It’s so interesting to be here during the time of nomination (January) and now consideration of the candidates for 6 weeks until the March 11 elections for National Assembly. While everyday life goes on seemingly unperturbed, there was a strong undercurrent of hopefulness and anticipation as the candidates were rolled out at the start of the month. This is the big one, the one where there will be a new president. More it is the first generational change in top leadership since the start of the Revolution.
A lot of hard work at all levels has gone into preparing for these elections over the past year or year and a half and the rollout was accompanied by a lot of fanfare.
There are a number of things the elections are not.
These are slate elections, not competitive elections. These are not party elections with varying platforms from which to choose. The Communist Party sets the direction and goals for the country and so voting the party up or down is not at play. Not all candidates for the National Assembly are in the Communist Party or even in the Communist Youth. As membership in the party is considered a badge of honor and merit rather than an affiliation (see below as to how people join the party), it is weighed among other criteria as the electoral commission tries to achieve a balance of representation of the existing society. A complicated concept for those of us with a different set if criteria.
(In Cuba, joining the party is a rigorous process of nomination, review, probation, and approval. Obviously, some bad apples slip through but it is considered a privilege and responsibility, not a bene to be in the party, not a right of position or privilege, and there are as many simple workers in the party as so-called elites).
There is no individual campaigning. The fact that these are block (slate) elections, of course, makes such competition unnecessary. You are voting up or down.
Here is what the elections are.
The first step in the national election process took place late January, as I said. 12,000 candidates were proposed in 970 meetings of the mass organizations — Cuban Central Trade Organization, Committees for Defense of the Revolution, The Cuban Women’s Federation, The National Small Farmers’ Association, the University Students Federation, and the High School Students Federation.
The Election Commision with subcommissions throughout the country at the provincial and local levels then sifted through the 12,000 visiting the institutions, organizations and work centers of the nominees as well as the neighborhoods in which they live, conducting interviews and collecting opinions and impressions. The goal was to ensure the proposal included 50 % municipal assembly representatives, members of civil society, candidates representative of the varying interests at the local, provincial and national level.
The findings then went district by district to the 168 Municipal Assemblies (12,515 local representatives who been voted in at the municipal level in the fall elections ) who then made the final nominations for their districts. All voters 16 or over in each district will be voting (up or down) for the candidates to represent their district in the National Assembly. Voting is not compulsory but usually is between 87 and 95%.
And if you think this sounds complicated, it sure seems so to me too and I hope I haven’t gotten any of it wrong. (You can see the Cubans national elections site on the web, with charts and graphs, www.cubaenelecciones.cu or at www.cubadebate.com)
So where have we ended up?
287 of the 605 candidates to National Assembly (47.4%) are currently local delegates to the municipal assemblies. Every district has at least two candidates, one of which is a local delegate.
338 of the nominees are first-time candidates
The average age is 49, with 80 candidates between 18 and 35 years of age.
53.2% of the candidates are women.
38% are considered Afro Cuban or mestizo.
The historic generation of the Revolution is well represented but 89.25% of candidates were born after the Revolution, that is after Jan 1, 1959.
Other than ensuring that every district has at least one delegate? The further breakdown on the election website mentioned previously is
28 are farmers or members of farming cooperatives
24 are in scientific and other kinds of research
12 are in sports
47 are in education
22 in the armed forces
4 are small private business entrepreneurs or self-employed
39 are local, provincial or national leaders of mass organizations (such as CDR, FMC)
11 are leaders of social or civic organizations
9 are student leaders
4 are members if religious organizations
46 are political body leaders
7 are judges or other members of the justice system
41 are members of the government, meaning ministers or similar kinds of posts
22 are members of fiscal, administrative and other types of bureaucratic offices
That may not add up to 605 as I may have missed some. You can go yourselves to www.eleccionesencuba.cu and see anything I’ve missed. For instance, I haven’t noticed who’re candidates from culture and the arts, and I won’t have a chance to sort that out before sending this.
So there is no campaigning as I think I said.
Still, as everyone is voting for candidates from their own district, if people have gone to any of the neighborhood meetings, or pay attention to sports, news, or television many of the candidates will be known.
Candidates have been posted in the newspapers with their pictures, age, occupation and organizational affiliations, and in special voting supplements. All candidates are also posted in multiple locations in the district where they are candidates, with the same information and alongside, a list of voters in that district (everyone over the age of 16). All candidates are also posted on television repeatedly throughout the day, province by province, 3 at a time.
The big question, of course, is who will be president. The president is elected by the new National Assembly once seated, so it will be April.
Speculation is rampant, centering not just on the so-called obvious successor, Vice President Diaz Canal but on two others in leadership, one in Havana and one in Santiago, both young and very well liked.
What we do know (we think) is that for the first time in Cuban history since the Revolution it won’t be a Castro. And it won’t be a member of what’s known as the historic generation.
It’s a very exciting time to be in Cuba. No one can be sure what’s ahead and while the country is moving ahead slowly along its chosen path, too slowly for many, moving ahead it is. Despite the local defeatists, cynics and naysayers one encounters, there’s still a sense of peace and stability rather than uncertainty and not either a sense of resignation. As a friend and strong supporter of the Revolution told me yesterday after a heated discussion with his 35-year-old son, “He told me, ‘look, Dad, we don’t agree on a lot of things but it’s still my country and my Revolution too. When push comes to shove, if anything happens you know I will be with you on the same side.'” Which he took to mean that even for the discontented youth, dignity, sovereignty, peace and well being are the paramount values and vision.
As I face going home to the cynical cartoon of government in Washington, the aftermath of another mass shooting in a school, and all the uncertainties we face on a daily basis, it’s a vision I wish I could look forward to too.
Havana February 16, 2018
As written with one finger on a phone, please excuse all typos. Please also excuse and feel free to forward verified corrections.
Please also forward to anyone you feel will be interested
July 31, 2015
In Miami today, Hillary Clinton forcefully expressed her support for normalization of U.S. relations with Cuba and formally called on Congress to lift the Cuba embargo. Hillary emphasized that she believes we need to increase American influence in Cuba, not reduce it — a strong contrast with Republican candidates who are stuck in the past, trying to return to the same failed Cold War-era isolationism that has only strengthened the Castro regime.
To those Republicans, her message was clear: “They have it backwards: Engagement is not a gift to the Castros – it’s a threat to the Castros. An American embassy in Havana isn’t a concession – it’s a beacon. Lifting the embargo doesn’t set back the advance of freedom – it advances freedom where it is most desperately needed.”
A full transcript of the remarks is included below:
“Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. I want to thank Dr. Frank Mora, director of the Kimberly Latin American and Caribbean Center and a professor here at FIU, and before that served with distinction at the Department of Defense. I want to recognize former Congressman Joe Garcia. Thank you Joe for being here – a long time friend and an exemplary educator. The President of Miami-Dade College, Eduardo Padrón and the President of FIU, Mark Rosenberg – I thank you all for being here. And for me it’s a delight to be here at Florida International University. You can feel the energy here. It’s a place where people of all backgrounds and walks of life work hard, do their part, and get ahead. That’s the promise of America that has drawn generations of immigrants to our shores, and it’s a reality right here at FIU.
“Today, as Frank said, I want to talk with you about a subject that has stirred passionate debate in this city and beyond for decades, but is now entering a crucial new phase. America’s approach to Cuba is at a crossroads, and the upcoming presidential election will determine whether we chart a new path forward or turn back to the old ways of the past. We must decide between engagement and embargo, between embracing fresh thinking and returning to Cold War deadlock. And the choices we make will have lasting consequences not just for more than 11 million Cubans, but also for American leadership across our hemisphere and around the world.
“I know that for many in this room and throughout the Cuban-American community, this debate is not an intellectual exercise – it is deeply personal.
“I teared up as Frank was talking about his mother—not able to mourn with her family, say goodbye to her brother. I’m so privileged to have a sister-in-law who is Cuban-American, who came to this country, like so many others as a child and has chartered her way with a spirit of determination and success.
“I think about all those who were sent as children to live with strangers during the Peter Pan airlift, for families who arrived here during the Mariel boatlift with only the clothes on their backs, for sons and daughters who could not bury their parents back home, for all who have suffered and waited and longed for change to come to the land, “where palm trees grow.” And, yes, for a rising generation eager to build a new and better future.
“Many of you have your own stories and memories that shape your feelings about the way forward. Like Miriam Leiva, one of the founders of the Ladies in White, who is with us today – brave Cuban women who have defied the Castro regime and demanded dignity and reform. We are honored to have her here today and I’d like to ask her, please raise your hand. Thank you.
“I wish every Cuban back in Cuba could spend a day walking around Miami and see what you have built here, how you have turned this city into a dynamic global city. How you have succeeded as entrepreneurs and civic leaders. It would not take them long to start demanding similar opportunities and achieving similar success back in Cuba.
“I understand the skepticism in this community about any policy of engagement toward Cuba. As many of you know, I’ve been skeptical too. But you’ve been promised progress for fifty years. And we can’t wait any longer for a failed policy to bear fruit. We have to seize this moment. We have to now support change on an island where it is desperately needed.
“I did not come to this position lightly. I well remember what happened to previous attempts at engagement. In the 1990s, Castro responded to quiet diplomacy by shooting down the unarmed Brothers to the Rescue plane out of the sky. And with their deaths in mind, I supported the Helms-Burton Act to tighten the embargo.
“Twenty years later, the regime’s human rights abuses continue: imprisoning dissidents, cracking down on free expression and the Internet, beating and harassing the courageous Ladies in White, refusing a credible investigation into the death of Oswaldo Paya. Anyone who thinks we can trust this regime hasn’t learned the lessons of history.
“But as Secretary of State, it became clear to me that our policy of isolating Cuba was strengthening the Castros’ grip on power rather than weakening it – and harming our broader efforts to restore American leadership across the hemisphere. The Castros were able to blame all of the island’s woes on the U.S. embargo, distracting from the regime’s failures and delaying their day of reckoning with the Cuban people. We were unintentionally helping the regime keep Cuba a closed and controlled society rather than working to open it up to positive outside influences the way we did so effectively with the old Soviet bloc and elsewhere.
“So in 2009, we tried something new. The Obama administration made it easier for Cuban Americans to visit and send money to family on the island. No one expected miracles, but it was a first step toward exposing the Cuban people to new ideas, values, and perspectives.
“I remember seeing a CNN report that summer about a Cuban father living and working in the United States who hadn’t seen his baby boy back home for a year-and-a-half because of travel restrictions. Our reforms made it possible for that father and son finally to reunite. It was just one story, just one family, but it felt like the start of something important.
“In 2011, we further loosened restrictions on cash remittances sent back to Cuba and we opened the way for more Americans – clergy, students and teachers, community leaders – to visit and engage directly with the Cuban people. They brought with them new hope and support for struggling families, aspiring entrepreneurs, and brave civil society activists. Small businesses started opening. Cell phones proliferated. Slowly, Cubans were getting a taste of a different future.
“I then became convinced that building stronger ties between Cubans and Americans could be the best way to promote political and economic change on the island. So by the end of my term as Secretary, I recommended to the President that we end the failed embargo and double down on a strategy of engagement that would strip the Castro regime of its excuses and force it to grapple with the demands and aspirations of the Cuban people. Instead of keeping change out, as it has for decades, the regime would have to figure out how to adapt to a rapidly transforming society.
“What’s more, it would open exciting new business opportunities for American companies, farmers, and entrepreneurs – especially for the Cuban-American community. That’s my definition of a win-win.
“Now I know some critics of this approach point to other countries that remain authoritarian despite decades of diplomatic and economic engagement. And yes it’s true that political change will not come quickly or easily to Cuba. But look around the world at many of the countries that have made the transition from autocracy to democracy – from Eastern Europe to East Asia to Latin America. Engagement is not a silver bullet, but again and again we see that it is more likely to hasten change, not hold it back.
“The future for Cuba is not foreordained. But there is good reason to believe that once it gets going, this dynamic will be especially powerful on an island just 90 miles from the largest economy in the world. Just 90 miles away from one and a half million Cuban-Americans whose success provides a compelling advertisement for the benefits of democracy and an open society.
“So I have supported President Obama and Secretary Kerry as they’ve advanced this strategy. They’ve taken historic steps forward – re-establishing diplomatic relations, reopening our embassy in Havana, expanding opportunities further for travel and commerce, calling on Congress to finally drop the embargo.
“That last step about the embargo is crucial, because without dropping it, this progress could falter.
“We have arrived at a decisive moment. The Cuban people have waited long enough for progress to come. Even many Republicans on Capitol Hill are starting to recognize the urgency of moving forward. It’s time for their leaders to either get on board or get out of the way. The Cuba embargo needs to go, once and for all. We should replace it with a smarter approach that empowers Cuban businesses, Cuban civil society, and the Cuban-American community to spur progress and keep pressure on the regime.
“Today I am calling on Speaker Boehner and Senator McConnell to step up and answer the pleas of the Cuban people. By large majorities, they want a closer relationship with America.
“They want to buy our goods, read our books, surf our web, and learn from our people. They want to bring their country into the 21st century. That is the road toward democracy and dignity and we should walk it together.
“We can’t go back to a failed policy that limits Cuban-Americans’ ability to travel and support family and friends. We can’t block American businesses that could help free enterprise take root in Cuban soil – or stop American religious groups and academics and activists from establishing contacts and partnerships on the ground.
“If we go backward, no one will benefit more than the hardliners in Havana. In fact, there may be no stronger argument for engagement than the fact that Cuba’s hardliners are so opposed to it. They don’t want strong connections with the United States. They don’t want Cuban-Americans traveling to the island. They don’t want American students and clergy and NGO activists interacting with the Cuban people. That is the last thing they want. So that’s precisely why we need to do it.
“Unfortunately, most of the Republican candidates for President would play right into the hard-liners’ hands. They would reverse the progress we have made and cut the Cuban people off from direct contact with the Cuban-American community and the free-market capitalism and democracy that you embody. That would be a strategic error for the United States and a tragedy for the millions of Cubans who yearn for closer ties.
“They have it backwards: Engagement is not a gift to the Castros – it’s a threat to the Castros. An American embassy in Havana isn’t a concession – it’s a beacon. Lifting the embargo doesn’t set back the advance of freedom – it advances freedom where it is most desperately needed.
“Fundamentally, most Republican candidates still view Cuba – and Latin America more broadly – through an outdated Cold War lens. Instead of opportunities to be seized, they see only threats to be feared. They refuse to learn the lessons of the past or pay attention to what’s worked and what hasn’t. For them, ideology trumps evidence. And so they remain incapable of moving us forward.
“As President, I would increase American influence in Cuba, rather than reduce it. I would work with Congress to lift the embargo and I would also pursue additional steps.
“First, we should help more Americans go to Cuba. If Congress won’t act to do this, I would use executive authority to make it easier for more Americans to visit the island to support private business and engage with the Cuban people.
“Second, I would use our new presence and connections to more effectively support human rights and civil society in Cuba. I believe that as our influence expands among the Cuban people, our diplomacy can help carve out political space on the island in a way we never could before.
“We will follow the lead of Pope Francis, who will carry a powerful message of empowerment when he visits Cuba in September. I would direct U.S. diplomats to make it a priority to build relationships with more Cubans, especially those starting businesses and pushing boundaries. Advocates for women’s rights and workers’ rights. Environmental activists. Artists. Bloggers. The more relationships we build, the better.
“We should be under no illusions that the regime will end its repressive ways any time soon, as its continued use of short-term detentions demonstrates. So we have to redouble our efforts to stand up for the rights of reformers and political prisoners, including maintaining sanctions on specific human-rights violators. We should maintain restrictions on the flow of arms to the regime – and work to restrict access to the tools of repression while expanding access to tools of dissent and free expression.
“We should make it clear, as I did as Secretary of State, that the “freedom to connect” is a basic human right, and therefore do more to extend that freedom to more and more Cubans – particularly young people.
“Third, and this is directly related, we should focus on expanding communications and commercial links to and among the Cuban people. Just five percent of Cubans have access to the open Internet today. We want more American companies pursuing joint ventures to build networks that will open the free flow of information – and empower everyday Cubans to make their voices heard. We want Cubans to have access to more phones, more computers, more satellite televisions. We want more American airplanes and ferries and cargo ships arriving every day. I’m told that Airbnb is already getting started. Companies like Google and Twitter are exploring opportunities as well.
“It will be essential that American and international companies entering the Cuban market act responsibly, hold themselves to high standards, use their influence to push for reforms. I would convene and connect U.S. business leaders from many fields to advance this strategy, and I will look to the Cuban-American community to continue leading the way. No one is better positioned to bring expertise, resources, and vision to this effort – and no one understands better how transformative this can be.
“We will also keep pressing for a just settlement on expropriated property. And we will let Raul explain to his people why he wants to prevent American investment in bicycle repair shops, in restaurants, in barbershops, and Internet cafes. Let him try to put up barriers to American technology and innovation that his people crave.
“Finally, we need to use our leadership across the Americas to mobilize more support for Cubans and their aspirations. Just as the United States needed a new approach to Cuba, the region does as well.
“Latin American countries and leaders have run out of excuses for not standing up for the fundamental freedoms of the Cuban people. No more brushing things under the rug. No more apologizing. It is time for them to step up. Not insignificantly, new regional cooperation on Cuba will also open other opportunities for the United States across Latin America.
“For years, our unpopular policy towards Cuba held back our influence and leadership. Frankly, it was an albatross around our necks. We were isolated in our opposition to opening up the island. Summit meetings were consumed by the same old debates. Regional spoilers like Venezuela took advantage of the disagreements to advance their own agendas and undermine the United States. Now we have the chance for a fresh start in the Americas.
“Strategically, this is a big deal. Too often, we look east, we look west, but we don’t look south. And no region in the world is more important to our long-term prosperity and security than Latin America. And no region in the world is better positioned to emerge as a new force for global peace and progress.
“Many Republicans seem to think of Latin America still as a land of crime and coups rather than a place where free markets and free people are thriving. They’ve got it wrong. Latin America is now home to vibrant democracies, expanding middle classes, abundant energy supplies, and a combined GDP of more than $4 trillion.
“Our economies, communities, and even our families are deeply entwined. And I see our increasing interdependence as a comparative advantage to be embraced. The United States needs to build on what I call the “power of proximity.” It’s not just geography – it’s common values, common culture, common heritage. It’s shared interests that could power a new era of partnership and prosperity. Closer ties across Latin America will help our economy at home and strengthen our hand around the world, especially in the Asia-Pacific. There is enormous potential for cooperation on clean energy and combatting climate change.
“And much work to be done together to take on the persistent challenges in our hemisphere, from crime to drugs to poverty, and to stand in defense of our shared values against regimes like that in Venezuela. So the United States needs to lead in the Latin America. And if we don’t, make no mistake, others will. China is eager to extend its influence. Strong, principled American leadership is the only answer. That was my approach as Secretary of State and will be my priority as President.
“Now it is often said that every election is about the future. But this time, I feel it even more powerfully. Americans have worked so hard to climb out of the hole we found ourselves in with the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression in 2008. Families took second jobs and second shifts. They found a way to make it work. And now, thankfully, our economy is growing again.
“Slowly but surely we also repaired America’s tarnished reputation. We strengthened old alliances and started new partnerships. We got back to the time-tested values that made our country a beacon of hope and opportunity and freedom for the entire world. We learned to lead in new ways for a complex and changing age. And America is safer and stronger as a result.
“We cannot afford to let out-of-touch, out-of-date partisan ideas and candidates rip away all the progress we’ve made. We can’t go back to cowboy diplomacy and reckless war-mongering. We can’t go back to a go-it-alone foreign policy that views American boots on the ground as a first choice rather than as a last resort. We have paid too high a price in lives, power, and prestige to make those same mistakes again. Instead we need a foreign policy for the future with creative, confident leadership that harnesses all of America’s strength, smarts, and values. I believe the future holds far more opportunities than threats if we shape global events rather than reacting to them and being shaped by them. That is what I will do as President, starting right here in our own hemisphere.
“I’m running to build an America for tomorrow, not yesterday. For the struggling, the striving, and the successful. For the young entrepreneur in Little Havana who dreams of expanding to Old Havana. For the grandmother who never lost hope of seeing freedom come to the homeland she left so long ago. For the families who are separated. For all those who have built new lives in a new land. I’m running for everyone who’s ever been knocked down, but refused to be knocked out. I am running for you and I want to work with you to be your partner to build the kind of future that will once again not only make Cuban-Americas successful here in our country, but give Cubans in Cuba the same chance to live up to their own potential.
Thank you all very, very much.”
For Immediate Release, July 31, 2015
PAID FOR BY HILLARY FOR AMERICA
Contributions or gifts to Hillary for America are not tax deductible.
Hillary for America, PO Box 5256, New York
Cuban media coverage, an example:
Hillary Clinton Calls in Miami for Lifting of U.S. blockade on Cuba
HAVANA, Cuba, Aug 1 (acn) Democrat pre-candidate to the 2016 presidential elections in the United States, Hillary Clinton, asked Congress on Friday, from Miami, Florida, to lift the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on Cuba since 1962, the Prensa Latina news agency reported.
In a speech at the International University of Florida, the former Secretary of State asked lawmakers to take advantage of this decisive moment, after the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries and the reopening of embassies in the respective capitals on July 20.
The U.S. policy towards Cuba is at a crossroads and next year’s elections by the White House will determine whether we will carry on with a new course in this regard or return to the old ways of the past, she added.
We must decide between commitment and sanctions, between adopting new thinking and returning to the deadlock we were during the Cold War, she pointed out.
She added that even many Republicans on Capitol Hill are beginning to recognize the urgency of continuing onward to dismantle the sanctions and this is the moment when their leaders must join this task or get out of the way of those who carry on.
Clinton added that the blockade must end once and for all; we must replace it with “more intelligent measures that manage to consolidate the interests of the United States,” and called the red party leadership on Capitol Hill to join this policy.
The former Secretary of State reiterated her support for the policy of rapprochement with the island that began after December 17, when Cuban President Raul Castro and his U.S. counterpart, Barack Obama, announced the decision of reestablishing diplomatic relations.
For years, the state of Florida was the base of a strong opposition to bonds with Havana, which made the blockade an untouchable issue among those who aspired to be elected for posts in that territory, especially for Republicans.
On several occasions, the former first lady has defended the lifting of the blockade against the Caribbean nation, particularly in her book Hard Choices, in which she assures that while she was Secretary of State (2009-2013) she recommended Obama to review the policy towards Cuba.
A survey conducted last week by the Pew Research Center showed that 72 percent of U.S. citizens are in favor of lifting the blockade against Cuba and 73 percent approve Obama’s decision of reestablishing diplomatic relations with the Caribbean island.
A survey by the McClatchy newspaper chain and the Marist Institute for Public Opinion released on Friday showed that 44 percent of likely voters prefer Clinton; 29 percent Republican Jeb Bush; and 20 percent controversial aspirant Donald Trump, for the November 2016 elections.
“Los adultos se están comportando como niños.”
By Emma González
26 de febrero 2018
Una traducción de CubaNews. Editado por Walter Lippmann.
Mi nombre es Emma González. Tengo 18 años, soy cubana y bisexual. Me siento tan indecisa que no logro decidir cuál es mi color favorito, y soy alérgica a 12 cosas. Sé dibujar, pintar, hacer croché, coser, bordar—cualquier cosa productiva que pueda hacer con mis manos mientras veo Netflix.
Pero ya nada de esto importa.
Lo que importa es que la mayoría de los estadounidenses se han vuelto autocomplacientes frente a toda la injusticia sin sentido que ocurre a su alrededor. Lo que importa es que la mayoría de los políticos estadounidenses se han dejado dominar más por el dinero que por las personas que votaron por ellos. Lo que importa es que mis amigos están muertos, al igual que cientos y cientos que también han muerto en todo Estados Unidos.
Mi nombre es Emma González. Tengo 18 años, soy cubana y bisexual. Me siento tan indecisa que no logro decidir cuál es mi color favorito, y soy alérgica a 12 cosas. Sé dibujar, pintar, hacer croché, coser, bordar—cualquier cosa productiva que pueda hacer con mis manos mientras veo Netflix.
Pero ya nada de esto importa.
Lo que importa es que la mayoría de los estadounidenses se han vuelto autocomplacientes frente a toda la injusticia sin sentido que ocurre a su alrededor. Lo que importa es que la mayoría de los políticos estadounidenses se han dejado dominar más por el dinero que por las personas que votaron por ellos. Lo que importa es que mis amigos están muertos, al igual que cientos y cientos que también han muerto en todo Estados Unidos.
En resumidas cuentas, no queremos que a las personas les quiten sus armas. Sólo queremos que las personas sean más responsables. Queremos que los civiles tengan que hacer muchos más trámites para obtener lo que quieren, porque si esos trámites pueden impedirle tener un arma a quienes no deberían tenerla, entonces nuestro gobierno habrá hecho algo bien. Todo cuanto queremos es regresar a la escuela. Pero queremos saber que cuando entremos allí no tendremos que preocuparnos por la posibilidad de vernos frente al cañón de un arma. Queremos arreglar este problema para que no vuelva a ocurrir, pero sobre todo queremos que la gente se olvide de nosotros cuando todo esto acabe. Queremos regresar a nuestras vidas y vivirlas al máximo por respeto a los muertos.
Los maestros no necesitan tener armas para proteger a sus alumnos, lo que necesitan es una sólida educación para enseñar a sus alumnos. Eso es lo único que debería aparecer en la descripción de su trabajo. La gente dice que los detectores de metales ayudarían. Que le digan eso a los niños que ya tienen detectores de metales en su escuela y siguen siendo víctimas de la violencia armada. Si quieren ayudar, armen las escuelas con material escolar, libros, terapeutas, cosas que realmente necesitan y pueden utilizar.
Una cosa más. Queremos más atención psicológica para quienes la necesitan—incluyendo a los hombres furiosos y frustrados que casi siempre cometen estos crímenes. Las enfermedades mentales y la violencia armada no guardan relación directa, pero cuando marchan juntas, hay estadounidenses—a menudo niños—que pierden la vida. No necesitamos las excusas de la ANR, necesitamos que la ANR finalmente se ponga de pie y utilice su poder para darle al pueblo de Estados Unidos algo que merezcan. (Y por favor, fíjense que cuando los miembros del movimiento Marcha por Nuestras Vidas hablan de la ANR, nos referimos a la organización como tal, no a sus miembros. Muchos de esos miembros comprenden y apoyan nuestra lucha por una posesión de armas responsable, a pesar de que la organización impide que se aprueben leyes sobre armas que tengan sentido en nombre de la protección de la segunda enmienda—en vez de proteger al pueblo de Estados Unidos.)
Así que marche con nosotros el 24 de marzo. Regístrese para votar. Acuda de verdad a las urnas. Porque necesitamos, de una vez y por todas, despojar a la ANR de sus argumentos.
26 de febrero 2018. Traducido por CubaNews. Editado por Walter Lippmann.
(CNN) Emma Gonzalez, estudiante de último año en la Secundaria Marjory Stoneman Douglas, habló en una concentración pro-control de armas el sábado en Fort Lauderdale, Florida, días después de que un hombre armado entró en su escuela en la cercana Parkland y mató a 17 personas.
Lea a continuación la transcripción completa de su discurso:
Ya tuvimos un momento de silencio en la Cámara de Representantes, así que me gustaría que tuviéramos otro. Gracias.
Cada una de las personas reunidas aquí hoy, todas estas personas, deberían estar en casa guardando luto. Pero en vez de eso, estamos juntos aquí, porque si lo único que nuestro gobierno y nuestro Presidente pueden hacer es transmitirnos sus pensamientos y plegarias, entonces es hora de que las víctimas sean el cambio que necesitamos ver. Desde los tiempos de nuestros Próceres y desde que agregaron la 2da Enmienda a la Constitución, nuestras armas se han desarrollado a una velocidad que me da vértigo. Las armas han cambiado, pero nuestras leyes no.
Claro que no entendemos por qué debería ser más difícil planificar un fin de semana con los amigos que comprar un arma automática o semi-automática. Para comprar un arma en la Florida no se requiere un permiso ni una licencia de armas, y una vez que se compra no es necesario registrarla. No se necesita un permiso para portar un rifle o una escopeta ocultos. Usted puede comprar tantas armas como desee de una vez.
Hoy leí algo que me resultó muy impactante. Y lo fue desde el punto de vista de un maestro. Cito: ‘Cuando los adultos me dicen que tengo derecho a poseer un arma, todo lo que escucho es que mi derecho a poseer un arma tiene más peso que el derecho de sus alumnos a vivir. Todo lo que escucho es mi, mi, mi…’.
En vez de preocuparnos por nuestro examen del capítulo 16 de AP Gov, tenemos que estudiar nuestras notas para garantizar que nuestros argumentos basados en política e historia política sean irrebatibles. Los estudiantes de esta escuela sentimos que hemos estados debatiendo sobre armas durante toda nuestra vida. Sobre AP Gov ha habido unos tres debates este año. Incluso algunos análisis sobre este tema tuvieron lugar durante el tiroteo, mientras los estudiantes se escondían en los armarios. Sentimos que los que ahora estamos involucrados, los que estaban allí, los que envían mensajes, los que escriben en Twitter, los que hacen entrevistas y hablan con la gente, están siendo escuchados por primera vez sobre esta tema, que sólo en los últimos cuatro años ha surgido más de 1,000 veces.
Hoy descubrí un sitio web llamado shootingtracker.com. Nada en el título sugiere que está rastreando solamente los tiroteos en Estados Unidos, pero, ¿necesita abordar eso? Porque Australia tuvo un tiroteo masivo en 1999 in Port Arthur (y después de la) masacre introdujo mecanismos de seguridad contra las armas, y desde entonces no ha tenido ni un tiroteo más. Japón nunca ha tenido un tiroteo masivo. Canadá ha tenido tres y el Reino Unido tuvo uno, y ambos países decretaron leyes para el control de armas, y sin embargo aquí estamos, con sitios web dedicados a informar estas tragedias para que se puedan registrar en estadísticas para su conveniencia.
Esta mañana vi una entrevista y noté que una de las preguntas fue, ‘¿Cree usted que sus hijos tendrán que participar en otros ejercicios de preparación contra tiroteos en la escuela?’ Y nuestra respuesta es que nuestros vecinos no tendrán que hacerlo más. Cuando le hayamos dado nuestra opinión al gobierno – y quizás los adultos se han acostumbrado a decir ‘Así son las cosas,’ pero si nosotros los estudiantes hemos aprendido algo, es que, si no estudiamos, suspendemos. Y en este caso, si uno no hace nada activamente, otras personas terminarán muertas, así que es hora de empezar a hacer algo.
Nosotros seremos los niños sobre los que usted leerá en los libros de texto. No porque vayamos a ser otro dato estadístico sobre tiroteos masivos en Estados Unidos, sino porque, como dijo David, vamos a ser el último tiroteo masivo. Al igual que en [el caso] Tinker v. Des Moines, vamos a cambiar las leyes. Eso va a ser Marjory Stoneman Douglas en ese libro de texto, y va a deberse a la acción incansable de los directores, los maestros, los familiares y la mayoría de los estudiantes. Los estudiantes que murieron, los que todavía están en el hospital, los que ahora sufren de TEPT, los que tuvieron ataques de pánico durante la vigilia porque los helicópteros no nos dejaban tranquilos, volando sobre la escuela las 24 horas del día.
Hay un tweet sobre el que quisiera llamar la atención. Tantas señales de que el tirador de la Florida tenía problemas mentales, incluso había sido expulsado por su conducta indebida e imprevisible. Sus vecinos y compañeros de clase sabían que tenía grandes problemas. Siempre hay que informar estos casos a las autoridades una y otra vez. Y lo hicimos, una y otra vez. Nadie que lo conoció desde que empezó la secundaria se sorprendió al escuchar que él fue quien disparó. A quienes dicen que no debimos haberlo aislado, ustedes no conocieron a este niño. Está bien, lo hicimos. Sabemos que ahora están alegando problemas de salud mental, y yo no soy psicóloga, pero tenemos que prestar atención al hecho de que esto no fue sólo una cuestión de salud mental. Él no hubiera dañado a tantos estudiantes con un cuchillo.
¿Y si dejamos de culpar a las víctimas por algo que fue culpa del estudiante, culpa de quienes para empezar lo dejaron comprar las armas, quienes organizan festivales de armas, quienes lo alentaron a comprar accesorios para sus armas para hacerlas totalmente automáticas, quienes no se las quitaron cuando supieron que él manifestó tendencias homicidas? Y no estoy hablando del FBI, sino de las personas que vivían con él. Estoy hablando de los vecinos que lo veían con armas fuera de la casa.
Si el Presidente quiere venir y decirme en mi cara que fue una terrible tragedia que nunca debió haber sucedido y sigue diciéndonos que no se va a hacer nada al respecto, voy a preguntarle alegremente cuánto dinero recibió de la Asociación Nacional del Rifle.
¿Quieren saber una cosa? No importa, porque ya yo lo sé. Treinta millones de dólares. Divididos por el número de víctimas de armas de fuego en Estados Unidos sólo en el primer mes o mes y medio de 2018, la cifra da $5,800. ¿Eso es lo que estas personas valen para ti, Trump? Si no haces algo para que esto no vuelva a ocurrir, aumentará el número de víctimas de armas de fuego y se reducirá la cantidad de lo que valen. Y no tendremos ningún valor para ti.
Le decimos a cada político que acepta donaciones de la ANR, vergüenza debía darte.
A los cánticos de multitudes, vergüenza debía darles.
Si su dinero estaba tan amenazado como nosotros, ¿su primer pensamiento sería ‘cómo esto se va a reflejar en mi campaña?, ¿a cuál debo escoger?’ ¿O nos escogerían a nosotros, y si respondieron que a nosotros, ¿lo demostrarán de una vez? ¿Saben cuál sería una buena manera de demostrarlo? Tengo un ejemplo de cómo no demostrarlo. Hace un año, en febrero de 2017, el Presidente Trump revocó una regulación de la era de Obama que hubiera facilitado impedir la venta de armas de fuego a personas con ciertas enfermedades mentales.
A partir de mis interacciones con el tirador antes del tiroteo y de lo que ahora sé sobre él, realmente no creo que era un enfermo mental. Esto lo escribí antes de saber lo que dijo Delaney. Delaney dijo que se le había diagnosticado [una enfermedad mental]. Yo no necesito a un psicólogo ni necesito ser psicóloga para saber que revocar aquella regulación fue una idea realmente estúpida.
El Senador republicano Chuck Grassley de Iowa fue el único patrocinador del proyecto de ley que le impide al FBI verificar los antecedentes de personas declaradas como enfermos mentales, y ahora está diciendo oficialmente, ‘Bueno, es una pena que el FBI no verifique los antecedentes de estos enfermos mentales.’ ¡No me digas! Esa oportunidad la eliminaste el año pasado.
La gente del gobierno por quienes votamos para estar en el poder nos está mintiendo. Y parece que nosotros los niños somos los únicos que nos damos cuenta, y nuestros padres […unintelligible…]. A las compañías que hoy tratan de caricaturizar a los adolescentes diciendo que todos somos egocéntricos y tenemos obsesión con la moda, que nos someten mandándonos a callar cuando nuestro mensaje no llega a los oídos de la nación, estamos preparados para decirles, ¡mentira! A los políticos del Congreso y el Senado que se sientan en sus butacas doradas financiadas por la ANR y nos dicen que no se pudo haber hecho nada para evitar esto, les decimos ¡mentira! A quienes dicen que tener leyes más rígidas sobre control de armas no reduce la violencia de las armas, le decimos ¡mentira! A quienes dicen que una persona buena con un arma impide detiene a una persona mala con un arma, le decimos ¡mentira! A quienes dicen que las armas son sólo herramientas como cuchillos y tan peligrosas como los automóviles, le decimos ¡mentira! A quienes dicen que ninguna ley pudo haber evitado los centenares de tragedias sin sentido que han ocurrido, le decimos ¡mentira! A quienes dicen que nosotros los niños no sabemos de qué estamos hablando, que somos demasiado jóvenes para entender cómo funciona el gobierno, le decimos ¡mentira!
Si están de acuerdo, regístrense para votar. Contacten a sus congresistas locales. Díganle cuatro verdades.
(Cánticos de multitud) Sáquenlos de aquí.
I am presently involuntarily retired from the American Bridge Division of the U.S. Steel Corporation because its Maywood plant was closed in March, 1980. During the last ten years of the thirty seven that I worked for this company, one of my duties as an Inspector, was to radiograph welds to ascertain that they were of acceptable quality. I have been a member of organized labor since 1938, and I am now an Honorary member of the United Steelworkers of America. I am an active participant in the Labor Safe Energy and Full Employment Committee.
While I have not heard all of the testimony that has been presented in this hearing to date, I believe that this Commission should know that a sizable and growing section of the American labor movement does not support the use and proliferation of nuclear power. In general our opposition to nukes is based on three factors: 1 The excessive risks to the safety and health of the workers in the plants and to the public living in their vicinity. 2 The fact that nuclear power provides fewer jobs than any of the alternative sources of power that are available. 3 The high cost of nuclear power in comparison to other alternative power sources.
I don’t believe that I could add anything to the ample testimony that has already been submitted about the danger that the use of nuclear power creates in the San Onofre57rtf area. The inability to evacuate the area in a reasonable length of time in the event of an accident; the possibility of a major earthquake in the area; the evidence of an increase in the level of radiation that has already occurred due to the operation of Unit 1 are valid arguments against licensing Units 2 and 3.
To the best of my knowledge, the testimony that has been presented in these proceedings by union members has been in favor of licensing Units 2 and 3. It has come from Brothers who are employed at the San Onofre facility. One of these workers seemed to feel that the opponents of licensing were questioning his ability as a welder to produce the quality of work which nuclear powered generators require. Prior to my employment at American Bridge, I worked as a High Pressure Pipe Welder in refinery construction. Like my Brother welder, I also took pride in my ability as a craftsman to perform my duties. However, even if all the welds and the other work was perfect, it would not resolve problems such as public evacuation, earthquake danger or so-called “low-level radiation” in the plant and the San Onofre area.
I will not take the time in this hearing that would be required to discuss nuclear power from a union point of view, but members of the Labor Safe Energy and Full Employment Committee would welcome-such a discussion with other union members if it could be arranged. We believe this issue deserves far more discussion and consideration in the labor movement than it has received in the past.
Based on the training I received before radiographing welds, I think that the one thing you can say about radiation is: the less of it you get, the better off you are. Radiation exists as a natural part of our environment. If man possessed the technology, it would be logical, in my judgment, to try to lessen or even eliminate the natural level of radiation. Conversely, it is illogical to engage in anything that raises this level of radiation in the environment.
Nuclear power produces low-level radiation from its beginning to its end. Workers are radiated when it is mined. The ore tailings, once they are brought to the surface, inject more radiation into the environment than when they were buried in the earth. Workers in industries where radio-active materials are used receive increased radiation. So do workers who transport it. The end product of nuclear use is radio-active waste. There are tens of thousands of tons of this radio-active junk around right now, and nobody has come up with a trully safe way of disposing of it. In my opinion, even if the possibility of a nuclear melt-down did not exist, the foregoing facts constitute sufficient reason to stop the use of nuclear power.
When I see the problem of low-level radiation casually dismissed, as nuclear power advocates are wont to do, I am reminded of the fable about the race between the tortise and the hare. Like low-level radiation, the tortise just kept grinding away while rabbit slept, and we all know that he won. But the prize in a race where low-level radiation is a competitor, is not something anyone wants to win because it consists of medical problems and the possibility of untimely death.
At American Bridge, the level of radiation which workers outside the radiation area received, was held to one half the legal limit when this work was done. Most of the radiography was done after midnight when there were no other workers present. We had some wild cats in the plant which the workers fed. Two of them were accidentally radiated. It is not a pleasant sight to see any living thing die from excessive radiation.
With the sole exception of hydro-power, nuclear power provides fewer jobs than any other type of electric generation. Nukes employ a large number of workers during the time of their construction, but from then on, the work force is very small. Other methods of power generation not only employ more workers, but they create jobs for coal miners, oil workers and transport workers.
In this period of growing unemployment, I and other unionists are concerned about the availability of work. While the curtailment of nuclear power in the short haul could reduce the number of jobs in construction, in the long haul, they would also gain. Unemployed workers are not apt to be customers for the goods and services that they normally consume. This, of course, would include electricity. If there is a contraction in the use of electricity, there will be fewer construction jobs because new power plants will not be needed.
Nuclear power is not only the most unsafe form of energy, it is also the most costly. When the cost of a nuclear plant is amortized thru the years of its productive use, it is the most expensive means of producing electricity.
Testimony has already been introduced which shows that Southern California Edison has placed 40% of its total investment in nuclear and, power,/in so-doing, has only increased its generating capacity by 12%.This testimony has not been refuted at any time that I have been at these hearings. While I am on this subject of costs, I would like to present some further evidence. It comes from the states of Utah and Washington.
Utah Power and Light, to my knowledge, is the only utility company in the nation which generates all of its power with coal. Recently, it reported a 92% increase in profits for the second quarter of this year. Contrast this with Consolidated Edison, which is soliciting government help and trying to pass rate increases to its customers, to avoid bankruptcy because of Three Mile Island.
The Washington Public Power Supply System is also in serious financial trouble because of nuclear power. The estimated cost of the five nukes this outfit is building has risen from four billion to twenty four billion dollars. Two of these nukes have been placed on hold, and the company is considering drastic rate increases. They are also asking the Bonneville’ Power Administration, a federal energy-distributing agency, to raise its rates to help pay the cost of completing the other three nukes.
All things considered, coal generated power would appear to be the most satisfactory way to meet the general criteria which a sound union energy program would embrace. It is safe. The technology exists to burn it environmentally clean. It is cheap. It exists in such ample supply in the nation that it could supply our energy needs until new and better sources are developed. It would create more jobs than any’., other energy source, that is immediately available. It is now being brought into the Los Angeles harbor in huge amounts for shipment to Japan.
Nuclear supporters cited the extensive use of nukes in Russia as proof of its safety. However, it is well documented, that since 1970, when nukes proliferated, there has been a steady increase in the death rate of children – particularly under the age of one year.. in Russia.
The party’s resolutions, while analyzing and portraying the political reality and the relationship of class forces at given conjunctures in time, stresses the more favorable variant in the further evolution of the class struggle. Generally this approach has been characterized as “the right to revolutionary optimism.” It is something I have always supported in our movement, and it has been my observation that those who questioned this proposition were embarking on a path that led out of the party.
Even as I had been a firm supporter of the party’s decisions to follow the radicalization in peripheral struggles such as the anti-war, civil rights, women’s and gay movements, I supported the party’s turn to industry. This support was motivated by the opinion that the economy had entered a deeper and more intractable crisis than any which had occurred since World War II. It was not based upon the concept that the workers had miraculously shed the effects of the preceding thirty years which had nurtured and sustained the generally conservative mood which shaped their thinking.
Making a turn in the party is not an easy thing. I listened to reports and assessments, which in my judgment, were overly optimistic, but were also a necessary part of carrying out the turn. Optimism has been, and always will be a legitimate part of our party and I want to affirm my support to Ito continued use. .
The party has reached the stage in our turn to the industrial workers where any fears that we are going to be left on the sidelines when they go into action should be allayed. I think the time has come when we can realistically assess the level of radicalization in the unions and build the party in the process.
We should continue the party’s present trade union policy
I am a supporter of the party’s trade union policy. I believe that the flanking tactic with respect to the trade union leadership is, soundly conceived, that the open socialist policy, within, the limits of what is possible, is correct, and that we should continue to concentrate our work in the unions around the social and political issues. It follows that I think Comrade Weinstein and his co-thinkers are mistaken.
I have always been loath to judge the application of any party policy from afar. I believe you have to have all the details and facts before a sound judgment can be made. Truth manifests itself in the concrete. The reports from Lockheed in Marietta, Georgia, and from Newport News should have clarified any misunderstandings about how our trade union policy was carried out in those situations.
It is a fact of life that any trade union policy will always result in some casualties. Sometimes it is because it is ineptly applied. In such instances, the leadership, as it has been doing, must intervene and educate against these misapplications. Sometimes the bosses take off on a tangent as is the case with Lockheed. In these situations, we are required to mount a counter-attack using every available means to win. The outcome of such a fight also shapes the application of our trade union-policy, The only tirade union policy which might not have called us to Lockheed’s attention, in my judgment, would have been to just work and do nothing.
Taking union posts has not helped other radical parties
The policy of taking union posts and concentrating on union issues is not the panacea that some comrades believe. This is basically what the other radicals have been-doing. A look at some of their 4 experiences should be instructive.
The first of these experiences involves the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist). They were in a caucus which won some posts, including the presidency, in the Ford Motor plant in Pico Rivera, California. From the time they took, office, they were in a fight with a right-wing majority on the executive board, which enjoyed the support of the UAW Regional Director. This red-baiting fight was so intense that the majority of the members would not even take a .union leaflet when it was passed out at the plant gates.
After the plant closed, the president was put on trial for allegedly using the phone for unauthorized calls. At the trial, he said that he didn’t care what the verdict was, because he was going into the construction business. He was found guilty.
The CP (ML) has lost many of its members. It is in a political crisis over Maoism. It also has organizational problems. It is in a major internal discussion to decide whether it should continue as a party or dissolve.
The second experience involves the Communist Labor Party in the Bethlehem Steel plant in Huntington Park, California. The CLP ran candidates for union offices with mixed results. They lost the presidency to Wilfred Anderson, but they won some griever posts. Had they been more successful, they could have very easily found themselves in the same situation that prevailed at Ford because the local has a right-wing majority on its executive board.
This plant is first on a list of plants which Bethlehem is considering closing. Anderson, who is basically a good unionist, is trying to keep the plant open by cooperating with the company. He says that if he pushes grievances the way he used to, the plant will fold in 60 days.
The CLP is critical of Anderson, and will probably run against him in 1983 if the plant is still open. Basically this is a no-win situation. The CLP advocates a policy that is a little more militant, but they agree with Anderson that the plant is on the verge of being closed. Having gone through the experience of a plant closure myself, the last thing I would recommend would be to take union office to administer the procedure.
The CLP operates out of a front group called Californians Against Taft-Hartley (14b). I was trapped into attending one of its meetings because a co-worker who was riding with me wanted to go: In the past, these meetings attracted more than thirty. This particular meeting was down to eight or nine. The discussion was about what could be done to keep the committee functioning. Like other radical parties, the CLP has lost members and is now down to its hard-core cadre.
The third experience involves the Communist Workers Party. I recently had an opportunity to listen to a report on the union struggle at NASSCO by Rodney Johnson. The wages at this shipyard are about $2.00 per hour less than the rates paid by the industry on the West Coast, and the safety conditions are very poor. Military expenditures sustain the expectations of NASSCO workers that they will have contracts. The CWP and their friends ran for office and were elected. They combined militancy with democratic worker mobilizations to press for resolution of the many problems, particularly around safety, which existed. The company retaliated against one of these in-plant demonstrations that took place at lunch hour in conjunction with a ship launching, by discharging a large number of the union’s officers and shop stewards. The workers established picket lines and closed the shipyard. The strike was ended on the basis that the discharges would be given expedited arbitration. Twenty-seven cases are involved. The Ironworkers International put the local in receivership. The authorities put Boyd, Loo and Johnson on trial for allegedly conspiring to blow up the shipyard’s electrical facilities. They have been found guilty, and the verdict is being appealed. The CWP and their supporters are also petitioning to decertify the Ironworkers Union at NASSCO and replace it with an independent union.
While a final balance sheet must be delayed until the outcome of the arbitrations, the court appeal and the decertification election is known, I believe it is safe to say that we would not like to see any of our comrades in a similar situation. Johnson reported that the CWP and its friends still retain the support of a large Section of the NASSCO workers, but the obstacles to be overcome are formidable. The answer may well be that worker militancy must exist in many locals before it can be translated into victories in any of them.
Of course, all of the experiences I relate are in California. Perhaps it is different in other parts of the country. If there is some place where radicals, or for that matter even militants, are winning victories and recruiting, it would be a valid argument for adopting a more interventionist trade union policy.
Our trade union policy now and during World War II
Of all previous party, trade union policies, the present one is closest to our trade union policy during World War II. At that time we refrained from taking union posts and devoted our efforts to socialist propaganda work, Minneapolis Trial support and general union educational propaganda around the no-strike pledge, etc. We characterized this union position as “a policy of caution.” I might add that, in my judgment, this cautious policy served us well. It laid the groundwork for our extensive intervention into union leadership and the post-World War II struggles of the industrial workers.
The present union policy puts a little more stress on the open socialist approach, but I can recall selling about 40 Militant subscriptions not too long after I had completed my probationary period. Our abstention from taking positions of union leadership was based on the proposition that the wildcat strikes, which occurred in greater numbers as the war went on, could not be led to victories. The combination of the government, the companies and the union bureaucrats, plus the political support which most workers gave the war, led to assorted strikes and victimizations of the strike leaders.
Of course, John L. Lewis scored a major victory when the UMWA struck during World War II. But that was an action sanctioned by the International leadership of a major union and not a wildcat strike led by radicals or militants.
The success of the UMWA strike was powerful testimony in support of our trade union analysis. We were the only section of the labor movement that propagated the idea that the unions had to withdraw the no-strike pledge in order to resolve the accumulating problems of their members. Towards the end of the war the idea began to spread. At its last war-time convention, the UAW debated a resolution to withdraw the no-strike pledge. It lost by a handful of votes. However, it was not until the war was coming to an end and it was apparent that the working class was getting ready to go into action that were able to recruit these workers.
The economy and capital mobility has the workers on the defensive
Although it is masked to a certain extent by the inflation, the situation today is one in which the deflationary forces in the economy are coming more and more to the fore. The days when workers were fighting for reverse seniority in order to take extended vacations while they were collecting unemployment and supplementary unemployment benefits are behind us.
Since 1929, the last time these deflationary forces were unleashed, the ruling class has developed a powerful new weapon – capital mobility. During the years 1969-1976, 15 million jobs in the United States were wiped out by plant and department closures. The trend has escalated since then, and while I don’t have figures, I think it is safe to say that almost 25% of the U.S. workforce has lost jobs due to closures.
Most of these job losses were not due to business failures, but rather to capital mobility. Most of the capital migration within the U.S. has been from the Frostbelt to the Sunbelt and from unionized areas to non-union areas. But all areas of the U.S. have been affected by capital migration overseas. As a matter of fact, the rate of plant-closures in the South has been greater than in the U.S. as a whole. During the 1969-76 period, more than one third of the plants in the South, employing 100 or more workers, were closed, primarily due to capital migration overseas.
Because of their ability to freely move capital, the bosses, in many instances, have been relieved from the task of making frontal assaults on the unions to drive down wages and working conditions. To date, nobody has come up with a strategy that workers can employ on the economic front to stop these closures. At the prompt time, the choice for workers appears to be: 1) Refuse a wage cut, remain militant and go down with the flags flying like the workers did in the Gary, Indiana, American Bridge plant; or 2) Make concessions, go home and pray and probably go out with a whimper like they appear;, to be doing at the Bethlehem Steel plant in Huntington Park.
In 1950, the U.S. multinationals had $11 billion invested overseas. By 1974, it had grown to $118 billion. While I don’t have figures on what U.S. overseas investments are now,. we can rest assured that the amount has expanded since the trend to overseas investment has increased, in the last seven years.
Plant closures and the threat of plant closures are exerting enormous pressure on the unions and the workers. Ford, for- example, recently asked the UAW to open its contract before its termination date so that the company could share in the concessions that were being given to Chrysler. When its request was refused, Ford said: We are now building a world car. We can close all of our U.S. plants and still produce as many cars as we can expect to sell:
Perhaps someone may believe that you can confront problems like this one facing the Ford workers by taking a griever position and being militant on the assembly line. I don’t. The only answer I see is a long-range one. It requires the radicalization and politicalization of the workers. And this type of educational work can best be done without the burden of a griever job.
Any serious worker fightback must be political
As I have already noted, nobody has come up with any strategy, on the union level to stop these closures. Nor have they been able to use the closure of a particular plant to speed worker radicalization. This is something we should try to initiate if the opportunity presents itself, or be prepared to assist if it is initiated by someone else.
The right to invest, disinvest and move capital throughout the capitalist sector of the world is assured to the ruling class by their control over the political process. Both the Republican and Democrat parties are supporters of “free enterprise,” the economic system which makes the aforementioned rights possible. Any political party which would challenge these rights or start dismantling the structure upon which they rest would have to be anti-business, anti-free enterprise and anti-capitalist. A labor party, or any other party, would be as helpless as a baby in terms of arresting the ruling class assault on the living standards of the workers if it didn’t possess some of the foregoing ingredients. A return to a Democrat administration would be unlikely to provide the union leaders or the workers with any of the relief that they hope to obtain.
The ability of capital to move overseas was won in World War II and formalized at Bretton Woods. But it also rests on a number of subsequent government decisions such as: 1) Government insurance to compensate U.S. companies if their investments are lost through nationalizations by foreign governments; (This law may, have expired, but it existed for decades.) 2) Favorable tariff rulings; 3) IRS rulings which exonerate overseas profits from being taxed in the year they were made and taxes them in the year they are repatriated to the U.S.
Can anyone imagine any capitalist party tampering with the structure which presently facilitates overseas capital flight? Yet this is exactly what would be required if a political party was going to help Ford workers in their pending negotiations.
Domestic capital mobility also rests on a political base such as: 1) Publicly financed incentives and tax breaks to encourage investment in a particular city, county or state; 2) Low accident, disability and unemployment benefits for workers in some states; 3) Right-to-work laws which inhibit unionization.
The unions have been trying for years to solve some of the problems that encourage domestic capital migration through the Democratic Party. In a period of economic uncertainty, are the Democrats apt to pass laws which correct these inequities?
Under free enterprise, the right to invest or disinvest in a way that maximizes profits in the most sacred of all rights. Many of the plants that have been closed were profitable. But workers need jobs. Communities should have the to a decent environment rather than being converted into slums as the effects of the economic dislocated ripples through their economies.
A capitalist politician, in the name of corporate responsibility, might ask a company not to close a plant. But what if the company refuses? Is he or she going to enact legislation that says worker and community rights must be given pre-eminence over the right to maximize profits?
Most of the workers that I have talked to during the last twenty years –even those who went through the great depression– were of the opinion that it could never happen again. What is happening now is contrary to everything that they had been led to expect. Many still have hopes that things will get better. Some even, think Reagan will deliver on his promises in a reasonable period of time. We believe that the economic downturn is in its preliminary stages. If we are correct, the next period will be one in which the working class begins to dispel its misconceptions and illusions. It will begin to deepen and expand its radicalization into more meaningful and broader areas. We can do our work best as open socialists unencumbered by union posts and responsibilities, We also must be patient and confident. Time is on our side.
Where the union leadership is going now
In a recent issue of the western edition of Steelabor, the official publication of the United Steelworkers of America, the front page featured a quotation from Woody Guthrie, and its back page carried an interview with a Polish steelworker who was representing Solidarity at an AFL-CIO meeting. I have read this paper for nearly forty years. Not so long ago, If I were a betting man, I could have gotten odds of more than 100 to 1 that there never would be a Steelabor with a format that was this radical. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I would have been willing to bet a dollar on it.
Some comrades have expressed the opinion that radicalism of this type by the union leadership reflects pressure from the ranks below. I think they are mistaken.
The first time I encountered this kind of radicalism emanating from the union leadership was shortly after the enactment of the Taft-Hartley law. I believe it was in 1948.
During about a six-months period, the leadership published rearms of material showing that the U.S. was really run by a handful of the super-rich, etc. I don’t know what they did in other locals, but we were in the leadership of my local. We saw to it that it was passed out to the membership. It was just about the time that we were beginning to get a response from rank and file members that this anti-capitalist propaganda offensive stopped.
Then, as now, the union leaders were of the opinion that they were facing a major crisis. Nor was it a figment of their imaginations. If the Taft-Hartley law had been enforced with the same conservative, anti-labor vindictiveness with which it was passed, the unions would have been in a struggle to survive. Of course, we know this didn’t happen. The union leadership established a detente with the bosses, and class conciliation continued to prevail in government circles. Through the years, however, this conciliation shifted more to the side of the bosses, and it returns were more meager for labor.
Reagan’s election, the increased number of union-hating conservatives in Congress and in the state legislatures, plus the economic crisis, have again convinced the union leaders that they are in jeopardy. That is why they have mounted another radical propaganda offensive. It is a good thing. We should use it for all it’s worth and for as long as it lasts. But again, I repeat, we should not interpret this leadership radicalism as a reflection of wide-spread radicalization in the ranks of the union membership.
The union leaders are ready to make another deal
On the other hand, the union leadership is exploring the possibilities of another deal. Kirkland establishes a committee to meet with Reagan administration officials to set what can be worked out. The July 7th Wall Street Journal reports that the Steelworker leadership is opening negotiations with the steel industry to decide if the no-strike agreement will be extended to cover the 1983 negotiations. The industry wants the terms of the no-strike agreement watered down because “past settlements were too costly.” This policy of union cooperation with the steel industry was justified to the workers, after the 1959 strike, as a way to save jobs. At that time, I believe, there were more than 400,000 workers covered by the Basic Steel agreement. The WSJ says that 286,000 are covered now.
As has already been noted in this internal discussion the union leaders are seeking to solve the problems of their members by increasing their cooperation with the industrialists. We can be sure that the price the bosses are willing to pay for this cooperation will be less and less acceptable to the workers. But this is a part of the learning process which the workers have to go through before they will be ready to strike out in a new direction. It is conceivable, even likely, that this worker dissatisfaction will take some time before it manifests itself in action unless the bosses’ terms are so bad that the union leaders are forced to call a strike.
Radicalization in other social sectors will outpace industrial workers
Meanwhile, the Reagan program is devastating the many other sections of our society in the here and now. In the next immediate period, the radicalization of these affected sectors, in my judgment, will outpace the radicalization in the ranks of the industrial workers.
These other sectors don’t have the same social weight or significance of the industrial workers, but we should not underestimate the importance of their radicalization. In fact, this radicalization, if transmitted into the unions, can accelerate the radicalization of the industrial workers. And we have an almost perfect opening to start this operation.
The September 19 coalitions
As a result of their left turn, the union leaders are anxious to be seen with Black leaders, environmentalists, etc., who they formerly shunned. They want all the help they can get if Reagan and his union-hating cohorts come down on them, and they want to influence and rebuild the Democratic Party. They have set September 19 as a day of national mobilization against the Reagan program in Washington, D.C. and in major cities across the country.
In Los Angeles, the September 19th coalition is called the Greater Los Angeles-Labor Community Coalition. It is open to all union locals, AFL-CIO or independent, any community organizations, other coalitions and political parties that are opposed to all or any part of the Reagan program. As they put it: “Any group that is capable of fogging up a mirror in the morning is eligible to join and have one representative at coalition meetings.”
I have been representing the Coalition Against Plant Closures, September 19th coalition meetings are held in the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO office, and they are usually attended by about 25 people. More are involved, but sometimes they miss meetings. A representative of the New American Movement usually attends, so the coalition, is clearly open to any radical party that wants to participate.
To date, one expanded coalition meeting has been held. I suggested that we should invite a representative of the hunger-striking Vietnam veterans to this expanded meeting. While some coalition members expressed reservations, the vote was favorable, and a veteran did speak. The expanded meeting was attended by about 175.
I also serve on the coalition steering committee. At one of its meetings, a member expressed the opinion that the coalition should oppose the military budget. Another member supported the military. Since the AFL-CIO also supports the military program, it was agreed that a position against the military program would destroy the coalition. In this discussion, I made the point that the anti-draft, anti-war movement was a legitimate part of the coalition’s constituency. Everyone, including the military supporter, agreed with this position.
Of course, these September 19th coalitions may not be as open in other areas as it is in Los Angeles. If we enter these coalitions and involve our co-workers, I can’t think of any better way to get them to “think socially and act politically.” The Democrat politicians will speak at the September 19 rallies, but I can’t think of any better way to open a political discussion with our co-workers. We can contrast our labor party and socialist politics against what the Democrats have to offer. These rallies should attract the more union-minded and politically conscious industrial workers.
What the September 19th coalitions have to offer
I have already mentioned that the anti-war movement is welcome. The Nicaraguan, Salvadoran and Guatemalan movements have been asking the unions—with some success—for support. I think we should advise them to join these September 19th coalitions. They should come not seeking help, but offering their support. They may not get a speaker on the program, but if they mobilize their supporters, it would really be appreciated—and they could put anti-interventionist leaflets in the hands of everyone present.
Someone in the course of this discussion said that it was difficult to encounter Stalinists in the plants because they avoid us. If they come around these coalitions they will find them, both young and old. In fact, all of the radical parties are there. These coalitions just could be the best vehicle for a dialogue with other radicals that we have ever had during my time in the party. It is also the best time, that I can remember, to have such a discussion. The Stalinists are stuck with an indefensible position on Poland. The DSOC-NAMers are stuck with the Democrats. The Maoists are stuck with the Chinese events. I think these rallies may become poles of attraction for the newly radicalizing.
I also believe we should make a major effort to bring the student movement into September 19th. They are not only against the military buildup, but they are also against increased tuitions and decreased student loans. While on this subject, I would like to give my support to the proposition that the YSA should re-establish an on-campus presence as soon as possible. The issues are there, and, it is the only place, that I know of, where some recruitment to radical parties has been taking place during recent times.
The Reagan administration is obviously moving against the senior citizens on social security. I think we should ask our SWP seniors to make a probe with a view to bringing this, movement into September 19th. The Grey Panthers and the union-organized senior-citizens would seem to be the logical place to start.
Radicalizing industrial workers
Dining the Vietnam War most demonstrations appeared to have very little impact on the consciousness of workers in my plant. The workers knew that I was involved because I passed out leaflets. The company wouldn’t let me pass them from its parking lot which Was adjacent to the gate where the workers walked into the plant. They made me pass them from the street at the gate where the cars drove in. The union officials offered to fight for my right to use the parking lot. I turned them down because I learned from experience that I got more sympathy from my coworkers using the street gate. Even some supporters of the war thought the company was striking a low blow by not allowing me to use the parking lot. I might add that very few of my co-workers ever came to a demonstration.
The big 1969 demonstrations in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, however, got their attention. More than once I was asked by co-workers if the San Francisco demonstration was really as large as it looked on TV. I assured them that it was even bigger. Their comment always was “I didn’t know there were that many people against the war.”
There have been many demonstrations since Reagan took office. We know that they are significant and important. But there is nothing like size to get the attention of industrial workers. September 19th may give us the opportunity to pull it all together. If we don’t accomplish it then, we will have more opportunities later, because it is supposed to be an ongoing coalition. Big demonstrations will help radicalize and politicize the industrial workers. The sooner we get them, the quicker this process will unfold in the ranks of the workers.
In conclusion, I would like to say that the foregoing represents just one comrade’s opinion about where we are now, and what we ought to do next. If it contributes in any way to helping us through this rather difficult period, it will have served its purpose.
July 10, 1981
Chapter 8 of Ernest Mandel, A Rebel’s Dream Deferred by Jan Willem Stutje, pp.147-164
“It is more pleasant and useful to go through the ‘experience of the revolution’ than to write about it.”
— V.I. Lenin, The State and Revolution 1
The progressive revival of the 1960s, which in Belgium began with the general strike of 1960-61, brought with it a renewal of the connection between struggle and theoretical debate, a connection that had been lost during the interwar ‘darkness at noon’ of Stalinism.
Although Marxist critical thought had not been entirely silenced, as shown by the works of Cornelius Castoriadis and Paul Sweeny, Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks and Karl Korsch’s later work, in academia it had been marginalized, confined to the domains of aesthetics and philosophy.2 In the 1960s such publishers as Maspero in France and Feltrinelli in Italy rediscovered the heterodox political literature that had long been on Stalin’s index. Creative Marxist thought emerged from the shadow of the universities and stimulated — in addition to the debates about neo-capitalism and the role of the proletariat — thinking about decolonization, revolution and post-capitalist society, the Soviet Union and China, Algeria and Cuba.
In Marxist Economic Theory Mandel had examined the economics of transitional societies.3 The sociologist Pierre Naville encouraged him to pursue the subject further. Naville was preparing to republish New Economics (first published in 1923), an analysis of the Soviet economy by Yevgeni Preobrazhensky, who had been killed by Stalin in 1937.4 He asked Mandel to write a foreword. 5 Central to the book was the question of what dynamic would arise in an agricultural society in transition from capitalism to socialism and what sources of socialist accumulation would be available. Mandel wrote that Preobrazhensky had made possible an economic policy free of pragmatism and empiricism.6 This book’s publication contributed to the economic debate in Cuba.
In Cuba with Che Guevara and Fidel Castro
Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, who with Fidel Castro was the face of the Cuban revolution, took a leading role in this debate. In 1958-59 guerillas had ended the oppressive, US-backed Batista regime. In doing so they broke with the prevailing, understanding of revolution that had held sway since 1935. The dominant conception dated back to the stages theory held by Stalin’s Comintern, which had limited revolutionary ambitions to formation of a national democratic government with the task of achieving agricultural reform, industrialization and democratic renewal. The struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie would only take place in a more-or-less distant future phase of socialist revolution. The Cuban revolutionaries discovered that in practice such a revolution was impossible and looked for a model that would put a definitive end to capitalism in Cuba. In the process they risked an American invasion, a threat made clear during the Bay of Pigs (Playa Giron) incident and the October 1961 missile crisis. They also earned anathemas from Moscow, which saw Cuba’s, support for revolutionary movements -in Latin America, Asia and Africa as undermining a foreign policy aimed at peaceful coexistence with the West.
From 1962 to 1964 Che Guevara headed the Cuban ministry of industry. He opposed the growing influence of Moscow-oriented Communists and the state’s increasing bureaucratic tendencies. His ideas about the economy were formed in the debates of 1963-4. which were not only about economic development but also about the essence of socialism: a central budget structure versus, financial independence of companies, moral versus material incentives, thee law of value versus planning, and the role of consciousness.
Che considered an economy without a humanistic perspective, without communist ethics, unthinkable.7 ‘We fight against poverty but also against alienation…If Communism were to bypass consciousness…then the spirit of the revolution would die.’8 In a famous 1965 essay, ‘Socialism and Man in Cuba’, Che warned against ‘the pipe dream that socialism can be achieved with the help of the dull instruments left to us by capitalism’, like making value and profitability the absolute economic’ measure or using, material incentives. Che held that fully realized communism would require changing not only the economic structure but also human beings. 9
Impressed by the wave of nationalizations there, Mandel concluded in the fall of 1960 that Cuba had developed into a post-capitalist state.10 ‘Reality has shown that to consolidate power the revolutionary leaders have unconsciously resorted to Trotskyism.’11 Shortly after the publication of Marxist Economic Theory Mandel had a copy sent to Che and Castro via their embassy in Brussels.12 He had informal contacts, with the Cuban regime through Nelson Zayas Pazos,13 a Cuban Trotskyist and French teacher working in the foreign ministry, and Hilde Gadea, Che’s ex-wife a Peruvian economist of Indian and Chinese descent who lived in Havana.14 Gadea was sympathetic to Trotskyist ideas, and through her and Zayas documents of the Fourth International were regularly forwarded to Che. 15
In October 1963 Zayas told Mandel about the debate raging between what he called the Stalino-Khrushchevists and the circle around Che.16 While the former were arguing for financial independence for companies and for material incentives to increase productivity,17 Che called for centralizing finances and strengthening moral incentives.18 Zayas encouraged Mandel to intervene in the debate: ‘It seems to me that the entire Castro leadership would welcome such a contribution … Fidel, Che, Aragonés. Hart, Faure Chomón and many others are favourably disposed to us.’19. A month later Zayas distributed a stencilled contribution from Mandel to those taking part in the debate. 20 Mandel supported Che’s resistance to financial autonomy, not because he was opposed to decentralization but because centralized financing for small-scale industry seemed at that time the optimal solution. He shared Che’s fears of the growth of bureaucracy, all the more so because Clue’s opponents wanted to make decentralized financial administration efficient by using material incentives. Mandel was not against material incentives as such, on two conditions: that they were not individual but collective incentives in order to ensure solidarity, and that their use was restrained in order to curb the selfishness that a system of enrichment produces.
To combat bureaucratization Mandel argued for democratic and centralized self-management, ‘a management by the workers at the workplace, subject to strict discipline on the part of a central authority that is directly chosen by workers’ councils’.21 Mandel and Che differed on this last point. Che did support management of the enterprises by the trade unions, but only if they were representative and not controlled by Communists, who, he said, were very unpopular. The results of decentralized self-management in Yugoslavia, where companies acted like slaves of the market, had also made Che cautious. Mandel warned him against throwing the baby out with the bath water. Self-management by workers was entirely compatible with a central plan democratically decided by the direct producers.22
In early 1964 Mandel was invited to visit Havana. There were prospects of meetings with Che and Castro.23 Che had read Marxist Economic Theory enthusiastically and had large parts of it translated.24 Mandel confided to Livio Maitan: ‘I think that I can raise many issues openly and frankly’,25 and wrote again a few days later, `And in any case I can resolve the question of banning our Bolivian friends.’26
Maitan had visited South America for the first time in 1962. He had made contact with insurrectionary movements in Bolivia, Chili, Peru, Venezuela, Uruguay and Argentina and had urged them to work with the Cubans.27 In Buenos Aires he met such left-wing Peronistas as the poet Alicia Eguren and her partner John William Cooke, who had been in contact with Che since 1959.28 In Peru Maitan’s contacts were with the United Left and its present leader Hugo Blanco. In Bolivia he met with the mine workers in Huanuni, Catavi and Siglo XX. Trotskyists had strong influence there and hoped to be trained in Cuba for armed struggle.
Mandel stayed in Havana for almost seven weeks. It was a visit without official duties, an occasion for exchanging ideas, and these exchanges convinced him completely that Cuba ‘constitutes . . the most advanced bastion in the liberation of labour and of humanity’.29 The Marxist classics were widely studied in cadre schools, in ministries and beyond. Mandel wrote a friend, ‘The class I took part in had just finished volume one of Capital, with a minister and three deputy ministers present . . . And it was serious study, even Talmudic, studying page by page…’30 Mandel’s own works, including Marxist Economic Theory, were discussed; translated, stenciled excerpts circulated among the leadership.31 Mandel wrote to his French publisher, ‘The president of the Republic [Osvaldo Dorticos] himself is interested in the work and would like to publish it in Spanish in 2 Cuba.’ E. Mandel to C. Bourgois, 28 May 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 278.] He addressed hundreds of auditors at the University of Havana, speaking in Spanish — with a sprinkling of Italian when a words escaped him. There was even an announcement of his visit in Hoy, the paper, of the Communist Blas Roca. Revolutión, the largest and most influential daily paper, published an interview.
‘I was literally kidnapped by the finance ministry and the ministry of industry [Che’s ministry] to write a long article about the problem of the law of value in the economy of a transitional society.’32 Speaking French, Mandel met for four hours with Che, who received him dressed in olive green fatigues, his famous black beret with its red star within reach. Totally enchanted, Mandel wrote a friend, ‘Confidentially, he is extremely close to your friend Germain [the pseudonym Mandel used most], whom, you know well.’33
Mandel and Che worked together on a response to the French economist Charles Bettelheim. In April 1964 Bettelheim had published an article in the monthly Cuba Socialista34 that held that the central planning that Che advocated was unwise policy, considering the limited development of the forces of production. The Marxist Bettelheim had become Che’s most profound critic. Other opponents included Alberto Mora, the minister of foreign trade, and Carlos Rafael Rodríguez, the minister of agriculture. Years later Bettelheim commented,
Cuba’s level of development meant that the various units of production needed a sufficient measure of autonomy, that they be integrated into the market so that they could buy and sell their products at prices reflecting the costs of production. I also found that the low level of productive forces required the principle: to each according to his work. The more one worked, the higher the pay. This was the core of our divergence, because Che found differences acceptable only when they arose from what each contributed to the best of his ability.35
The research director of the Paris Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales still did not agree with Che’s thinking.
Mandel thought that Bettelheim was making the mistake of looking for pure forms in historical reality. For example, according to the French economist, there could be no collective ownership of the means of production as long as legally there was no completely collective ownership. Mandel found Bettelheim’s insistence on such complete ownership- ‘to the last nail’ – a bit technocratic. Complete ownership was not necessary as long as their was possession sufficient to suspend capital’s laws of motion and initiate planned development.36 Mandel pointed out that the withering away of the commodity form was determined not only by the development of the forces of production but also by changes in human behaviour. It was a commonplace to say that the law of value also played a role in a post-capitalist economy without saying what part of the economy it would govern. The key question was whether or not the law of value determined investment in the socialist sector. If that was necessarily the case, Mandel said,then all underdeveloped countries – including all of the post-capitalist countries except Czechoslovakia and East Germany – were doomed to eternal underdevelopment. He pointed out that these counties agriculture was more profitable than industry, light and small-scale industry more profitable than heavy and large-scale industry, and above all obtaining industrial products on the world market more profitable than domestic manufacturing. ‘To permit investment to be governed by the law of value would actually be to preserve the imbalance of the economic structure handed down from capitalism.’37 With his criticism Mandel was not denying the law of value but opposing what he termed Bettelheim’s fatalism, which denied that a long and hard struggle was necessary ‘between the principle of conscious planning and the blind operation of the law of value’.38
Luis Alvarez Rom, Cuba’s finance minister, spent ten hours correcting the Spanish translation of Mandel’s article. It appeared in June 1964 under the title ‘Las categorías mercantiles en el periodo de transición’ (Mercantile Categories in the Period of Transition); 20,000 copies were published in periodicals of the ministries of industry and of finance.39 It included a flattering biography of the author.40 Mandel wondered if this was ‘to neutralize in advance certain ill-intentioned criticisms of my spiritual family [the Fourth Intemational]?’41 He treasured in his wallet a banknote personally signed by Che: more than a currency note, it was a proof of trust. Mandel admired Che’s courage in inviting him to Cuba for a debate that the Soviets and orthodox Communists had to accept, however grudgingly. He praised Che as a theoretician, a leader in the tradition of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky.42
Looking back in 1977, Mandel considered Cuba’s open debate on the economy ‘the big turning point’ in the Cuban revolution.43 Behind that debate had raged another, not held in public. This debate concerned the revolution’s sociopolitical orientation, the role of the workers and the issue of power. That is, along with the question of the law of value came the issue of how much freedom the proletariat would have to make its own decisions. As Mandel saw it, though Che triumphed in the public debate, he was defeated in the hidden one. Guaranteeing freedom was a political problem: it required the creation of workers’ councils and popular assemblies. Such organs were never developed.
When Che left Cuba in 1965, he was the most popular leader on the island. If the voice of the people had been heard, Che would have won the political as well as the economic round. But, as Mandel said, ‘Che did not want to appeal to the people. He did not want to split the party openly. This is why he left after his defeat.44 In his 1964 correspondence Mandel had acknowledged that he did not dare put some of his impressions on paper.45 Did he already suspect that the debate would have a tragic outcome?
On Mandel’s departure Luis Alvarez Rom assured him that he was always welcome; a request would be sufficient to assure an invitation.46 There was a rumour that within a few months Castro would officially invite him `so I can deal a bit with his affairs’.47 He returned to Brussels in a hopeful mood:
The influence of the Stalinist ‘sectarians’ (that’s what they’re called there) continues to decline . .. Slowly a new vanguard is forming, one that is close to our ideas . . . The revolution is still bursting with life, and on that basis democracy [can] bloom.48
He had also been assured that ‘the group around Che was noticeably stronger’ and that ‘workers’ assemblies would soon be started’.49 Was this the beginning-of workers’ self-management, however modest? The promise did not amount to much, but Mandel dosed his eyes to its limits. He reacted negatively to Nelson Zayas’s advice to pressure Che and to convince him that he’ll lose the battle if it’s only fought in the government and bureaucratic arena’.50 The people’s support for the government must not be underestimated.51 The die was not yet cast: ‘Nothing was definitely decided yet in the economic discussion.’52 Mandel did not want to hamper Che and Fidel in their conflicts with the pro-Soviet currents. This would not have been appreciated, either, by the swelling multitude of radical youth in France and elsewhere for whom Che was nearing the status of hero. Mandel’s reaction disappointed Zayas and hastened his decision to turn his back on Cuba and complete his study of French in Paris. He asked Mandel to use his influence with Che to secure the necessary exit visa.53
Mandel’s thoughts about Cuba changed only slowly. The Latin American revolution came to a halt: Salvador Allende lost the Chilean election in September 1964, there were military coups in Brazil and Bolivia, and leftist guerrillas in Peru and Venezuela were defeated. Cuba paid for these failures with its growing dependence on the Soviet Union. This was an arid climate in which social democracy could not thrive. As Mandel frankly admitted to ex-Trotskyist Jesus Vazquez Mendez,
I subscribe to your opinion that participation by the people is essential … . I had heard that management of the enterprise would come into the hands of the trade unions after their leadership was replaced; but the latest news is that nothing has happened. I’m sorry about it, and like you I’m afraid that if things are left to take their course, the result will be an economic impasse. Maybe I’ll go to Cuba again in l965 and can give the debate new impetus.54
But he didn’t visit in 1965, and he never saw Che again, not even when Che was in Algiers to address an Afro-Asian conference at the end of a trip through Africa in February that year. Never before had Che come out so strongly against the Soviet Union. He declared that ‘the socialist countries are, in a way, accomplices of imperialist exploitation’. Before all else oppressed peoples had to be helped with weapons. ‘without any charge at all, and in quantities determined by the need’.55 Che’s words took root in the fertile soil of Latin American campuses and the radical milieu in Paris, where his speech was duplicated and distributed,56 and the Union of Communist Students (UEC) invited Che to Paris for a debate on Stalinism.57 The initiative came from the EUC left wing, in which Mandel’s fellow-thinkers played a prominent role. Six months earlier they had been received by a deputy minister of industry, a dose colleague of Che’s.58 One of the group’s spokespeople, twenty-seven-year-old Janette Pienkny (Janette Habel after 1966) traveled regularly between Paris and Havana. She contacted the Cuban ambassador, who relayed the invitation to Che by phone. Meanwhile Mandel was attempting to get a visa for Algeria. After Che’s speech, Mandel had phoned him his congratulations. Che had immediately agreed to a meeting but it had to he the following day, a Monday, because he was about to leave.59 But that Sunday Mandel sought vainly to make contact – at home and at the embassy- with the ambassador and the consul. Without a visa, ‘they wouldn’t have even let me telephone from the airport . . . I finally decided, heartbroken, to miss the meeting that had meant so much to me.’60
The debate in Paris never took place. The Communists Party put a stop to it.61 Che was now viewed as a heretic, not only in Moscow but also within the Communist parties. Algiers was his last public appearance. He went to the Congo and Bolivia to help break the isolation of their revolutions, a solidarity that he summed up in his testamentary message with the call -Make two, three, many Vietnams!’62 That slogan became the catchphrase for the generation of ’68.
The Death of Che Guevara
Though a trip to Cuba had proved impossible in 1965-6, Mandel’s thinking about the Latin American revolution continued to develop. He praised the young philosopher Régis Debray, a student of Althusser’s. In a January 1965 essay in Les Temps Modernes Debray had characterized Castroism as the Latin American version of Leninism. Mandel described it as “an excellent piece’, though he dismissed out of hand Debray’s idea about spontaneous party formation.102 Mandel expressed himself more cautiously About Cuba’s relationship with Moscow: ‘politically they continue to have their own line. . . What is bad, however, is that [Castro] made a series of moves to satisfy the Russians (like his attacks against the Chinese and against the “counter-revolutionary trotskyists”).’103 Ac the final sitting of the Tricontinental Conference in Havana’s Chaplin Theatre, Castro had spoken of ‘the stupidities, the discredit, and the repugnant thing which Trotskyism today is in the field of politics’.104
Mandel thought that must be a genuflection towards Moscow, .camouflage for the call to armed struggle that Moscow might interpret as a concession to Trotskyism. In it confidential meeting with Victor Rico Galan. Castro’s representative in Mexico, Mandel later learned that Castro regretted his statement. Galan had pointed out to Castro that the attack ou Trotskyism was unfounded. Admitting his mistake, Castro had asked Galan to give him `A month or two to make public corrections of this at the proper time’.105 At the end of May Mandel unexpectedly got an invitation to visit Havana. The Cuban ambassador spoke of a personal invitation from Castro and promised a meeting with President Osvaldo Dorticós.106
In June 1967 Ernest aud Gisela arrived at the former Havana Hilton, re‑christened the Free Havana but with its former splendor carefully preserved. At the hotel’s bar, replacing the Americans of earlier times, were Russians and few East German technicians. Politics was never far away, even at the hairdresser’s, as Gisela discovered: ‘The girl sitting beside me was reading Lenin, and on the other side a woman was reading Mills’s The Marxists.’107
A beautiful English-speaking guide took care of all the formalities, including credit cards and a shabby Cadillac with chauffeur. Gisela immediately fell in love with the impoverished country. She sent Meschkat enthusiastic reports about their wanderings and the encounters in tobacco and sugar factories, on plantations and in prisons and schools. ‘Everything is exquisite and for us so encouraging and hopeful.108
Their programme was overloaded. Ernest often returned only at l:00 or 2:00 in the morning from a debate or lecture at the university or a party school. The atmosphere was frank and candid. as were the meetings with the host of Latin Americans attending the first conference of the Organization in Solidarity with Latin America (OLAS), held in Havana at the beginning of August.109 Ernest and Gisela were furious when the Czechoslovakian paper Rudé Právo published three pages slandering Che on the day that Soviet premier Kosygin arrived. Gisela wrote, ‘You should just hear how they talk about the Russians in all circles here, from the highest to the lowest, I’ve never heard such talk, from socialists yet.’110 Typically, Castro charged the Venezuelan Communists with falling the guerrilla movement.111 Though Cuba was dependent on the Russians, Castro continued to provoke them.112
Mandel spoke with functionaries high and low, but Castro and Dorticós avoided him. Every time he announced his departure. he received overnight request to stay ‘because the President and the Prime Minister both wanted to see me’.113 Fed up with waiting, he finally left, three weeks later than planned and without meeting them. Perhaps a meeting would have seemed too clear a provocation to the Russians. Castro had nothing to gain, as he had demonstrated his independence sufficiently at the OLAS conference.
On 9 October 1967, the world learned of the murder of Ernesto Che Guevara. Convinced that guerrilla warfare was the only way to victory, he had gone to join the Bolivian struggle. His body was found mutilated in a remote village. This was the death of a revolutionary, a modern-day warrior chief. The left was in mourning; poets wrote elegies, laments that ended with calls to rebellion. In an interview with Gerhard Horst (pseudonym Andre’ Gorz), an editor of Les Temps Moderns, Mandel spoke of ‘a severe shock, all the more as I regarded him as a personal friend’.114 In La Gauche he mourned ‘a great friend, an exemplary comrade, a heroic militant’.115 On the Boulevard St-Michel in Paris and Berlin’s Kurfurstendamn, in London and Milan people shouted: `Che, Che, Gue-va-ra!’ The chopped syllables formed a battle cry against the established order. Neither Moscow nor Beijing had expressed even the most grudging sympathy.116 In openly showing their regret the Italian and French Communist parties proved they still possessed a little autonomy.
Mandel’s sympathizers in the French Revolurionmy Communist Youth (JCR), a radical group founded in 1966 in a split from the Union of Communist Students, refused to accept his death. ‘Che was our best antidote to the Maoist mystique’, Daniel Bensaid recalled.117 In the Latin Quarter of Paris, the Mutualité temple of the French workers’ movement, was full to overflowing. Mandel spoke alongside Maurice Nadeau, just back from Havana, and Janette ‘The Cuban’ Habel. He portrayed Che as he had come to know him in 1964.118 Emotion crested as those present softly hummed ‘The Song of the Martyrs’, the mourning march from the 1905 Russian Revolution, before launching into, ‘You have fallen for all those who hunger’ and belting out the chorus, ‘But the hour will sound, and the people conquer…’119
In Berlin too people were deeply moved. The SDS called for intensifying actions. Che had been Dutschke’s inspiration. With Gaston Salvatore, a Chilean comrade and friend in the SDS,120 Dutschke had translated Che’s last public statement, with it’s famous appeal for ‘two, three, many Vietnams’, from Spanish into German. Like Che, Dutschke lived the conviction that there “is no life outside the revolution’.121 He named his recently born son Hosea Chea. Latin America would not let Dutschke go. In 1968 he wrote a foreword to The Long March; The Course of the Revolution in Latin America, a collection of articles by such figures as Régis Debray, Castro and K.S. Karol.122. Meshkat was surprised to see letters from Gisela, which she had sent him from Havana in the summer of 1967, printed in the book. As far as he had known, Dutschke had asked only for permission to read them. 123.
1. Collected Works, vol. 25, Moscow, 1977, p. 497. 2. P. Anderson, In the Tracks of Historical Materialism, London, 1983. P. Anderson, Considerations on Western Marxism, London, 1977. 3. E. Mandel, Marxist Economic Theory, vol. 2, London 1968, pp. 605-53. 4.E. Mandel, ‘Introduction’ in E. Préobrazenskij, La Nouvelle économie (Novaia Ekonomika), Paris, 1966. P. Naville to E. Mandel, 20 May 1962, E. Mandel Archives, folder 278. A. Erlich analyzed Preobrazhensky’s work in The Soviet Industrialization Debate, 1924-1928, Cambridge, MA, 1960. C. Samary, Plan, Market, Democracy, Amsterdam, 1988. 5. P. Naville to E. Mandel, 17 September 1960, E. Mandel Archives, folder 318. 6.E. Mandel, ‘Introduction’, La Nouvelle économie , E. Préobrazenskij, p. 35. 7.M. LÖwy, The Marxism of Che Guevara: Philosophy, Economics, and Revolutionary Warfare, New York, 1973. 8. ‘Interview with Che Guevara’, L’Express, 25 July 1963, cited in: E. Guevera, Ecrits d’un révolutionaire, Paris, 1987, p. 9. 9. E. Guevara, Socialism and Man in Cuba, Sydney, 1988, p. 5. 10. Jack [E. Mandel] to ‘Chers amis’, 18 October 1960, E. Mandel Archives, folder 70. E. Germain [E. Mandel] to ‘Cher camarade’, 1 July 1961, E. Mandel Archives, folder 483. 11. Ibid. 12. G. Arcos Bergnes [Cuban ambassador] to E. Mandel, 12 Sepbember 1962, E. Mandel Archives, folder 16. 13. Using the pseudonym David Alexander, Zayas Pazos published a book about Cuba in 1967: Cuba: la via rivoluzionaria al socialismo, Rome. He also wrote letters signed with the pseudonym Emile. 14. H. Gadea, Che Guevara: Años decisivos, Mexico, 1972- P Kalfon, Che, Ernesto Guevara: Une légende du siècle, Paris, 1997. 15. N. Zayas to P. Frank, 20 October 1963, E. Mandel Archives, folder 23. 16. N. Zayas to ‘Cher camarade’, 25 October 1963, E. Mandel Archives, folder 21. 17. A. Mora, ‘En torno a Ja cuestión del funcionamiento de la ley del valor en la economia cubana en los actuales momentes’, Comercio Exterior, June 1963. Translated as: A. Mora, ‘Zur Frage des Funktionierens des Wertgesetzes in der cubanischen Wirtschaft zum gegenwärtigen Zeitpunkt’ in C. Bettelheim et al., Wertgesetz: Planung und Bewusstsein: die Planungsdebatte in Cuba, Frankfurt on Main, 1969. Alberto Mora was the Cuban minister of foreign trade. 18. E. Guevara, ‘On value’ (1963) in J. Gerassi, ed., Venceremos! The Speeches and Writings of Che Guevara, London, 1969, pp. 280-5. 19. N. Zayas to ‘Cher camarade’, 25 October 1963 E. Mandel Archives, folder 21. 20. N. Zayas to E. Germain, 16 January 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 22. 21. E. Mandel, ‘Le grand débat économique à Cuba’, Partisans, no. 37, 1967. Reprinted in E. Guevara, Ecrits d’un révolutionnaire, Paris, 1987. 22. E. Mandel, letter fragment, n.d. , E. Mandel Archives, folder 26. 23. E. Mandel to R. Blackbum, 12 February 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 28. E. Mandel to N. Zayas, 12 February 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 21. 24. Nelson to Germain, 16 February 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 19. 25. E. Mandel to ‘cher ami’ [L. Maitan], 3 March 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 22. 26. E. Mandel to L. Maitan, 7 March 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 22. 27. L. Maitan, manuscript memoirs (unpublished), Paris, n.d., pp. 3, 19-20. 28. E. Mandel to L. Maitan, 10 June 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 24. “Che Guevara was Energetically Devoted to Anti-Imperialist Solidarity’, interview with M. Piñiero, The Militant, 24 November 1997. 29.La Gauche, 9 May 1964. 30. E. Mandel to Paul [Clerbaut], E. Mandel Archives, folder 23. 31. Mandel anticipated that he would soon see Marxist Economic Theory published in Cuba, ‘obviously’ without the chapter on the Soviet economy (‘There is no need for us to embarrass the Cubans.’). E. Mandel to Paul [Clerbaut], 7 May 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 23. Mandel wrote to his French publisher, ‘The president of the Republic [Osvaldo Dorticos] himself is interested in the work and would like to publish it in Spanish in 2 Cuba.’ E. Mandel to C. Bourgois, 28 May 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 278. 32. E. Mandel to Paul [Clerbaut], E. Mandel Archives, folder 23. 33. Ibid. 34. C. Bettelheim, ‘Forms and Methods of Socialist Planning and the Level of Development of the Productive Forces’, The Transition to a Socialist Economy, Atlantic Highlands, NJ, 1975, pp. 121-38. 35. J. Connier (in collaboration with H. Guevara Gadea and A. Granado Jimenez), Che Guevara, Monaco, 1995, pp. 291-2. 36. E. Mandel, ‘Mercantile Categories in the Transition Stage’, in B. Silverman ed., Man and Socialism in Cuba: The Great Debate, New York, 1971, pp. 63-6. S. de Santis, ‘Bewußtsein und Produktion: Eine Kontroverse zwischen Ernesto Che Guevara, Charles Bettelheim und Ernest Mandel über das ökonomische System in Kuba’, Kursbuch 18, October 1969. 37. E. Mandel, ‘Mercantile Categories in the Transition Stage’, in B. Silverman ed., Man and Socialism in Cuba, p. 82. R. Massari, Che Guevara: Pensiero e politica dell’utopia, Rome, 1987. 38. E. Mandel, ‘Mercantile Categories in the Transition Stage’, Man and Socialism in Cuba, p. 82 (italics in original). 39. E. Mandel, ‘Las categorias mercantiles en ei periodo de transición’, Nuestra Industria, June 1964. 40. J. Habel, ‘Le sens que nous donnons au combat du Che Guevara’ (1), Rouge, 13 October 1977. 41. E. Mandel to A. Eguren, 5 August 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 25. 42. F. Buyens, Een mens genaarnd Ernest Mandel, film, Brussels, 1972. 43. E. Mandel, ‘Il -y a dix ans, l’assassinat du Che, Les positions du Che Guevara dans le grand débat éconoimque de 1963-1965’, Rouge, 11 October 1977. 44.Ibid.v 45. E. Mandel to ‘Paul [Clerbaut]’, 7 May 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 23. 46. E. Mandel to ‘Emile’ [N. Zayas], 26 May 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder24. 47. E. Mandel to A. Eguren, 5 August 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 25. 48. E. Mandel to ‘Lieber Freund’ [G. Jungclas], 22 May 1964; E. Mandel to K. Coates, 10 May 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 23. 49. Emile to E. Mandel, 5 Juiy 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 25. 50. Emile to E. Mandel, 13 August 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 25. 51. E. Mandel to ‘Cher ami’ [N. Zayasl, 12 October 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 25. 52. E. Mandel to A. Eguren, 25 September 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 25. 53. Emile to E. Mandel, 27 September 1964; E. Mandel to Emile, 11 November 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 26. 54. E. Mandel to J. Vazquez Mendez, 2 November 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 26. 55. E. Guevara, ‘At the Afro-Asian Conference’, Che Guevara Speaks, New York, 1967, pp. 108, 114. 56. P. Kalfon, Che, Emesto Guevara: Une légende du siècle, p. 402. 57. Ibid. Also: P. Robrieux, Notre génération communiste 1953-1968, Paris, 1977, pp. 316-7. 58. E. Mandel to L. Maitan, 10 June 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 24. 59. E. Mandel to ‘Dear friend’ 1, 19 May 1965, E. Mandel Archives, folder 31. 60. E. Mandel to ‘Pierre’, 1 March 1965, E. Mandel Archives, folder 30. 61. P. Robrieux, Notre génération communiste 1953-1968, p. 317. 62. E. Guevara, ‘Vietnam and the World Struggle for Freedom’, Che Guevara Speaks, p. 159. 63. E. Mandel to A. Eguren, 5 August 1964, E. Mandel Archives, folder 25. 102. The idea that a revolutionary party would form ‘in die natural course of die liberation struggle’, as it had in Cuba, was an illusion. Mandel held that Cuba was an exception and that to hope for spontaneous party formation was to idealize empiricism and pragmatism. Perry Anderson, the editor of New Left Review, agreed with this criticism, though unlike Mandel he thought this difference of opinion with the twenty-four-year-old Debray was minor. E. Mandel to P. Anderson, 21 January 1966, E. Mandel Archives, folder 32. 103. Ibid. 104. University of Texas: Fidel Castro speech database. The conference took place 3-15 January 1966. Its official title was ‘First Afro-Äsian-.Latin American Peoples’ Solidarity Conference’, The Fourth International’s response appeared in Quatrième Internationale, February 1966. 105. Miguel to ‘Dear Friends’, 1 March 1966, E. Mandel Archives, folder 32. 106. E. Mandel to E. Federn, 1 July 1967, E. Mandel Archives, folder 37. 107. G. Mandel to K. Meschkat, 12 June 1967, cited in R. Debray, F. Castro, G. Mandel and K. Karol, Der lange Marsch: Wege der Revolution in Lateinamerika, Munich, 1968, pp. 257-61. 108. Ibid. 109. E. Mandel, ‘Cuba 1967 et la première conférence de l’OLAS’, La Gauche, 9 September 1967. 110. G. Scholtz to K. Meschkat, 29 June 1967, cited in R. Debray, F. Castro, G. Mandel and K. Karol, Der lange Marsch, pp. 261-9. 111. T. Szulc, Fidel: A Critical Portrait, London, 1987, p. 497. 112. M. Kenner and J. Petras, eds, Fidel Castro Speaks, New York, 1969, pp. 14563. 113. E. Mandel to P. Refflinghaus, 17 July 1967, E. Mandel Archives, folder 38. 114. E. Mandel to G. Horst, 26 October 1967, E. Mandel Archives, folder 38. 115. ‘L’exemple de “Che” Guevara inspirera des millions de militants par le monde’, La Gauche, 21 October 1967. ‘ “Che” est mort’, La Gauche, 28 October 1967. 116.Le Monde, 27 October 1967. 117. D. Bensaid, Une Lente impatience, Paris, 2004, p. 75. 118 .Ibid., p. 76. Also: H. Hamon and P. Rotman, Génération, vol. 1: Les années de rêve, Paris, 1987, p. 384. 119. D. Bensaid, Une lente impatience, p. 76. 120. E. Guevara, ‘Vietnam and the World Struggle for Freedom’, op. cit., p. 159. 121. E. Guevara, ‘Notes on Man and Socialism in Cuba’, in Che Guevara Speaks, p. 136. J. Miermeister, Ernst Bloch, Rudi Dutschke, Hamburg, 1996, p. 144. 123. R. Debray, F. Castro, G. Mandel and K. Karol, Der lange Marsch. 124. Author’s interview with K. Meschkat, 10 September 2004.
THE RAG INTERVIEWS MARIANA HERNANDEZ
February 22, 1971
MARIANA HERNANDEZ, interviewed by THE RAG, Austin, Texas,
Mariana Hernandez is the Socialist Party’s candidate for Travis LaRue’s job- mayor of Austin.
By printing this interview, The Rag does not mean to take sides in the upcoming election. But we would like to point out that almost any change would be an improvement.
The interview was taped on the spur of the moment at the Abortion Conference, where the Socialist candidates were promising to work for free abortions on demand if elected. The candidate’s willingness to speak into a somewhat hostile reporter’s tape recorder without advance notice was remarkable in the context of Texas politics.
RAGT: How do you propose to change the abortion laws from the City Council?
MH: Well, what we intend to do first of all is help build the Women’s Liberation movement. We will involve ourselves in all the building aspects of it and in that way involve a larger number of people. What we will do at the City| Council is also have it at a time when more women are able to come to meetings and express their views as to what the City Council ought to be| doing. That is, we won’t have them at 9 o’clock in the morning when most people can’t come. There are working women who can’t present their views because they’re working… RAG: Wouldn’t you say that most men can’t participate at that time either, so it’s a bit unfair to all citizens?
MH: That’s true. So we would have it at a time when all citizens could participate.
RAG: How do you see. your chances for winning?
MH: Well, what we see is that if we get the publicity, if we get out and are able to take our demands to the people, they’re going to support us. That’s our chances.
Many women support free abortion on demand, which is one of our positions. Large numbers of people support our anti-war position. But there are areas of the city that just have not had the opportunity to hear us.
RAG: How has the response to you been from the straight media?
MH: All of the press except for the Daily Texan were at our press conference. Even the Dallas Morning News was there! And, in fact, they didn’t seem to be that hostile just amazed that Socialists would run. Their major question was: “Is it serious?” The way this was answered over and over again by all the candidates was yes, we are serious, we are the only group of people running today who are serious, who are even talking about the major issues that affect people. The others are avoiding them.
RAG: Speaking of talking about the major issues, would you consider a debate with the incumbents?
MH: Yes, I would. Of course. I would certainly like to debate the mayor, Travis LaRue. We’d discuss things like pollution around laundries. We’d discuss his position on Women’s Liberation, although there’s supposed to be a Mayor’s Commission on Women. We would debate the question of the right of a citizen to march down the street and assemble.
We would discuss many issues. Like, for instance, the fact that he gives the key to the city to all sorts of people people who sell Budweiser on TV, and things like that but he would never consider the idea of inviting representatives from East Austin, say, to be mayor for a day. Not only mayor for a day, but just come in
RAG: Do you agree with what seems to be a wide-spread sentiment in East Austin that the apathy of City Government has emasculated the Human Rights Commission?
MH: I would agree with that. The reason that it was actually started in the first place was, basically, to make people believe that the City Council was going to do something.
A real, concrete example of what they haven’t done that they could have done is in the recent demands being made by the Booker T. Washington Project people. They are saying that there has been brutality, that the police come in as outsiders, they push us. around, they have guns on us, and we don’t appreciate this. The people were trying to get something done about the situation.
Of course, there have been promises of investigations. It doesn’t take more than 30 minutes to go out there and investigate that situation.
If the police—“the protectors and defenders of the people of East Austin”—were from East Austin, if they were under the control of the East Austin residents so that the East Austin residents could remove them, then we wouldn’t have police brutality, because the police would be defending the people’s rights in Austin. You wouldn’t see policemen protecting the privileges of certain people out here who go into East Austin.
RAG: Do you believe that even if you lose, your candidacy may push whoever does win towards solving these problems?
MH: Yes, there will be pressure put on them. It’s pretty much like what happened in Colorado, when La Kaza Unida candidates ran. Although there had never been any chicanos elected even within the Democratic Party, this began to happen. All of a sudden, they were pressured into getting chicanos to run, they were pressured into beginning to talk about the lettuce strike publicly, they were pressured into talking about the Coor’s beer boycott.
* In this way, we will pressure them to talk and make their stand known to the people. And this is where the media has to come in and support us. That’s our basic fight at this point letting people know what we stand for.