Gott Chapter 5 – Castro’s revolution takes place.


What if I told you you’ve met the man who identified Che Guevera’s body?  Well if you’ve started the chapter you have.  So who is this Richard Gott?  A few words from wikipedia;

Richard Willoughby Gott (born 28 October 1938, Aston Tirrold, England) is a British journalist and historian. A former Latin America correspondent and features editor for the British newspaper The Guardian, he is known for his radical politics and a connection to Che Guevara. He resigned from The Guardian in 1994 after claims that he had been a Soviet ‘agent of influence’, a tag Gott denied.[1]

And more;

In November 1963, working as a freelance journalist for The Guardian in Cuba, Gott was invited to a celebration of the revolution party at the Soviet Union embassy in Havana. During the evening, a group of invited journalists who were chatting in the garden were joined by Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara for a few hours, who answered their questions.

In Bolivia in 1967, Gott identified Guevara’s dead body after the failure of Guevara’s Bolivian campaign. He was the only one in the country who had met Guevara.

Batista “ruled Cuba with an iron fist for 25 years” according to another source.  He stages a coup (he had been in power before this) , upsets Castro’s political career and Fidel resorts to armed insurrection.

Things you should look up or know.

The barracks at Moncado

The July 26th movement

Jose Marti

the Granma

Herbert Matthews

Fangio (kidding, but it is interesting)


the hotel in NYC

Find all of those references in the reading and you should be set for the quiz!

What I find most interesting here is Gott’s perspective on the relationship between Fidel and communism.  Hope you enjoy it!

Cuba: A new History by Richard Gott Chapter 4


I find astonishing that my grandfather died almost 100 years ago.  That’s him with my infant mother at the sanitarium where he was confined after his diagnosis with tuberculosis.  He would die in 1922 shortly after this was taken.  (She was born in ’21) He was one of the Marines mentioned in this reading that went to guard the sugar cane fields in 1917 (not to fight for the government as the author maintains) I have a rather astonishing collection of letters from him to his sister Maude from 1918/19 when was stationed in France as part of the post war occupation. He was hoping to return to the states and return to his job at a bank in Richmond.

The story of the Marines in Cuba is not incidental to the larger story of Cuba here.  In the “War” act drafted by Congress in 1898 the “Teller” Amendment was added stipulating that the United States would never annex Cuba.  The Platt Amendment though, issued after the war, basically made the new Cuban Republic so dependent on the United States as to effectively be a colony.  Though those in power were OK with this relationship many who fought in the successful revolution over Spain certainly were not.  Every time there was an election that favored those in power there was an uprising and the Marines would be called in.

The story of “Race” is also very interesting here as it is in so many of the revolutions we have studied.  The 1912 revolt is literally referred to as a “Race war” yet today Cuba markets itself as a land full of diversity.  When did that switch take up?  I know when Malcolm X meets Fidel around 1960 he’ll call him the “Blackest man in the Caribbean”. Batista, the brutal dictator that immediately precedes Fidel  is described here as a “mulatto”, a person of mixed race background, but appears to do little to advance interracial relations.  Fidel, the son of a Spanish immigrant, would seem an odd choice as a champion of the significant black population in Cuba, but we will see.

So here we go!  The penultimate unit!  Let’s go!

Dubow Apartheid Chapter 4


south africa boy scout

Not the image you were expecting?  I was really stunned on this re-read of the chapter in regards to the remarkable economic growth of the white population in the time period.  Speedboats, Tennis, swimming pools etc.  Economic growth statistics near 6%.  Really astounding.  One of the things you will learn, if you haven’t already, is that if some action may harm a person or company’s bank account or income, it is going to be very hard for that person or company to accept that change.  The white population was doing really well in the 1960’s in part on the backs of the non-white population.  Is this possibly why Apartheid was so deeply entrenched?  Probably.

apartheid cartoon.jpg

So we depart here from our studies of Apartheid.   Though some horrific events are outlined in this chapter, the resettlement policy, there appears to be an increasing voice of criticism.  Above is a cartoon, I don’t know exactly from what year, from one of the artists the author names who was “tolerated” by the authorities.  Student voices, plays, books and films are all noted as an important voice of helping the outside world, and the inside world, feel the odiousness of apartheid.  One film in particular “The Last Grave at Dimbaza” seemed strikingly successful so I looked it up on You tube.  Here is screen shot for the last moment of the film where they show the graves dug for the children expected to die.

last grave.PNG

It’s tough stuff I know.  Sorry.  But if we don’t confront the horrible things people have perpetuated on one another in the past we will be lacking a potentially valuable context for events to come.  We know, because we are in 2019, that Apartheid does end.  The story of the end is the rest of this book, which you and I won’t be finishing together but you can find it at your local library or any good bookstore if you’re really curious.

Today we finish up with presentations and I have a practice docs exam I made for you.  Next day is terms and test, and then the Cuban revolution, and then the final unit… amazing.



Apartheid Chapter 3 Sharpeville

mandela prepared to die

Sharpeville.  1960.  Largely seen as a turning point in the fight against Apartheid.  Throughout the 1950s the “Defiance campaign” worked in the vein of Ghandi and King with protests and boycotts… non-violently.  After 1960 there was a decided turn to violent resistence.  Though our author here wants to argue the turn wasn’t as simple as others have said, there was a turn.  Mostly bombings with an effort not to put human life at risk, though this was not always successful.

Sharpeville, according to Dubow, could have happened anywhere.  And Sharpville could have marked a real turn in the fight against Apartheid if the 10s of thousands of protesters had not turned away.  If the rural masses had risen up when the police were forced to turn all their attention to the urban areas in an attempt to arrest every dissenter it could.  Maybe if Verwoerd had actually died from the two bullets in the face Apartheid would have ended sooner, but he didn’t and it didn’t.  It would last another 30 years.

For almost all of those 30 years Mandela and other leaders of the ANC and PAC would be in prison.  The world would largely condem South Africa.  Even America, in the 1980s during a reign of Republican ascendancy  passed a bill to introduce harsh sanction on South Africa, and though Reagan vetoed it condemnation was so great a fellow Republican Richard Lugar from Indiana led the charge to win the votes and over ride the veto.  Universities like the ones many of you will attend next year, were pressured by their students to “disinvest” in South Africa, which they did.

Today though, in South Africa, as this article makes clear, racial problems are far from over.  The winemaker there is is Stellenbosch.  We will see Stellenbosch on a 400 year old Dutch settler map today.  The Afrikaners roots run deep.

Sharpeville should loom large in your narrative of Apartheid and South Africa.  What else should?

Dubow Chapter 2 – The consolidation of Apartheid


This is SOWETO from about 2009.  This is one of the Bantustan towns built specifically for the black African population, this one just next to Johannesburg, for work purposes.  Sorry I didn’t warn you about length of this chapter.  Took me all of IB support + to get through its forty pages.

So there is a lot here.  In the first section the author contends that the new government must act very quickly passing things like the Group Areas Act of 1950 and the Population Registration Act also of 1950.  Those of you putting together presentation on non-violent resistance would do well to peruse section titled, “Campaign against unjust laws”.   The section on Global response reminded me a bit of Dudziak’s book and I think it is the rise of Strijdom in the next section, after Malan’s unexplained resignation,  that Apartheid takes on its most brutal face.  Strjdom’s “Baaskap” wing of the Nationalist party means something like “white supremacy”.

I was struck by certain parallels with the American civil rights movement and the author pointed them out.  I was also struck by some stark differences.  18 protesters were gunned down by police during a one day work stoppage.  Can you imagine if 18 protesters had been gunned down during the Montgomery bus boycott?

Also all those acts that are passed are creating a completely segregated nation.  Segregated communities, segregated education etc etc. In the USA we are desegregating at least in federal law and local state law is protesting and in turn the minority population being segregated is protesting back but at least with the legal support of the federal government. In South Africa they are segregating at a federal level and the protests are coming from the majority population that the segregation is being aimed at.

Mentioned at the end of the chapter, Sharpeville, is a massacre by the police which will mark a decided turn in Apartheid and the resistance to it.  That’s the subject of the next chapter, only 25 pages long.  Whew.

Suppose God is black


“Suppose God is black” was the powerful title Robert Kennedy gave to an article he wrote for Look Magazine which you can find here after his visit to South Africa which you can find described here.  He went there at the bequest of an Anti-Apartheid leader who was subsequently arrested. The quote is from a retort to a questioner of a white audience he addressed.

So to be clear South Africa is, in the time period being studied, believed by many to be inhabited by 5 distinct peoples.  There are the British Colonizers who had “Subjugated” South Africa to their rule since the 19th century.  There were the “Afrikaners”, descendants of Dutch settlers from the 17th century, described here as poor, white, farmers or laborers in the cities.  If you speak German you may recognize many words as Dutch is similar.  There are Indians, like Ghandi, who spent 1893-1914 there.  There are “Natives” in the sign above, or black Africans (with a C not a K) who are persons who have always lived in South Africa and are the most populous in the nation.  Finally there are the “Coloureds”, like Trevor Noah, whose book you should really read which you can find here. Or listen to it.  He does the voice in the audio version and I’ve heard from reliable sources that its very funny.

So here we are.  Another book.  Another country.  Another revolution.  The election of 1948 is not seen as a revolution, but it stirs a decided change in direction in South Africa that will ultimately be met with revolutionary fervor.  According to our author people in 1948 weren’t really sure how “Apartheid” was going to be different from existing segregation laws. It turned out to be very different.

That Dubow, writing in 2014, did not know of the US election in 2016 is quite surprising.  Those opening paragraphs describing the victor as being as surprised as anyone, and the discussion about whether he had really won or had the expected winner lost certainly echo some of our recent discussions here.  Later the author points out that the electoral system favored rural white voters draws even more parallels with our modern US system.

I don’t want to drag this on too far but as our familiar ground is US history it might be helpful.  Did anyone else think the Boers were sort of like the southern white culture in the US around the time of the civil war?  Inventing great mythologies of their past (Gone with the wind here), generally a poorer, working class or farming part of the population that imagines itself suffering great abuses from a larger federal or colonial antagonist.  There appear to me to be many parallels.

Finally the commentary about lynching, or the lack thereof, in South Africa as compared to the United States reminded me about an article I read about over the weekend about lynchings of Mexican Americans in the Southwest of the United States.  You can find that here.

So enjoy!  Questions, comments confusions?  Anything you find interesting, odd or confusing?  Leave a comment.  Comment early and often.

Ambrose 12 – Nixon and Vietnam

peace is at hand

“Peace is at hand” Kissinger said.  Is that really the Quote?  I swear I saw that in Ambrose this time but I can’t imagine HK uttering a phrase he would know to be so closely associated with appeasement and Chamberlain and WWII but there it is in the New York Times.  Maybe it was some kind of code.

kissinger superman.jpg

But here he is, a “brilliant”, “megalomaniac”, whose self-confidence knew no bounds.    What else can you make of A&B’s assessment of HK?  Was he a war criminal?


Was he just a doddering old man?

kissinger mccain

and how was his, and Nixon’s, foreign policy?

kissinger nixon

In a word, complicated.  Linkage appears to be a smart maneuver.  By linking things the USSR wants, like recognition of East Germany, and China wants, like recognition especially in the UN, with things the US wants, like decreased aid to Hanoi/North Vietnam one would think things might go our way.  The US starts pulling out troops and arming South Vietnam to the point of it becoming the 4th largest army in the world and South Vietnam arms nearly every man in the police and national guard, but it still all falls.

The expansion of the war into Cambodia and Laos is a disaster. The “Ho Chi Minh trail” as we call it illustrated here;


which passes through those countries, continues to successfully supply the VC in the south and in the peace negotiations HK is giving up South Vietnamese territory to try to get Le Duc Tho to sign.

Before all of this though in 1968 Nixon commits what may have been his biggest crime by wrecking the peace negotiations prior to the US elections, promising him the very narrow win over Hubert Humphrey.

Ambrose gives you lots to chew on here.  From the SALT talks to Watergate this is a big story and from his vantage point it all seems to be important.

Good stuff.  Enjoy.  See you tomorrow!