Archives for posts with tag: History

Sanitation workers assemble at the Clayborn Temple in Memphis, Tenn., on March 28, 1968.

Just don’t miss it!

The president of the French republic raised a mountain, and it has fallen on his toes. In launching its offensive against the Roma, the French government believed it could turn to its electoral advantage a problem which is essentially a problem of border policing and the state authorities. Major error. The question of the Roma is not about public or social security, it is about mental security. And it is not a uniquely French problem, it is a European problem.

After the fall of the Iron Curtain, the American daily the Los Angeles Times conducted one of the first polls in Eastern Europe in 1990. The results showed that for 80 percent of the populations freshly freed from Communism – Czechs, Hungarians, Romanians, Bulgarians and Poles, the ‘Gypsy’ was the incarnation of the diabolical other.

In the nineties and in the face of strong popular resistance, Czech President Vaclav Havel tore down a ghetto where his people wanted to see the “travelling people” incarcerated. The hatred of the “Gypsies” may be widespread and have seen its worse excesses in Eastern Europe, but it is certainly no stranger to the West. Nineteen century literature and opera – from Victor Hugo to Verdi – amply betrays the fears of the sedentary about the non-territorial collective. Begging, disease, thieving, and even fantasies about child snatching – such were the associations that for centuries haunted a European mind living in fear of “people who don’t live as we do”. Propelling this hysteria to its extreme, the Nazis sent these “sub-humans” to the gas chambers.

Yugoslavian President Josip Broz Tito, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser were the three main forces behind the organization’s creation. Kwame Nkrumah, the Marxist pan-African leader of Ghana, and Ahmed Sukarno, the leader of Indonesia, would also put their weight behind the NAM and join Tito, Nehru, and Nasser. These leaders and their countries did not view the Cold War as an ideological struggle. This was a smokescreen. The Cold War was a power struggle from their perspectives and ideology was merely used as a justification.

(here in  Portuguese)

The word “non-alignment” was first used on the world stage by Vengalil Krishnan Krishna Menon, India’s ambassador to the United Nations, while the term “Third World” was first used by the French scholar Alfred Sauvy. Third World is a debated political term and some find it both deregulatory and ethnocentric. To the point of confusion the phrase Third World is inextricably intertwined with the concept of non-alignment and the NAM.
Both the NAM and, especially, Third World are wrongly and carelessly used as synonyms for the Developing and Under-developing Worlds or as economic indicators. Most Third World countries were underprivileged former colonies or less affluent states in places like Africa and Latin America that were the victims of imperialism and exploitation. This has led to the general identification or misidentification of the NAM countries and the Third World with concepts of poverty. This is wrong and not what either of the terms means.
Third World was a concept that developed during the Cold War period to distinguish those countries that were not formally a part of the First World that was formed by the Western Bloc and either the Eastern/Soviet Bloc and Communist World that formed the Second World. In theory most these Third Worlders were neutral and joining the NAM was a formal expression of this position of non-alignment.

Aside from being considered Second Worlders, communist states like the People’s Republic of China and Cuba have widely been classified as parts of the Third World and have considered themselves as parts of the third global force. Chairman Mao’s views defined through his concept of Three Worlds also supported the classification of communist states like Angola, China, Cuba, and Mozambique as Third Worlders, because they did not belong to the Soviet Bloc like Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland.

In the most orthodox of interpretations of the political meaning of Third World, the communist state of Yugoslavia was a part of the Third World. In the same context, Iran due to its ties to NATO and its membership in the US-controlled Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) was politically a part of the First World until the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Thus, reference to Yugoslavia as a Second World country and Iran as a Third World country prior to 1979 are incorrect.

The term Third World has also given rise to the phrase “Global South.” This name is based on the geographically southward situation of the Third World on the map as opposed to the geographically northward situation of the First and Second Worlds, which both began to collectively be called the “Global North.” The names Global North and Global South came to slowly replace the terms First, Second, and Third World, especially since the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union collapsed.

The NAM formed when the Third Worlders who were caught between the Atlanticists and the Soviets during the Cold War tried to formalize their third way or force. The NAM would be born after the Bandung Conference in 1955, which infuriated the US and Western Bloc who saw it as a sin against their global interests.

Contrarily to Western Bloc views, the Soviet Union was much more predisposed to accepting the NAM. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev even proposed in 1960 that the UN be managed by a “troika” composed of the First, Second, and Third Worlds instead of its Western-influenced secretariat in New York City that was colluding with the US to remove Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba from power in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as other independent world leaders.

Fidel Castro and Cuba, which hosted the NAM’s summit in 1979 when Iran joined as its eighty-eighth member, would actually argue that the Second World and communist movements were the “natural allies” of the Third World and the NAM. The favorable attitudes of Nasser and Nehru towards the Soviet Union and the Soviet Bloc’s support for various national liberation movements also lends credence towards the Cuban argument about the Second and Third World alliance against the capitalist exploitation and imperialist policies of the First World.

The first NAM summit would be held in the Yugoslavian capital of Belgrade in 1961 under the chairmanship of Marshall Tito. The summit in Belgrade would call for an end to all empires and colonization. Tito, Nehru, Nasser, Nkrumah, Sukarno and other NAM leaders would demand that Western Europeans end their colonial roles in Africa and let African peoples decide their own fates.

A preparatory conference was also held a few months earlier in Cairo by Gamal Abdel Nasser. At the preparatory meetings non-alignment was defined by five points:

(1) Non-aligned countries must follow an independent policy of co-existence of nations with varied political and social systems;

(2) Non-aligned countries must be consistent in their support for national independence;

(3) Non-aligned countries must not belong to a multilateral alliance concluded in the context of superpower or big power politics;

(4) If non-aligned countries have bilateral agreement with big powers or belonged to a regional defense pact, these agreements should not have been concluded in context of the Cold War;

(5) If non-aligned states cede military bases to a big power, these bases should not be granted in the context of the Cold War.

All the NAM conferences to follow would cover vital issues in the years to come that ranged from the inclusion of the People’s Republic of China in the UN, the fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo, African wars of independence against Western European countries, opposition to apartheid and racism, and nuclear disarmament. Furthermore, the NAM has traditionally been hostile to Zionism and condemned the occupation of Palestinian, Lebanese, Syrian, and Egyptian territories by Israel, which has earned it the seamlessly never-ending aversion of Tel Aviv.

Education and Cuba Libre, 1898-1958

The last Spanish colony in the Americas, Cuba launched a second war for independence in 1895, more than half a century after the establishment of independent republics in the rest of Spanish America. However, the intellectual war against Spanish domination began earlier, before the first failed revolution of 1868-78.

In particular, many nineteenth-century Cuban intellectuals, including Jose Marti, believed that the Catholic education of the colonial period, available only to elite men, operated as a means of suppressing national liberation by preaching loyalty to crown and church. Cuba Libre or Free Cuba, they argued, the independent and democratic nation for which so many Cubans fought and died, could not be successfully established without the foundation of a system of free, universal, secular public education.


Fears persisted that the United States intended to annex the island. While Cubans expressed gratitude for US efforts to construct a public educational system, accusations that the military government planned to ‘americanize’ education fuelled these fears of annexation.

What provoked these accusations? The American administration modelled Cuba’s public educational system on that of the United States. The school law of the state of Ohio provided the model for Cuba’s school law. US curriculum formed the basis for the new Cuban curriculum, which employed Spanish translations of US textbooks. The military government sent Cuban teachers to the United States for training and US educators came to Cuba to design and teach in the new educational system.


And after the 1959 Revolution

Fidel Castro and his followers understood the disillusionment, cynicism and frustration afflicting the country. They took up the cry of the nation’s past liberators and, when futile peaceful protest against Batista exposed the sham of the republic’s institutions, they turned to the long tradition of armed struggle for the sake of Cuba Libre. Castro claimed for his movement the legacy of Cuba’s apostle, Jose Marti. He reminded the country of Marti’s words. ‘An educated people’, Marti had believed, ‘will always be strong and free’.

During his trial after the unsuccessful assault on the Moncada barracks in 1953, Castro exposed the nation’s misery. He included an economic analysis in his nationalist appeal and declared:

«Our educational system is a perfect complement to our other problems. In a country where the farmer is not the owner of the land, why should any man want agricultural schools? In a city where there is no industry, what need is there for technical or industrial schools? … Less than half of the children of school age attend rural public schools, and those who do are barefoot, half naked, and undernourished. Many times it is the teacher who buys the necessary school materials with his own salary. Is this the way to make a nation great?»

Cubans agreed that it was not. When the fidelistas offered them a new dream of Cuba Libre, it is little wonder they followed.

Expresso está a oferecer gratuitamente aos seus leitores uma História de Portugal dividida em nove fascículos, apresentando-a como “um dos livros mais vendidos de sempre” entre os que se dedicaram à nossa história. O Expresso acha (eu não) que este é “hoje reconhecido como um dos melhores livros sobre a História de Portugal”, e terá querido disponibilizá-lo a dezenas de milhares de leitores para quem é apetecível uma síntese em 900 páginas da “história de um grande país”.

O livro é coordenado por Rui Ramos (RR), um historiador especializado na Monarquia Constitucional e na I República portuguesas mas que se encarregou nesta obra de cobrir também o período entre 1926 e a atualidade. As épocas medieval e moderna estiveram a cargo de dois historiadores (Bernardo Vasconcelos e Sousa e Nuno Monteiro) cujo trabalho não comentarei. Dedicarei esta e a próxima crónicas especificamente ao trabalho de RR, que concebeu e coordenou a obra e disse há dois anos que ela pretendia ser meramente “uma porta de entrada na História”, e “aguçar o apetite do leitor”, descrito como “exigente” (Prólogo, p. II), e “fazer com que as pessoas queiram ir ler mais” (Público, 31/5/2010). Esperemos que sim.

RR não é um historiador qualquer; a sua visibilidade pública é ajudada, como em pouquíssimos casos, pelo seu acesso às tertúlias televisivas e à imprensa, onde se tem destacado como uma das penas mais sólidas da direita intelectual portuguesa, que reivindica “o prazer da provocação intelectual e reconhece um aguçado espírito de contradição, sobretudo quando o alvo é a esquerda” (Ler, janeiro 2010). Para percebermos o que RR entende por “provocação”, e em resposta a quem acha — como eu — que o seu trabalho é puro revisionismo historiográfico política e ideologicamente motivado, ele entende que “toda a História é revisionista” e nela “é necessário afirmar originalidade” ( Público, 31/5/2010).

 Thirty years ago radioastronomy did not exist. Astronomers gathered their information, as they had for three centuries, through optical telescopes. Methods had of course become much more refined and the instruments had grown enormously since Galileo first poked a small brass tube filled with two glass lenses in the direction of Jupiter and the moon to see what he could see; but telescopes remained effective only in penetrating the optical window of the earth’s atmosphere—that part of the spectrum in the visible region between the ultra violet and the infra red to which our eyes are sensitive.

here we find a honest text on José Hermano Saraiva’s live, both as a fascist and as a historian of kings and princesses. In Portugal mainstream press he was glorified.