Sunday, January 30, 2022

74 years ago today Mohandas Gandhi was assassinated

"We are ruthless and ask no quarter from you. When our turn comes we shall not disguise our terrorism." - Karl Marx, Marx-Engels Gesamt-Ausgabe, vol. vi pp 503-5 (The final issue of Neue Rheinische Zeitung, 18 May 1849)

Mohandas K. Gandhi and his assassin Gopal Godse,

“In politics you cannot follow nonviolence. You cannot follow honesty. Every moment you have to give a lie. Every moment you have to take a bullet in hand and kill someone.” -  Gopal Godse,  co-conspirator in Gandhi's assassination, Time Magazine, February 2000.

"Terrorism and deception are weapons not of the strong but of the weak." - Mohandas K. Gandhi

Seventy four years ago Mohandas Gandhi was shot three times in the chest and killed by Hindu nationalist Gopal Godse at 5:17pm. Godse was part of a team of assassins that had tried 10 days earlier to bomb and kill Gandhi.

Body of Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi lies in state at Birla House in New Delhi.

Gandhi despite his successful struggle for independence and the establishment of the largest democracy on the planet was felled, after repeated assassination attempts they gunned him down as he went to worship. They murdered the independence leader because they did not believe that India could survive with Gandhi promoting Satyagraha and a Muslim state next door. Gopal Godse, a co-conspirator and brother of the assassin Nathuram Godse, argued as late as February 2000 in a Time magazine interview that: “In politics you cannot follow nonviolence. You cannot follow honesty. Every moment you have to give a lie. Every moment you have to take a bullet in hand and kill someone.”
Communists view nationalists as a threat to their revolutionary project, and nationalists often have a critical view of Marxism-Leninism, but they both agreed in their hostility to Mohandas Gandhi.
The nationalists were open and transparent about their evil intent, but the communists had more guile, and their reasons for rejecting him more complex. 
The Soviet press published an article written by S.M. Vakar in 1948 following Gandhi's assassination on January 30, 1948 titled "The Class Nature of the Gandhi Doctrine" subtitled "Gandhi as a Reactionary Utopian" in the Soviet philosophy journal Voprosy filosofii (Questions of Philosophy). The Marxist Leninist argument was outlined as follows:
Although Gandhi regarded the union and independence of the Indian peoples as his goal, his reactionary-Utopian social theory and the reformist methods of struggle connected with it caused his activity to fail in facilitating overthrow of the colonial yoke [...] The social essence of the Gandhi doctrine and its fundamentally reactionary role in the history of India's national liberation movement has hardly been treated in Marxist literature. Yet this doctrine still retards the development of class awareness among the Indian masses.
What was this social essence of Gandhian thought that so troubled the Marxist Leninists in the Soviet Union? First, the reformist methods of struggle referred to in the above quote was nonviolent resistance and secondly his social theory rejected class struggle as another manifestation of destructive violence. On September 11, 1906 a new word came into existence that would give a better understanding of Gandhi's social theory and method of struggle which he described as:
'Satyagraha.' Truth (Satya) implies love, and firmness (agraha) engenders and therefore serves as a synonym for force. I thus began to call the Indian movement 'Satyagraha,' that is to say, the Force which is born of Truth and Love or non-violence, and gave up the use of the phrase 'passive resistance,' in connection with it, so much so that even in English writing we often avoided it and used instead the word 'Satyagraha' itself or some other equivalent English phrase.
The Marxist-Leninists embrace revolutionary violence and a movement led by a small vanguard of intellectuals and professional revolutionaries that carry out the changes "necessary" by whatever means necessary and reject nonviolence as naive. They follow the doctrine of  Vladimir Lenin as presented in his 1902 revolutionary tract "What is to be done."

Over a century has passed since both sets of ideas have been set out and applied around the world. An analysis done by Maria J. Stephen and Erica Chenoweth systematically explores the strategic effectiveness of both violent and nonviolent campaigns using data on 323 campaigns carried out between 1900 and 2006.[1] Their findings demonstrate that major non-violent campaigns were successful 53% of the time versus only 26% for major violent campaigns and terrorist campaigns had a dismal 7% success rate.

Today, India with all its flaws is the world's largest democracy with a growing economy that presents new competitive challenges to the developed world and Communism has amassed a body count of 100 million dead and counting. It would appear that Gandhi's criticisms of the communists were prescient:
"The socialists and communists say, they can do nothing to bring about economic equality today. They will just carry on propaganda in its favor and to that end they believe in generating and accentuating hatred. They say, when they get control over the State, they will enforce equality. Under my plan the State will be there to carry out the will of the people, not to dictate to them or force them to do its will." - Mohandas Gandhi

"It is my firm conviction that if the State suppressed capitalism by violence, it will be caught in the coils of violence itself, and will fail to develop non-violence at any time. The State represents violence in a concentrated and organized form. The individual has a soul, but as the State is a soulless machine, it can never be weaned from violence to which it owes its very existence." - Mohandas Gandhi
It is Satyagraha that is relevant today in 2022 and offers an alternative to the conflagrations suffered in the 20th century and the wars that plague the world now. Gandhi's Satyagraha is a call to principled non-violence but even pragmatists and realists looking over the historical record cannot fail to be influenced by the fact that non-violent civic resistance works and offers a better chance of a better life for more people.

Below is a 2018 documentary by Deutsche Welle about the assassination of Mohandas Gandhi. It is also available in Spanish.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Remembering Cuban martyr and dissident Harold Cepero on what would have been his 42nd birthday

"Whoever destroys a single life is considered by Scripture to have destroyed the whole world, and whoever saves a single life is considered by Scripture to have saved the whole world." - Mishnah  (1135-1204)

Harold Cepero Escalante (1980 - 2012)

Harold Cepero Escalante was born in Ciego de Avila on January 29, 1980 and was murdered by the Cuban dictatorship together with Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas in Bayamo, Granma on July 22, 2012. Harold was a member of the Christian Liberation Movement and a youth leader. Harold understood that those who engaged in repression were also not free stating "[t]hose who remove and crush freedom are the real slaves."

Today would have been his 42nd birthday, but due to the actions of the Castro regime's secret police his life was ended ten years ago at the age of 32. 

Clare Short, a former Labor member of parliament addressing the topic of forgiveness and justice raises two important points that underline reconciliation within an ongoing injustice and repression:

"Is anger about injustice one of the forces that drives historical progress and important social reform? Is there an important difference between the bitterness,hatred and quest for vengeance that can be so damaging to those who have been hurt or wronged, and the anger that thirsts after justice?" ... "I also agree that the quest for vengeance is also wrong because it so often inflicts harm on people who share an identity with the original perpetrator but have no guilt,and it means the evil of the original harm is recreated in the actions of the person who has been wronged. But all this said, there is such a thing as just anger and those who are subject to continuing oppression can get strength from that anger in order to join with others to liberate themselves. And so I wish to conclude by celebrating forgiveness and reconciliation but also by reminding us that reconciliation can not be the answer when there is a continuing wrong or continuing oppression."

In the Cuban context, Antonio "Tony" Ramón Díaz Sánchez, a former prisoner of conscience and secretary general of the Christian Liberation Movement, rejects hatred while at the same time forgiving past injustices but refuses to forgive those that are ongoing or that will be carried out in the future. Because to forgive ongoing and future evils raises the danger of one becoming morally complicit in them or as Tony puts it:

"Because what I do not forgive is that the year has started with the same repression that ended last year. What I can not forgive is that in my country, those who govern, do not recognize the need to change to democracy and allow the people to decide in free and pluralistic elections. I can not and do not want to forgive that right now, at this instant, there are political prisoners in Cuba and that the existing laws guarantee their imprisonment or perhaps the firing squad for others. I do not forgive that young people are living without life projects, while a group in power live as billionaires. Nor do I forgive the complicity of many interests that seek capital now in Cuba without wanting to find out today what is happening there. I do not forgive out of hate. No, no but because forgiving a present and a future of injustice and totalitarianism for your country, is not mercy but complicity with the evil of others."

Tony Díaz Sánchez understood, and continues to understand the dangers of speaking truth to power in Cuba, and paid the price of long years in prison, and forced exile to do it.

Harold also understood the dangers of advocating for freedom in Cuba under the Castro dictatorship. In 2012, shortly before his death he explained the cost of resistance: 

"Christians and non-Christians who have the courage and the freedom to consider the peaceful political option for their lives, know they are exposing themselves to slightly less than absolute solitude, to work exclusion, to persecution, to prison or death."

This courageous young man is remembered and the demand for justice continues The petition demanding an international investigation into the circumstances of Harold and Oswaldo's killing on July 22, 2012 has crossed 16,500 signatures

Defending memory by pursuing truth and maintaining the call for justice is an ever present opportunity for the other to repent and embrace justice and actual forgiveness. The antithesis of this is "forgiving and forgetting" while injustices are ongoing  and new ones being compounded not only harms the victims but also condemns the perpetrator to continue committing evil acts and is described as a "false reconciliation."  

In the spirit of defending truth and memory, this video of a 2002 interview with Harold Cepero provided by the Christian Liberation Movement on their Youtube channel is being shared.

Friday, January 28, 2022

José Julián Martí Pérez at 169: The heirs of José Martí and those who repress them now

 "I think they kill my child every time they deprive a person of their right to think." - José Martí

José Martí with shirt of stars by Camila Ramírez Lobón

Today is the 169th anniversary of the birth of José Julián Martí Pérez, better known as José Martí, and hundreds of sons and daughters of Cuba are being subjected to political show trials for expressing themselves, peacefully assembling, and/or reporting on what happened during the protests in mid-July 2021. The lives of many of these unjustly and arbitrarily imprisoned Cubans hang in the balance.


Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara marks 10 days on hunger and thirst strike today.

On the evening of January 25, 2022 at the Freedom Tower in a vigil organized and hosted by Anamely Ramos González and Claudia Genlui of the San Isidro Movement for the freedom of Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, Yosvany Rosell García Caso, William Manuel Leyva, Cruz García Domínguez, and Chadrián Vila Sequín who are on hunger and thirst strike, and the rest of the political prisoners.

Vigil at Freedom Tower on January 25, 2022

One year ago on the eve of the 168th anniversary of José Martí's birth, approximately 20 artists, journalists and intellectuals gathered to read some of his works.  

January 27, 2021 marked the two month anniversary of hundreds of artists and intellectuals protest at the Ministry of Culture on November 27, 2020 for freedom of expression following the government raid on the San Isidro Movement's headquarters in Havana hours earlier. Out of that gathering, the Vice Minister of Culture agreed to meet with 32 representatives, and out of that encounter committed to an ongoing dialogue. On that night the 27N movement was formed.

Artists and intellectuals pay homage to Martí at the Ministry of Culture

José Martí was born on January 28, 1853 and in addition to being a journalist, poet, and independence leader he was also a fervent defender of freedom of expression and conscience.

Cubans of all ideological stripes claim him as their own, but objectively who has maintained the spirit of his words and ideas? There is a movement in Cuba and in Exile that seeks to restore human rights and liberties using nonviolent means. There are courageous men and women who risk everything standing up to dictatorship. Many have been jailed and some of them have been killed in the process and their families targeted for reprisals.

Some of the political prisoners featured in the vigil at the Freedom Tower

José Martí  wrote that "There is no forgiveness for acts of hatred. Daggers thrust in the name of liberty are thrust into liberty's heart."
He also criticized the writings of Karl Marx, observing they were antithetical to his own values. Marx in 1849 had written, "We are ruthless and ask no quarter from you. When our turn comes we shall not disguise our terrorism." 

It is not a surprise that Martí saw the dangers inherent in Socialism and its doctrine of envy observing: 

"Socialist ideology, like so many others, has two main dangers. One stems from confused and incomplete readings of foreign texts, and the other from the arrogance and hidden rage of those who, in order to climb up in the world, pretend to be frantic defenders of the helpless so as to have shoulders on which to stand." 

 Following these statements to his modern day counterpart over a century later leads one to Oswaldo Paya, addressing the European Parliament on December 17, 2002:

 "The first victory we can claim is that our hearts are free of hatred. Hence we say to those who persecute us and who try to dominate us: ‘You are my brother. I do not hate you, but you are not going to dominate me by fear. I do not wish to impose my truth, nor do I wish you to impose yours on me. We are going to seek the truth together.’"

It also leads to #27N and the San Isidro Movement, and the artists, journalists and intellectuals peacefully gathered in front of the Ministry of Culture to read the works of José Martí on January 27, 2021. They are his heirs.

One of them Carolina Barrero, an art historian, led the group in the reading of the poem "Dos Patrias" which translates to English to "Two Homelands," and posted the video on Facebook last year. She also distributed a printed image of José Martí wearing a shirt with stars on it.  This year, on the one year anniversary, she Tweeted the same video of herself reading the poem that is embedded above.

On January 27, 2021, Diario de Cuba reported on the preemptive arrests, an act of repudiation against the gathered artists and intellectuals, led by the Minister of Culture Alpidio Alonso and his Vice-Minister Fernando León Jacomino, who were caught on camera physically assaulting them. The dissidents were arrested and crammed into a small bus by secret police and beaten up while already detained. 

State Security accused Carolina Barrero of “Clandestine Printing”, a crime under Article 210 of the Castro regime's penal code, for distributing the above image and pursued a case against her.  

"They are afraid of nonviolent protests." - Camila Lobón (Periodico Cubano)

On March 21, 2021 Cuban artist Camila Ramírez Lobón identified herself as the author of the image and challenged regime officials: “The law that you want to apply against the beauty, in the full sense of the word, that Carolina embodies, you will have to use against me, too,” she wrote.

Other heirs, are to be found in Cuban diaspora, one of them is Patiño Vázquez, a self described "Cuban-American child of mambo and rock & roll." He created his own arrangement, a musical setting for this work of poetry.

Two Homelands

By José Martí

I've got two homelands: Cuba and the night.

Or are both the same? As soon as 

the sun withdraws its majesty, with long veils

and holding a carnation, silent,

Cuba, like a sad widow, appears in front of me

I know which bloody carnation trembles in her hand! 

My chest is empty, it is torn and empty where the heart used to be. 

It's time to start dying. The night is right to say good-bye. 

The light disturbs and the human word. 

The universe speaks better than (the) man.

Like a flag that invites you to battle, the red flame of the sail flatters. 

I open the windows, already tight inside of me. 

Muted, breaking the carnation's leaves, like a cloud that blurs the sky, 

Cuba, a widow, passes... 

In 2022 the heirs of Martí are subjected to political show trials, beatings, forced exile, and extrajudicial executions by the Castro dictatorship that systematically denies freedom of speech and assembly, but claims the poet as their own. 

Ideas expressed below by José Martí are in conflict with Castroism and cannot be reconciled. However they are in accord with the democratic Cuba that helped draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, and struggled for a more just and democratic order, but was first damaged by Fulgencio Batista on March 10, 1952 then systematically destroyed by Fidel and Raul Castro beginning on January 1, 1959. 

"Man loves liberty, even if he does not know that he loves it. He is driven by it and flees from where it does not exist."

"Freedoms, like privileges, prevail or are imperiled together You cannot harm or strive to achieve one without harming or furthering all."

"Liberty is the right of every man to be honest, to think and to speak without hypocrisy."

"It is the duty of man to raise up man. One is guilty of all abjection that one does not help to relieve. Only those who spread treachery, fire, and death out of hatred for the prosperity of others are undeserving of pity."  

These views exist today in Cuba, but not in the regime, but among dissidents, defying the communist dictatorship, who embrace freedom while rejecting hatred. Cuban scientist Oscar Casanella, who took part and was beaten up during the unauthorized 2019 Pride March, went on hunger strike in the San Isidro Movement's headquarter's in November 2020, took part in the January 27, 2021 protest outside the Ministry of Culture, and went into exile earlier this month, was present at the vigil on January 25, 2022.

"No+Dictatorship" sign at Freedom Tower vigil in Miami on 1/25/22

The Castro regime and its agents of influence attempt to disqualify those now in the diaspora, but forget that José Martí was a political prisoner, who was forcibly exiled from Cuba by the Spaniards for 24 years, and spent those years in exile advocating for Cuba's independence and Cubans freedom.

Below is a video by Omni Zona Franca of the vigil on January 25, 2022 with organizers and participants interviewed.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

#WeRemember: International Holocaust Remembrance Day is January 27th

 "It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say. It can happen, and it can happen everywhere." - Primo Levi, 1986 The Drowned and the Saved

Today, January 27, 2022 is recognized by the United Nations as International Holocaust Remembrance Day and is observed around the world.  

We must never forget what happened and remain vigilant now and in the future to battle against the mass destruction of innocent human beings. 

One year and twenty one days ago on January 6, 2021 when the citadel of American democracy was laid siege by an angry mob that resulted in five deaths - Nazis where there in the crowd. Robert Keith Packer, age 56, was wearing a "Camp Auschwitz" t-shirt, making light of the notorious death camp. Auschwitz was the largest of the German Nazi concentration camps and extermination centers. Over 1.1 million men, women and children lost their lives there.
Primo Levi was right, it can happen anywhere - even here.

Unfortunately the international community has failed more than once since 1945 to prevent another mass slaughter. Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge murdered between one fourth and one third of its population between 1975 and 1979, civil libertarian Nat Hentoff pointed to another genocide that could have been stopped in Rwanda in 1994, and now we are witnessing another in Syria where religious minorities, including Christians are being targeted.
It is also important to remember that antisemitism is on the rise world wide and people of the Jewish faith need our solidarity and support in confronting rising hatred and intolerance to ensure that what Nazi Germany did never be repeated. 

At the same time it is important to remember and honor the martyrs and heroes who resisted the Nazis.  Including Raoul Wallenberg, who saved 140,000 Jewish people, and was disappeared by the Soviets in January 1945. 
They are exemplars in moral courage that are much needed today. 

In 2017 in the United States we saw Neo-Nazis on the march in Charlottesville, North Carolina first in a torchlight parade chanting anti-Semitic rants that the following day turned deadly in violent clashes that claimed an innocent life. We must remain vigilant and denounce this evil ideology wherever and whenever it arises. 
Four years later and Neo-Nazis were storming the U.S. Capitol threatening the peaceful transition of power in the United States. 
The fragility of a free society was underscored during  the events in Washington D.C. on January 6, 2021, and the importance of resisting enemies of freedom both foreign and domestic. 
This cannot be done by silencing free speech, even if it is hateful, but challenging it and exposing both its intellectual and moral bankruptcy.

"To forget the victims means to kill them a second time. So I couldn't prevent the first death. I surely must be capable of saving them from a second death." - Elie Wiesel 

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Message from a Cuban jail: Cuban dissident Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara called Claudia Genlui from the maximum security prison in Guanajay today


Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara spoke with Claudia Genlui Hidalgo

Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara is one of the leaders of the San Isidro Movement, and his home in the San Isidro neighborhood is the headquarters of the above mentioned movement. Over the past four years, Amnesty International has on several occasions recognized Luis Manuel a prisoner of conscience. His most recent arbitrary detention began on July 11, 2021 and is ongoing. He turned 34 years old on December 2, 2021.  Claudia Genlui Hidalgo is an artist in her own right, an art curator, and girlfriend to Luis Manuel.

The following text was taken from a Twitter thread from the San Isidro Movement posted today at 6:33pm, and translated here to English to reach a wider audience.

#ATTENTION| Claudia Genlui Hidalgo: "Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara just called from the maximum security prison in Guanajay, where he has been for more than 6 months. It may be the last call he makes for a while. He called to briefly but firmly communicate that he is at his limit.
That from today he rejects all the "rights" that a prisoner has because he shouldn't be one. His body is imprisoned due to an injustice, but his mind has always been free and he wants to keep it that way.
From today, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara refuses of his own will to receive visits, food, calls. He is finished. He knows, like all of us, that being in prison is not a dignified option, that his freedom is being manipulated by State Security and that they are guarding him as currency of exchange. The path that Luis Manuel has followed is not for that, he will only leave #Cuba as a free citizen when he decides and with the availability to return when he wishes.That is a right.

He was hoping that the last request to change the measure submitted would be approved. Luis, as he says: "He has not stolen bread from any Cuban child", quite the opposite. By denying this request, the regime demonstrates that its intention is to humiliate him, treat him like a criminal when he is not. I want it to be clear that Luis Manuel's life is at the limit. THAT THERE WILL NOT BE A SECOND CHANCE TO SAVE HIM, he himself has said ENOUGH. 
It was what I felt in his brief words, but above all in the tone of his voice and even in the dense silence that surrounded him. "Tell them I love them all," he told me.
The Cuban government is slowly assassinating an artist who has only shown us light, who has constructed that hope to which we cling to today. Now more than ever he needs us, he trusts us."  
Anamely Ramos González, also of the San Isidro Movement, tweeted about Luis Manuel's call minutes earlier today at 6:08pm. She said that "Luis Manuel Otero has been unjustly imprisoned for six months. Today he said enough. He called to report that he will no longer accept visits, food delivery, or calls. His body is imprisoned but not his mind. His life is in danger and the fault lies with the Cuban State. #FreeLuisma " Below is the Tweet in the original Spanish.