Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Castro and the American Left

Time for me to get into more hot water with my fellow liberals (I'm a liberal - honest!). My anti-war demo/anti-semitism post has been posted on several large blogs and has become my second most hit blog entry after my liberal country songs post. I've received e-mails calling me everything from a "right wing liberal" to a "crypto-Zionist." Well, there's another area that gets me into trouble all the time, particularly with the old time communists in my family. I don't share their enamoration for Cuba. Not for Fidel. Not even for cult martyr Che Guevara, who presided over the first executions following the downfall of the Batista regime, which was, yes, an obsenity in its own right. Nor am I particularly enamored with the thugs who hail in Miami. But the left's romantic flirtations with Castro are particularly disturbing because after 90 years of history we should know better.

Castro's in the news right now with rumors of serious illness as his brother Raul has taken the reins marking the first moments that Fidel has relinquished power since taking over (here's an account from inside the country). I'll probably have more to say about it later, but I want to post an excellent piece by Leo Casey who spoke on my radio show about this very topic a couple of years ago during a particularly nasty crackdown on Cuban dissent. Leo is a socialist who works for the teacher's union in New York City. The following isn't exactly peer review journal material, but rather a quickly-typed post on the Democratic Left Yahoo list. It is a pretty close representation of some of my own thoughts on the regime. I welcome all comments.

I am not going to respond to all of the arguments made about Cuba, one by one, but I will say a few words. I have little patience, I am afraid, for tortured apologies for Castro's Cuba, for efforts to find the silver cloud in the nepotistic brand of Communist authoritarianism he has brought to Cuba.

If we were all transported to Cuba tomorrow, doing what we do in the US, we would all be in jail or worse. Organizing trade unions -- in jail. Running independent libraries -- in jail. Working as a human rights advocate -- in jail. Producing journalism or academic research critical of the regime -- in jail. Running an opposition candidate in an election -- in jail. What is sickening is that they are those who call themselves American leftists who would be only too happy to function as our jailers in Cuba. And what is incredible is the capacity for delusion, in the face of mountains of evidence, among others.
What is urgent is the fate of Cuban democrats, trade unionists, human rights advocates, economists, journalists, and librarians in Castro's jail.

All that one needs to know about Castro one can find by examining his relationship with his long-time comrade and Afro-Cuban hero of the Revolution, Arnaldo Ochoa. They fought together in the Sierra Maestra mountains, and Castro made Ochoa the commander of the Cuban troops which defeated the forces of apartheid South Africa in Angola, and then, considerably less nobly, defended the Mengistu regime in Ethiopia. But in 1989, as Communist regimes fell the world over, and when the few remaining outposts of Communism, such as China, looked
vulnerable in a way it never did before, Castro looked around for potential Cuban Gorbachevs, especially in the army. Some found their way into prison with sentences that lasted for decades. Ochoa, who had been slated for elevation to the most important military command on the island, found himself arrested a matter of days before he was to assume that command, and charged with participation in drug smuggling. [There was drug smuggling into the US, but the evidence of Ochoa's -- as opposed to Castro's -- knowledge of it and participation it was non-existent; the most that Castro could produce was evidence that Ochoa had traded for supplies for his Cuban troops on 'black markets' in Africa, and that he did not give due deference to Castro's leadership. Exhibit one was his failure to follow Castro's commands, from the frontline in Havana, on how to fight the war in Angola -- a crime for which the Angola people and Cuban troops were quite grateful, I am sure.] When Castro decided that having Ochoa in prison did not leave him secure enough, he added on the charge of treason, which carried the death penalty.

In a matter of weeks, before the ink on the indictment was dry, but after a characteristic Stalinist show trial, with a script right out of the Vyshinsky playbook, Ochoa was before a firing squad.
This is how the oldest comrades are treated in Stalinist real life, with Cuba being simply one more in a long line of such states, so long as the pose even a potential threat to the rule of the maximum leader.

It is always instructive to listen to the responses of Castro apologists when confronted with the Ochoa case. Those with a last few shreds of decency are simply stunned into silence, and make no comment. But those who do respond provide an illustration of what apologists for Stalin would do after the Stalinist show trials. The arguments that Ochoa was really involved in the drug traffic, just like the arguments that Trotsky and Bukharin and the rest really were in league with Hitler and Nazis. [And think of the ironic parallels -- it was Stalin, just as Castro, who actually committed the crime he had his rivals executed for.] The tales of how Uncle Fidel loves so much, and was so distressed and hurt to learn that Ochoa would be engaged in drug trafficking that could harm such children, that he demanded the supreme penalty.
That last argument I found particularly odious, and not because of its presentation of the dictator as the benevolent father figure. The 'Uncle' trope is so old and transparent that it inspires ridicule more than anything else.

What is odious is that Castro has shown himself completely willing to exploit children when it serves his purposes. I have heard confirmed tales of child prostitution, girl and boy, in government sponsored tourist hotel areas where Cuban could only enter with government permission and where it could only happen with tacit government approval, too often to doubt their veracity. On the leftist-trainspotters listserv, filled with the oldest fossils and relics of sectarian Maoism and Trotskyism on the Internet, I read one of the former leaders of Scandinavian Maoism who stills holds to the Stalinist faith, describe being solicited by a young Cuban boy in the middle of a school day on a beach outside a Cuban tourist hotel. The great Cuban revolution which ended vices of Yankee imperialism, eliminating prostitution and drug trafficking, now turns a blind eye to Cuban children selling themselves, as it boosts the tourist trade.
Do you want to know why I have so little respect for Saul Landau? Put his name and Cuba into a Google search engine, and one of the very first articles you will find is his defense of Castro against the charge of child prostitution. Bush said it, Landau concludes, so it can't be true.

Yes, and for the record, I am against the embargo. It, and the crazy ultra-right wing exiles in Miami, only provides Fidel with continued justification for his authoritarian rule. Down with the embargo, and down with Fidel.

One of the most bizarre ideological changes that has occurred in militant Leftism is the abandonment of "the People" in favor of "the Environment". It seems the need to control social change for such activists far-outweighs any humanitarian or ecological considerations. This is why it local enviros don't mind at all hurting the lives of Humboldt workers whose lives they have abandoned in favor of protecting capitalist-owned trees. It's totally schizoid Leftism yet it is the leftover Left we have today.
Steve, your comment makes no sense.
Steve - I'm lost too.
What? Did I hit a cognitive dissonance note?

Compare the Left in Humboldt County during the Depression days when the Left meant loggers unions battling capitalist owners vs. the Left since Redwood Summer battling for the trees and not the loggers whom they don't really care about.

The gross attempts to drag in outside union organizers from United Steelworkers who also didn't care a fig about local loggers and only wanted to exploit the enviro-political situation for their own benefit, also showed the difference. The People were/are abandoned in favor of the Trees. The People, except yuppie simps, are abandoned in the local Left's promotion of petite bourgeousie capitalist boutique shop keepers. Simple as that.
Oh, as in the old Communist Party adage "ecology is a bourgoise science."

Is that the connection with Castro?
The steelworkers were getting screwed by Hurwitz just as the loggers were.

Judi Bari, who was a carpenter herself, spoke out for the workers and gave them a platform through her radio show. It was clearly not just about the trees.

How many lefty enviros do you know, Steve? It appears you just lump them all together to further your bitterness over the fact that EPIC didn't jump on your Heartlands idea. Get over it.
Communism is a fascist ideology that hides its elitist rulership by force under the banner of helping the People by fighting the capitalist system. Castro is part and parcel of that ideology which history has exposed as inadequate to meeting even the basic material needs of the People, let alone luxuries such as individual freedom.

Personally, in my experience with radical activist organizers, they have a strong tendency to follow the alpha domination pattern and not social wisdom and that to me is the root of the social injustice problem worldwide. We don't need capitalist alpha people at war with socialist alphas, each competing for higher status within their own social sphere with the benefits to the people secondary to gaining political power position.

I've come to see that it isn't the political ideology that determines a person's character. It is their spiritual attitude or lack there of, their faith in their fellow human being in humanity's place in Creation coupled with a personal code of honor that disallows dishonesty or power seeking for personal career advancement. In short, communitarian concern, concern for the whole community with none left out.
Steve should really take a chill pill sometime.
But I'm just getting warmed up. For saving ndns, redwoods, Pals, souls, or belly-button lint, you need look no further than your neighborhood biomystic.
It's interesting to me Eric- how does your pro-Castro mother react to blogging entries like this?
We've had a few arguments. She's been there several times, and she focuses on the positive experiences of the people she meets, and doesn't trust the information about dissenters being jailed and the like. She said she saw armories filled with guns with minimal guarding, and believes that if the Cuban people were disastisfied the government would be overthrown easily.

Of course, whether the majority are "satisfied" isn't really the point even if it was true, but we haven't really discussed it since a few years ago when I signed Casey's Nation petition.
I see. So the child prostitutes offered by the police and the AK-47's on every corner struck her as normal, did they.

Yeah, I went there with three people once. Two people (my friend and girlfriend) looked straight through the tropical hell we were in. The other two (my friends' wife and myself) were openly horrified by the babies offering us sex, despite having gone there to "disprove" capitalist "lies". I do note that both couples split soon thereafter.

Ask your mother one day what she thought or how she excused the babies. I'm just curious. Cuba is definately a political acid test.
She didn't encounter any of that. I'm not saying it isn't there. But it wasn't in her experience.

My senior partner's family didn't either, although one of the daughters had her money out at one time and a woman approached her and suggested she put it away because some guys were eying her who looked like they might be interested in taking it. But nobody's told me anything about AK47s on the streets. Perhaps times are different.
For reference, when were you guys there?
I've never been there. Jim was there in or around 1990. My mother was there once in the late 90s and another time about 3 or 4 years ago.
'90. Before the Soviet sugar supports tap went off, I hasten to add.

Fucking Orwellian hellhole. Totally evil. Not a single redeeming feature.
Yes, well, the others I've spoken to, not enamored with Castro, found plenty of redeeming features.
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