The Militant and Elian's Rescue - II
Jose G. Perez
jgperez at SPAMnetzero.net
Mon May 1 13:50:12 MDT 2000
In the last post I explained a little bit of the SWP's world outlook (as
best I understand it) as well as its open, declared intention to give a
proletarian voice and direction to the outrage felt by many working people
that would otherwise drive them (according to the Militant) towards nascent
Frankly, I wasn't among the outraged that the SWP is trying to reach. I
was with the people of Cuba and with the big majority of the American
working people in rejoicing that Elián had been reunited with his father,
and in upbraiding Reno, not for finally acting, but for having waited five
months to do so.
No, I didn't send any flowers to Reno, although I think I understand the
sentiment behind it, and it does not bother me. On the face of it, reuniting
Elián with his father was the right, human, caring thing to do, and many
people haven't necessarily analyzed the circumstances of the case much
beyond that. Hence the flowers, a gift identified with affection and family
ties. A recognition of the kind of bond that had been restored.
And it does not bother me because Reno's raid was a result of the battle
waged by the Cuban people with Juan Miguel González at their head to rescue
this child from the clutches of the kidnappers. Whether consciously or not,
those flowers were also a tribute Juan Miguel, and to the people of Cuba,
and I'm sure they understand it that way.
However I'm not surprised that many other working people have been
alarmed by the raid, viewing it as an arbitrary and gratuitous exercise
meant to intimidate and undercut our democratic rights.
In large part, it is an understandable reaction due to the constant lies
of the bourgeois press about how wonderful and civil and law-abiding the
Miami counterrevolutionary mafia were. The entire bourgeois political
spectrum, from Jesse Helms to Jesse Jackson, have spent months singing
Hosannas to the kidnappers, praising them, giving them a platform for the
most unrestrained anticommunist propaganda and echoing their slanders.
Before the raid, Janet Reno went to extraordinary lengths to show in
word and deed that the counterrevolutionary kidnappers were the finest, most
decent, most honest, most enterprising people that any country could have
the honor of having among its citizens.
But I'll say this for Reno: in the way she organized the raid she showed
that she, at least, didn't believe any of this bull. But that wasn't true
among many working people. I believe the duty of revolutionaries and
supporters of the Cuban revolution, and all those who campaigned for Elián
to be reunited with his dad, is to explain that a forceful operation was
justified and necessary under these circumstances; that in fact, there was
no other way to rescue the child.
We are not, of course, in a position to discuss or assume responsibility
for Reno's tactics in the rescue operation. It is inevitably true that the
way it was carried out in many ways reflects the nature of this government.
But one can say EXACTLY the same thing about trials of killer cops and
the U.S. prison system, which does not stop us from demanding that killer
cops be arrested, charged, tried, found guilty and incarcerated. Likewise,
the nature or Reno's raiders should not have prevented us from demanding
that she rescue the child and make it work, nor from recognizing now after
the fact that in broad outline, this was the kind of operation that was
necessary, a surprise raid to rescue the child by force, and that IT WORKED.
Most people do not know the violent, terrorist credentials of the Miami
mafia in general nor of the specific individuals and groups involved in this
kidnapping. But for the Militant and the SWP --whose members and supporters
have been the victims of repeated attacks by gusano terrorists and thugs
over the years-- to not expose the nature of these groups is unconscionable.
Yet look at what the paper says:
"La migra's justification for the firepower deployed in Miami was the
all-too-well-known claim of 'intelligence' reports of weapons in the house
or crowd. (How often have workers in the United States been victims of
'secret intelligence,' offered by the FBI and other police agencies,
informers, and provocateurs to justify murderous acts?)"
Sure, if it had been just the U.S. government with this ex-post-facto
explanation that a commando-style raid was necessary, I, too, would be
skeptical, anyone in the socialist movement with a lick of sense would be.
But the main force that has been denouncing the presence of weapons and
terrorist elements in the house and the crowd has not been the U.S.
government. It has been the Cuban Revolution, and in particular its
Commander in Chief, Fidel Castro. And it wasn't done after the fact to
justify and rationalize a show of force.
For at least a month before the raid Cuba had been insistently warning
that Elian's life was in danger, because the mafia had clearly lost the
political battle and in desperation, were likely to do anything.
Despite the obvious additional risks this entailed for the heroic
comrades of Cuba's security services who might have infiltrated the gusano
groups, and others collaborating with them, Cuba has made public all kinds
of specifics about the armed elements around Elian; the discussions in
counterrevolutionary groups about spiriting the child to Nicaragua or
Honduras; even such details as the fact that Lázaro González inside the
house constantly had a pistol tucked into the waist-band of his trousers.
The reason so many working people were caught by surprise that Elián had
to be rescued through a military-style raid is due to the U.S. bourgeois
press and the U.S. government systematically keeping that information, and
the real history of those involved, from the American people.
I would have thought the Militant's job would have been to break through
the bourgeois press's truth blockade, but just the opposite has happened:
"Even the relatively small size and elevated average age of the crowds that
held vigil in the streets around the González home in Little Havana should
be noted. The virtual absence of the armed counterrevolutionary
organizations that in earlier years would have furnished a cadre and played
a weighty role in events such as those of the last five months is further
confirmation that the Elian Gonzalez case will be recognized as the end of
Can anyone believe that? "The virtual absence of the armed
counterrevolutionary organizations"? In fact, the three groups publicly
identified in the press as centrally involved in the kidnapping from the
very beginning all have clear terrorist links.
The first is the Cuban American National Foundation. If functions as the
surface, "legal" apparatus of the counterrevolutionary bands. For its
bona-fides, one need look no further than the trial last fall in Puerto Rico
of five gusanos linked to this group
who were caught in the middle of an operation to assassinate Cuban leader
Fidel Castro and confessed this was their intent. The 50-caliber rifle that
was to have been used in the assassination belongs to the chairman of the
CANF. The gusanos got off scot-free, of course, and the CANF leader wasn't
even charged. More? The person who organized the bombing campaign of Cuban
tourist facilities a couple of years ago boasted in press articles that
financing was arranged by the late Jorge Mas Canosa, until his death the
central figure in the CANF.
Another group centrally involved in the kidnapping was Brothers to the
Rescue. At Elian's sixth birthday party, a week after he was kidnapped, the
piñata was an airplane labelled with the groups name, and the child was made
to say he wanted to be a pilot for "brothers" when he grew up. Its central
leader, José Basulto, is a Bay of Pigs veteran and graduate of U.S. army
counter-insurgency training. In the 1970s and 1980s, before adopting the
humanitarian "rescue" mask, he was involved in operations against Latin
American revolutionary movements. In press interviews, he has admitted to
having been a terrorist.
A third group centrally involved was Ramón Saul Sanchez's Democracy
Movement. Sánchez is a confessed member of the now-inactive Omega 7, the
most prominent gusano terrorist group in the late 1970s and early 1980s,
responsible for dozens of attacks, including bombings and assassinations.
The Democracy Movement and "Brothers" were two of the groups that provided
the core group of demonstrators that maintained the siege around Elián in
recent weeks; Sánchez was the only person injured during the raid, a result
of his having tried to physically block the officers from reaching the front
door of the house.
In addition to these three, all the usual suspects, from Alpha 66 to
the Association of Cuban Pediatricians in Exile, actively participated in
Think back on the countless interviews with Sánchez, Basulto and
Foundation leaders that have aired over the past few months. How many even
MENTIONED the checkered past and connections of these people? Think of all
the bullshit about how nice the right-wing mafia is, how peaceful, how
civilized. How many stories have there been about the HUNDREDS of terrorist
and thug attacks by the gusanos IN MIAMI ALONE over the past four decades,
the bombings, the assassinations, the attacks on peaceful meetings and
demonstrations, on forums, on artistic performances.
Yet, for the Militant, there is a "virtual absence of armed
Of course, they did not mount the vigil at Lázaro's house wearing
fatigues with "terrorist" stenciled on their back and brandishing weapons.
Is THIS what the Militant means when it talks about a lack of
counterrevolutionary "cadre"? If so, the Militant is about 15 or 20 years
late: it's been a long time since the mafia realized is was better to put
forward a "civilian" and "political" face when speaking to the American
Many arguments the Militant proffers for its opinion are simply a rehash
of material in the bourgeois press, leading the paper to parrot all sorts of
lies and propaganda. One small example, from the lead article: "An AP
photographer inside the house caught the now-famous scene of an agent with
the barrel of an automatic weapon in the face of Donato Dalrymple, one of
the fishermen who rescued the boy, holding Elian Gonzalez in his arms in a
Let's count the lies and distortions in this one sentence:
1) The AP photographer is not an AP photographer. He is a right
winger who has sells pictures on a free-lance basis to AP.
2) The agent did not have the barrel of his weapon in the face of
Donato Darlymple. The weapon is pointed down and to the side.
3) Donato Darlymple is not a fisherman. He has, by his own admission,
never caught a fish in his life. He was simply going out for a boat ride
with his cousin on a holiday when they spotted the boy.
4) All the actual rescuing was done by his cousin, who knows his way
about boats and the sea, not by Donato.
5) Donato was not holding Elian in his arms in a bedroom. As the entire
sequence of seven pictures taken by the gusano shutterbug makes clear, he
was trying to hide the child in a closet. He was actively and personally
advancing a criminal conspiracy to
perpetuate the kidnapping of this child.
In summarizing the case, the Militant's lead article describes great
González as "a Cuban-American worker and a U.S. Citizen."
The article continues: "He was given custody of the boy by the INS last
November after the six-year-old was found at sea, one of the few survivors
of the collapse of a flimsy boat carrying him, his mother, and 12 others who
had left Cuba. The INS revoked Gonzalez's custody rights April 13 and had
been involved in negotiations about turning over the boy to his father up
until the moment the raid began."
"Lazaro Gonzalez is an opponent of the Cuban revolution and became a
temporary front man for the U.S. government as he used his possession of the
boy to provide a platform from which to denounce Cuban president Fidel
Castro, smear the Cuban revolution, and attempt to gain custody of the
"Reno ordered the invasion of Gonzalez's home three days after the 11th
Circuit Court of appeals dealt a blow to the Justice Department when it
barred anyone from taking the boy from the United States until a court
hearing on what is purported to be a request for asylum by the
What's missing here?
Well let's see.
The right-wing exile groups that THREE DAYS after Elián was rescued had
already turned him into a poster child for counterrevolution, they're
As is the platoon of high-powered lawyers, including the former U.S.
attorney for South Florida, politically-connected lawyer/politicians, former
chief lawyers for the INS in Miami and other areas, all retained between
Friday when Elián came out of the hospital and Sunday, over Thanksgiving
weekend. Not bad for a "fellow worker" like Lázaro who was unemployed at the
And the gang of gusano and other right wing politicians who made the
little house in Little Havana the Mecca of counterrevolutionary pilgrimages,
they've all vanished without a trace, along with the right-wing mob that
hailed Elián as a gusano Messiah.
On the other side, Juan Miguel González, outstanding representative and
hero of Cuba's working class, is missing. In the three articles the Militant
prints opposing Reno's raid to rescue Elián, Juan Miguel's name is mentioned
ONCE -- and this only in connection with Hillary Clinton calling on him to
The Cuban people are missing here. Their tremendous, glorious campaign
to turn the entire world upside down to save this child is missing.
The grandmothers are missing, (as is Juan Miguel's trip to the U.S.).
The actions and statements of Fidel and the rest of the Cuban leadership
are missing, as is the brilliant way in which they have led this fight,
turning it into a post-graduate course in revolutionary politics and tactics
for the entire Cuban people and anyone else who was been willing to listen.
(An aside: In the more than 8,000 words of the three Militant articles,
Fidel is mentioned exactly FOUR times, each and every time citing or
describing bourgeois propaganda against the revolution, not once citing what
he said or did. I'm a rabid Fidelista from way back, so I may be prejudiced,
but it seems to me that when the greatest revolutionary communist leader of
our epoch ACTS in what may be his last great mass campaign against
imperialism, with the accumulated wisdom of half a century of revolutionary
struggle, it behooves those of us whose revolutionary accomplishments are
perhaps more modest to PAY ATTENTION, rather that dismissing what he has to
say. Arrogance, a closed mind, self importance, these are not revolutionary
virtues. Humility, an open mind, a recognition that we are all part of a
single world movement, and that even comrades with whom we disagree may be
making quite important contributions, these are the qualities we should seek
to cultivate. And as a practical matter, I have over the years found myself
in the position of not being able to agree with Fidel's position a number of
times. And in just about every single instance that I can recall, history
has convinced me Fidel was right and I was wrong. Dismissing the words and
actions of this giant of Marxism is something revolutionaries do at their
But back to the things the Militant's summary of the case leaves out.
The U.S. government's initial position giving a green light to the
kidnapping, that's missing. The INS ruling last January formally recognizing
Juan Miguel's rights as Elian's dad is missing. The ruling throwing out
Lázaro's custody suit in the local courts is missing. The federal district
court ruling against Lázaro is missing. The craven appeasement of the
counterrevolutionaries by Reno and the Clintonites is missing.
What we do have are "negotiations" to turn the boy over to his father
"until the moment the raid began" although the Militant does not breathe one
word about what a farce these were.
What is missing, in other words, are the real protagonists and the real
battle that's been waged over the past five months, a battle which was, at
bottom, one more battle in the 40-year-war U.S. imperialism has waged
against the Cuban revolution.
The reason for this is that, insofar as the Militant can see, there has
only been ONE real actor in this saga, and that is the U.S. ruling class.
As the Editorial put it:
"The Militant has insisted, moreover, that the top echelons of the U.S.
government, with brutal indifference to the consequences for an innocent
child, quickly came to see how unanticipated developments surrounding this
case could be played to advantage. Elian Gonzalez could be used to help the
U.S. ruling class polish the tarnished image of la migra, its largest and
most hated federal police force, and to strengthen the executive powers of
the imperialist state. These are strategic goals that rank high with the
U.S. rulers, as they prepare their arsenal for use against working people at
home and abroad.
"The April 22 Miami commando-style operation carried out in the wee
hours of the morning by heavily-armed special forces of the Immigration and
Naturalization Service provides striking new confirmation of the Militant's
assessment. That raid dealt a stunning blow to the right of every U.S.
resident to be 'secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,
against unreasonable searches and seizures,' as provided by the Fourth
Amendment to the U.S. Constitution...."
In other places, the Militant mounts the same sort of argument, also
throwing in that the case served as a sounding board for
We'll return to the Militant's Constitutional expertise later.
For the moment, let's look at the central contention, that the most
important things going on were U.S. ruling class efforts "to polish the
tarnished image of la migra" and "to strengthen the executive powers of the
On the face of it, the idea that the U.S. ruling class wants to "polish"
the image of the immigration Gestapo is ridiculous. One does not breed
Rottweilers to set up a petting zoo. Moreover, it contradicts the main claim
the Militant makes about the raid, which is that it was designed to
intimidate people and set a precedent for the migra to brutally trample on
As for "strengthening the executive powers of the imperialist state,"
the ACTUAL precedent that Reno set is that, contrary to the aims of the 1996
immigration law, people CAN challenge INS administrative decisions in court.
In fact, she unilaterally SUSPENDED he own decision, and INVITED the
relatives to sue.
Moreover, once in court the Clintonites did NOT present the OBVIOUS
argument against Lázaro's suit, which is that it was an attempt to wrest
legal custody of Elián from his father, a matter for CUBAN family courts
dressed up in political asylum drag. The government did not point out that
it was ABSURD to ask for a political asylum hearing for Elián, because Elián
already HAS what an asylum hearing could give him, which is the option to
stay in the U.S. as a legal resident. All Elián has to do is REQUEST legal
status under the Cuban Adjustment Act, but, of course, his father has no
intention of filing such a petition on his behalf.
Instead, Reno, after having INVITED the relatives to take her to court,
went to the judge and said, butt out, it's none of your business, I can do
anything I want in immigration matters and you're powerless to stop me. And,
oh yes, could you give me an order telling this Lázaro character to give the
child back to me?
It's no wonder that the district court judge reacted with such hostility
to the government's presentation during oral arguments, and that the appeals
court's ruling on the preliminary injunction basically took Reno out to the
woodshed for a spanking.
Here she was, publicly taking the political stance that the kidnapping
"family" had a right to its "day in court" while IN COURT she was asking the
judges to tell the relatives they had no right to be heard. And THEN she had
the unmitigated gall to ask the very same judges she was asking to REFUSE
jurisdiction to at the same time do her job for her and return the child to
his rightful guardian, his father.
Not surprisingly, with Reno unwilling to even publicly defend the
Justice Department's legal position that the courts had no jurisdiction, the
rulings went AGAINST RENO and therefore AGAINST strengthening "the executive
power of the imperialist state." While I do not think this is what really
was behind it, on the basis of the FACTS one could argue much more cogently
that Reno consciously set out to have the courts undermine the arbitrary,
unreviewable power of the executive on immigration matters.
The District Court Judge, having REJECTED the government's position that
it had NO jurisdiction, then went on to rule on the substance of the matter.
The judge felt --this is clear from his appeal to quickly reunite Elian and
Juan Miguel in the last couple of pages of his otherwise highly legalistic
ruling-- that Reno made the right decision, and that she should move to
implement it quickly, although technically his ruling was limited to finding
that the Attorney General did not abuse the discretion granted to her by
Congress in deciding that only Elian's dad could speak for him.
So much for the Militant's argument that really what was involved here
was a Clinton Administration attempt to set legal and political precedents
favorable to arbitrary INS actions.
Moreover, the Militant implies that Reno's raid was motivated by an
adverse court of appeals preliminary injunction. In fact, the SUBSTANCE of
the injunction --that Elián should stay in the country pending this appeal--
was not in dispute. Juan Miguel Gonzalez, with Cuba's support, had already
agreed to make this concession. As for the verbal spanking of the Justice
Department's "Honorable judges: drop dead" position, that was entirely
unaffected by Reno's raid.
What Juan Miguel did by coming to the United States and agreeing to stay
pending this appeal was to strip away all sorts of red herrings and
secondary matters so that the CENTRAL issue in the case, whether the child
belongs with his great uncle or with his father, stood out unobscured by
anything else. It was a brilliant move taken at just the right moment.
Yet the Militant has not said ONE WORD about this audacious tactical
move by this Cuban revolutionary, and how it forced the issue, despite
everything Reno could do to temporize and buy time for the kidnappers.
In fact, the Militant does a tremendous disservice to the interests of
working people and the truth by joining the press blockade on what REALLY
happened in the hours preceding the raid that forced Clinton and Reno's
And that was that Juan Miguel González, despite the tremendous risks
involved, told Reno that if he did not have his child in his arms on
Saturday, on Sunday he would be on a plane to Miami to get him back or die
trying. And that before leaving, he would hold a press conference in
Washington asking fair-minded American people to join him in marching on
Fidel Castro devoted much of his speech 12 hours after the raid to
presenting in tremendous detail the events that led up to the raid, with
Juan Miguel's ultimatum at the center of them. That, of course, was the
context of his statements that Reno and Clinton had done a "noble" thing by
returning Elián to his dad. Fidel laid bare for those who had eyes to see
and ears to listen what the real source of that "nobility" had been.
He did not, of course, rub Clinton's nose in the administration's
defeat, taunting him with cries of "see, we TOLD you we'd make you rescue
the child and we did." As a sharp political operator, he's always followed
the principle, "al enemigo que se retira, puente de oro." (For the enemy
that withdraws, a bridge of gold.) But at the same time that he declared a
symbolic, 24-hour truce in Cuba's struggle with Washington, he was very
careful to point out that this was only a partial victory, that the next
stages would be the fight to get Elián the help he needs in re-establishing
normalcy, even while he awaits his eventual repatriation to Cuba, and, of
course, the fight to free him and his dad from the legal entanglements that
keep them from coming home.
Now we come to the thorny thickets of constitutional law, warrantless
searches, legal precedents and the like.
At the outset, I'd like to make clear that EVEN IF Elián's rescue had
been completely extra-constitutional, with not a shred of legal authority to
cover it, I would STILL support it. Rescuing a six-year-old who has been
kidnapped by counterrevolutionaries essentially as a war trophy is the right
thing to do, and if the law does not allow it, that would be because "the
law is a ass," not because the rescue was wrong.
The Militant nevertheless spends significant time discussing the
legalities of the case, and it is wrong on every point.
The Militant approvingly quotes an editorial from the New York Times and
an op-ed column by lawyer Laurence Tribe denouncing Reno's decision "to take
the law as well as the child into her own hands."
Perhaps the Militant was blinded by its tears of sympathy for the Miami
"family" and other gusano "victims" of Reno's "brutal attack" and failed to
read in the self-same New York Times the exposure of Tribe's column as a
The officers DID in fact have a warrant; it was not just as search
warrant (as some have claimed) but a specific authorization to "seize" Elián
González; and it was obtained not under the provisions of immigration law,
but under provisions of the U.S. Code that gives government agents authority
to rescue people being held against their will, i.e., kidnapping victims.
And, yes, although it is true as the Militant notes that warrants normally
prohibit their execution in the middle of the night, THIS warrant
specifically authorized a night-time raid.
The Militant also raises the red-herring about Reno not getting a court
order telling Lázaro to hand over the boy. First, U.S. immigration laws make
no provision for such an order. It is the INS, and ultimately Reno, who have
custody of people pending clarification of their immigration status, not the
Second, Reno DID TRY to get a court order, at least two times: the first
time before the district judge, and the second time before the 11th Circuit.
In both cases the courts "declined" --to use the word of the 11th circuit
opinion-- to take the heat for returning Elián to his dad on Reno's behalf.
The shameless, open defiance by Lázaro González, his daughter "surrogate
mom" Marisleysis and the Miami Mafia of legal orders that the child be
turned over to federal authorities; Lazaro's arrogant taunts that if Reno
wanted the child, she would have to take him back by force; the
ever-more-transparent reality that this was a kidnapping; Elian's hostage
video and Diane Sawyer's innovation of child abuse as journalism; the open
letters by top child health experts called in on the case by the government
saying Elián had to be removed from this abusive environment at once; Juan
Miguel's quiet, dignified presence in Washington, giving the lie to the
absurd anticommunist propaganda that he was Fidel's puppet; the outpouring
of messages, e-mails and telegrams to the White House and Justice Department
demanding they ACT in response to Juan Miguel's public appeal; the fact that
Juan Miguel was consulted and approved of a raid to rescue his son; all of
these facts and circumstances, well-known to the American people, undercut
the idea that lies at the heart of the Militant's position that this sets a
broad new legal and political precedent.
On the contrary, in the future what will ALSO be remembered is Reno's
outrageous forbearance and patience with these thugs, going so far as to go
crawling on her hand and knees to beg Lázaro to pretty please let the boy
go, only to have him piss on her face, figuratively speaking.
The rulers, of course, did not want to set this kind of precedent, but
they were in a bind. The right-wing counterrevolutionary groups that the
Militant perceived as being "virtually absent" from this affair were in fact
at the center of it. And they form an essential prop and an important tool
in the ruling class's policy of continuing the blockade, continuing to
encourage illegal immigration, etc. Because it did not want to expose these
groups as being essentially powerless flotsam and jetsam from the wreck of
the Batista dictatorship four decades ago, the Clintonites went to
extraordinary lengths to try to find an "honorable" solution for them, some
way for them to climb down from the position that it was okay for a Great
Uncle to steal a six-year-old from his dad.
It is true that initially Washington had said, sure, go ahead, why not,
to the kidnapping. But it did not take the rulers long to figure out "why
not" once Cuba's campaign got underway. This was an open-and-shut case of
kidnapping that violated every relevant U.S. statute and a sheaf full of
international treaties. There isn't a country or culture on the face of the
planet where taking a child away from a fit and loving parent and giving him
to a distant relative the child had only met briefly once would not be
considered an outrage.
The way Washington figured it, that moral and political high ground was
an awfully big club to give to the world's undisputed champion in organizing
public, political campaigns against imperialism. And they know Fidel. There
was no way he was going to let this blow over. The man is like an
elephant -- he NEVER forgets, not on something like this.
Worse, the ideal way to solve this from Washington's point of view would
have been to "localize" it, let it be handled by a local family court,
which, following airtight legal rules, would simply hand the child back to
his father after a suitable amount of legal folderol and nonsense. The
problem was that Juan Miguel, quite understandably, would not subject
himself to the jurisdiction of such courts in Miami, and neither would
Washington, because the elected judges of the Miami courts could not be
trusted to follow the law. (As it turned out, it took about FOUR MONTHS
before a local judge, and not the one originally assigned, "noticed" that
Florida law DOES NOT ALLOW a relative so distant as a great uncle from even
coming into court to sue for custody.)
Thus Washington came up with the technicality that, actually, the child
hadn't been admitted to the U.S., that his immigration "inspection" was
still pending, in order to federalize the case.
That happened in the second week in December, and since then what
Clinton and Reno have been trying to do is to find a graceful way out for
the kidnappers. On Friday night, hours before the raid, and even as
"negotiations" continued over more bullshit proposals from the relatives
that Juan Miguel join Elian as a hostage in Miami, Reno told the Mafia
lawyers time had run out. And time had run out essentially because Juan
Miguel's patience had run out, and he made Reno and Clinton an offer they
couldn't refuse, a few more hours for them to rescue Elián or he would try
to do by revolutionary methods what Clinton & Co. had been unable to do
through bourgeois legality.
The Militant has no space for the inspiring story of this worthy son of
the working class, his tremendous courage, his revolutionary determination.
What it does have space for is extensive reports on the gusano protests
against the rescue, noting that although they had the support of local
politicos, the police quickly dispersed them when they got unruly. They also
give significant coverage to the April 25 "general strike," although the
Militant's coverage itself makes clear it was really a lock-out, not a
strike at all.
We are regaled with several "shop floor discussion" anecdotes. One
"Cuban-American mechanic" is approvingly quoted as saying at one plant that
he was considering joining the bosses' strike. "The kid belongs with his
father but they never should have done it the way they did at gunpoint in
the middle of the night."
Much more significant than the Militant's meandering report of a
half-dozen shop floor discussions is this fact: This is much more space than
the Militant has given to coverage of revolutionary Cuba's campaign to win
the freedom of the kidnapped boy since the beginning of the year.
In the first few issues following Elian's kidnapping, the Militant's
position was straightforward enough. Readers were urged to answer anti-Cuba
slanders and demand the child's repatriation. A couple of articles reported
on Cuba's campaign, although --frankly-- I don't believe they succeeded in
capturing its scope or political significance.
The Militant's lead editorial claims that "Since the day last November
when then five-year-old Elian Gonzalez was rescued from the water off the
coast of Florida, the Militant has campaigned against the Clinton
administration's refusal to immediately return him to Cuba." This is, at
best, a self-serving exaggeration. Yes, the Militant has
said --consistently-- that Elián belongs with his dad. But *campaigned*?
The fact is that the SWP has not organized a single Militant forum
around this case. It has not printed or reported on a single speech by Fidel
about the case. It has not used other Cuba-related activities it has been
involved in to prominently demand that Elián be returned to his father. And
the Militant's coverage of the battle has been perfunctory and sporadic.
The truth is the Militant's position has evolved. Early on it printed
articles about Cuba's campaign generally reflecting the idea that people
should join in and expose the anti-Cuba lies and demand the child's return.
Then early this year the coverage shifted to neutral, reporting on the
ongoing legal moves. Changing one or another adjective, you could have read
the same thing in the bourgeois press.
The March 6, issue had an editorial on the José Imperatori and Mariano
cases that was a real danger signal. Somehow the Militant missed what was
obvious to everyone else: that behind these crude frame ups was an attempt
to prevent Elián González's repatriation. It did not mention Elian's case AT
Finally, about three weeks ago, buried deep, deep in an 8,000 word (!)
the SWP's organizational projections and plans, and disguised as a report on
some conversations at the Havana book fair, the SWP leadership began rolling
out the new line more explicitly.
That line, as we have seen, is that the ruling class was consciously
the Miami relatives to keep Elian to prettify the INS's image, to set a
precedent for repression, and to have a sounding board for anti-Cuba
The Militant claimed that the ruling class was deeply divided over the
decision to send Elián back, which was portrayed not as a Clinton
Administration decision, but solely an INS decision. The Miami
groups were depicted as mere puppets willing to do Washington's bidding at
every turn, and essentially irrelevant to events.
The following issue deepened the error. There was a repetition of the
argument about the INS; in addition, the Militant opened up a whole new and
quite extraordinary line of argument, a polemic against parental rights.
Sure, the Militant concedes, Juan Miguel is a great dad.
"However, class-conscious workers state clearly that parental rights in
the abstract should not be held above the rights of children--the most
defenseless members of society.
"The abuses that children suffer--including violence, sexual assault,
and the opposition on the part of some parents to state-provided education
or health care--are manifestations of the brutality and lack of solidarity
that characterize the capitalist social order. Working people demand that
the state intercede on behalf of children in such cases."
This is a complete red herring. Just what is it about this CONCRETE
case of a fit and loving father whose child has been kidnapped by the
counterrevolutionary mafia in Miami with the acquiescence of the U.S.
government that makes it so extraordinarily suitable to propagandize around
"the rights of children" against abusive parents in the abstract? This case
doesn't pose those sorts of issues AT ALL, last-minute smears by the
gusano's lawyers notwithstanding.
The Militant impermissibly abstracts here from the racist and
anti-working class nature of "the state" to whom it is giving carte blanche
over the lives, education and destiny of the children of working people. In
doing so it panders to people influenced by right-wing propaganda about the
breakdown in "family values" and so on, propaganda which most often has a
decidedly racist edge.
Communists do NOT demand that "the state" force Indian parents to send
their children to BIA schools, that the state force Black parents to send
their children to inner city ghetto schools, that the state force Hispanic
parents to send their children to schools that will turn them into
illiterates in two languages.
Communists are FOR the bourgeois state bearing the full cost of
educating the children of working people even into the doctorate level; but
we are AGAINST the capitalist state controlling what children are taught, as
mostly happens in the United States today.
That's because, quite simply, it is not the working people who are in
need of an education by the American bourgeois state. It is rather the state
that is in dire need of an education by the people. And, when the time
comes, the people will not fail to impart the lessons.
Moreover, despite the Militant's appeal to the capitalists to "intercede
on behalf of children in such cases," they FAIL to note that they have JUST
such a case sitting right before their very noses, in the person of Elián
González. True, the child abusers are not the parents but distant relatives
aided and abetted by a cabal of bourgeois journalists, lawyers and
Yet the Militant was unable to see its way clear to demanding that the
Clintonites "intercede" -- i.e., ACT, to rescue Elián González. And,
finally, when Juan Miguel González left the imperialists no choice but to
rescue the child, the Militant turns around and DENOUNCES this very
straightforward, fully justified, and at bottom decent and humane action as
a brutal attack on the working class.
It is to be hoped that the Militant and the SWP will pull back from this
horrible mistake. Along with the three articles, the Militant prints an
extensive (for them) selection of letters, several of which argue for
pulling back from the sectarian logic of their position. And the Militant's
lead editorial itself contains a little section which contradicts the main
line of their argument.
Towards the end of the editorial, after explaining why it is important
to counter the "radical siren song of fascist demagogues" by sharing the
"outrage at the rulers' trampling of our most basic rights," the following
appears, without any kind of transition:
"Our battle to return Elián González to Cuba is not yet over. It would
be futile to predict how much longer it will take. But with each passing day
it becomes clearer that the U.S. ruling class in its majority has become
convinced that the gains from preventing the boy from going home has been
exhausted. His use value to them has been exhausted. The "caring president"
has moved on to other priorities.
"The people of Cuba have won.
"The massive mobilization of ordinary Cubans, day after day, month after
month; their determination to prevent the arrogant imperialist power to the
north from stealing a child; the spotlight of publicity around the
worldthat is what finally made it impossible for the U.S. government to
sweep the increasingly embarrassing affair (their own creation from the
beginning) under a rug."
I would suggest to the comrades of the SWP that both things can't be
true at the same time: that the American rulers won by staging a massive
assault on the rights of working people at home and that "the people of Cuba
have won." For the people of Cuba do not and can not win at the expense of
the rights of working people in the United States, it would be, at best, a
totally pyrrhic victory which could only set the stage for a redoubled
American assault against the revolution.
It IS true that whenever they make ANY concession, the imperialists try
to salvage what they can of the situation. A concession is an organized
retreat, to better and more defensible positions. Thus I could see a
rational, cogent argument that the rulers carried out the rescue, this
concession to the Cuban people, this victory for their struggle, in such a
way as to best promote the capitalists' own interests; that there was a
gross overuse of force; that the legal requirements that protect basic
rights were trampled, etc. I think it is a stretch frankly, but it does make
some kind of sense politically.
It makes sense politically because it recognizes that what this fight
has been about is the fate of Elian González, that's the core of the whole
matter. To say, as the Militant does, that the real heart of the matter lies
in the ruling class maneuvers to get favorable court rulings and set
favorable precedents just flies in the face of everything that's happened
over the past five months.
And, of necessity, one would have to ask, what's wrong with Fidel,
what's wrong with the Cuban leadership, that they cannot see the REAL
central issues involved here, and instead are going off on this tangent
about the fate of a six-year-old, as if that were the most important thing
I suggest to the SWP comrades that before they go looking for the mote
in Fidel's eye that might be obstructing his vision, they do a reality check
and see whether there isn't a beam in their own eyes that's blinded them to
the reality that the central issue in this battle has been precisely the
fate of a six-year-old boy.
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