Response to James Petras’ Critique: “Fidel Castro and the FARC. Eight Mistaken Theses of Fidel Castro”

Dandelion Salad

by Joan Marie Malerich
Axis exclusive
Jul 12, 2008

Editor’s Note: We believe that constructive, self criticism within the revolutionary left is vital. The political left is largely bereft of such criticism and when it occurs it is often rejected on the basis of passion or loyalties, not on logic and we are not the “Axis of Passion”. Criticism of one of our beloved leaders, Fidel Castro, by leftist writers is rare indeed. We published an article by James Petras,”Fidel Castro and the FARC. Eight Mistaken Theses of Fidel Castro” on July 8, 2008. Since then we have received a number of responses to the article. Joan Marie Malerich* submitted her critique of Mr. Petras’ article for publication and it is rationally based. We appreciate James Petras who has dared to offer criticism of Fidel Castro, who in our judgement is the greatest revolutionary leader of our time. Equally, we appreciate Joan Malerich who has the courage and insight to effectively debate Petras, a writer whose pen has been an anti-imperialist sword for 5 decades. In fairness to both writers, we recommend that the reader open James Petras’ article in a second page for comparitive analysis.

– Les Blough, Editor


This response is divided into two parts.

  • A general criticism that discusses the main points of my criticism of Petras’ analysis regarding Fidel’s Reflection about FARC’s release of hostages.
  • The second part addresses each of Petras’ eight points in greater detail and in some instances recaps criticism stated earlier.

Part 1:  A Overview of Petras’ Criticism

James Petras has in the past, written exceptionally good articles with in-depth analysis of social movements and revolutionary history in Latin America and elsewhere in the world. This critique should not be read as a personal attack on Petras or as a show of disrespect for him personally. When we “put ourselves out there”, criticizing prominent revolutionary leaders like Fidel Castro or Hugo Chavez Frias, we automatically open ourselves to scrutiny.

One of the first Petras articles I read was his criticism of Evo Morales soon after Morales was elected president of Bolivia. Evo Morales: All Growl, No Claws? (Counterpunch, Jan. 4, 2006) My first impression to this article was that I was reading important information by an expert, and I am sure many others reacted the same. However, I reviewed this article several months later, after learning more about President Morales and the social movements in Bolivia. It was then that I asked myself: What was the purpose of Petras’ burning criticism? The Bolivians have taken to the streets many times to oust miserable imperialist puppets. Didn’t Petras have the faith in the people to do this again if Morales did not serve them well? Why was Petras so intent on labeling Morales instead of giving Morales the chance to prove himself or to discredit himself?

Petras’ accusations that Fidel and President Chávez serve the imperialist propaganda machine are indeed ironic. Fidel represents the longest living representative of socialist revolution that has been kept in motion. Fidel and the Cuban Revolution are the greatest thorns in the side of the anti-Communist, anti-socialist, anti-human rights and left anti-Communists groups in the US. Petras bases many of his statements on insubstantial or incorrect inferences. In my view, this article by Petras is ironic because in it he has truly served the imperialist propaganda machine.

What “wins” has Petras achieved right here in the United States that qualifies him as an experienced revolutionary? Does teaching at a corporate university (and they all are connected to the moneyed interests in one way or another) and analyzing the mistakes of leftist revolutions in Latin America give him the experience and the radical knowledge to pass judgment on those who have succeeded in spite of the Empire? Ask “la gente” (the people) of those revolutions which have been won in Latin America either through armed struggle or the ballot box—especially Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina. Ask them what they want most from the the people in the United States. I am certain the answer will be:

“Stop your own country from interfering in our sovereignty. Stop your own country from using its economic and military terrorism against our people. Stop your own country from interfering in our democratic elections. Form your own revolution to stop the continued imperialist terrorism against countries like ours.”

Has Petras ever tried to organize the youth in the United States? I don’t mean just the college youth but the poor youth who will never have the opportunity to grace ivory towers with their presence. Would Petras recommend that these youth use armed warfare against the US government? If so, he would be recommending their early deaths. Would Petras allow his home to be used as an organizing location?  Would Petras encourage these youth to take hostages—both civilian and members of the US military or the police?

Has Petras consistently supported through real activism, Mumia Abu Jamal? Mumia is the only person, to my knowledge, in the US who has all of the characteristics of a real leader—intelligent, experienced, passionate, compassionate and inspiring with a strategic understanding of how resistance really works. Mumia, the voice of the voiceless, has resided on death row in Pennsylvania for 26 years. The U.S. “progressives” have allowed this leader to rot in prison—though Mumia refuses to rot away. He has written several books and abundant articles and has delivered many radio talks directly from death row. Fidel was sentenced to 15 years in prison but was released in less than two years because of the popular protest. Chavez was sentenced to prison after the February 4, 1992 military coup when 14 soldiers were killed and 50 others and about 80 civilians were injured in the ensuing violence.  Chavez was in prison until President Caldera pardoned him. After his release from prison he ran for president of Venezuela and won because the people supported – and continue to support him.

After his release from prison in 1994, Chavez has realized that armed revolt is not the answer. Petras should remember this. Did the people forget Chavez? NO. When Chavez was taken prisoner by the US-supported coup in 2002, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to force the golpistas out of Miraflores and bring back their leader to his rightful, democratically-elected position. It is easy to criticize and condemn the leaders of the Cuban and Bolivarian revolutions when they do not behave as Petras and others would have them behave.

One very important thing that Petras ignores is Fidel’s opening remarks regarding the “show of technology” against the FARC. Fidel notes the US spy satellites used in locating the hostages, the video surveillance equipment, and the imaging equipment. (All of these examples are taken from quotes of US Ambassador to Colombia, William Brownfield.)

Like many people on the left, I was surprised by Fidel’s suggestion that the FARC turn over all of their hostages to the Red Cross and I thought that it was not practical advice for these times. During the Cuban revolution, prisoners were turned over to the International Red Cross and were not tortured, but in the 1950s, the high tech tracking devices did not exist. At first I reasoned that, if the FARC turned over hostages to the Red Cross, they would be easily tracked down as they returned to their camps. However, after thinking about this more, I remembered that the US high tech equipment was used to track down the FARC and kill Raul Reyes when they were camping on Ecuadorian land, Most likely, the US will assist Uribe with this equipment to locate and destroy FARC camps – with or without a FARC hostage release.

I believe the more subtle message that Fidel and Chavez are giving the FARC by advising them to hand over hostages, to end guerilla warfare, and to transform themselves into a political movement is something like this:

“Otherwise, you will be tracked down and massacred. By turning over the hostages and disbanding as the FARC, you will take away the excuse for the imperialists to attack you. If they attack you, they will have no concern about killing the hostages and blaming those deaths on to the FARC. Latin America is unifying and we can support you as a political movement. The times are different than when you tried to negotiate before and were brutally attacked. One thing for sure is that thousands more people will be killed as long as the FARC maintains its current activity.”

It is true that there will probably be many more deaths even if the FARC turns over all of the hostages. But in that case, Petras’ job is laid out before him: Help stop the US from funding the corrupt and terrorist Uribe government. Either that or help form an armed rebellion like FARC in the US and send thousands of young people to early graves, as the militarized police state in the US would surely attack them without mercy.

Before proceeding to Petras’ first 7 points in Part 2 of this critique below, let’s go straight to his last point where he truly reveals an abandonment of rational thought. In point 8, Petras states:

“Striking a humanitarian and quasi-electoral posture in celebrating Betancourt’s release, Castro lambasted the FARC for its ‘cruelty’ and armed resistance to the terrorist Uribe regime. Castro attacked the FARC’s ‘authoritarian structure and dogmatic leadership’, ignoring FARC’s endorsement of electoral politics between 1984-90 (when over 5,000 disarmed activists and political candidates were slaughtered), and the free and open debate over policy alternative in the demilitarized zone (1999-2002) with all sectors of Colombian society. In contrast, Castro never permitted free and open debate and elections, even among communist candidates in any legislative process – at least until he was replaced by Raul Castro.

“The above mentioned political leaders were serving their own personal political interests by bashing the FARC and celebrating Betancourt at the expense of the people of Colombia.”

The accuracy and power of Petras’ statements about 1984-1990 horrendous slaughtering of 5,000 disarmed activists and political candidates and the 1999-2002 free and open debate over policy alternative in the demilitarized zone are clear. However, his statement is diminished by Petras’ fully inaccurate statement that Fidel never permitted free and open debate and elections. The reality is that Cuba has the most free and fair participatory elections anywhere in the world. Their 1976 Constitution was put to a referendum and approved  by over 95% of the electorate. If Petras does not realize this, I suggest he read Isaac Saney’s wonderful book, Cuba: A Revolution in Motion.

One chapter of Saney’s book is devoted to Cuba’s system of government, including the Cuban electoral process. He should also read Canadian Arnold August’s detailed analysis of Cuban elections. August spent months in Cuba observing the elections—not once but twice. I am certain that if Fidel or any other leader ever told the Cuban people that he/she was going to take away the free universal health care or the free education through college, the people would take to the streets and rapidly have Fidel or any other leader thrown out of office. That is because the people of Cuba have the power to protect their social programs—their basic human rights.

Are we afforded this power by the US government? Absolutely not! I also suggest that Petras read Fidel’s November 17, 2005 speech where he called on the people for their ideas and stated that if the revolution fell now, it would not be for external but for internal reasons. Raul Castro has done a great job as leader of the Cuba, but it was Fidel who led the Cubans though their second revolution, “the special period.” It was Fidel who started the transitional government 10 years ago and Fidel who called for the people to discuss ideas to further the Revolution.

Petras’ Conclusion

“Has Castro clearly thought through the disastrous consequences for millions of impoverished Colombians or is he thinking only of Cuba’s possible improvement of relations with Colombia once the FARC is liquidated? The effect of Castro’s anti-FARC articles has been to provide ammunition for the imperial mass media to discredit the FARC and armed resistance to tyranny and to bolster the image of death squad President Uribe. When the world’s premier revolutionary leader denies the revolutionary history and practice of an ongoing popular movement and its brilliant leader who built that movement, he is denying the movements of the future a rich heritage of successful resistance and construction. History will not absolve.”

Petras totally misses the point. Clearly, he has not thought through the consequences of the alternative, i.e. FARC maintaining hostages and their armed tactics. To imply that Fidel is selling out the FARC for the diplomatic and economic relations with Colombia reflects Petras’ inability to look at all of the facts and the underlining reality of Fidel’s advice. What Petras sees as the “effect” of Castro’s Reflection is caged in Petras’ narrow perspective. Fidel is not denying revolutionary history. He is bringing revolutionary practice into modern day reality. When Petras defines the FARC as an ongoing popular movement, Petras is denying the reality of the social movements for peace in Colombia that do not support the FARC. Petras fails to see that there is little hope for the FARC to win its revolution via its aged tactics that do not protect it from the advanced modern technology by which the US and Uribe regime are capable of tracking down and destroying the FARC.

Fidel did not deny the talents of the popular FARC leader, Marulanda. Quite the opposite, Fidel praised his “notable natural intelligence”. What Fidel did not agree with was Marulanda’s belief that the revolution must be a long and prolonged armed struggle. Fidel’s words and thoughts are not a denial of a future of rich heritage of resistance and construction. Fidel’s hope is for a platform from which truly successful future revolutions can be fought. Of Fidel, Petras states, “History will not absolve him”. Fidel’s revolutionary role has already been absolved by history. I also believe that his thoughts regarding fighting a revolution in today’s times will be absolved. What will not be absolved is Petras’ ill-conceived notions that Fidel is selling out and serving imperialist propaganda.

PART 2:  More detailed analysis, which recaps and reinforces portions of Part 1.

In his introduction, Petras claims that Fidel made an “unfortunate diatribe” against “the FARC, Marulanda and the entire peasant-based guerrilla movement¨ and upon which the global imperialist media has fed. Petras then states he will demonstrate how Fidel has “uncritically joined the chorus condemning the FARC… without reason or logic.” The reality is that Petras does not use reason nor logic very well in his eight point attack against Fidel.

ITEM 1: Petras criticizes Fidel for not discussing Uribe’s mass terrorism. Fidel (as well as Chavez) has criticized Uribe before and will do so again. The purpose of Fidel’s July 4, 2008, Reflection was not to condemn the deplorable Uribe but to focus on the FARC and the release of hostages. Petras’ statement that Fidel “exculpates” Uribe by placing the entire blame on US imperialism is ridiculous. Fidel did not absolve Uribe.  Petras lists several countries  (Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nepal, Philippines and, of course, Colombia) engaged in armed struggle, but the fact is none of these armed struggles appear to be winning the war—maybe some important battles that contribute to the war against imperialism – but they in themselves are not winning their wars. Also, most countries, such as those in the Mid-East, do not have the unity that Latin American has been developing. Petras ignores the fact that it is imperialism that has created the situation that led to the necessity of armed struggle, which is why Fidel focuses on US imperialism, the root problem, rather than on the murderous Uribe. Again, perhaps Petras should be working harder to stop the US imperialism that has resulted in millions of humans murdered and/or tortured and/or maimed for life around the world instead of criticizing Fidel who has created a country that has served the poor of the world.

Petras is correct when he states that the “new approaches” to revolution in Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador were anything but peaceful and that hundreds died. Yet, these resistance movements were not attempting an armed struggle; rather, they were the victims of U.S. aggression and military might. The reality is that an armed resistance movement today in these countries serves only as an excuse for the imperialist powers via their puppets to mow down the resistance and protect their economic interests. I certainly would like to see Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador speed up their socialist revolutions; but, it is the People of these countries that will determine if their leaders will stay or go. The over one million who abstained from the Venezuelan Constitutional Reform Referendum used their power not to vote – as a way of letting Chavez know he must deepen the socialist revolution. Too bad the US “progressives” don’t have the guts to use the ballot box by boycotting the US elections UNTIL money is out of the picture. In the US, it is not the people, but the moneyed interests that selects the candidates who are then beholding to the corporations.

Item 2: Petras claims that Fidel denigrated the recently deceased FARC leader, Manuel Marulanda. Fidel did no such thing: What Fidel stated regarding Marulanda was:

“The deceased leader of the FARC had been born on May 12, 1932, according to his father’s testimony. Marulanda, a poor peasant with liberal thinking and a Gaitan follower, started his armed resistance 60 years back. He was a guerrilla before us; he had reacted to the carnage of peasants carried out by the oligrarchy.  … Marulanda, a man with a remarkable natural talent and a leader’s gift, did not have the opportunity to study when he was young. It is said that he had only completed the 5th grade of grammar school. He conceived a long and extended struggle; I disagreed with this point of view.  But, I never had the chance to talk with him.”

Petras then draws the following conclusion:

“Castro was the son of a plantation owner and educated in private Jesuit colleges and trained as a lawyer. He implies that education credentials and higher status prepares the revolutionary leadership to lead the peasants lacking formal education, but with ‘natural leadership qualities’ apparently sufficient to allow them to follow the intellectuals and professionals better suited to lead the revolution.”

Petras’ words are at once, ironic and hypocritical.

Fidel was praising the natural ability of Marulanda, not criticizing it. What Fidel differed with was Marulanda’s idea that the armed struggle to win the revolution needed to be extended for years, for decades. Fidel is right. Decades of armed struggle to win a revolution causes people to lose hope. This does not mean that the struggle ends when a revolution begins. Revolution does not occur at a point in time. Winning the overthrow of a despotic regime is just the beginning. When re-elected in 2006, President Chavez said that the revolution must continue and be deepened.

When I was in Cuba in 2003, one of the presenters stated that the revolution fought during the “special period” was harder to fight than the revolution won in 1959. Indeed, look at the third wave of Cubans emigrating to the US during the “special period” for economic (not political) reasons. It was only through the unity of the Cuban Revolutionary Movement that created the scientists, engineers, teachers, doctors, environmental and communication technicians and a very proud people with great leaders that this second revolution (which Petras ignores) was won—or, at least, put on a strong road to recovery.

Even while enduring this poverty, the Cuban Revolution opened up the Latin American School of Medicine and continued their medical and educational aid to the poor of the world. It was through this type of unarmed struggle that unity was formed with Venezuela; ALBA was established; and other Latin American countries forged anti-imperialism relations. The Cuban leaders have definitely made mistakes, just as the leaders/government of every country makes mistakes. The important thing is learning and growing from mistakes. Cuba has done that and they are only trying to share their experience and knowledge with other struggling countries.

James Petras’ position as a political analyst within the U.S. and internationally should be examined carefully. Petras is an intellectual who has not fought any type of successful revolution in his own country; nor does he appear to have any consistent contact with the People (including the poor) in the U.S. When he labels Fidel Castro, in effect, as a revolutionary snob, he is being hypocritical. Fidel gave up everything—wealth, career, family—to fight a revolution to benefit ALL. It would serve Petras  well were he to consider how much or how little he has achieved against empire right here in the US. The next time Petras thinks he has the right to tell Latin American leaders how to run their socialist revolutions he ought to look at his own lack of accomplishment, most notably in overthrowing the corrupt Washington regimes through the decades who have inflicted their military and economic terrorism on the poor of this and other countries where they buy political offices for their puppet leaders.

Petras, still not “getting it,” states that “The test of history refutes Castro’s claims. Marulanda built, over a period of 40 years, a bigger guerrilla army with a wider mass base than any Castro-inspired guerrilla force from the 1960’s to 2000.”

Petras ignores the fact that FARC has not succeeded. Over a hundred thousand people have died because the civil war continues. The leftest groups are split in Colombia and those who were born into the FARC did not consciously choose to become a FARC member. This is not to denigrate the process of people born into a revolution, but it should be remembered.

Petras then talks about Fidel’s original theory of ‘guerrilla focos” between 1963-1980. Once again, Petras is inaccurate with the time reality. Piero Gleijeses in his great book Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa 1959-1976  states:

“The improvement in relations with Moscow was made easier by the shift in Cuba’s policy in Latin America. The guerrillas had been crushed in Bolivia October of 1967; they had been virtually wiped out in Guatemala by 1968, and they had suffered cruel setbacks in Colombia and Venezuela. There were no other insurgent groups active in the hemisphere. These defeats and above all, Che’s death forced Castro to question the foco theory. He finally accepted that a handful of brave men were insufficient to ignite armed struggle in Latin American. In February 1970 Cuba signed a trade agreement with the Christian Democratic government of Chile, and the following August, one month before the Chilean presidential elections, Castro announced, ‘It is possible to arrive at Socialism through the polls’.”

Petras goes on to glorify Marulanda’s “prolonged guerrilla war strategy” and criticizing the Cuban strategy by saying :

“… [Marulanda] relied on mass grass roots organizing, based on close peasant ties with guerrillas, based on community, family and class solidarity, building slowly and methodically a national political-military people’s army. In fact, a serious re-examination of the Cuban revolution reveals that Castro’s guerrillas were recruited from the mass of urban mass organizations, methodically organized prior to and during the formation of the guerrilla foco in 1956-58.”

Well, just look at the results: Cuban revolutionaries won, while the FARC is continuing to lose and has had to turn to alignment with drug lords to survive. Is that something Patras promotes? Is that what Petras thinks is success? Moreover, Petras tends to ignore the fact that the peasants in the Sierra Maestra were vital to the winning of the revolution. Fidel never forgot these people, and put them first on the list for receiving aid and benefits of the revolution. Last, I don’t think the Cuban revolution would have been won without Fidel. Obviously, it could not have been won without the people. But, it was Fidel’s example and leadership that inspired the people and kept them united on the principles of the Cuban Revolution.

Item 3: Petras condemns Fidel for Fidel’s condemnation of FARC’s capturing and holding of prisoners in the jungle. Petras then attempts to compare/contrast what happened in Vietnam and says that “Revolutions are cruel but Fidel forgets that counter-revolutions are even crueler.”

Fidel and the Cuban revolution have had to deal with more than their share of counter-revolutionaries (US paid mercenaries) both before and AFTER the Revolution began. Over 3400 Cubans have been killed by the US-supported Miami Mafia since the commencement of the revolution. In addition, over 2000 have been maimed for life; biochemical warfare has been used against Cuban agriculture; viruses have been introduced to Cuban livestock—at one time Cuba had to kill 500,000 pigs. For Petras to say Fidel does not recognize the power of counter-revolutionaries, especially one funded by the Empire, borders on insanity.

Petras notes that Fidel did not mention that Betancourt did not show any signs of cruelty but was in good health. Yes, Fidel could have mentioned this, but it was not relevant to his central message. The fact that Betancourt, a civilian, was held hostage for six years is in itself cruel and counter productive. What Fidel could have noted is that the US contractors, who I think were prisoners of war, were not tortured like the US has tortured its prisoners at the US Naval Base at Guantanamo.

However, I think the main point Fidel is making is that there is no benefit in holding people hostage, especially civilians. The Uribe government is NOT going to trade hundreds of its FARC prisoners, held and tortured in Colombia’s squalid prisons, for the hostages who have been treated decently by the FARC. Holding hostages ends up being a no-win situation for the FARC. No trades will be made for FARC soldiers in Colombian prisons; moreover, the international community (which chooses not to understand the cruelty of Uribe and US involvement), will continue to condemn the FARC.

Item 4: Petras claims that Fidel blames all the problems and deaths on US imperialism and ignores the role of the Uribe government. The simple fact is Uribe would not be able to remain in power without the US “aid” – the billions of dollars and military might that the US provides Colombia. In the same way, Israel would not be able to continue to kill Palestinians and rape their country if the U.S. were not giving over $6 BILLION of our taxes annually, to the Zionist government.

Petras states that this lack of Cuban solidarity with all of the Colombian movements started when Havana developed diplomatic and commercial ties with the Uribe regime. This is patently absurd. Does Petras condemn China or Vietnam for having diplomatic and commercial relations with the US? Isn’t it better to have diplomatic and commercial relations that offer a possibility of discussions or at least allow you to know your enemy better and survive yourself? Cuba’s reasons for criticizing the FARC’s taking of hostages, especially civilians, has nothing to do with Fidel nor the Cuban government not wanting to sever diplomatic and commercial relations with Colombia.

Item 5: Petras then states that:

“Castro’s attempt to impose and universalize his tactics, based on Cuban experience, on Colombia, lacks the minimum effort to understand, let alone analyze, the specificities of Columbia, its military, the political context of the class struggle and the social and political context of humanitarian negotiations in Colombia.”

Well, someone lacks this basic understanding, but that person is Petras, not Fidel.  First, the “Cuban experience” is not a stagnant one but a continually growing one.  Fidel and Chavez, realize that there is no good that will come from holding the hostages. As I stated in the beginning of this response, if the FARC were to hand over the hostages, Cuba and Venezuela as well as other Latin American countries would be better able to support the FARC’s humanitarian agenda. But, it is impossible for these Latin American countries to aid the FARC with their current practices without bringing global condemnation down on their own countries. Petras is apparently at a loss to understand this.

Item 6: Petras states:

“Castro claims the FARC should end the guerrilla struggle but not give up their arms because in the past guerrillas who disarmed were slaughtered by the regime.  Instead, he suggests they should accept France’s offer to abandon their country or accept Chavez’ (Uribe’s ‘brother’ and ‘friend’) proposal to negotiate and secure a commission made up Latin American notables to oversee their integration into Colombian politics … What are ‘armed’ guerillas going to do when thousands of Uribe’s soldiers and death squads ravage the countryside? Flee to the mountains and shoot wild pigs? France means abandoning millions of starving vulnerable peasant supporters and the class struggle.”

Petras ignores the reality of modern warfare. As stated previously, the thousands of Uribe’s soldiers and death squads will be sent into FARC camps, as the US and Israel continue to supply the Uribe government with advanced tracking technology. The best way for the FARC to protect the peasant supporters at this time in history is to hand over the hostages, disband as the “FARC”, and allow the leftest Latin American countries to aid their reclassification as a political group. If they truly have millions of peasant supporters, those peasants can work for voter justice and make sure their vote is counted. There is no more possibility of the Colombian people fighting a military takeover of their government than there is of the US citizens fighting a military takeover of the US government. They would be quickly squashed. This is why Fidel is pleading for a peaceful situation with the help of the Latin American countries, which have unified.

Petras’ desire to help the resistance in Colombia and other countries of the world would be best served by helping to organize the U.S. youth to stop US imperialism. That would allow the FARC to do what they need to do to organize a peaceful movement to take power. If the people had a candidate they could trust in Colombia, they would fight for the right to vote. Petras seems to think that there are millions of Colombians supporting the FARC. He is wrong. There are millions supporting a peaceful road to the future. That peaceful road is not paved with FARC hostages, bombings and funding from the same drug lords who are friends of Uribe; nor does that road to peace consort with the murderous Uribe government and its right wing paramilitary.

Item 7: Petras illogically tries to convince the reader that by celebrating Betancourt’s liberation, Fidel and Chavez are using this to cover up serious political difficulties of their own. He claims their actions are causing a reversal of the previous judicial verdict which ruled Uribe’s presidency de facto illegal – and giving a surge to the previously ailing popularity of Sarkozy. Petras accuses Chavez of embracing ¨his ‘enemy’, Uribe” – for the purpose of returning to the “good graces of the entire pro-imperialist mass media.”

It seems Petras will not be happy unless the FARC continue to take hostages and live in their secluded camps, always on the move and eventually be wiped out. Fidel and Chavez would like a better life and a better future for the FARC and all Colombians. They will support a peaceful movement, which would include the FARC if the FARC discontinued their current armed revolution which is no longer effective. In fact, the recent FARC release (not a “rescue” as the corporate media lies) of 15 hostages including those of highest strategic value suggest that FARC may be responding to the advice of Fidel and Chavez.

Item 8: Petras truly ends this last point with the most inaccurate statement and one that I consider to be an anti-revolutionary. That statement and part of my response are repeated here from the early in this critique for the reader’s convenience:

“Striking a humanitarian and quasi-electoral posture in celebrating Betancourt’s release, Castro lambasted the FARC for its ‘cruelty’ and armed resistance to the terrorist Uribe regime. Castro attacked the FARC’s ‘authoritarian structure and dogmatic leadership’, ignoring FARC’s endorsement of electoral politics between 1984-90 (when over 5,000 disarmed activists and political candidates were slaughtered), and the free and open debate over policy alternative in the demilitarized zone (1999-2002) with all sectors of Colombian society. In contrast, Castro never permitted free and open debate and elections, even among communist candidates in any legislative process – at least until he was replaced by Raul Castro.”

“The above mentioned political leaders were serving their own personal political interests by bashing the FARC and celebrating Betancourt at the expense of the people of Colombia.”

The accuracy and power of Petras’ statements about 1984-1990 horrendous slaughtering of 5,000 disarmed activists and political candidates and the 1999-2002 free and open debate over policy alternative in the demilitarized zone are clear. However, his statement is diminished by Petras’ fully inaccurate statement that Fidel never permitted free and open debate and elections. The reality is that Cuba has the most free and fair participatory elections anywhere in the world. Their 1976 Constitution was put to a referendum and approved  by over 95% of the electorate. If Petras does not realize this, I suggest he read Isaac Saney’s wonderful book, Cuba: A Revolution in Motion.

Finally, James Petras has made important contributions to our understanding of the history of revolution for 50 years and his work is to be respected. But he is dead wrong with his attack on Fidel Castro, former president of Cuba, and Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chavez Frias. Petras should be concentrating his skills on our need to organize U.S. youth and to bring down the deadly imperialist regime in Washington which is the root of turmoil and oppression in all Latin American countries.

This material is available for republication as long as reprints include verbatim copy of the article its entirety, respecting its integrity. Reprints must cite the author and Axis of Logic as the original source including a “live link” to the article. Thank you!

Joan Marie Malerich, 61, is a grassroots activist who believes that activism and the search for truth and reality is the only way to stop wars. She is a strong supporter of the Cuban Revolutionary government and the Cuban Five – Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González, and René González who are collectively serving four life sentences in U.S. penitentiaries. They are the example for all youth of the world, as Antonio Guerrero’s son, Tonitio, stated at the Youth World Festival in Venezuela. Malerich has studied Cuban issues for a number of years and visited Cuba September of 2003. Joan has also educated US students about the Latin American School of Medicine (LASM) in Cuba. She is an advocate of Universal Single-Payer Health Care and has had a number of her articles published on this and other subjects in the print and electronic media. She believes that if we are to stop the youth from becoming soldiers for the empire, we must educate the youth (starting in high school) about the truth and reality of the US history of military and economic terrorism. She believes imperialism is the root cause of most social and political problems. Joan is a graduate of Northern Illinois University with majors in English and Secondary Education and has also completed post-graduate work. She has worked in a number of positions ranging from laborer and in her work as a professional.

See also:

President Chavez and the FARC: State and Revolution, by James Petras

From the archives:

Fidel Castro and the FARC – Eight Mistaken Thesis of Fidel Castro

Mounting questions about Colombian hostage operation

2 thoughts on “Response to James Petras’ Critique: “Fidel Castro and the FARC. Eight Mistaken Theses of Fidel Castro”

  1. JULY 26TH: 55TH MONCADA ANNIVERSARY (1953-2008)


    “The wellspring of our revolutionary ethics is inexhaustible”- Fidel Castro (19.07.08)

    Let’s commence with what would seem a contradiction or a paradox. Fidel Castro recently welcomed the release in a daring operation by the armed forces of Colombia, of hostages kept by FARC, the oldest guerrilla movement in Latin America, which calls itself Marxist-Leninist. Quoting the official Cuban news source, an AFP report from Havana, dated July 4, reads as follows:

    ‘Civilians should never have been abducted, nor soldiers held as prisoners under jungle conditions,’ the veteran Communist leader said, describing the detention as ‘cruel’ and that ‘no revolutionary purpose could justify it.’

    ‘For basic humanitarian reasons, we welcome the news that Ingrid Betancourt, three US citizens and other hostages were freed,’ he said in a statement on the official Cubadebate website.’

    [edited] continued at

    [Dayan Jayatilleka is the author of Fidel’s Ethics of Violence: The Moral Dimension of the Political Thought of Fidel Castro, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor and Pluto Press, London, 2007]

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