jacdon at jacdon at
Thu Jun 29 11:59:11 MDT 2000

By Jack A. Smith, Highland, N.Y.
June 29, 2000

        Elian Gonzalez is finally back home in Cuba with his father and
family, where he belongs.  This is a victory for human rights, child
rights and family rights.
        Of course it was a triumph for Cuba, but Elian’s return is also
a victory for the majority of the American people, which in dozens of
opinion polls over the past seven months has consistently supported
sending the child home to his father. Those who sought to keep this
kidnapped and traumatized 6-year-old in the U.S. with right-wing distant
relatives who exploited him for political purposes, have always been a
minority--even if their ranks included Al Gore and George W. Bush.
        The final outcome in this saga is also a victory for the various
organizations and their supporters which have been agitating and
demonstrating for the return of the child for the entire period he had
been held captive in the United States, principally--on the national
level-- the National Committee to Return Elian Home to Cuba,
International Action Center (IAC), IFCO/Pastors for Peace, U.S.-Cuba
Friendshipment, Global Exchange, Venceremos Brigade, as well as other
organizations connected with the National Network on Cuba.
        Hundreds of groups participated on the local level.   For example, in
our Mid-Hudson Valley area of New York State,  chapters of the National
People’s Campaign and IAC, joined by the local Caribbean and Latin
America Support Project, activated hundreds of neighbors in several
“Send Elian Home” street protests.  Hundreds of others communicated
their views to the White House, Congress, the Justice Dept. and their
newspapers and friends over the months.  All told, we estimate some 400
people in our semi-rural region joined the struggle in one way or
        Now that this fight has ended in a victory,  another must begin: The
fight for a total end to the U.S. embargo and the establishment of
normal relations between our country and Cuba.
        The Elian Gonzalez affair took place in the midst of a gradual
transformation in U.S. ruling-class views toward how best to respond to
the irritation of having a small, independent socialist country situated
in a hemisphere entirely dominated by Uncle Sam. This is why
Washington’s policy toward Elian appeared so contradictory--with the
Clinton administration haltingly doing one thing, while this year’s
Democrat and Republican presidential candidates were doing another.  The
fact that the large majority of the American people supported Clinton’s
tilt toward sending the boy home undoubtedly will figure in the final
outcome of ruling-class thinking about Cuba.
        For four decades that ruling class was essentially unified in
projecting a hostile policy of total subversion toward Havana, including
an invasion, many attempted assassinations, crop destruction and so on.
It was united on imposing the initial economic blockades 40 years ago
and tightening sanctions during difficult period for Cuba in early 90s
when its economy plunged due to the breakup of the Soviet Union, it’s
principal trading partner and ally.
        But times have been changing.  The Soviet Union/East European project
collapsed a decade ago, ending the pretext for continuing the Cold War.
The great majority of world nations now oppose continuing the subversion
and blockade against Cuba, judging by lopsided UN votes to end the
sanctions. Many countries are disregarding U.S. dictates and are trading
and investing in Cuba, much to the chagrin of American corporations.
        All but the hard-core far right and opportunist mainstream politicians
pandering for votes now realize the old subversive policy has become
counter-productive.   It hasn’t destroyed Cuban socialism. It’s giving
the U.S. a black eye in international affairs.  U.S. capitalism is
losing out to its European rivals, and so on.
        Change, obviously, is required. U.S. business interests and farmers are
uniting  to call for an end to the blockade.  There is maneuvering in a
hesitant Congress.  Many Americans feel that since normal relations and
permanent trading rights were extended to China, Cuba is deserving as
well.  Millions of citizens believe  the far right played a very
destructive role in the case of Elian Gonzalez and were appalled by the
suggestion that a kidnapped child should not be returned to his
remaining, loving parent.
        Thus, the ruling-class attitude toward Cuba is transforming. A new
consensus now appears to be forming in the upper echelons of wealth and
corporate privilege. It seems that the contradiction in Cuba policy will
soon be resolved in the political sphere with a gradual easing of the
embargo and the eventual normalization of relations between Washington
and Havana.
        This a positive development--but it contains dangers  for Cuba as
well.  Also, it has provided Cuba’s political friends in the United
States with several groups of rather unusual “allies” in the struggle,
including those who will continue to seek the overthrow of Cuban
socialism by other means.
        Traditionally, most of the U.S. left has fought to end Uncle Sam’s
embargo and subversion in order to save Cuba’s socialism, independence
and sovereignty. Now the left is being joined by political sectors which
want to end the embargo for other reasons.
        The big corporations now want to get into investment, trading and
profit-making in Cuba--and this will have a big impact on the Republican
and Democratic parties.  The farm bloc wants to sell agricultural goods
to Cuba.  This is a very important constituency. Masses of American
people seem to think present policy is patently unfair and a violation
of human rights, which makes U.S. democracy look bad.   In addition, a
number of liberals and conservatives alike recognize that the present
policy has not succeeded in destroying socialism; that a better way is
to deprive communism of the “excuse” of a U.S. embargo for its
shortcomings;  that if the U.S. has normal relations when President
Fidel Castro dies, there is a chance of being able to win Cuba back into
the capitalist orbit--and so on.
        The U.S. left must work with these sectors in stepping up the campaign
to end the embargo and restore normal relations--but understand that
many of them agree with the continuing U.S. government assessment that
socialism must be reversed in Cuba and prevented from developing
elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere.  They want this accomplished by
other, more liberal and “humanitarian” means than heretofore employed.
        Thus, it is incumbent on the U.S. left to not only support the lifting
of sanctions, but to emphasize--especially to new forces in the
anti-embargo struggle--that the Cuban people  have the right to live in
the kind of social system they want.  And there can be no doubt that,
despite grave hardships, the great majority of Cubans today want to live
in a socialist society.
        Some of Cuba’s U.S. friends are concerned that a realignment in Yankee
policy may seduce Cuba into too close an embrace with capitalism,
especially after the economic reforms the government was forced to
introduce a few years ago to survive the downfall of the USSR and
stronger sanctions.  The Cuban Communist Party is hardly unaware of this
negative aspect within the positive goal of ending the U.S. embargo and
normalizing relations and has taken  pains to insure that the country’s
young, second-line leadership is well-trained, tested and imbued with
the party’s revolutionary spirit.  Likewise, the Cuban masses--even in
Cuba’s darkest hour a few years ago--have demonstrated no inclination to
jettison the benefits of socialism; indeed, they seek more, which is
what the party and government leadership hope to provide when
Washington’s stranglehold is relaxed.
        The next step in the development of Cuban socialism is up to the Cuban
people.  The job for the U.S. left and support movement, it seems to me,
is to  accelerate the drive to end the embargo and establish normal
relations, which still has many difficult roadblocks in its path, and to
influence the American people to respect Cuba’s right to exist as a
socialist society.
        The 11 million Cuban people will not be the only ones to benefit from
an end to the embargo.  How about the American people?  After all, with
all its problems, socialist Cuba supports a marvelous healthcare and
education system far superior to that available to several score
millions of working people and the poor in the U.S. It is a society
which has learned to eliminate racial distinctions and
antagonisms--another lesson which will not be lost on many millions more
living in the Yankee colossus.  And in proportion to size, Cuba has a
significantly lower jail population than we have--among many  more
accomplishments.   Closer relations with our neighbor may well teach the
American people some important lessons that will help to advance the
working-class struggle here at home.
        Elian's finally  home.  Now, the real work begins.
Author’s note: Our group, the Mid-Hudson National People’s Campaign,
published a pamphlet last year to provide background history and
information for organizations and individuals who wish to become more
active in the anti-sanctions movement.  The title is, “The Cuban
Revolution--40 years of struggle 1959-99.’’ It costs $2.50, which
includes postage and handling. (Cheaper bulk prices on request.)  Place
your order by Emailing jacdon at   Make out your check to
Mid-Hudson NPC and send it to P.O. Box 523, Highland, NY 12528.

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