Terrorism is the Opposite of Revolution
By Manuel E. Yepe
Exclusive for the daily POR ESTO! of Merida, Mexico.
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann.
I have written a great deal about the desirability and necessity of the international community’s categorical definition of the term terrorism. Since there is no universally-accepted definition
of the term for use by international humanitarian law, and no such formulation has been reached in international bodies, apparently, because of the impossibility of doing so without including the terrorist actions of nation-states.
In 1937, the League of Nations referred to terrorism as: “Any criminal act directed against a State, intended or calculated to create a state of terror in the minds of private persons, a group of persons or the general public. In 1988, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution reiterating that “…criminal acts directed or calculated to provoke a state of terror in a group of persons or in particular persons in the general public, for political purposes, are unjustifiable in all circumstances, whatever the political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other considerations that may be invoked to justify them”.
Dictionaries more or less agree in identifying terrorism as “the systematic use of violence, or threat of violence, against individuals or larger groups, to achieve a political objective whose scope often transcends boundaries national.”
Although it is common to specify that it refers to actions carried out by non-governmental groups, there is also admitted, as another concept, that of “state terrorism”. This is is that exercised by a government against communities under siege or that it seeks to conquer, or against its own subjects as a means of subjecting them to its excesses and arbitrariness.
It has become a tradition, and it is still a systematic practice today, that the great powers and tyrannical governments, use their vast media resources to make the term “terrorists” be applied to the methods of struggle chosen by revolutionaries and patriots in their emancipatory clashes.
The U.S. superpower has imposed the label “terrorist” on the fighters who have made their actions felt. Its immense media power describes as terrorism the actions of the patriotic resistance, whose clear military inferiority is imposed to organize in secret or irregular units that fight outside the universally accepted military parameters when facing the superior armed forces of the invader or occupier.
Hence the need to avoid this trap by clearly distinguishing revolutionary methods of struggle from terrorist methods. On the basis of my own personal experience, as a combatant in the ranks of the insurrectional movement that defeated the dictatorship that ruled Cuba until the last day of 1958 and took power on a day like today in 1959, I perceive several clear differences:
Revolutionary methods are identified with the aspirations of the people while the terrorists are almost always strongly rejected by the population. This is because the former seek to innovate the scenario and the asymmetrical conditions of the struggle in order to raise the combative morale of the people. They also promote the incorporation of new armies, to ridicule the unpopular repressive forces of the tyrannical regime.
Their goal is to call the world’s attention to the revolutionary war being waged and to denounce the anti-popular character of the oppressive government. Revolutionary forms of underground struggle are intended to increase the support of the people for their cause and therefore are not intended to provoke panic but to promote the adherence of the people. Terrorist procedures are typical of the gangs of drug criminals, mafias, extreme right-wing paramilitary organizations and, in general, mercenaries at the service of powerful economic interests.
They seek to impose their authority on the basis of the population’s fear of the cruelty of their actions. These may take the form of threats, warnings or they may be directly punitive. They do not aspire to attract the people to their cause but to impose their authority on the basis of fear, on fear.
Terrorism generates panic and causes suffering and death to innocent people. Revolutionary methods engender admiration for the selflessness of those who carry out the actions and call for struggle and sacrifice for a just cause that identifies with the aspirations of broad sections of the people,
During the insurrectionary uprising in Cuba against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista supported by Washington, along with the guerrilla warfare that was being waged in the mountains, another very risky underground struggle was being fought in Cuba in the urban areas of the country that contributed decisively to the popular triumph of 1959.
The main actors in the urban revolutionary struggle were combatants from the same revolutionary organizations as when the war ended in the fullness of a process of unification of their ranks. These were the July 26th Movement led by Fidel Castro; the clandestine members of the Revolutionary Directorate created by the University Student Federation and led by its president, the architecture student José Antonio Echevarría, and the forces of the Socialist Youth, the formation of the People’s Socialist Party (Marxist-Leninist), many of whose members supported the line of armed struggle before this was the main form of combat drawn up by the national leadership of the PSP.
These three major political formations arose separately, but were united as the identity of their revolutionary objectives became more and more evident and as the awareness of the advantages that such unity brought to the struggle grew. They acted in a growing number of cities, carrying out political propaganda to promote the patriotic armed struggle. They carried out armed propaganda that included detonations with explosives, sabotage of production and services. They interrupted communications and transportatipm to harm the economic activity of the big businessmen who were unaware of the patriotic effort against the dictatorial regime. They collected resources through voluntary contributions of economic funds to supply the guerrilla fronts and urban combat activity, This was done taking care that the contributions were not contaminated with ill-gotten money. They collected taxes from entities located in areas that were being liberated and directly confronted the armed forces of the police and the army, among many other functions.
It was certainly an extremely dangerous activity for revolutionaries, and not only because of the brutal retaliation by the police forces against the tyranny that included barbaric torture of those we captured. In addition, this was also because of the risks involved in handling explosives.
The underground fighters had to mourn the deaths of some of their bravest and most determined comrades in arms or explosives handling accidents. But there were never, to my knowledge, cases of civilians (non-combatants) being killed or injured because of their own irresponsibility, thanks to their belief that it was a matter of principle to avoid actions too risky for non-combatants.
That is why it is advisable to be wary of information linking popular resistance movements anywhere in the world to terrorism. In each situation, it’s necessary to examine each case in the light of the motivations and objectives of its combatants, as well as the circumstances in which the struggle is waged.
Washington unabashedly approves of “friendly dictatorships” while applauding, promoting and financing terrorist actions by its allies and its own intelligence and counter-intelligence organizations. At the same time Washington presents itself as the leader of a war against terrorism that is increasingly rejected or distrusted by the people.
Terrorism could never be a method of revolutionary struggle because it is contrary to the interests and aspirations of the people and so could never be identified with a popular cause. That is why it is increasingly easy and possible to identify the difference between terrorism and the irregular methods of revolutionary struggle that oppressive regimes cynically try to equate. True revolutions must be characterized by the admiration of their own people for their humanism. That is why they are respected even by those they fight.
It should be a source of pride for Cubans and admiration for other peoples that, despite the fact that Cuba had suffered thousands of deaths as a result of acts of terrorism organized and financed from United States territory, the island’s authorities had never resorted to such despicable methods of defense or counterattack, even in the most extreme situations.
The fact is that terrorism, as a method of struggle, is typical of fanatics or criminals who seek their own good to the detriment of the common good, or of those ambitious for power and wealth who despise others. The torture of prisoners could never be the method of revolutionaries, who only deserve such a label if they are fighters for human welfare and dignity.
January 5, 2020
Originally published in two parts.