 in the London Daily Worker :"If they attack, we shall fight to the end. If the rockets had remained, we would have used them all and directed them against the very heart of the United States, including New York, in our defense against aggression." According to Guevara nuclear holocaust was something that should not deter a revolutionary affirming "that we must proceed along the path of liberation even if this costs millions of atomic victims.”

Cuba today is a nightmarish place where freedom is absent and lives ruined for generations but Guevara's negative communist legacy has also been felt in the rest of America and across the world.  In his 1967 Message to the Tricontinental the communist revolutionary proclaimed that to "die under the flag of Vietnam, of Venezuela, of Guatemala, of Laos, of Guinea, of Colombia, of Bolivia, of Brazil — to name only a few scenes of today's armed struggle — would be equally glorious and desirable for an American, an Asian, an African, even a European." Fifty years ago today he achieved that "goal" in Bolivia but also, along with the Castro regime, plunged the region into decades of bloody conflict. However there is one factor that often goes unmentioned that should not be underestimated or ignored and those are communist networks. 

Networks come in various guises. Transnational, regional or global networks and movements are political mechanisms of social organization. These networks are not hierarchical, with a low level of institutionalization, lack a developed bureaucracy, and have a decentralized organizational structure. They are organizational forms in which there is a horizontal flow of information and decisions are taken in a connective web. Although characterized by their "creativity", "horizontality" and "solidarity" which, in structural terms, involve the ability to adapt and facilitate participation, are neutral as to its purpose. These networks can be democratic or totalitarian but are commonly called the grassroots.  Totalitarian networks in the past have been run by Nazis and Communists to advance their respective political aims.

Brief overview of communist networks
The pioneer in totalitarian networks was Wilhelm "Willi" Münzenberg who impacted much of the 20th century. Münzenberg met the Russian communist revolutionary Lenin in Bern, Switzerland in 1915. It was León Trotsky who recognized in Münzenberg the talent to organize clandestine networks from almost nothing. He was part of the original Bolshevik network prior to the 1917 revolution. Following the arrival of the Soviets to power Lenin created the Communist International, KOMINTERN in 1919 as a means to disseminate the Soviet revolution and consolidate dominance of Marxism-Leninism over the global Left. This was the instrument that Münzenberg used to organize cultural power. The first congress of the Communist International was held on March 2, 1919 and included delegates from communist or socialist parties from Russia, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Poland, Finland, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Estonia, Armenia, France, Switzerland, China, Korea, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Sweden, the United States, Azerbaijan, Yugoslavia, and the Netherlands among other countries. 

Totalitarian networks and propaganda pioneer: Wilhelm Münzenberg
 In 1921 Münzenberg became the director of clandestine operations of propaganda aimed at the West. To create networks of supporters Münzenberg used all the resources propaganda from high culture to the most basic. He organized the media: film, radio, theater, books, magazines, and newspapers. He was able to connect to and use all types of formers of opinion respected by the public: writers, artists, actors, priests, ministers, teachers, businessmen, scientists, and psychologists.

Jumping to the 1950s
The Castro brothers along with Che Guevara, with the help of the Soviet Union and international communist networks, were able with great subterfuge to impost a communist dictatorship in Cuba in 1959 but that was only the beginning of their plans which was to turn the Andes into the Sierra Maestra of South America. They failed for decades, but with the arrival of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela they finally succeeded in achieving the hemisphere wide projection of power that the communist regime in Cuba had always desired. They also had designs on the violent overthrow of the United States with the objective of installing a revolutionary regime there. Ernesto "Che" Guevara advocated arming and training groups like the Black Panther Party, that came into existence in 1966, in urban guerrilla warfare.

Guevara's guerrilla struggle erupts onto the streets of the United States
Che Guevara's writings were borrowed from Mao Zedong and were all about guerrilla warfare. It is no surprise that in 1967 the American radical Stokely Carmichael in Havana, Cuba was declaring that "[u]rban guerrilla warfare is the only means by which we can win in the United States because they cannot use bombs against us, since we are inside the country. They will have to fight us in hand-to-hand combat and we will defeat them."

Stokely Carmichael with Che Guevara banner in the background

Shortly after Che Guevara's death Stokely Carmichael placed the Argentine's death in context and was quoted in Andrew Sinclair's Viva Che!: The Strange Death and Life of Che Guevara: "The death of Che Guevara places a responsibility on all revolutionaries of the World to redouble their decision to fight on to the final defeat of Imperialism. That is why in essence Che Guevara is not dead, his ideas are with us." Both Ernesto Guevara and Stokely Carmichael were exposed to Communists and their theories while teenagers and joined networks of communist agitation. Guevara's parents would host communists who had fought in the Spanish Civil War at their home in Argentina in the 1930s and 1940s. Stokely Carmichael while attending the select Bronx High School of Science in New York City became friends with the son of Communist Party leader Eugene Dennis and became active in socialist youth politics, joined a Marxist discussion group and participated in demonstrations against the House Committee on Un-American Activities that focused on communist subversion in the United States.

Stokely Carmichael, despite this background, joined the emerging Civil Rights movement led by the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. who advocated nonviolent resistance as a method to achieve profound change. Carmicheal enrolled in Howard University and joined "the school's Non-Violent Action Group, a civil-rights organization. In 1961 he participated in a number of anti-segregation initiatives in the Deep South, including "freedom rides" organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). Carmichael graduated from Howard University in 1964, with a degree in philosophy. Two years later he replaced John Lewis as head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Having taken over the organization he began to make impassioned speeches advocating for black power and steadily abandoned the Martin Luther King Jr.'s nonviolent stand. 

He told an audience in Havana: ''We are moving toward guerrilla warfare in the United States. We are going to develop urban guerrilla warfare and we are going to beat them in this field because there is one thing the imperialists do not have: their men don't want to fight, they don't want to fight what they call guerilla warfare, which is really hand-to-hand combat." The Senate Permanent Investigations Subcommittee on November 1, 1967 made public these statistics on riots since 1965:

The call for guerrilla warfare in the streets of American cities was generating an escalation in violence and costs in lives lost, injuries, and hundreds of millions in material losses in what Mr. Carmichael advocated as revolution. The CIA report "DISSIDENT ACTIVITY: January 1966 through January 1973" approved for release on June 19, 2003 described a dire situation in 1967 that "[a]lthough severe racial rioting had occurred in U.S. cities in previous summers, it never had been as widespread or as intense as it became in 1967. In the two cities hardest hit, Newark (26 dead) and Detroit (43 dead), conditions of near-insurrection developed in ghetto areas, and police and National Guardsmen responded with volleys of automatic weapons fire."

During his tenure as SNCC chairman, Carmichael urged African Americans to engage in urban guerrilla warfare against the United States. He stepped down from the position of chairman in May of 1967. In 1967 Carmichael was interviewed by Mario Menendez, editor of Sucesos, a Mexican magazine, while he was staying in Havana
attending the Organization of Latin American Solidarity (OLAS), a communist alternative to the Organization of American States (OAS) and made claims about the SNCC that others would reject:

  "Now, we used the word nonviolent because at that time the central figure in the struggle to defend the black race was no one less than Martin Luther King and anyone who resorted to violence was considered a traitor. Consequently we resolved to use the word nonviolent. However we knew that our struggle would end up in violence, that it was only necessary to wait for the right time. So we accepted this name for the grouping and coordinated activities from city to city, wherever we could engage in nonviolent demonstrations."
The more conspiracy minded would say that Mr. Carmichael infiltrated a nonviolent movement with the objective of moving it, as opportunities presented themselves, in a violent direction out of the erroneous belief that it would serve as the only means of effecting lasting change.

Carmichael applauds while attending Organization of Latin American Solidarity in Havana (1967).
Diane Nash, a great pioneer of nonviolence from the sit-ins to the Selma march, rejected nonviolence and took up with the siren call of Black Power. Nash described her reasoning:
"If we've done all this through nonviolence, think what we could do if we were just willing to be urban guerrillas and knock over a few banks. [...] "Of course, ten years later I looked up and I hadn't knocked over any banks and I hadn't been a guerilla. I hadn't even been to the rifle range. But I had withdrawn from this painful, creative engagement with nonviolence and democracy behind a big smokescreen of noise."
In addition to deactivating serious activists the lure of violence and urban guerrilla warfare would exact a terrible cost. According to Virginia Postrel, from 1964 to 1971, there were more than 750 riots, killing 228 people and injuring 12,741 others. After more than 15,000 separate incidents of arson, many black urban neighborhoods were in ruins. The end results were ruined neighborhoods; an explosion in crime; and increased poverty.

In 1992 a high ranking Russian intelligence officer defected to the United Kingdom and brought with him notes and transcripts compiled over the previous thirty years as he moved entire foreign intelligence archives to a new headquarters just outside of Moscow.  The Russian intelligence officer’s name was Vasili Mitrokhin and the information he gathered became known as The Mitrokhin Archive. In the groundbreaking book, The Sword and the The Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin published in 1999 details were obtained from The Mitrokhin Archive on Soviet efforts to replace Martin Luther King Jr. with a “more radical and malleable leader” such as Stokeley Carmichael to provoke a race war in the United States. Andrew Mitrokhin, in  their book,  outlined the KGB's active measures to achieve the goal of race war in America and mentioned Carmichael's visit to Cuba in 1967.
"Stokeley Carmichael, told a meeting of Third World revolutionaries in Cuba in the summer of 1967, “We have a common enemy. Our struggle is to overthrow this system . . . We are moving into open guerilla warfare in the United States.” Traveling on to North Vietnam, Carmichael declared in Hanoi, “We are not reformists…We are revolutionaries. We want to change the American system.” King’s assassination on April 4, 1968 was quickly followed by the violence and rioting which the KGB had earlier blamed King for trying to prevent. Within a week riots erupted in over a hundred cities, forty-six people had been killed, 3,500 injured and 20,000 arrested."
 Stokely Carmichael would go on to become "prime minister" of the Black Panther Party in 1968 and left for Africa in 1969 as America's cities burned following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.  The Black Panther Party was founded in 1966 and was heavily influenced by Robert F. Williams, a black militant nationalist living in Cuba from 1961 until 1966 then moving to Maoist China in the midst of the Cultural Revolution and stayed there until 1969.  Members of the Black Panther Party were reading Che Guevara's books on Guerrilla Warfare and applying it on the streets of America to deadly effect. The violence continued into the 1970s. The wreckage in places like Detroit can still be seen today.

Lamentably this pattern was repeated elsewhere. Guevara’s call to action led to the rise of new military juntas in countries that had not known them before in their history: Brazil, Ecuador, Panama, and Uruguay all had their first military juntas after the Castro regime began to export guerillas and Guevara's ideology. Other countries such as Chile, who had known a military junta between 1924 and 1931, in reaction to communist threats in 1973 embraced Augusto Pinochet who remained in power for seventeen years. With the exception of Nicaragua Che Guevara’s prescription for revolution in Latin America led to a generation of military dictatorships and harsh repression. In Nicaragua it led to a Marxist dictatorship, civil war and harsh repression. In Ireland the Irish Republican Army holds up Guevara as a hero and exemplar. No one should be surprised when some of his admirers in Ireland plant a 600 pound bomb to advance their revolutionary agenda. 

Communist networks the world over today are promoting the communist ideas of Che Guevara that are warmed over Maoism with a dash of tropical flavor. These ideas are destructive and end in death not only for the practitioners but for the societies unfortunate enough to adopt them. Democrats need to be energized and set the record straight in our own networks to counter this totalitarian threat.

Instead of using a Che Guevara stamp I'll be purchasing a Celia Cruz stamp and remembering a talented Cuban artist banned from Cuba because she rejected the hateful ideology Guevara and Castro imposed on the Cuban people.

Viva Celia Cruz!

1 comment:

  1. I can't believe that in Brazil on Marica city in 2020, Che is being honored with his name in a hospital