The Third International after Lenin

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Cuba and Angola the War for Freedom



Marc Lichtman

This review is from: Cuba and Angola the War for Freedom (Paperback)

While I think it’s safe to say that the Cuban Revolution wouldn’t have happened without Fidel (Leon Trotsky, with a lot more knowledge than me said the same about Lenin and the Russian Revolution), it wasn’t just Fidel + Che. Like all genuine revolutions, it involved thousands and thousands. Bourgeois history and the bourgeois press tries to make these massive upheavals the work of one or two people, just as they hugely exaggerate the importance of who wins presidential elections.

While publishing important writings, speeches, and interviews of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, Mary-Alice Waters and Pathfinder Press have also sought to publish the works of, and do books based on interviews with some of the lesser known, but nonetheless hugely important Cuban revolutionaries.

Harry Villegas had already been involved in anti-Batista activities when he joined the revolutionary army in Cuba at age 17, as part of Che’s column. He later went with Che to the Congo, where he acquired the nom de guerre “Pombo.” Later he went with Che to Bolivia, and led the group of Cubans and Bolivians who made it out alive (See Pombo: A Man of Che's Guerrilla, With Che Guevara in Bolivia 1966-68). He’s had many tasks in Cuba, but he served three tours of duty in Angola, as a brigadier general, which is what this book deals with.

(Other interviews with Pombo can be found in Making History: Interviews with Four Generals of Cuba's Revolutionary Armed Forces, and in At the Side of Che Guevara: Interviews With Harry Villegas (Pombo)).

Cuba participated in every anti-colonial and anti-apartheid struggle in Africa, starting with the Algerian Revolution. The most complete accounts of this activity can be found in the two books by Piero Gleijeses, now available as a single item for Kindle (Piero Gleijeses' International History of the Cold War in Southern Africa, Omnibus E-Book: Includes Conflicting Missions and Visions of Freedom).

If you want to start with something a bit more modest (or even if you’ve already read Gleijeses) you might want to start with this and two companion books: Cuba and Angola: Fighting for Africa's Freedom and Our Own, and How Far We Slaves Have Come! South Africa and Cuba in Today's World.

A section of the interview deals with the Ochoa affair. Some may remember that American bourgeois commentators were reporting with straight faces that someone they had never heard of before was being executed because he was a rival to Fidel Castro for leadership of Cuba! And this after they had been trying to convince us that the war in Angola, which they said he was a hero of, was hugely unpopular in Cuba!

This book tells a rather different story; as Fidel Castro said:

“at the same time that the most glorious page was being written, the most shameful one was being written, in large measure by the head of the Cuban military mission in Angola….”

The US disinformation campaign against Cuba hasn’t ended, which is another reason why books like this are so important.

This book was in the making since 2009—it’s the result of multiple interviews with Pombo, as well as extensive research to supplement his memory.

As Mary-Alice Waters says in her introduction:

“Cuba and Angola: The War for Freedom by Harry Villegas is not a military memoir. It does contain powerful eyewitness accounts of moments of combat and decisive battles in Cangamba and Cuito Cuanavale among others. Its greatest value, however, lies in the political lessons it conveys — lessons, as Pombo makes clear, that were impressed on him above all by Commander in Chief Fidel Castro, with whom he worked on this mission for more than half a decade.”

Let me also recommend two key books for understanding the relationship between the class struggle in the US and the Cuban Revolution, It's the Poor Who Face the Savagery of the US Justice System: The Cuban Five Talk of Their Lives Within the Us Working Class, and Cuba and the Coming American Revolution.

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