If you thought socialism was a failure…


…you really need to check the CIA’s track record. After all, part of their job was convincing sheeple like you and me, by planting false stories in the media, that socialism was destined for failure. Another part was the hounding and assassination of socialist leaders (which could also be understood as “fail, or we kill you!”). And a third was sabotage, like this shameful incident reported in the UK Observer:

On a chilly October night in 1964, the shipping forecast warned of fog on the Thames. Just after midnight, an East German freighter, the MV Magdeburg, slipped out of her Dagenham dock and headed slowly down river. On deck were 42 Leyland buses bound for Cuba.

Coming the other way was the Yamashiro Maru, a Japanese ship, sailing empty. The ships met at 1.52am. The Magdeburg was making the tight turn around Broadness Point when the Yamashiro Maru ploughed into her starboard side at more than 10 knots, holing her below the waterline and pushing her across the river.

‘It was an accident, an act of God,’ insisted Keith Toms, a tug crewman on the Thames that night. And that was the conclusion. No one was killed, there was no inquiry, no one was accountable and only Leyland Motors, forced to replace the buses, suffered.

Now a historian has found documents that add weight to the suspicions of academics that the ship was rammed at the behest of the CIA – as part of an effort to sabotage anyone breaking the US embargo on Fidel Castro’s Cuba.

With the Americans threatening to blacklist any shipowner breaking the ‘transportation blockade’, Leyland Motors decided to use an East German ship. It was in the maritime archives of the former German Democratic Republic that John McGarry found evidence given by Gordon Greenfield, the British pilot of the Magdeburg, stating that the Japanese ship broke international law by navigating the wrong way and giving misleading signals. The captain and pilot of the Yamashiro Maru refused to speak.

McGarry believes a crime was committed. ‘I felt that the question of CIA involvement might be resolved by an examination of the pilots’ logs which were supposed to be stored at Trinity House and in the Port of London Archives. They cannot be found. The East German papers show Greenfield was deceived by someone on the Yamashiro Maru who sounded a single siren blast before the collision, an intention to pass port to port,’ he said.


In 1975, Washington Post reporters Jack Anderson and Les Whitten cited sources who claimed that a British intelligence wiretap on Cuban offices in London gave the CIA the Magdeburg’s movements, despite two Prime Ministers, Alec Douglas-Home and Harold Wilson, backing the export deal engineered by Leyland’s famed salesman Donald [later Lord] Stokes.

Anderson, a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, is dead, but Whitten, 80, told The Observer that they had two sources. ‘Jack’s contacts were in the CIA and my contacts were in the National Security Agency. I don’t remember a lot but I do know our sources were pretty good, the best really.’

Harold Elletson, director of the New Security Foundation in Berlin, said: ‘It would be naive to think that the CIA wouldn’t dare sink an East German ship in the vital estuary of a Nato ally. They were under pressure to get results and they had a huge budget for sabotage. In 1962 the British freighter Newlane was machine-gunned loading Cuban sugar. The CIA poisoned 14,135 bags of Cuban sugar on the British ship Streatham Hill in 1962 in Puerto Rico.’

Douglas-Home backed Leyland and President Lyndon Johnson refused to speak to him. In April 1964, minister Rab Butler was called to see Johnson. ‘His reward was a tongue-lashing,’ wrote Anthony Howard in the Spectator, ‘during which the great, glowering figure behind the desk reached in his pocket to produce a wad of dollar bills which he flourished as he instructed Her Majesty’s Britannic Foreign Secretary to come to him in future if his country wanted a cash handout rather than go selling buses to Cuba.’

Anthony Glees, professor of intelligence studies at Buckingham University, said: ‘That it was a deliberate sinking doesn’t sound entirely implausible. I’ve a very low estimation of the CIA and its work throughout the Cold War – it’s a history of failure. What would have been inconsistent is that they had an operation in the Thames they got away with.’

There you go. Just another incident that proves that socialism is an almighty (and predestined) failure, and that capitalism’s virtue is its own reward. Honestly, how would they have managed it if not for the CIA, that bastion of boy-scouting?

By synchronistic, Jungian coincidence, I read yesterday in Gaeton Fonzi’s excellent account of CIA skulduggery, The Last Investigation, which treats specifically of the CIA/Cuban mafia aspect of the JFK assassination, that the CIA had its fingers in a number of pies where sabotaging Cuba was concerned. One example of just how deeply involved they managed to get was to convince a German manufacturer of ball bearings to ship Cuba a defective load–the bearings were all off-centre, a fault sure to damage any machinery in which they were installed. If said machinery had to do with any of Cuba’s chief export products (say, sugar or cigar tobacco), it could do real damage to the Cuban economy, which then as now was highly dependent on exports.

The crapaganda value of things like that is not to be underestimated. If Cuba experienced economic failure, guess who would have been trumpeting the loudest about how Fidel Castro’s evil dictatorship was strangling the island, and how an open US military intervention (as opposed to a Nacht und Nebel attack like the Bay of Pigs) would be necessary, as nothing less could “free” it?

So no, I’m not surprised that the CIA engaged in the plausibly deniable gambit of bribing a Japanese ship’s captain to ram and sink an East German vessel carrying British buses–vital to Cuban public transport–on its way down the Thames. Just another inevitable failure of socialism, eh?

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2 Responses to If you thought socialism was a failure…

  1. janfromthebruce says:

    Making socialism a failure continues to be the retort of those who cling to “capitalism as the lesser of evils” syndrome.
    Similarly, it is the same kind of political meme used that “the NDP will never be in power so don’t waste your vote.”
    It’s propaganda based on manufactured consent.

  2. Precisely. I gave up nose-holding a decade ago. Even in my conservative riding (which alternates between red and blue more or less regularly), there is no shortage of people who want a real change, not just the usual game of Duopoly. Some are discouraged from voting for precisely that reason, but I hope that discouragement won’t last much longer.

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