Friday, June 13, 2014
ISRAELI Zionist rulers continue their policy of extermination of the Palestinian people and the theft of their land.
What does the Pope say? What do you say?
The photo of the outgoing President of Israel Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas embracing under the benevolent gaze of Pope Francisco
Written by Gerardo Leibner, Uruguayan Jewish-antiZionist historian resident in Tel Aviv.
This Photo travels the world and more than a political reality it represents the need of world public opinion for good news and to perceive a future of peace for the Land called Holy by the three monotheistic religions.
Sorry to disappoint and be the bearer of bad news directly from this Holy Land. The reality is very different from the calm distention expressed by the pretty picture. Let’s review some of the things that are happening right now.
1. Dozens of Palestinian political prisoners are on hunger strike
Dozens of Palestinian prisoners are on a hunger strike that has lasted several weeks. Many of them are detained in Israeli hospitals because their lives are already in risk. Inmates only drink water and eat salt to prolong their resilience.
A Palestinian salt and water strike intended to break the system called “administrative prison”.
The “administrative detention” is applied by decree without due process, without providing evidence or emotional defense capacity against undefined accusations, or guarantees to prove guilt or innocence, without even a fixed time of detention.
Administrative detention is ordered by military authorities for months and then renewed with absolute arbitrariness. Thus the Israeli military occupation forces detain Palestinian political activists who fight for national liberation, for months and sometimes years, without even having to show that they have participated in violent or illegal actions of some kind. Meanwhile, thousands of Palestinians who themselves have been prosecuted and convicted in Israeli military courts, claim for regulations and guarantees of their rights to family visits, telephone communications and improvement of the conditions of life in prison.
Outside in the streets of the cities, mosques, markets and Palestinian media the claim is widespread and does not distinguish between administrative and sentenced prisoners The demand is : freedom for the prisoners of the occupation!
The hunger strike is approaching a critical point. Yesterday the intelligence services leaked to the Hebrew press their opposition to negotiate a compromise with the demands of the striking prisoners as was done on two previous occasions in 2012 and 2013. In the Israeli parliament the government is advancing a bill that allows the force-feeding of hunger strikers, that if approved into law would come into contradiction with international human rights provisions.
The Israeli Medical Association has circulated among hospital doctors a decision of its ethical council in which it is positioned against the force-feeding and recalls that the medical commitment is first and only to patients, to preserve their lives and health according to their wishes. However, the medical association has avoided referring to the fact that most of the hospitalized prisoners at risk are handcuffed to their beds under close surveillance and held incommunicado.
Must see, eventually, when the authorities intend to impose security force-feeding, what authority will the doctors respond to. There is already a tragic precedent forgotten in this country. Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in the summer of 1980 were hospitalized and fed through tubes, before the above international standards entered into force, with the tragic result of the death of a prisoner striker from a lung disease apparently caused during the violent introduction of a probe.
2. evictions and ethnic cleansing in agricultural regions
In parallel, in different agricultural areas of the militarily occupied Palestinian territories since 1967 there are intensifying Israeli military and civil actions seeking the eviction from Palestinian towns and Bedouin shepherds and particularly weak farmers. In the Jordan Valley, the Israeli army increasingly qualifies land as “fire zone” for the training of troops, forcing the evacuation of Palestinian farmers.
In the semi-arid highlands south of Hebron Israeli settlers openly harassed Palestinian farmers with the complicity of military and occupation police, while the Israeli administration inspectors destroy ancient water cisterns and tanks, some of them very old, allegedly operated without authorization from the planning authorities.
In fact the purpose is to destroy everything that allows the Palestinian livelihood on the land. East of Jerusalem, residents in areas between the city and the new Israeli settlements and surrounding Bedouins are under imminent threat of eviction. And all this is part of an apparent plan to ethnically cleanse Israel Palestinian territories with low population density to incorporate de facto the territory to Israel.
Some ultra-rightist Israeli government coalition partners are officially proposing extensively annexing Palestinian territories currently under military occupation. The present eviction of thousands of Palestinians are preparing the ground for an eventual passage of this kind.
3. Ethnic nationalism directs government actions
The frustration of the Israeli government against the recent Palestinian national unity and to the international recognition of the Palestinian national unity government results in increased aggressiveness in the policies of occupation, in a new wave of residential construction in Israeli settlements and a nationalist-racist offensive inside Israel, directed principally against 20% of the legal citizens of Israel that are Palestinian Arabs .
In our picture, representative of reality, forces of the State of Israel can be seen razing, once again this week, the Bedouin village Al-Arakiv, a town made up of citizens of Israel but of a “second and third” kind, being Arab-Palestinians and Bedouins.
Aggravated official mistreatment of African refugees (fleeing civil wars in Sudan and dictatorship in Eritrea) shows that this is an ideological racism. Thousands of these refugees are already imprisoned in the Negev desert south of the country for the only “crime” of having illegally crossed the border of Israel for shelter, work and bread without being Jews, therefore not “qualified “ to be found worthy to obtain a bearable legal status.
Israeli society has largely turned to the right and is governed by political parties who boast of their overt racism and its expansionist war .¿What will you say?
Against this background and new outbreaks of violence that these aggressive policies are feeding, what will those who delude themselves with the message of peace that comes out of the photo in the Vatican, say? Once more, the bereaved, the displaced, the invaded, will be accused of being violent and fanatical?
Is it not time to have a real and effective global pressure from “above” from who is somewhere above, or from below, to force the end of colonization and dispossession? Is it not time to demand seriously/ angry the compliance with international human rights standards?
Or, does the barbaric civil war unleashed in Syria be taken as an excuse not to stop what is already emerging as a new wave of atrocities in Israel / Palestine?
 Generally the holiness of this land is used as a warmonger argument by nationalists that recruit religious faithfuls for their own purposes. “This land is too sacred to shed blood in it,” said a while ago Ruty, Uriel Ferera ‘s mother, a young religious Jew 19 years old, living in the city of Beer Sheva, conscientious objector imprisoned at this time for refusing to serve in the army of occupation.
In that very short phrase the mother of the young brave man , tears apart one of the myths of Zionist nationalism ( akin to bellicose and intolerant Christian crusaders of all ages and some fundamentalist currents that use the Islam myth).
Fuente: Palestina Libre/PrensaPopularSolidaria
Meeting with Gerardo Leibner
June 3, 2015 Written by F.R.A
‘Gerardo Leibner historian, lecturer at the University of Tel Aviv, presented in Montevideo his book “Comrades and colleagues. The story of the political and social communists of Uruguay “. On October 22nd we had, at the headquarters of the Foundation, an encounter with Gerardo about his research, that took him eleven years to make. After his presentation, which focused on the orientation, methodology and criteria used in his work, as well as some of his conclusions, a debate was held on the issues raised.
“Exactly eleven years passed since I began research work culminating in this book. But I want to clarify something: I will not now hold an academic conference; I’m not going to recount the content; if I did, you will not read the book. I will talk about the book and its production process, to use a Marxist term, the contexts of production; the main questions that led me to give you some thoughts about interesting things I’ve found in this study or the conclusions that have been reached.
As I said, actually I started research eleven years ago. I do not live here, which means I had to come to Uruguay, for a few weeks of very intensive work, recover a lot of materials and then process them with the additional difficulty that one is also living in another reality, which imposes its dynamics of labor, politics, family life, and that meant a very irregular rhythm of work; continuous but irregular.
I was here in 2000 and soon found myself with a problem of sources. At that time some sources were not available in the National Library. They appeared in catalogs, but the library was then in a dire situation. I could, for example, avail myself of the magazine Colleccion Popular; various collections though, were not accessible. I confirmed that, due to the vicissitudes of the dictatorship, many members of the Communist Party of Uruguay had destroyed, at one time or another, part of the documentation that had to not compromise its owners. Other things had been lost. There was plenty of discontinuity in the documents that could be consulted.
Here in the Arismendi Foundation, at least I had access to the complete collection of studies and some very interesting material, I think nowhere else in the world I could have read. I could photocopy the documents on the party’s problems. A material that I consider was re founding the basis of the party is the intervention of Arismendi of July 17, 1955, when he establishes the guidelines that should guide the Communist Party of Uruguay in its attempt to recover from the crisis in 1955.
I consider it is a re foundation because, although later other things are changing some assumptions that appear in this document, essentially that’s the line of party work that was traced. No national strategy game, but the way in which -according to Arismendi- Communists should work at that time. They are the core labor standards within the Communist Party.
It is a little known document, to which I refer to in several chapters of the book. Let me pitch an idea: I think it would be worth reproducing in any collection of documents.
It was not by chance it was not included, in the same way that Congress XVI materials were omitted in subsequent compilations conducted by the Communist Party. In all collections it starts with the XVII Congress. That has to do with two factors.
One was uncomfortable allusions to Stalin in the XVI Congress; and I must say again, because some short-sighted observers have not noticed that the turn of the Communist Party of Uruguay preceded the turn of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and was therefore not a reflection, it was not a product of the twentieth CPSU Congress So much so that the documents produced in the second half of ‘55 are full of quotations from Stalin. Also, unlike the version that Eugenio Gomez gives in the year ‘60, in a book called History of Treason, in which he seeks to absolve himself, there was not an international plot to sweep away Stalin´s faithful.
Those who made the turn in the Communist Party of Uruguay did so from a national, local, concrete reality, without being compelled to do so by external forces. It was an internal process and as such kept the international benchmarks of the moment and, at that time, Stalin was the main reference.
The other reason why documents of the XVI Congress were not subsequently included had to do with the later development during the years ‘56, ‘57, culminating in the 1958 Policy Statement, which is the basic strategy of the Communist Party of Uruguay for the next period. Some of the theoretical characterizations that were made in the sixteenth Congress were modified. More refined concepts were introduced and as the intention of the documents of the various congresses was not to do historiography but to politically educate new generations, the documents from the XVI Congress were considered to be too inaccurate, and maybe cause confusion , therefore, they were left out of subsequent collections. But I finish this digression and return to the history of my research.
I was also here( in Montevideo) in 2003, but by then I had won a postdoctoral scholarship, which helped me to study in a place where it can be surprising to find the history of the Communist Party of Uruguay, which is the USA Library of Congress. In that library I got access to printed documents, from brochures to books, that would be very difficult to find elsewhere in the world. Which is the reason? There are two reasons.
The first is that they have a brutal budget and try to buy everything that is printed in the world. That’s their point, to be the largest library in the world so they buy indiscriminately......
The second reason has to do with the operation of the CIA station in Montevideo and indeed the international operations of the CIA. Its rules (the agency is an organ of the State and regulated by ordinances) forces them to acquire all printed material in duplicate and send a copy to the Library of US Congress. All the material that the CIA collected for use (and the agency had very specific interests to follow what was going on here) was duplicated and a copy went to the library.
So, to whoever wants to study these things, I recommend going there, where they did not have to burn anything. And really there my work took a leap.
But I will not describe all the facets of my research. Only say that the lack of documentation, difficulties of access I encountered in 2000 , when I discovered that, as suspected, the archives of the dictatorship were not available (only now some colleagues are beginning to access some things ) convinced me I would acquire knowledge by way of oral history.
Oral history is a methodology, a way of collecting historical sources that has its own peculiarities, involving certain forms of work that are in some ways different from what the traditional history files and written material allows, and for which I had no preparation. Always, I repeat, the first interviews I did are the best example of how not to do interviews. I was forming on the go and I was reading a lot, learning from others who did oral history.
Regarding this methodology I have to make a very important clarification as I see here one of my interviewees. However I do this clarification because I consider this meeting in different ways. A kind of report to a group of people that had much to do with the object of my study and for whom I feel some accountability.
Oral history as I conceive it, is not the representation of what people say they remember. Is to rely on what people say, what people tell in their memoirs to draw historical conclusions and that means using oral sources, not representing them. So this book is in no way a collection of testimonies. At times there are testimonies of those who extract some quotes that help me analyze things, to draw conclusions. Other testimonies of those from whom I might not extract any quote but they serve to make a kind of statistic. “X” people told me such a thing about a certain event. Others told me otherwise. What do I mean by this? Can I try to analyze who and what features have those who said “A”, what are the characteristics I was told by “B” and draw from that any conclusion? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. So I make analytical use of testimony. Not represent the voice of the interviewees.
Maybe in the future-I do not rule out the possibility, I can use some of the recordings and transcripts that I have, for a publication of testimony worthy in itself, not as an input for analysis but as source of historical interest to readers and researchers who, perhaps, are going to interpret facts differently than the way my memory does..
It is something that I think is important to explain why the interview establishes a relationship between the researcher and the person who is telling his story and obviously creates expectations.
Versions of the story are not the story. What the person tells sometimes is what he remembers and sometimes what he wants to tell from what he remembers. It’s like that. It is neither good nor bad. Such is the human nature. And then there may be room for disappointment on the part of the respondent, who devoted his time to a conversation that sometimes touched a sensitive chord in his memories. Obviously often he does not see his feelings reflected, or does not agree with the interpretation that the historian gives to his words, his expressions. That is inseparable from the practice of oral history. Sometimes it can be painful but I see no other professional way to record history. What I tried was to be very honest with people I interviewed, trying not to create the illusion that subjectivity would be fully represented in the book and explaining that this testimony was going to be an input into the process, which was to interview more people and often versions were not going to match and explain that I was also working with archival materials and would make my interpretative work, because history is interpretation..
This should also be clarified: History is not what happened, because nobody can claim he knows what happened. The history is an attempt to approach and give meaning, explanation, to things that happened.
I don´t have to tell all the comings and goings in this process, but I think it can be interesting to examine the questions that guided the investigation.
The starting point of this research has to do with 1955 and with my dissatisfaction. I knew, from family tradition, diverse narratives of communist militants that abounded in the late eighties. And I was dissatisfied with the explanations that were given to what happened in 1955. Many things did not add up; They did not match. I sensed that there were things missing. But even more than the facts two aspects caused in me a kind of surprise.
One, how a communist party, that like all Communist and Marxist parties had a dense doctrine, an organization which was not just a bunch of leaders, made a profound and abrupt turn and could remain almost unbroken.
If we look at what happens in other doctrinaire parties when a leader is deposed against his will in a confrontation between leaders, access to other leaders and the party power line changes abruptly, we found that it usually results in fractures, expulsions, divisions. Just look at the history of the Socialist Party of Uruguay. In the immediate neighbor party, Frugoni´s deposition in a year very close to ‘55, a little later, for many years involved an internal struggle and bleeding of the party with some ideological turns that destroyed much of the political capital they had when he was deposed.
But it is not just comparing the CPU with the SPU, but looking at the international experience of other communist parties or different ideological doctrines, that stands out. Turns usually involve several years of delay in the work of party construction, subdivisions, scars that never close, etc. From there came the first question.
The second question developed in the research process itself. In historical studies, if there is no question, there is no investigation. That must be clear. The research is not only to rebuild a past. We must have a motivation or a conductive question. A problem has to be addressed in order to reconstruct the past.
And the second question came up when I started reading materials was that I needed to know the former Communist Party before ‘55 to understand what happened in ‘55.
Because what did really happen? One of the deformations of party-fellows´ stories, self-related tales of what happened post ‘55, was explained in terms of what happened next: they drew a sort of magic line. I remember something that Enrique Rodriguez said in an interview in the mid-80s: “at that time a group of “enlightened” leaders conceived the decisions and from them developed the line”; all very linear, with no contradictions.
But what had been the problem? What was the starting point? That version offered only generalities, very succinct and limited things. So I decided that I had to understand what had happened before and I read Justicia, the journal published before El Popular and other materials and also Eugenio Gomez´s version of the facts. It is interesting to know what the leader who lost says in the texts published in 1960 and 1961.
And, as always, the answer to a question brings new questions. What I found was odd: the Communist Party really had made a huge turn. The party as it was before 1955 had little to do with the immediate post-1955 party.
But how is it possible if they were the same leaders? At one point I shuffled a hypothesis that proved false: that perhaps there had been an incorporation, a sort of takeover of the party by new people and that it had changed the relations of power and changed the game. But it was not so. I reviewed the names, the people: all those that led the ideological volte face had had an outstanding performance before 1955. Only one notable addition at the end of 1953 from someone who had expressed strong criticism, even of Stalin: Gerardo Cuesta. But in mid-1955 Cuesta does not have great weight in the Communist Party, does not appear to turn, does not stand tall in the discussions.
So the question is how did people who had trained and had performed outstandingly in a sectarian Communist Party manage so successfully?
And when I say “sectarian” it is not a negative adjective or reference to an aggressive or improper conduct. But because by its character it really was a sect. It was internally shut in, with such an intense inner life that it took away any possibilities to act in favor of the rest of society.
At one point I tried to analyze the economics at the time when the communist militant from 1952 to 1953 lived , with its communist Saturdays meetings , with party sports and a number of practices, when he spent 90 percent of his energy and time. Clearly they were losing ground in the unions and the student movement was cornered; in the Cerro( where the poor lived) the communists could not tread.
There are a number of factors present behind all these delays. But they could not overcome the initial reasons because they were locked in the internal logic of a sect, including the cult of personality and very perverse situations in the internal relations between people.
The question was how these people who were part of those dynamics change so abruptly? I tried to find an explanation, analyzing both the turn and the process as well as seeing what happened next....
It is clear that the change was not so abrupt. What was abrupt was the change of power relations and the public acknowledgement of the turn. The consummation of the facts was abrupt. But within the party had incubated an alternative to past practices and some circumstances had to take place for that alternative line, which had much to do with what happened in the labor movement that combined various aspects, could be imposed..
Despite all that I have detailed, there was a large group of Communists who were militant in their unions and on the other hand, had done at times, not continuously, an interesting intellectual work, in which Arismendi played a very important role. This development diverged from the line Eugenio Gómez held but it was neither openly faced, nor challenged. A different way of thinking and conceiving theoretical issues as well as the question of how to put into practice the party line was being born. All this converges in late 1954 with the party crisis.
“Party Crisis” is a euphemism for what I believe, and I know that Alcira Legaspi did not agree, because I told her my hypothesis – I know that some people may consider it in another way--, what I considered, as a moral revolt within the party. A revolt which came from different people who had been severely affected by the sectarian practices within the party, whose dignity had been run over by the party leaders.
People whose deep rationale, was to be a communist, for why does a person become a communist when it is not fashionable,? We are talking about the´50s. Why did a person become communist in the ´50s ?
Because the experience of a concrete struggle incorporated him. But that was not reason enough, because the concrete struggle could also lead him to be an anarchist, a socialist; he could become an autonomous syndicalist. Hardened fighters of the labor movement were not communists: trade unionists were autonomous in the early 50s.
There had to be something else. There had to be a definition, before the ideological coordinates, to devote life, one´s best energies that one had to give to the world, to fight on the side of the exploited, whether you were being exploited or not : being a worker or being bourgeois or petty bourgeois. There is an ethical definition and without it no one becomes a communist.
And that has to do with a rebellion against the practices of capitalist society. That background of rebellion against some of the everyday practices and, above all, against exploitation of man by man and certain types of behaviors that characterize bourgeois society, involving exploitation, involving outrage. And precisely what many of those people found within the party to be the alternative to this society, were those practices, those behaviors.
So, deeply affected by being communist when they were being marginalized, many of these people chose at the beginning to leave. Therefore the Communist Party from the year ‘47 is going to bleed, lose much of its vitality, much of its militancy.
However, in people who stayed, there began to hatch a kind of rebellion. And this rebellion, which I consider a moral rebellion rather than ideological struggle was skillfully channeled by leaders who understood what was happening within the party: Arismendi, Massera, Alberto Suarez, Enrique Rodriguez.
And they began to do work that was against the party statutes, because they met fractionally, because they met behind the formal leadership of the party and prepared what was the July 14, 1955, “assault to the Bastille” jokingly they called it so because the day coincided with when really a two-week process started: the expulsion of General Secretary Eugenio Gomez.
With the passage of time, the interviews and footage, I slowly unraveled the conundrum. But not nearly enough. What had I accomplished ? Established some facts, reached a conclusion. But there was not yet a clear answer to the questions I asked earlier. And what follows is an attempt to give those answers.
In that sense, the document quoted above, was crucial because it corroborates that Arismendi was not only developping what later would be called a theory of the Uruguayan revolution and analyzing the social forces which were in the country, characterizing, putting forth a series of working hypotheses and lines of political work, but it showed that his first concern was for the ways of doing politics. It meant there was a process of elaboration that is often not considered when making political theory (many intellectuals never stop to think about it) and I consider key. It refers with how to think political practices.
And by that I mean different areas. First, internal practices of the revolutionary group that wants to do politics,. Here you get to very interesting conclusions. For example, one concern I had after reading a lot, getting intoxicated with the texts on Justice of the Gomez era in which one could read a sentence like “the party is built by purging itself”, an idea that was part of the conviction that , the purer we are, we will be better and then we will move forward, because the fact that there are people with divergent issues or ideas for the party leadership, is an impediment to growth.
Gomez did not invent that idea. It is an idea that existed in the international communist movement, it is an idea that has much to do with the Stalinist practices but not only with them.
If you are looking for the most immediate international alternative you will find it in Trotskyism. And the Trotskyist organizations put them into practice in the same way. It is a Stalinist but not only Stalinist idea. It is an idea of doctrinal sects.
It is an idea that was practiced in more ancient times by different religious sects, has a deeper root than Stalinism, it must be admitted. For it is true that there was a phenomenon that affected the international communist movement that was Stalinism but not everything comes from there. The problem with the term Stalinism is that everything is made to hang on the figure of Stalin. And I do not see it is right.
It is something that has more to do with Western culture, with monotheism. I think you have to see the relationship monotheism has with the international communist movement. We must also think in terms of cultural civilizational reaching.
I’m not saying- it is not my intention to say or be in agreement with - that the whole monotheistic religion or any modern doctrinaire movement has to have that feature. But it is a feature that is present in many of the monotheistic religions and revolutionary movements in general and has to do with some concept of what the truth is: the truth in the singular, truth as absolute truth is intolerant to questions or toward other truths.
This totally changes for ‘55. I found at the time of Gomez some cases I put in the book to support my opinion. I have seen very ugly behavior inside the Communist Party about such practices. Expulsions, degradation, abuse among activists, including leaders. And I wondered how these people then -outside Gomez and Gomez Chiribao-, or people- less than my fingers to number -almost everyone remains in the party after ‘55. And how the ways of working with each other changed. There must have been many scars, many sensitive places and a lot of pain, because some had suffered and others had been perpetrators. Sometimes victims of yesterday had then become victimizers. One wonders how all this internal problem was corrected.
I discovered interesting things. Expulsions in the communist parties of the world were quite recurrent; not only in the time of Stalin, also in the post-Stalin era. Just cross over the River Plate and see what happened in the Communist Party of Argentina when during the 50s and 60s critical intellectuals began to surge outside of those leading the party, and were quickly expelled; or left on their own. These practices were internalized. However, the Communist Party of Uruguay, from 1956, does not expel almost anyone. This phenomenon does not occur.
There are some expulsions that are due to very concrete, very specific behaviors. Maybe someone tells me a fact that I do not know, but I have not managed to record between 1956 and 1973 any expulsion because of ideas. For conducts yes.. A union leader who paints an anti-Semitic sign on a Jewish shop is expelled. That yes. But not for their thoughts but for their behavior. A person with serious problems of honesty is also expelled. But I don’t know of any cases for reasons of ideas.
There are divisions because of ideas. Some people are leaving although they are not expelled for expressing differences. They go by themselves. That I think is an important and interesting feature that distinguishes the Communist Party of Uruguay in relation to other communist parties in the world, in which cleansing practices were moderate in post stalinian times, but never ceased to exist, and in which the threat that if I’m a bit heretical I will be expelled, loomed over the heads of many militants. So that’s an interesting change.
I could tell a lot more but do not want to tire, I want you to read the book and I also am constrained with time . But I will mention two more aspects, then would gladly answer questions and comments because this is the most interesting part of the meeting.
One of the things to which I refer is about the cultural aspect and the concept which I develop, that I began to develop in previous researches unrelated to the topic, and continued to develop in this research, is the concept of “social ideology” that is not a concept that the Communist Party had.
I think the Communist parties have had, and still have, a duality in the use of the term “ideology”. On one side is the Marxist critical tradition that believes that ideology is a false consciousness of what reality is , which is influenced by the position, interests, trajectory and a series of conditions that a person, group or social class have, from what the reality of the rest of society has. In other words, we all look at reality from a standing place and fail to comprehend it whole and never look through the spectacles of interests, aspirations, backgrounds, experiences and therefore no one sees it as a whole, none sees it objectively . For that vision clearly put forward by Marx in The German Ideology, is a critical view.
Ideology is, in a Marxian, Marxist sense, a “bad word”, or not strictly a bad word, but something to overcome. You cannot say “I want to acquire an ideology” or “I’m instilling an ideology.” We should overcome ideological constraints that condition us or limit our analysis of reality.
The other meaning of the word was either installed with or installed before Lenin, but Lenin picks it up, and then the international communist movement reproduces it and decides which would be the “correct ideology”, that of the proletariat, its revolutionary vanguard..
Hence the invented concept -if I’m not mistaken- arises, as this is still a matter of discussion among several historians-Zinoviev, the founder of the Communist International who was then ousted by Stalin, that is the concept of “Marxism-Leninism” which Stalin then continues. Marxism-Leninism passes to be conceived as the right ideology, the ideology of the proletariat, of the proletarian revolution, the ideology that will lead us to the future world in which all contradictions will be overcome, which is inconsistent with the above interpretation and I don’t have to continue detailing all this because you know it well. When I talk, in the book or in some interventions, of “social ideology” obviously I do not mean to Marxism-Leninism or ideology of the proletariat. I mean ideology in its subjective and critical sense, but in a more all inclusive sense, that aims to be broader than in the first sense I’ve described.... When I speak of social ideology I mean a set of perceptions -perception is the generic word I use to explain what I’m trying to say- that the individual has of the social reality, so I say social ideology. I’m not talking about worldview, but the perceptions that a person has about the reality in which it is involved; the social reality in which a person, if militant, is not only immersed, but over which he seeks to act and that social ideology certainly has a lot to do with the formal ideology that one adopts, Marxism-Leninism in the case of the Communists, but also has to do with a set of factors that the person is not necessarily aware of or fully aware, through which the person perceives and conceives social reality.
Mindfulness is an impossible exercise. We continually live and classify the world around us, we classify situations, classify others, we interpret ourselves. You cannot live being aware of all the classifications we do, all the prejudices through which we conceive or apprehend society. It’s a brainstorming exercise that can be done sometimes, but you cannot live a life, and less practice intense political action, reflecting all the time about everything.
Therefore, we have a number of ideas or notions about society. Some have much to do with formal ideological concepts to which we adhere consciously and explicitly, while others have to do with factors that we cannot read into or about which we are not sufficiently aware and influence how we perceive reality.
I was interested in finding out what was the social ideology of the Communists. What do I mean? For that I had to analyze the political line and political practices, I had to analyze and understand Marxism-Leninism, what was the strategy that they framed or lined on, I had to try to unravel what their perceptions were - and that is very difficult to do and I do not know if I have achieved it- regarding the society in which they operated. And there are many variations and oral history is very rich on that. Some began to repeat the party line that they had very clear, very well elaborated and highly structured (it is one of the great capabilities of the communist tradition to have a very coherent political vision). And this happened even with people not linked to intellectual work but to the manual labors. One of the most interesting features of the communist experience is precisely this training that militants acquire in the course of their practice.
But when one happens to mention less political things, or supposedly less to do with policies, such as daily life, there emerges in the account a variety of perceptions people have on society, which seem necessarily politically correct from the point of view of the ideological doctrine, or are not something identical to the ideological doctrine and represent what the Communist Party was and always is: a varied human conglomerate, with a strong labor component-but the workers were not socially and culturally one homogeneous group, with other sectors of society who had joined, while people from different generations and different realities perceived differently paths, and hence the wealth of looks and subjectivities.
What I did was break apart a concept that was politically useful at the time, but that was not real, of the monolithic party, the party in which one was to have very clear ideas and practices which can be repeated and supposed to be wholly consistent.
In analyzing social ideology one perceives differences, nuances, inconsistencies, which give human richness to the party and allows us to react to the different areas of society . Without that we would have been frustrated because we would have had only one course of action that would serve to only one segment of the population.
The other aspect I wanted to highlight has to do with something that will surely be controversial, as may have been many things that I have said and I want to say, I welcome controversy. The intention is not to have the last word. What I want most is for this book to be read in such a way as to invite others to refute some things, to refine, to provide other views or to support these ones. Because the debate allows you to grow, in the debate you learn, not when you only have something that is authorized
And in some interviews I saw that the issue of defeat was a controversial issue. And when I refer to the defeat I mean the year 1973. One of my biggest surprises because it was not a question that had been anticipated - was that, when in the course of the investigation I asked why the party militants had been defeated in 1973, the vast majority of the reactions were “We were not defeated in any way. How can you say that? “. Other reactions were: “What do you mean by defeat? You know what? I never thought of it that way. I would have to think. “ I was very surprised because it was one of my premises when I initiated the investigation and suddenly It was falling apart and I did not understand why.
That is another characteristic of historical research. A real research is research in which the researcher does not come out dry. You have to leave wet and splashed by the research experience. What do I mean? That the premises of the investigation cannot be identical to the conclusions. Because if the premises are identical to the conclusions what you did was shoot and then make the circle where the hole is and that is not historical research.
In historical research, one finds surprises and necessarily has to, either give explanations or change the premises. That is a real historical research. The result is not sung from the start. And it is difficult because you have to be thoughtful and honest enough to say “I was wrong: this serves, that no longer serves, I have to ...”.
Not that I have been convinced that there was no defeat. But the reactions made me look for much of what happened in those years. I think, indeed, it was a defeat. Not a total defeat, not a final defeat, but a considerable strategic defeat, yes.
But that made me try to explain historically the memory of the interviewees, who didn’t conceive the concept of defeat. And in the book I try to explain what I will not outline now, because it would be a bit long, but it has to do with the difference between a historical analysis of what happened and the memory of the protagonists. Here I was really served by an Italian historian who, to those interested, I recommend reading (not sure if there is something by him in Spanish), called Alessandro Portelli.
Portelli is a world leader in oral history methodology. He worked on various issues, including the oral history of Italian Communist activists, workers, some of them partisans who had experiences of the Second World War. This research has allowed me to better understand the difference between history and memory and how to interpret stories of memories. It has made me see that what people report are scars of that past. People cannot tell what happened. People recount what happened through impressions that last left in them. Some things fade, others highlight a bit more, acquire other meanings as a result of subsequent experiences. The past is seen, by people who were its protagonists, through what happened in the years since, through their own aspirations, frustrations, wounds. The past is never as it was transmitted.
The positivist illusion that someone is going to tell me what really happened is a necessary illusion to the judicial system when it comes to find out, because there is no other way. There is no time machine that will take us to the past so we can see, so you have to rebuild it through the testimony. But this does not work for historical analysis. Historical work with oral testimony must consider how the present or the recent past, conditions the past happenings.
In this case I think the experience of the dictatorship has been extremely important in the construction of memory, the configuration of earlier times and stories about the past. The defeat, viewed only from memory, at the time I collected the stories, in 2000, 2003 and early 2004 was unacceptable to some respondents. It would have been impossible to maintain continuity in political activism, a continuity of struggle against dictatorship as communist militants did in Uruguay, if they accepted the idea of admitting defeat in 1973.
The famous phrase that the dictatorship was born badly hurt by the general strike, a phrase that was later installed in the minds of all Communists and in much of the labor movement and even in much larger surroundings , although the communists were the ones who set up and irradiated the belief, was a great idea from a political point of view, it was important to allow recovery from the blow received from June to July 1973, but from a historical point of view I do not consider it was true. The dictatorship was born badly hurt but it lasted twelve years, almost twelve years, eleven and a half years. So it was not so badly injured.
Surely here you must take it with a pinch of salt : the choice is not between ´was badly injured or was in good health´. It was born without the legitimacy of large sectors of the urban society of Uruguay. I think I can say that, as the conclusion of a historical analysis. A general strike prevented the dictatorship to acquire legitimacy with much of the Uruguayan society. But it had legitimacy in other sectors of the Uruguayan society and lasted. Moreover, when it is said that the dictatorship passed and the Communist Party of Uruguay held on during that time and was reborn more forcefully when it ended, it is saying something true, politically certain.
But from a Marxist point of view, although the dictatorship ended, think: what were the objectives that had the Communist Party of Uruguay before the dictatorship took over? They were not to defeat a dictatorship that did not yet exist, but to implement the national liberation, democratic and agrarian radical revolution. Then, if we evaluate the situation by the objectives, we must recognize that there was a strategic defeat. That is, the expectations that the Uruguayan Communists had about the near future in the late 60s and early 70s, were not met. The jump to power did not happen, the profound change in Uruguayan society did not take place. It is a historical analysis, it may hurt, it hurts, but it is true..
And we must bear in mind that the dictatorship was not the work of a group of soldiers. The dictatorship was an instrument –in that I remain a Marxist – that social classes imposed by means of force their own program, an outgrowth of struggles that start,- I think, I’m not sure,- from the time of the Letter of Intent of the government of the Blancos with the International Monetary Fund. What was then called the Uruguayan oligarchy and the US on one side, and on the other, the popular forces that were growing, organizing, with the Communist Party being the chief organizer of the popular forces in Uruguay in those years. Those were hard struggles that had a very high point in the years ‘68, ‘69, with Pacheco, with a class attempting to impose by force a policy and, on the other hand, attempts by popular forces, with their radical program, to revolutionarily transform Uruguayan society. And that struggle lasted, had turnovers, cost lives and cost sacrifices; and from ‘73 neoliberalism took over, the work of these social classes managed through the dictatorship to impose it and, in that sense, it is a defeat of the popular forces to the point that the dictatorship is gone but neoliberalism remains. It reproduces and deepens and becomes part of common sense even of much of society, not an easy problem.
However, no final victories or defeats. There is always resistance. The results are never total.
That’s what I mean to say in an analysis that tries to be objective. But that defeat is not and cannot be assimilated as such by the Communists in the mid-70s and early 80s as the assimilation goes against the intention to resist and be reborn after the ravages of dictatorship . This means that there is a contradiction between historical truth and the militant or activist interest between what the truth is and what is historical analysis. I think so and I leave open the space for dialogue.
FAGET-RUIZ PEREYRA- I ‘ll ask two questions, warning that I did not read the book and therefore I rely on what you have said in the presentation. The impression I have, to follow your reasoning is that you see Uruguay as the navel of the world, it decontextualizes a huge play of forces. Uruguay was very small within the socialist bloc, against US imperialism, a region with military dictatorships in Brazil and Argentina, forces prepared to invade the territory, and a dictatorship that seeks to remain in place.
Because, interestingly, the rural sector, the Association and the Rural Federation, which were designed to support it and in fact supported all the coups in history since Latorre, distanced itself and why did they do so ? Because there was a shift in the international situation: the jump in oil prices; markets were lost and even Vegh Villegas had to change strategy. It means that the concept of dictatorship that Nardone could have had, could not apply, although he wanted to enforce it and the day when he tried, he was kicked out and came Otero as minister for a few months. Because the planchette ( La tablita) had been established. It was a monopoly, they set the price of meat and inflation soared.
The second question: you speak of a cult party and a flexible party. I wanted to ask you first of all why was there a great electoral victory of the Communist Party in 1946? And then: what influence you attribute to the Cold War on the Communist Party?
. LEOPOLDO CORREA-. I was interested when you talked about the defeat. I read the Brecha report and became interested. I can bring my experience in the Libertad prison where I was for a few years, along with the tupas. Inside, we had not perceived been defeated. Unlikely. We thought we were still giving an ideological battle with the Tupas(Tupamaros), who listened to us, asking us. I spent some time with Jaime and he told me: “Do not worry you’ll get out before the sentences they gave us is ended.” When the plebiscite took place we would ask “So, Jaime, what’s up?” “Well, you have to trust the democratic commitment of the people,” Jaime answered.
And that was the chat in the cell, it was the chat at recess That is, the talk was only of politics. There was no talk of football or women. That felt like a duty that we obeyed every day.
Personally what I felt as a defeat, was the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the entire socialist world fell apart. There, yes. Many comrades did not feel it was so, but in my case it was
there that I felt confused and defeated.
But in prison, for example, when we received news of Angola we said “we cannot talk of defeat.” Well, now I am listening to what you say on strategic defeat, it might have been so. But we at that time did not feel defeated.
JOSE KECHICHIÁN-. First congratulations to Gerardo for the work done, with all the objectivity he has tried to put and also the difficulty of coming from Israel, which seems to me a highly commendable thing. But, as he said, it is important to discuss. And I repeat something that someone once said: do not flatter me with words, but read me some more. I think this is important.
I have not yet read the book but an extensive interview /report that came out in Voces , but I think when the Communist Party defines the revolutionary process they are considering a historical period; when speaking of strategy, they talk about a plan that has a historical scale, not merely political , otherwise the party would have a conception of immediate actuality with tactical elements that allow us, yes or no, to face a new reality. And it is not like that. That would be a mechanistic idea. So what we can talk about is that in such a complex battle -that Pereyra Faget referred to recently-, we had to make a withdrawal, but an organized withdrawal, which is not the same as a scattering/rout, militarily and using the metaphor without exaggeration. An organized withdrawal after fifteen days of general strike.
And why not say a defeat? I will tell the story of something I think is very important. There is one thing Gerardo must know :
that is the Latinobarómeter. The Latinobarómeter gives results that if in Chile , let´s say that the “social ideology” of Chilean society had a 180-degree turn , that was not what happened in Uruguay, as some colleagues had just said. Year after year, the most prestigious Chilean institutions are the police and the Church and the unions and political parties, parliamentarians are discredited. It’s amazing what was generated in Chile.
However, in Uruguay it remained absolutely installed at the protoplasmic baseline, a key issue. : that the ideology of the traditional parties, bipartisanship, legitimacy because there is universal suffrage and the denial of the needs of the classes by Batlle y Ordonez and all his acolytes, not only was defeated but was uprooted forever. So much so that the idea of organization, solidarity, struggle, became part , even in the vernacular language of anti communist workers, unionized doctors, engineers, architects, professionals who are not, strictly speaking a class, for their place in the mode of production, etc.
So this was so installed that, as you mentioned, in the midst of absolute repression, it won the “No” in the plebiscite of ‘80. But besides the very end of the dictatorship, the resistance inside the prison, the activity in exile, show that it was not a party that would stay defeated strategically, but tactically a party that had to step back before a surge of forces- I will not explain to Gerardo and those who are here: we all know- absolutely adverse.
And I would appeal to the Gramscian categories so dear to Uruguayan Communists, because this party was - I may give thanks to the work of Arismendi-, perhaps the only party that used the capitalist West´s gramscian theories and began using them in a way not overtly proclaimed, but in a very concrete way. In what sense gramscism? In the sense that when civil society as a whole is infused with other values that are not those of the liberalism of Batlle y Ordonez, -what the party calls bourgeois reformism-, when it is impregnated with other values , another hegemonic bloc ultimately advances amid the zigzagging that means having endured repression, having left the dictatorship, one that now has had for two consecutive periods governments of the Frente Amplio, plus the municipalities of Montevideo starting at ‘89.
So here’s why strategically the party was not defeated. If it was, for the moment a terrible pivot; a step back to conserve power. It is not the same as what happened in the attack on August 20. They killed 8 of us, and many of the colleagues who are here today would have perfectly gone and attacked a hundred army guys And that happened ? we matured. it was so clear that we shouldn’t answer the provocation to enter, the party had to preserve its social forces, not just the party, for new stages.
Moreover, it’s very interesting what you say of monotheism. But monotheism is ultimately Hegelian. That is, Hegel embodies the idealism in history and says this is the manifestation of the absolute spirit. And sometimes you want to compare Marx with a Hegelian scheme that in the end, in the last of the denials, is what makes the proletariat to be the gravedigger of capitalism. But Marx was actually antimechanistic par excellence and that is what Parsons said, on the centenary of the birth of Marx. none less than Talcott Parsons!. So, antimechanistic par excellence. .
.And this Gramscian party took advantage of working conditions that no party had, in culture, in education. As they say, very angrily, that the Communists are at the carnival, they are everywhere. That created an ineradicable hegemony that cannot be reversed. Neoliberalism as an economic policy was applied. But it is not the same as saying that the predominant values in society today are those of neoliberalism. And if not, we would not have UMNTRA on strike and all the unions with their flags up.
GERARDO LEIBNER- On the international context it is true that I did not consider it in my presentation but I discuss it in the book. The Uruguayan Communist Party was part of the international communist movement, part of something much larger. Imperialism was most important in the circumstances. What happens in Argentina and particularly in Brazil since 1964, is crucial to the situation in Uruguay and I think I discuss the matter in the book.
Even when discussing within the party the issue of armed struggle as from 1964, I think it’s very important to understand, understand what concept we had about the possible revolutionary assault..
To answer Ruiz ´s second question : I think that explanations about the relative success the strategy of the Popular Front had from the first half of ‘40 until November ‘46, has much to do with the international circumstances. I think with a degree of amplitude, that an interesting work is done about the aid given to the Spanish Republic, and also regarding the anti-Nazi fighters and the Soviet Union, around the strong reserve of solidarity that some segments of Uruguayan society had to what was happening in Europe.
We must remember that many were sons of immigrants or immigrants themselves, who from Uruguay followed what happened in the battlefields of Europe , not only because of their ideology, but because internationalist sentiment was very present in the daily lives of people and that is part of the explanation of the significant growth of the Communist Party and its relative success, because everything is relative.
It also has to do with the end of Terra ´s dictatorship and the predominance of batllista ( Battle Ordoñez followers) sectors within the Colorado Party from the times of Amezaga, with whom the party also has a relationship because of international circumstances. For the first time there was a government in Uruguay giving a high degree of legitimacy to the Communist Party. I analyze the circumstance in the second chapter of the book I recommend reading, because there are some surprises in the degree of cooperation that existed between Batllists sectors and the Communist Party.
Regarding what Leopoldo said : Precisely! What you just said is what I heard from other militants when I interviewed them and try to reflect upon this fact in the last chapter of the book. “We do not I felt defeated.” I totally agree that they did not feel defeated. That was the feeling, that was the perception and I think it was important. Thanks to that perception people could maintain their dignity, could share political and ideological concepts with each other, the Communist Party managed to radiate to the whole of society and managed to stay as a party and also influence political circumstances, including on the plebiscite of ‘80 and all the disputes about what kind of political democracy there would be or would not be. From the political point of view that was more than correct.
That does not mean that, from today´s standpoint, that one cannot answer José´s arguments. That does not mean I do not consider, as a subjective experience, how we felt at any given moment, but analyzing what happened and what it meant for Uruguayan society, there was no strategic defeat.
About José´s arguments : I agree with many things. I agree that some Communist parties, not only the Communist Party of Uruguay, managed to create, to radiate a social and political culture that still persists today in vast layers of society. The party managed to win many heads. Many ideas that became part of the common heritage of the Uruguayan society arose from the practices and ideas of the Communist Party and its militants.
Certainly, above all, in the trade union movement and that’s very important. And when I say defeat I do not mean a final defeat. I do not mean we should start again. No. There are many things that endure through time, reproduce and even flourish.
However I do not agree on two things. The first is that the party is Gramscian. Here we have a discrepancy. Although analyzed today, it can be seen that, perhaps unwittingly, many cultural and social practices of the Communist Party have an important, remarkable, outstanding relationship with Gramscian thought and, indeed, with many of the practices of the Italian Communist Party that are worth exploring.
I was reviewing sources in the files the Italian Communist Party for this research, looking for traces of what kind of relationship, what kind of perceptions did the Italian Communists have when they visited Montevideo and looked at the Communist Party of Uruguay or when Massera and Arismendi visited Italy, which conversations did they hold. I found no trace of Gramscian ideas or discussions of them. It was not the subject or at least it is not reflected in the reports.
But it’s not just that argument. I think the strategy of the Communist Party of Uruguay before 1973 was essentially Leninist. And it was not only eminently Leninist but, -and analyzing texts of 70 years ago, Arismendi sees this very clearly: he perceived the immediacy of the revolutionary process: the assault to power, not the inculcation of ideas and values in society, but the assault to power, was on the agenda.
And the practical preparations being made those days were those of a party that conceived that power can be assaulted given the circumstances. Arismendi often used terms such as that the sharpening of the contradictions can determine a quantum leap for the revolutionary party. He was talking about you could soon settle a revolutionary situation and had to be ready to move quickly from one form of struggle to another according to the circumstances. I’m almost quoting from Lenin and the revolution in Latin America.
Beyond that, when I analyze the expectations of many militants, when I analyze what they expressed, serious expectations that power was on the agenda here. In fact there was talk of it since the sixties, after the Cuban revolution, but it was becoming much more palpable.
Of course, the regional situation has great influence and the texts immediately after the coup in Brazil urged that if the vanguard did not give battle in the moments in which the reaction and imperialism stroke to destroy it, it would be discredited. And I think you have to analyze the general strike and all the tactics that develop around the general strike, as this battle is essential for a more long-term future.
I think there is not a single concept; I think that Leninism was a more important mark that you could make in the Communist Party of Uruguay than with the Gramscian ideas in those years and I admit that the results were Gramscian, but not so the intention. So that, with hindsight, not putting us in the specific context but looking at the results of action, one can say that the lasting results of the Communist Party of Uruguay between 1955 and 1973, are social, cultural and ideological but not of achieving power. And in that sense I speak of defeat. Again looking at the expectations held at the historic moment. It’s not about anybody´s blame or responsibility. There is talk of failure because it is a burden that may hinder understanding. It is not that they did something that should not have been done or was not done something it should already have been done. At all. And of course the international correlation of forces established conditions. How much could be done to a number of conditions that did not depend on one’s action, of one´s will? No, I am not referring to that.
I’m doing an analysis, which tries to be objective, that they had certain expectations. They were not met, it was a struggle, and I think that Jose, you miss the power neoliberalism had to implant itself. Here I go into an area that I have not investigated as a historian but I can perceive in everyday life. I think many neoliberal values have been installedeven within the left, I think the battle of ideas and cultures was not defined favorably.
In some ways yes and in others not. Finally, in the economic sphere, we live in a neoliberal framework. Uruguay is very small and cannot become communist, by sheer will to transform itself. there is a much more worldwide defeat although it can be said that compared with what happens in other countries- I agree with the observation of José -this country is a little better in this battle of ideas and cultures. But I would not be too optimistic.
I have discussed with people of the MLN on land reform and they look at me like I was absolutely crazy. They do not even think it possible for the Institute of Colonization to form some more colonies . So to you, was there or not a political-ideological retreat?
And the question I ask is : what exactly not admitting that defeat, made invisible to our eyes so many real defeats? Those poisoned thorns left behind by the dictatorship, as Arismendi said.
MARIA BATTEGAZZORE- I read the book. I found it was an excellent piece of work , with much value in terms of historical scientific study, with methodological rigor . From the point of view of the political assessment that predominates, one of the things I would highlight because I find that it is a little tarnished, is that people look at the little words, and the terror the little word “defeat” inspires, is the value the mass movement has as a protagonist of the historical process. That, to me, is central, it is the center of the book..
And when you analyze what did the daily newspapers Justicia and El Popular precisely underline , was the appreciation of the mass movement and the interrelationship between the masses and the party. There are many very insightful, very subtle, observations.
Anyway, the question I would ask and I believe we all have to think about - is how far the fact of defeat was not influenced by not assuming it. Comrades, what do they have to do to make us feel defeated?
And Gerardo, as you're interested in the "social ideology", here you have a great example: "Uruguayans, we are the champions." We are never defeated, we are undefeated. It was confirmed the other day when I heard from Mary Simon, the interpretation that, "la derrota" was not the defeat, but the route. Since your book reached the book stores the debate about the defeat is dominant..
Let´s clarify what I mean by defeat. If today I play a football game and five goals are put against me and I did none, or maybe less, then I was defeated. Let's not be so terrified of words. They defeated Me! But, did I lose the championship? No. The next Sunday we have a new game and suddenly I'm defeating the opponent.
I read Lenin many times in exile, because this party was essentially Marxist-Leninist. Arismendi read Gramsci in the ´70s, and there are the books with annotations and comments underlined by Rodney and I was surprised when Alvaro Rico spoke of Gramsci at Gerardo´s book launch party because it seems clear that Arismendi began reading the Gramsci Cahiers in the ‘70s -. The first time I found a mention of Gramsci, was through Togliatti.
But I read often “What the insurrection taught us- 1905” where Lenin assumes defeat, examines the causes and thinks how the game has to be organized for the next battle.
Once a fellow of the Foundation said: “What a guy this Lenin was: at first he was defeated and then he triumphed.” Sure, because he tried twice. Fidel did not deny that he was defeated in the Moncada. He tried again. Because, if one assumes that one was defeated, one plans for the next time. If we deny defeat, we do not realize to what extent it has changed our way of thinking and seeing the world. We think of pure continuity.
For me defeat is defined on the last page of Leibner´s book. It was a strategic defeat because it renounced a revolutionary project. I say this in the first person plural because I was part of the revolutionary project of the Communist Party. Today I discover with surprise that there are absolute companions of the UJC also telling me, “but of what revolutionary project we are speaking” I wonder if I also forget that the party had a revolutionary project?
And this is what Gerardo explained at first about oral history and memories. I found what I call “retrospective prophets” because in the year ‘90 said that in ‘68 they thought or anticipated “X” thing, when I know that was not what I thought then. Of course it was a defeat the destruction of the Soviet Union (and I remember Alcira being angry when talking about implosion or collapse of the Berlin Wall, that she defined as defeat).
But it is not enough to assume defeat of others if you do not assume defeat yourself. This is very serious, because in addition we are not aware of how far we have gotten into our heads ideas of bourgeois liberalism, neoliberalism, and lost the Marxists´ revolutionary ideas. They have resurrected the categories of natural law, “civil society”, the public-private partnership and that became part of the language and practice of the left. And at this point, we see no alternative to capitalism. Nobody dares to propose it.
That is, for me, where the greatest defeat lies , defeat in the long term, because we no longer pose an alternative to capitalism. At most we say “another world is possible” when we go to the World Social Forum, but no one at the Forum, where I was three or four times, had a real alternative. There were little things, like the Tobin tax, amendments to the worst of the system. Where is the alternative? Do we think it is possible to overcome the existent, deny it and advance toward socialism? I think there’s defeat.
Even in the loss of values and concepts that were essential in the left and, -today the left threw overboard -one will say, the autonomy of educational entities. Today the Left is imposing a centralized system with an absolute predominance of the executive over the bodies of the education system. The idea of the election of directors of teaching by teachers themselves passed away; It is a kind of extravagance, if not pure corporatism.
As I say in something that touches me very closely, as is education, we can start reviewing item by item. At the time the FA was born you went to a bank and the windows had a sign saying “for the nationalization of the banks.” If today I come to say that, I will be led to an asylum. The bank is controlled by foreign firms and nobody ever seems to care, and if it looks bad it does not arise, or is believed possible, a change in the situation.
NIDIA MASTANDREA- I found very comforting the book title that unfortunately I could not yet read. That's "Comrades and fellows". It brought me a very emotional feeling that had and have these words for us.
And I felt the same as Leopoldo does about the word defeat. Personally I find it very drastic. I think it could be said to be a tactical defeat, as Jose said.
In the Party are always raised both matters . One was that historical times were not the same as personal times, that the path of the revolution could be long and difficult and we had to be prepared at all times for all instances of struggle. I remember I was very young then and was terrified. What did that mean “all instances of struggle”? Without going any further I imagined putting ointment in a camp. It was a very lyrical and very crazy thing, I learned.
So I think we have had many ups and downs, we go, we go back, that things are not like every one of us dreamed. There are now a part of the Communist Party that does not vindicate anything, but even so, most of us have not given up the revolution. We will see it happen or will not ; we think of our children or our grandchildren. But we have not given up that which I think is very important. We have it in our blood.
And one thing I want to stress about the Party that you say that in1973 was defeated, is Leopoldo saying one thing: in prison, where Altesor, Gerardo Cuesta and many other colleagues were jailed, the criminal issues were political : they had an organization there. And you have to know what that jail was like! Those who were going to visit the prisoners knew that our conversations were recorded and had to be permanently using metaphors, in imagination, to transmit, for example, that there was a provocation. That was the prison .
But outside, where many women had stayed single, unions were organized despite a dreadful law. I cannot tell what was the assembly like for the installation of professional associations with people passing for being "holy" because their names were not known, neither by the simple milicos nor by the police investigation department. On the other hand a net was woven with people of the Partido Blanco, or the Colorado, with good people.
One thing I always felt was that this dictatorship had been born orphaned of social support. On a May 1st, when some crazy women among us threw leaflets to the air that read "Long Live May 1st “, they saw many of us but no one denounced us. There one somehow felt protected. There were organizations, which were invisible. The Party existed. Besides , we listened to Radio Berlin, Radio Moscow, when we could, and it was no coincidence that the directives here generally matched the directives there.
Another thing: here there was a party press, = the Charter of the party. And in those twelve years if people continued to fall in jail , it would not be for stealing chickens as el Flaco Echenique said to the soldiers. And the experience of exile is not recognized by anyone, because, in the book about the dictatorship published in three volumes, the resistance did not exist for those outside. And we, as communists that we were, though we were not in a block, we knew that nothing happened by magic or prominence, but organization. Where there was a
There is a problem that I would like to know how you solved, which has to do with the history built by the Communists themselves, history that is largely unwritten. There is an article of Arismendi, The Four Stages, that was implicit in the line.
How did you do from a technical point of view to distinguish between the self built memory, the silences (those things that were said to you but you can’t reveal the sources and then it needs the reader's confidence in the investigator) and the hard core beliefs which have just now appeared (that is, those things that we believe that happened so) with the historical truth? That's the first question.
The second is that if I read The Four Stages of Arismendi I do not notice many differences between what Arismendi recounted from what you say about what had been the past of the party. How is that? I noticed that you bring a set of data but also bring one self-construct.
The third issue is what you refer to as non-Gramscian.
Because one might say, Arismendi, who was a friend of Agosti, who began publishing Gramsci, therefore it can be thought that Arismendi already knew Gramsci and that is not mentioned because Gramsci was then widely used by the noncommunist left especially in Europe and was newly resumed in '85 in an explicit way.
RODRIGO GARCÍA – I study philosophy and I'll ask just one question. You show a contradiction between truth and the historical truth of the militants. Now if we, with Marx, think that history is made by men, and those communists, men and women, made their own history as militants, they are also building a historical truth. Thus the contradiction that you marked is near zero and there is no conclusion.
JOSEPH KECHICHIÁN- Three things. Again I congratulate Gerardo for his work and for all that he brings and transmits to us.
Secondly, if a mention of Gramsci does not appear, with all due respect, in the certifying documents the Italians have of the visits Arismendi and Massera made, I think is something anecdotal. Togliatti actually hid the Prison Notebooks in a drawer until '52. Then, of course, it was a publisher from Argentina which first brought to the Rio de la Plata, -I remember the book., a gem, The Modern Prince.
But why do I say that the party was Gramscian even if it was not enunciated by Arismendi? Because the core was not the assault on power but to conquer the hearts of the masses, their mobilization, their organization, their unity and solidarity. And in that respect the party was not defeated. It shows that in the roughest period of Uruguayan history that worked and worked on women . It was installed in homes. Women were a most fundamental part in keeping alive the flame of a lot of values that had been installed from the democratism , republicanism and Jacobinism that Lucia Sala mentioned, from Artigas through Varela, the reform of Córdoba and all that historical accumulation.
Arismendi´s book , Lenin and the Revolution in Latin America, published in 1969, is a book written to argue against those who believe that the method of struggle is the crux of the matter and forget the masses because they are not consistently Leninist .
So Arismendi makes an exegesis of Marx, Lenin, but had also studied the uprising of Caamaño in the Dominican republic, Spanish experiences, different experiences and other insurgent backlashes, the Chinese way, etc. and all that showed it is only possible to move to higher, armed actions when the masses achieve homogeneity and unity to break the resistance of the Armed Forces.
And that also was possible because Lenin faced a completely decomposed Russian army. Russian soldiers were "peasants with a military cloak" said Lenin. In very special circumstances he could do the '17.
Therefore the Uruguayan party is Gramscian because it broke the core of the official ideology or symbolic components of the batllista ideology with an incredible fight. And one more thing: the issue of neoliberalism.
In this country there was a law to deliver ANTEL to the Spanish at the urging of the Blanco party of Lacalle at the time when it was repealed by referendum.
In this country, as recommended by the World Bank for social security, a hybrid, a mixed system, was born which keeps up the system of solidarity and sharing and leaves a choice for AFAP reform.
In this country there are a number of other developments in the relationship between state and society. I would say to those who say that the left is tinged with Social-Democracy or neoliberalism, look what Raul Castro said of over 50 years of errors working the state economy from a schematic point of view. If Raul Castro, who deserves my great respect, says we committed blunders. I lived nine years in Cuba and I can say that the barber was the state, the cookies´ corner were owned by the state and so on .
The assumption today is that there is a much richer, more complex relationship between the state, the public economy, the private sector , and that does not mean giving up the revolutionary ideals of socialism. What Marx said in the Critique of the Gotha Program: We do not want to define a future society as did Saint Simon, Fourier and company, delineating an utopia hanging from a dream.
So I think we are far from that neoliberalism and its ideas. Here's a struggle I think that also occurs within the Frente Amplio, a complex struggle. But we cannot say that we have given up that program. Respect for those who think so, but no.
No, because you have to look in more depth at all the issues: land, banking, etc. The land today is not the huge estates that we defined in the policy statement of the year '57. There is another capitalist reality in the field and we have to look if it's there or where that you have to change. We need to do what the Party did: see the structure of society, the classes, its contradictions, to stake out the strategic, tactical, parts of the program and so on.
GERARDO LEIBNER- I will not get into a discussion of the Uruguayan reality because I don’t know it. None of what I said earlier intended to take a position in discussions of the current Uruguayan left because I'm just too far away to say something intelligent.
I am aware that the word defeat is very drastic but again I emphasize that I am not talking about final defeats and don’t know how to show enough my appreciation for what was the resistance to the dictatorship, the continuity of the Communist Party and the continuity of values, culture, organization, and ability to work under very adverse conditions. Nothing like that is in question when I talk about strategic defeat in the year '73.
GERARDO LEIBNER.-What is at issue is not read, and that's the difference between the historian and the protagonist or the historian and the activist, that when I speak of strategic defeat in 1973, the measure is based on 1973, 1972 and 1971 and not in func'tion of what happened next. And no defeat is final either. I want you to understand me from that point of view and no other.
Regarding methodology. I work with many written materials. They were especially abundant in the time of Gomez and allow me to note what is official and what is oral memory and allow me to compare one with the other and see what actually happened. Besides, oral memory is not uniform. And what has helped me is to ask a person what happened in this event but I ask for the spontaneous story and when it arises spontaneously, stories are not identical to each other or identical to a uniformed official report by the group. There, individualities arise, subjectivities do and one then confronts each other with the documents and analyzes from what point of view the person says what it says, I try to reconstruct the life trajectory of the speaker (and it is something that can be seen especially in the footnotes of work where I try to evaluate what that source may provide and care to say "I'm not sure of such a thing" or "I'm more confident about another" according to the source) .
Whether there is no difference between my reconstruction of the time of Gomez and what Arismendi does, I think there are some differences. I agree that these are not dramatic. What does this mean? It means that, relative to a political leader, -a very rare thing-, Arismendi was highly honest and faithful when he presented the stories. There are differences. In my story there are many details and it is no coincidence, because I think Arismendi omitted these details because they were not useful politically. Arismendi´s commitment or other people´s was not to history, but to politics.
That was his main concern and if the story was true, it was as part of a political effort and to create a partisan narrative that was effective for the policy. Here again there is a diversity of interests and therefore I said that sometimes there are contradictions between historical truth and militant truth, not the truth of militants themselves.
What is the militant´s truth? The truth that serves me most.
I am a political activist in other geographical, social and political reality. In reality I would not dare make a historical research group, of the sector in which I militate. Why? Because I doubt, at the moment I am militating without taking a distance, my ability to not distort what I found in my militant researcher´s interest. There is a contradiction. There are many contradictions.
I think the revolutionary aim of influencing reality requires a high degree of illusion. The illusion is somewhat at odds with historical reality. The illusion requires a certain amount of voluntarism. One becomes delusional when exaggerating with that dose. The risk of overdose is a very serious threat. But an amount of subjectivism is needed to militate in a reality that is often adverse and that is at odds with the commitment the historian in search for historical truth makes.
I'm not saying that there are no militant historians.
But a historian strongly committed to his work generally seeks to put some distance between his activism and his work as a historian. This distance can get cumbersome as I try to get by far geographical spaces and realities (ie in Israel I am a political activist and in Uruguay I'm an investigator) or you can settle it by a certain length of time, then I am a historian who goes to the bottom of things because things are much less relevant from the point of view of political immediacy and less relevant from the point of view of my concerns and needs as a militant.
It is a complex problem that has another aspect, which is that we cannot think without analogies and analogical thinking is very tricky because it's part of our common sense.
Analogies are in contradiction with the dialectic of history because everything has changed and nothing is quite comparable. But our way of reasoning, also in history, often tends to analogy. Then there's a problem. You live in a given society and tends to compare the past with the present and this is a trap that a thoughtful historian must try to avoid.
Regarding that the party is non gramscian. I think there are important documents found in the archives of the Italian Communist Party, because the Italian Communists themselves wonder about their contacts with the Uruguayan Communists, how they can influence the Uruguayan Communists. It is a question that is in the documents themselves.. And I say, that some Italian Communists receive Arismendi´s line about Latin America and the Italian Communists want to have a role in Latin America and this tempts them to be much closer to Arismendi.
But on the other hand, that creates a problem because, to simplify an argument that is a bit more complex, they are rejecting an armed struggle and Arismendi is justifying or leaving open that possibility., They have very complimentary words for the work of party building and the work on the masses for the Communist Party of Uruguay. So I think that's not a purely anecdotal question, I think there's something interesting to think about.
Returning to the Gramscian theme: I think there are interesting approaches that deal with the work on the masses of the Communist Party, as Marisa said, it is one of the things I most stressed at work from the point of view of construction and that means when at times I point out the creation of a political culture, that the Communist Party irradiates to other sectors of society. But I do not think it has been the result of a conscious building that expresses itself. I don’t think it was a building that thought itself as Gramscian. I do not think Arismendi avoided to mention the conection for being discreet. Perhaps he had read Gramsci, maybe not. But it was not conceived as an inspiring Gramsci, at least not during the '60s.
The strategy was a Leninist strategy but unlike other narrower ones , considered that the question of power passed by many sides, but mainly passed through the minds of the people. But that was the way Arismendi read Lenin . Others may read Lenin otherwise. Thank you.