[Marxism] ISO on CPD cuba statement

Andrew Splane andrewsplane at gmail.com
Wed Nov 21 21:49:10 MST 2007


the relevant section:

The right to self-determination

The latest spat between Cuba and the U.S. was accompanied by a debate
within left and liberal circles about the appropriateness of Cuba's
actions against dissidents and refugees. Internationally renowned
writers and intellectuals, some very well respected inside the global
justice movement, offered harsh criticism of Cuba. "This is the end of
the road. From now on Cuba will go on its own way, while I stay here,"
announced Portuguese Nobel Prize winner José Saramago. "It is very bad
news–and very sad–for those of us who admired the valor of this tiny
country, so capable of greatness, but who also believe that freedom
and justice go together or not at all," wrote Uruguayan writer Eduardo
Galeano in The Progressive, in an article titled "Cuba Hurts."

Several open letters began to circulate internationally, expressing
contrasting perspectives regarding support or criticism of the Cuban
government. One, spearheaded by Leo Casey of the Democratic Socialists
of America (DSA), while sharply critical of Cuba's attacks on basic
freedoms, virtually ignored the long history of U.S. intervention and
intimidation. For this reason, many prominent left-wing intellectuals
refused to endorse it. A second letter was initiated by the Campaign
for Peace and Democracy. It tried to achieve a balance between its
criticism of Cuba–declaring that "the imprisonment of people for
attempting to exercise their rights of free expression is outrageous
and unacceptable"–and warning against the more dangerous actions of
the U.S. It makes a great effort to emphasize opposition to the Bush
administration's war in Iraq and other imperialist policies, and
flatly rejects any U.S. effort to undermine Cuba's self-determination.
This letter has been endorsed by many prominent and admired leftist
intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn and Cornel West.
Traditional supporters of Cuba have responded vigorously, emphasizing
that the Cuban Revolution has been under attack by the U.S. for 44
years, that it cannot afford to have internal divisions used by the
U.S. to regain control over the island–particularly in Bush's new era
of "preemptive wars"–and that any criticism of Cuba plays into the
U.S. hands.

The question here is whether one can defend the right of Cuba–or any
other country, regardless of its government–to self-determination, and
still be critical of it. The issue seems to be complicated in the
minds of many by the judgment they make about the nature of the Cuban
regime–whether it is a beacon of hope, a courageous example or a
rigid, undemocratic state. Black actor and activist Danny Glover shed
some light on this issue in response to inquiries by Chicago Tribune
editorial board member Clarence Page. Glover has been under attack by
the right wing in the U.S. for opposing the war on Iraq, and more
recently for signing on to yet another open letter that was published
on May 1 in Granma, Cuba's official newspaper–this one also signed by
a collection of internationally respected writers and intellectuals,
many of them from Latin America. This letter–titled "To the Conscience
of the World"–is a morally charged, politically modest condemnation of
the violation of the right to self-determination of Iraq by the U.S.,
and a warning against any attempt by the U.S. to do the same with
Cuba. In an article otherwise critical of Glover's position, Page
wrote that "[Glover] defended the letter as a call for 'Cuba's right
to self-determination,' not as an endorsement of Castro's human rights

This is the crux of the question. Defending a country's right to
self-determination does not imply a political endorsement of its
government. The government in question may be "more progressive" or
may be more right-wing. It doesn't matter. The U.S. does not have the
right to meddle in, destabilize, or invade any country of the world,
no matter what fanciful or grotesque excuses it uses to justify it.
Manuel Noriega was a thug, but the U.S. did not have the right to
invade Panama in 1989 in what ended up being the most expensive and
bloody "drug bust" in history. Saddam Hussein was a ruthless dictator,
but all the millions who opposed the war were right in rejecting the
notion that somehow Hussein's despotism justified the U.S slaughter
and the current occupation.

Unfortunately, the statement of the Campaign for Peace and Democracy
(CPD), while abstractly defending the right to dissent in Cuba,
ignores the way that the U.S. engineered the current crisis. Given the
endless history of U.S. intervention in Cuba, and all the efforts of
the Bush administration to instigate the latest crisis, of those who
sincerely believe and defend the right of small/weaker nations to
their self-determination, how many believe that the U.S. funding and
managing of the imprisoned dissidents was honestly intended to create
true democracy and justice in Cuba? For this is the key issue. You
cannot claim to be fighting for democracy while giving away one of the
most fundamental democratic rights, the right to self-determination.
It is hard to imagine that these dissidents did not know whom they
were dealing with and what was at stake. Even one of the best-known
dissidents, poet Raúl Rivero–who claims to have had scarce contact
with U.S. diplomats–has acknowledged willingly contributing reports to
Radio Martí.11 Radio Martí is a Miami-based, U.S.-funded radio station
run by Cuban exiles that is so discredited that even Philip Peters, a
State Department official in the Reagan and Bush, Sr. administrations,
recommended that "[i]t should be moved back to Washington, placed
under Voice of America control and expected to meet high standards of
quality journalism and commentary."12

The CPD's statement also ignores the fact that when you live in the
belly of the beast you have to start from the recognition that there
is no symmetry between the evils of U.S. imperialism and those posed
by any Third World regimes. Particularly in the current climate of
aggressive and unabashed imperialist expansion by Bush and Co.,
whatever one's political position on Cuba may be, a statement of
condemnation, however "balanced," just serves at this moment as a
"left" cover for the U.S. to crank up its pressure on the island. It
is one thing to have an analysis that is critical of the regime, but a
different one to issue signed public statements of criticism in the
midst of the post—September 11 Bush Doctrine. That places one,
willy-nilly, in the service of those working to increase U.S.
influence in Cuba. That is why Glover is right. Would it have been
right before the invasion of Iraq to issue a statement condemning
Saddam's horrific treatment of political prisoners, or to focus on
statements condemning a U.S. invasion? But it was also on this count
that the CPD erred, by issuing an analogous statement both condemning
Hussein and opposing a U.S. invasion before the war–in practice making
the two of them equal political problems. It is not a situation that
calls for "balance" when you live in belly of beast.

This is part of a fifteen-year trend among left and liberal
intellectuals in the U.S. in which the practice of taking a principled
and firm stand against U.S. imperialism has been eroded and replaced
by "pragmatism" and capitulations to it. In the aftermath of the
collapse of the Soviet Union, with the U.S. as the only superpower,
increasing numbers of intellectuals fell into the trap of supporting
U.S. military interventions. Camouflaged as "humanitarian" military
operations under the Clinton administration, plenty of them supported
at one time or another actions such as the invasion of Haiti, which
disarmed peasants and other oppositionists of the military regime, the
murderous intervention in Somalia, the bombing of Bosnia–which led to
the largest ethnic cleansing episode of that war–and the bombing of
Belgrade–in which scores of innocent civilians were slaughtered. This
is why, when Bush inaugurated the first leg of his "war on terrorism"
on Afghanistan, a poor country devastated by 20 years of war, many of
these intellectuals supported it in the name of "self-defense" and
"justice." Principled anti-imperialism has been replaced by abstract
exhortations in support of "democracy" and "freedom"–a demagogic realm
in which the U.S. ruling class and its media servants have
unparalleled supremacy. This is a political straightjacket in which
any criticism of the U.S. has to be counterbalanced by criticism of
the "other side"–regardless of how this "one for you, one for me"
approach undermines any determined struggle against the international
abuses inflicted by the U.S.

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