On October 9, 1967, in southern Bolivia, near the barren and desolate village of La Higuera, the Bolivian Army, under instructions from the government of the U.S., trapped the isolated guerrilla column led by Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara. Che, a hero of the Cuban Revolution of 1959, believed that Cuba, only 90 miles away from the mainland of the U.S., would remain vulnerable unless other revolutions succeeded in the world. His reaction to the violent U.S. bombardment of Vietnam had been similar, not enough to defend Vietnam, he had said, but it was necessary ‘to create two, three, many Vietnams’. Failure to spark revolution in Congo led Che to Bolivia, where its army trapped him. He was eventually captured and brought to a schoolhouse. Mario Terán Salazar, a soldier, was tasked with the assassination. Che looked at this quivering man. “Calm down and take good aim,” he told him. “You’re going to kill a man.” Che died on his feet.
Tag Archives: History
Can Christians stay in the Middle East now that they are being persecuted for their ancient religion?
So there I was this week, staring at a picture of the Virgin Mary, painted at Melitene (now Malatya in present-day Turkey), its real home in Damascus – since it belongs to the Syriac Patriarchate, but is currently kept in Lebanon because of the war – and stunned at Mary’s deeply embroidered cloak (black and blue) and the brassy shine of her golden halo. And I noticed the date. 1065. Harold had yet a year to live before his death at the Battle of Hastings. We survived the Normans. But will Christians survive the Middle East?
El 9 de octubre de 1967, cuando los militares bolivianos y los agentes de la CIA decidieron ejecutar al Che Guevara en la aldea de La Higuera, presumieron que su muerte sería la prueba del fracaso de la gesta comunista en América Latina.
Pero no fue así. Al contrario de sus expectativas, la muerte del Che -después de una cruenta odisea de supervivencia de once largos meses- se convirtió en el mito fundacional para generaciones posteriores de revolucionarios que se inspiraron en su ejemplo y lo intentaron imitar.
I imagine a cosy dining room somewhere in eastern Europe, in Bucharest or perhaps Zagreb. But it could be Timișoara or Bratislava as well. It is Sunday, and a family has gathered for lunch around a big table, as they often do in my part of the world. Usually, first comes a beef or chicken soup with home-made dumplings, then a hearty meat dish and potatoes from the oven, garnished with vegetables, followed by cake and coffee. There are three generations around the table. Mother and father are about my age, born some time in the early 1950s. Their children were born in the 1980s – just in time to remember a little bit of life under communism, that is. And their grandchildren are too young to care.
In the late nineteen-thirties, as Benito Mussolini was preparing to host the 1942 World’s Fair, in Rome, he oversaw the construction of a new neighborhood, Esposizione Universale Roma, in the southwest of the city, to showcase Italy’s renewed imperial grandeur. The centerpiece of the district was the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, a sleek rectangular marvel with a façade of abstract arches and rows of neoclassical statues lining its base. In the end, the fair was cancelled because of the war, but the palazzo, known as the Square Colosseum, still stands in Rome today, its exterior engraved with a phrase from Mussolini’s speech, in 1935, announcing the invasion of Ethiopia, in which he described Italians as “a people of poets, artists, heroes, saints, thinkers, scientists, navigators, and transmigrants.” The invasion, and the bloody occupation that followed, would later lead to war-crimes charges against the Italian government. The building is, in other words, a relic of abhorrent Fascist aggression. Yet, far from being shunned, it is celebrated in Italy as a modernist icon. In 2004, the state recognized the palazzo as a site of “cultural interest.” In 2010, a partial restoration was completed, and five years later the fashion house Fendi moved its global headquarters there.Italy, the first Fascist state, has had a long relationship with right-wing politics; with the election of Silvio Berlusconi, in 1994, the country also became the first to bring a neo-Fascist party to power, as part of Berlusconi’s center-right coalition.* But this alone is not enough to explain Italians’ comfort with living amid Fascist symbols. Italy was, after all, home to Western Europe’s biggest anti-Fascist resistance and its most robust postwar Communist Party. Until 2008, center-left coalitions maintained that legacy, often getting more than forty per cent of the vote in elections. So why is it that, as the United States has engaged in a contentious process of dismantling monuments to its Confederate past, and France has rid itself of all streets named after the Nazi collaborationist leader Marshall Pétain, Italy has allowed its Fascist monuments to survive unquestioned?
USSR: Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. At first, the name does not refer to a territory, but to an idea — world revolution. Its borders will be those of the uprising that has triumphed in Russia, and later of those expected to triumph elsewhere. In the top left corner of a huge red flag, a hammer and sickle symbolises the new state, the first national anthem of which is The Internationale.The founder of the USSR is internationalist, no question. Lenin spends much of his life as a professional revolutionary in exile in Munich, London, Geneva, Paris, Krakow, Zurich, Helsinki… And he takes part in almost all the major debates of the workers’ movement. In April 1917 he returns to Russia, where the Revolution has broken out and the tsar has abdicated. As his train is crossing Germany at the height of the Great War, he hears The Marseillaise, a song that symbolises the French Revolution for many of his comrades. In many respects, this represents a more significant reference point in Lenin’s writing than the history of tsarist Russia. Doing as well as the Jacobins — ‘the best models of a democratic revolution and of resistance to a coalition of monarchs against a republic’ (1) — and lasting longer than the Paris Commune are his obsessions. Nationalism has no part in it.
If Donald Trump is going to use WW2 to justify his UN speech, it would be good if he got his facts right
When, oh when, will our politicians/statesmen/dictators – mad or moderately sane – stop using the Second World War as a yardstick for their hatred and pride? Trump turned his hand to it in his UN speech – in a passage clearly written by others, but woefully out of context – when he uttered the following historical perspective:“From the beaches of Europe to the deserts of the Middle East to the jungles of Asia, it is an eternal credit to the American character that even after we and our allies emerged victorious from the bloodiest war in history, we did not seek territorial expansion or attempt to oppose and impose our way of life on others.”
After the tragic events in the US following proposals to remove the statues of General Robert E Lee, the commander of the Confederate Army in the Civil War, Donald Trump claimed that as George Washington was also a slave-owner, the two can be equated.
There is a figure of Southern gentleman popular even in “progressive” literature. Recall Horace from Lillian Hellmann’s Little Fixes, a benevolent patriarch with a weak heart who is horrified by his wife’s plans for the brutal capitalist exploitation of their property. Look at Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird who, as it is revealed in the sequel, also had a racist streak. Confederacy was not about slavery but about protecting a local “way of life” from the brutal capitalist onslaught. These left-liberal iconic figures of conservative bucolic-patriarchal anti-capitalism sincerely help Southern black people when they are oppressed and falsely accused, but their sympathy stops when people of colour begin not only to fight but also to question the actual freedom provided by the Northern liberal establishment.
Si è scritto molto sulla foto di Angelo Carconi che ritrae un poliziotto che accarezza una ragazza eritrea durante lo sgombero con gli idranti di piazza Indipendenza, a Roma. Lo sguardo tra i due ci parla di una relazione complicata (ambigua, coloniale, violenta) cominciata verso la fine del diciannovesimo secolo e mai terminata. Tracce di questa storia sono ancora presenti nel quartiere dove è avvenuto lo sgombero, tra piazza Indipendenza e la stazione Termini. Qui si sono intrecciate la storia delle prime migrazioni dal Corno d’Africa e la storia del colonialismo italiano.Negli anni settanta del secolo scorso il Corno d’Africa era in fiamme. Si scappava dalle dittature. I somali scappavano da Siad Barre, gli etiopici-eritrei dal sanguinario Menghistu Hailè Mariàm. Le terre del corno si tingevano di sangue e l’Italia, di cui molti conoscevano già la cultura, fu considerata naturale terra d’approdo. L’Italia infatti – anche dopo la fine del colonialismo storico – ha avuto su quelle terre una forte influenza ideologica. Basti pensare che fino al 1974 le scuole in Somalia erano italiane, perché dire Italia era come dire Europa. E anche ad Asmara, in Eritrea, portare i figli alla scuola italiana era non solo prestigioso per le famiglie, ma anche una chiave d’ingresso (almeno molti lo speravano) assicurata per il futuro.
Trump’s claim that a general dipped bullets in pigs’ blood is fake news – but the US massacre of Moro Muslims isn’t
I don’t know what the people of Barcelona think about Trump’s demented and repulsive tale of bullets and pig’s blood – but I know what Mark Twain would have said. He was the finest American political writer of his time – perhaps of all time – and he wrote with bitterness, sarcasm and disgust about the US military’s war crimes in the Philippines in 1906. No doubt Trump would have approved of them.As so often, there’s no proof – and thus no truth – to the story that General Pershing ever told his soldiers to execute Filipino fighters with bullets dipped in pigs’ blood. Besides, Pershing had left the islands and the Philippine-US war was officially over when the Americans slaughtered the Moro Muslims in their hundreds – men, women and children – in what became known as the Battle of Bud Dajo. With Trump-like enthusiasm, Republican President Theodore Roosevelt congratulated the US commanders on their “brilliant feat of arms”.