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Vol. 78/No. 12      March 31, 2014

Havana book fair: ‘History of
class struggle in US is vital for
revolutionaries worldwide’
(feature article)
HAVANA — “Everyone in Cuba has had some experience in confrontations with U.S. imperialism — whether we’re in our 60s, 40s, or 20s,” said Gen. Luis “Lucio” Martínez Menocal, speaking here during a Feb. 17 book launch at the Havana International Book Fair.

“The two books we’re presenting today are tools to learn about the continuity of these confrontations, which are the product of the class struggle.” Knowledge of the history of the class struggle in the United States, he said, “is vital for revolutionaries” in Cuba.

Martínez, a retired general of the Ministry of the Interior, was part of a panel discussing new Spanish-language editions of Fifty Years of Covert Operations in the US: Washington’s Political Police and the American Working Class by Larry Seigle, Farrell Dobbs and Steve Clark, and Socialism on Trial by James P. Cannon. New editions of the books in both Spanish and English will be released by Pathfinder Press in May.

The audience of 60 spanned several generations. Some, like Martínez, were revolutionary combatants from the struggle in the 1950s led by Fidel Castro that overthrew the U.S.-backed Batista dictatorship. But Martínez was especially addressing two dozen young cadets from the Interior Ministry’s national academy. The director of the school had heard about the event from Martínez and jumped at the chance for students to participate and learn.

The other speakers were Elier Ramírez, a historian who works at Cuba’s Council of State, and Mary-Alice Waters, Pathfinder’s president and member of the National Committee of the Socialist Workers Party in the U.S. Chairing was Rodolfo Zamora, assistant director of the Cuban publisher Ciencias Sociales, which helped organize the event.

Learned about U.S. class struggle

Ramírez said he had learned a lot from the books. He said he had discovered that the intensified “war waged by the FBI and other government agencies against the democratic rights of U.S. citizens goes back to the eve of World War II, not to the rise of McCarthyism in the 1950s, as some authors maintain.”

Fifty Years of Covert Operations in the US, he said, explains “how the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration took advantage of World War II and the fight against fascism to unleash the FBI” against unions, Black rights organizations, Japanese-Americans, Puerto Rican independence fighters, and others.

Among those targeted, Ramírez said, were 18 leaders of the Minneapolis and Midwest Teamsters union battles of the 1930s and of the Socialist Workers Party, who were tried and imprisoned on trumped-up conspiracy charges under the Smith Act, “the ‘Gag Law’ enacted by President Roosevelt in 1940 with the aim of silencing the labor vanguard in the workers movement that opposed U.S. entry into World War II.” Socialism on Trial is the testimony by SWP National Secretary James P. Cannon, one of those 18.

During that time, Ramírez said, “the U.S. Communist Party echoed the government’s argument that ‘national unity’ was essential to confront the advance of fascism.” It backed Washington’s assaults on working-class resistance, including the frame-up of the Minneapolis defendants under the Smith Act — the same law that was later used to convicted leaders of the CP in 1949. The CP was following the line dictated by Moscow, “an illness that also afflicted other Communist parties in Latin America after the death of Lenin and the rise of Stalin to power in the Soviet Union,” said Ramírez.

Today these books are useful for those fighting to free the Cuban revolutionaries imprisoned in the U.S., Ramírez emphasized. “The case of the Cuban Five, like the 1941 Minneapolis trial, was a frame-up by the U.S. government with a leading role by the FBI,” he said.

The 1986 victory in the SWP lawsuit against government spying and disruption, outlined in Fifty Years of Covert Operations in the U.S., “was only possible through a major political mobilization. The Five are political prisoners, and while the legal battle is indispensable, what will get our heroes out of prison will be the political campaign that is waged.”

Lessons fighting gov’t frame-ups

Luis Martínez pointed out that Washington today falsely brands Cubans and other revolutionaries as “terrorists.” It does so, he said, to rationalize using “their anti-terrorist laws to enforce the interests of the minority ruling class.”

In that regard, he said, he found it useful to learn in Socialism on Trial how communists in the U.S. have defended themselves in court against such false charges. He pointed to Cannon’s answer to federal prosecutors’ claim that the SWP “advocated violence.”

To the contrary, Cannon replied, violence has always been initiated, not by working people seeking to establish a new social and economic order, but by “the outlived class that doesn’t want to leave the stage” and wants “to hang on to their privileges” during revolutionary working-class upsurges.

These two new books “are not about the past,” said Mary-Alice Waters. “They are tools that help us to understand what is happening today and prepare us for battles ahead.”

In fact, Waters said, together with Voices From Prison: The Cuban Five, they are part of a trilogy of books that Pathfinder presented at the book fair.

“Why a trilogy?” Because all three “are about the same truth”—that neither “the capitalist ‘justice’ meted out to the Cuban Five over three U.S. administrations … nor the exemplary way the five revolutionaries have acted in face of it, are something new for the workers movement in the U.S. and around the world.” The books show that “the courtroom is not where innocence and guilt are decided. It is not where justice will be found.”

At the same time, Waters said, the books “are about the way revolutionary fighters and communists go to prison. How we prepare ourselves for something that is not unusual in the life of any working-class fighter — of anyone who believes there is something important enough to go to jail for.”

Everything the Five have done since their arrests and frame-up in 1998, Waters said, “is in the finest tradition of revolutionary working-class fighters over more than a century and a half of struggle — the pride and dignity with which they defended their revolutionary principles and rebutted the charges fabricated by U.S. authorities, their refusal to cop a plea, their insistence before the court that they would take the same course again if it would save even a single life in Cuba.”

That kind of proletarian integrity and conduct over decades in face of U.S. imperialism’s “national security” apparatus and political police, Waters said, is also what Socialism on Trial and Fifty Years of Covert Operations in the US are all about.

The victory in the SWP lawsuit nearly 30 years ago, Waters said, remains a tool “that helps keep open political space for working people to speak, organize and act outside the electoral and judicial arenas — to fight on our own terrain, in the factories, on the picket lines and in the streets.”

At the book fair and other presentations, many Cubans who bought the two books commented that they knew relatively little about the history of the class struggle and communist workers movement in the U.S. And they were eager to learn more.
Related articles:
London event brings together forces fighting to free Cuban 5
Melba Hernández: Combatant and leader of Cuban Revolution
Showings of paintings by Antonio Guerrero, one of the Cuban Five
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