The Militant's Partial Correction on Elian's Rescue
Jose G. Perez
jgperez at SPAMnetzero.net
Mon May 15 12:25:11 MDT 2000
[Although only being posted/emailed now, this was drafted a week ago,
before the May 22 issue of the Militant, which contains a Steve Clark
polemic against me, became available. I held off posting this, which is an
answer to a Steve Clark article in the May 15 Militant criticizing Karen
Wald, in part to see whether the May 22 issue further corrected the SWP's
approach to the Elián González case, something which might have made this
article outdated or counterproductive. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to
be the case.
[I realize that many comrades are put off by these kinds of discussions.
I believe in this case it is unavoidable, given the counterposed positions
on Elián's rescue.
[I do not know whether or when I will respond to the Steve Clark article
that takes me up personally in the May 22 issue. Frankly, it looks to me
like 5,000 MORE words all to the effect of: "Elián who?" It seems the
Militant has time and space to discuss anything and everything under the
sun --including the sins of this miscreant, who I would have thought was
hardly worth it-- except their real analysis of the Elián González case and
Cuba's campaign to win his freedom, which is obviously what lies behind
their off-the-wall position on the raid that rescued Elián.
[One point, however, merits being taken up immediately.
[Clark tries to sharpen things up at the end of his article by
accusing me of making an "amalgam" by noting that the Militant, the gusanos,
the right-wing talk show hosts and the Yahoo wing of the Republican party
were all simultaneously on a "campaign" to denounce Reno's raid as a
violation of civil liberties. He says this "method ... has consequences
too--the justification of unconscionable slander and goon violence against
those 'objectively in the camp' of whoever it may be, whether the Nazis a
half century ago or the 'gusano mafia' today."
[All this stuff about justifying slanders and goon violence is drawn
from Steve Clark's imagination; it has nothing to do with my positions nor
anything I have ever said, written or done. I believe now more than ever
that those of us on the Left, whether we like it or not, are part of a
common movement, that every criticism is in this sense a self-criticism;
that even when the immediacy of a political issue drives us to sharp
expressions and polemics, we must keep in mind the underlying goal, which is
to strengthen the unity of the movement by overcoming these differences
through discussion and debate, not slanders and fisticuffs.
[And given Clark's concern about amalgams, he might want to reflect
about what this material suggesting I'm going to wind up supporting
anti-democratic practices is doing in his article. For my part, I do NOT
believe what I did was to make an "amalgam" but to describe an actual state
of affairs, in the hope that the comrades would wake up and recoil from the
position that they had put themselves in. This they have actually done, at
least partly, as I explain in what follows.]
* * *
Having gone completely off the deep end on Cuba in the May 8 issue, the
following week's Militant tried to struggle back to firmer ground with a
lead article by SWP leader Steve Clark headlined, "Cuban Sovereignty is the
Issue." The problem is that while the Militant's tone and stance has shifted
(which is all to the good), its underlying position hasn't.
As many know, the Militant opposed the rescue of Elián González. (I
know, the Militant doesn't put it in those terms, but look at it from Juan
Miguel's point of view). That's because while we chumps who were out there
petitioning and picketing and marching for Elián's freedom thought this was
about the kidnapping of a six year old, the Militant knew better.
Bourgeois tricks like pretending to rescue a six-year-old hostage can't
fool the Militant. With their SuperCommunist X-Ray Vision they could see
that what the bourgeoisie was really doing was trying to give its
immigration cops a kinder, gentler, more humane, downright grandmotherly
image by savagely brutalizing the most elemental democratic and human rights
of a humble fellow worker AND American Citizen, Lázaro González.
Thus the SWP went on campaign footing --which (let's cut the bullshit)
they had NEVER done for Elián -- to denounce Reno's raid. They and the
counterrevolutionary gusano mafia, the right wing radio talk show hosts, the
Congressional Republicans, were all campaigning simultaneously against the
raid. And the SWP even wound up repeating many of the same lies, like that
Reno's raiders had no proper judicial warrant to take the boy.
I'm not sure when the SWP woke up and realized it was in a de facto bloc
with the gusanos and the most openly reactionary mouthpieces of American
imperialism. But it must have been obvious even to the SWP leadership
that this was an extremely awkward situation for any group that
claims to defend the interests of the working people. It is hardly
surprising that letters of protests rained down on the Militant, "more,"
Steve Clark admits, "than the editor has room to print even in an expanded,
full-page letters column."
And, mind you, they didn't fit even after "the editor" cut those
parts of the letters the SWP found politically unanswerable, such as Karen
Lee Wald's comment from Havana: "at least don't be so arrogant as to insist
that your view is the only way a 'communist' would see the issue (saying
your editorial 'presents the communist viewpoint on the brutal and
unconstitutional INS assault in Miami') -- because in doing so, you are
writing off the millions of communists on this island, who don't happen to
agree with you."
Steve Clark begins his article in the May 15 issue by finally, after
FIVE MONTHS, quoting some comments by Fidel Castro around Elian's case,
recounting how it developed.
The thrust of this initial section of the article is captured in the
headline, "Cuban Sovereignty is the Issue."
It certainly is a central issue in this case, and I'd be the last to
complain for the Militant understanding at least THIS much, especially
considering how much more sensible a statement THIS is than the claim that
by restoring Elian to his dad, the Clintonites had trampled on the "rights"
of that scumbag Lázaro González, his koo-koo daughter/surrogate coparent
Marisleysis, and their accomplices, which, for the Militant, was "the issue"
the week before.
But sovereignty is not "the" issue in the sense that it is the ONLY
central issue here. In this case, the issue of sovereignty presents itself
intertwined with the issue of the rights of Elián and Juan Miguel.
And it is the combination of these different issues that has helped propel
the struggle around this case.
The MOST important thing to understand is this: Cuba has waged an
ideological and political war because Elian's kidnapping was an assault on
the very core of Cuba's revolutionary soul.
In the FIRST post I wrote about this issue, I pointed to what one might
even call this MORAL dimension of this battle as its most important one:
"I think it will be difficult for many in the U.S. to understand the
depth of feeling in Cuba on this issue. Cuba is an extremely future-looking,
child-centered society. For decades the government's highest priority has
been the nurturing, the education and the protection of children. Cuba IS a
village when it comes to raising children." [Cuba Fights Back, posted to the
Cuba Sí list Monday, Dec. 6, 1:53 PM]
Hours later I was explaining to people on the Marxism list why Cuba had
absolutely bezerk about this issue:
"Fidel's parting words when he talked to reporters Sunday night
[actually is was Saturday, I had been misled by the penchant for inaccuracy
of the Miami Herald] captured this sense of outrage:
" 'I do not recall an example of any aggression throughout all these
years that has equaled this one, nor any action as gross, cruel, absurd or
criminal as this one.' (No recuerdo ningun ejemplo de agresion en todos
estos años que sea igual que este, ni acto tan grosero, cruel, tan absurdo,
tan criminal como este.)
"It may seem ridiculous from an American point of view that a statesman
like Fidel Castro could say such a thing. After all, what is little Elián's
fate compared to the Bay of Pigs, the countless assassination plots, or the
Missile Crisis when Kennedy came within hours of blowing up the entire
"Eliancito, as his grandmother calls him, is quite simply Cuba, the
revolution, all of it. Everything that Cuban patriots fought for in the last
century, everything that the revolution has fought for and built since 1959
has been done for him. If you tear down an old society and start building a
new one, and you make its cornerstone solidarity, and you make the children
its highest priority, and you make the creation of a new kind of human being
your strategic goal, this is what you get.
"For Cuba, the battle to free Elián is a life and death struggle. Cuba
will never abandon him because to do so would be to abandon the most
precious conquest of the revolution, its humanity, its communist soul."
[Granma: The Cuban People Will Defend Elián posted to the Marxism list 1:20
a.m. Dec. 7]
* * *
I am quoting this from way back then so people don't think that I'm
making it up now to beat up on the Militant even as it is retreating from
the extreme and indefensible stance it took previously, that I'm "moving the
goal posts" to use the current catch phrase.
I think the Militant is right to highlight the centrality of the
sovereignty issue, but they have let it blind them to other aspects of the
case with which this issue has been inextricably intertwined. What has
really moved people is the plight of Elián, the violation of Juan Miguel's
role as Elian's father, Elian's rights as his son, and the horrendous use
and abuse of this child by the U.S. government and Cuban
Obviously sovereignty is centrally involved in all this --they were
doing it to Juan Miguel precisely because he is Cuban-- but there's a lot
more involved, and Steve Clark goes way out of his way to avoid those
aspects of the fight.
I can guarantee you from having worked for many years very closely with
Steve Clark and other SWP leaders, when they leave something like that out,
it is not by accident.
Moreover, it is clear from what Clark chooses to quote -- and omit --
from Fidel in the Militant that somehow the SWP comrades have talked
themselves into having a problem with placing the demand that Elian be
restored to his father, his family and his homeland at the center of the
Consider, for example, this sentence by Clark quoting Fidel:
"Referring to the U.S. rulers' contemptible use of the Cuban child they
hold hostage, Fidel Castro told the hundreds of thousands who turned out for
May Day in Havana: 'It is obvious that they underestimated our people, who
have not rested a single day in fighting for something absolutely just.' "
Now look at the whole passage from the speech:
"It is obvious that they underestimated our people, who have not rested
a single day in fighting for something absolutely just, and who have
conveyed to the American people and the rest of the world their message of
pain and indignation over the injustice committed against a humble Cuban
family and the terrible crime perpetrated against this child. Elián has
endured almost five months of mental torture, psychological pressure and
political manipulation. Not even Dante could have described the hell he has
"These events aroused the sympathies of tens of millions of American
families with children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and
nephews of Elian's age. For them, as for the rest of the world, it became
increasingly clear that there could be no political or ideological
justification for such a barbaric and harsh crime against a child and his
father, regardless of their nationality."
Steve Clark leaves out what for most people is the very heart of this
struggle, the factor to which Fidel himself attributes the extraordinary
support that Cuba's position has won, even within the United States.
And that is the pain and outrage of the Cuban people at the vile crime being
perpetrated against "a humble Cuban family and the terrible crime
perpetrated against this child."
Some might object that this is overreaching, reading too much between
the lines of what the Militant happened to say and to quote. I spent 15 or
so years variously as a writer, editor and leader of the group involved, the
SWP, and I want to reiterate: the Militant does NOT leave out these sorts of
things "by accident." A major article by a top party leader like Clark is
meant to be a thoroughly authoritative statement of the SWP's position on
the subjects included, carefully discussed out and agreed to in the
leadership prior to publication.
Further evidence is available in an issue of the paper that came out a
couple of weeks BEFORE the raid, and said quite openly that the SWP leaders
think all this stuff about "parental rights" is a big problem, that by and
large "parental rights" are a cover for child abuse.
"Parental rights is another issue that is raised in the context of the
debate over the custody of Elián that workers need to discuss and to
clarify," a "discussion with our readers" column in the April 24 Militant
states. "The dignified conduct of Elián's father, Juan Miguel González,
throughout the controversy has undermined the occasional attempt to question
his fitness as a father. No one has successfully questioned his ability to
speak for this young boy....
"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."
You have to wonder what planet the SWP just returned from -- or
what forces it is adapting to. "Parental rights" weren't being raised
in this case as a cover for child abuse. The child abuse that was going on
in THIS case was denying Elián the comfort and care of his father, a
VIOLATION of Juan Miguel's "parental rights" as well as of Elián's right to
be looked after, cared for and comforted by those who have always been there
for him throughout his life.
The Militant's emphasis on an issue not raised by this case -- covering
up for child abuse under the rubric of parental rights -- and their total
blindness to the actual child abuse that was going on, day after day, right
before the TV cameras, suggests that the Militant has developed an
extraordinary sensitivity to a lot of the right-wing propaganda around the
breakdown of the family IN GENERAL, and an extreme indifference to the
plight of this little boy and his family IN PARTICULAR.
How else can we explain the Militant's positions? A couple of weeks
before the raid, they were urging workers to "demand" the bourgeois state
"intercede on behalf of children" abused by their adult caregivers.
Two weeks later, and after months of going along with this kidnapping,
the bourgeois state finally feels compelled to "intercede" in the case of
Elián González. And what does the Militant have to say? That it was an
"assault" on the "rights" of the "working class" such as the right to be
secure in their homes against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Can one by ANY stretch of the word claim that a search and seizure to
remove a first grader from the three-ring-circus the Miami Mafia had built
around him was "unreasonable"? That reuniting a six year old with his loving
father, his little brother, and the rest of his family was wrong? That
revolutionaries should focus instead on the tactics that the government
chose, a show of force, given the REFUSAL of the Miami relatives to give the
child back to his father in a non-confrontational way, and given the
statements by chief kidnapper Lázaro González that the ONLY way this child
could be taken from him would be by force?
The other thing this shows is how thin and hypocritical the Militant's
intransigent denunciation of the American bourgeois sate really is. When
Karen Wald was trying to explain that you couldn't simply dissolve the
concrete case of Elian's rescue into the abstract eternal platonic category
communists-always-oppose," out comes Lenin, the State and Revolution, the
whole arsenal of Marxism to try to get her to stop demanding that Reno act
to remove the child from the relatives and return him to his father.
But Wald's only crime is that she took the Militant's advice seriously.
She demanded the state "intercede on behalf of children" in one such case
where a child was being subjected to "abuses" reflecting "the brutality and
lack of solidarity that characterize the capitalist social order,"
represented by the counterrevolutionary gusano mafia.
Further evidence comes from other supporters of the Militant's line
who are perhaps less cautious than Steve Clark. Jon Hilson (The May 15
Militant carries his letter unabashedly hailing the previous issue) had this
to say to a meeting in Los Angeles two weeks ago to hear a report-back on
the Havana OCLAE student conference:
"I believe those who defend Cuba, who support civil liberties and
democratic rights, who fight for social justice, cannot assess this raid
through the distorted, sentimental lens of what's supposedly 'best for
"By starting with an emotional reaction to a non-existent Miami Mafia,
Clinton, Reno, and the INS are turned into an almost warm and fuzzy lesser
First, Hilson's comments brings out quite clearly the unreality of the
position he shares with the Militant. He wants to divorce the raid from
Elian's rescue, as if one thing had nothing to do with the other, and as if
there was any other way that the child COULD have been rescued at that
Second, just WHAT is it about Elian's return to his father that makes
Hilson talk about "what's *supposedly* 'best for Elián.' " Does Hilson
have some doubt about it? Is he not quite sure which is better for Elián,
being with his dad or being with the kidnappers? Being a pioneer back in
Cárdenas, or being a war trophy of the Miami mafia?
As for the non-existence of the Miami mafia, I invite Hilson to submit
his theory to the test of practice by setting up a literature table to sell
posters of Fidel and books of his speeches at any streetcorner of Calle
Hilson's most revealing comment, however, is when he refers to "the
distorted, sentimental lens" that puts Elián at the center of this fight.
Hilson, like the SWP, believes that history has made a mistake, that
there OUGHT NOT to have been an "Elián González case" but some other
confrontation, and, therefore, like a true idealist, he's talked himself
into believing that, really, Elián fate is just a minor aspect of this
affair, rather than the very heart and soul of it, the form, if you will, in
which the issue of Cuba's sovereignty and its right to make a revolution
"What must be of overarching interest to us is the broad implication of
what is happening, of not denying the meaning of what has happened in
deference to the fact that Elian is with his father, where he belongs,"
Just think about that. For five months, the world has been riveted to
this confrontation. Cuba has pulled out all the stops, conducting the most
massive, sustained campaign ever around a single conjunctural issue in the
history of the revolution. Entire forests have been felled to print the
mountain of articles reporting and debating this case. There isn't a news
site on the Internet with message boards where this isn't one of the main
subjects of discussion. In offices and factories the world over, people
can't stop talking about the case. There have been unceasing debates about
all sorts of questions, about Cuba's sovereignty, about parental and family
rights, about the truth of the revolution, about the U.S. blockade, about
the real nature and purpose of U.S. immigration policies, the Cuban
Adjustment Act, and so on. And everyone has had an opinion on the central
point where all these come together --Elián's fate.
Did I say everyone? I misspoke. Everyone, that is, except Jon Hilson.
For him, what's really going on has little to do with Elian being reunited
with his dad. That is not AT ALL the hidden "meaning of what has happened"
which MUST be of "overarching interest."
The idea is that there is some dark, sinister ruling class plot, "the
broad implication of what is happening."
In the Militant's view, that, and not how to extricate the U.S.
government from the untenable position of supporting a kidnapping while
minimizing the damage to their Miami mafia, is what accounts for the
extraordinary performance of Reno and the Clintonites since last November.
Elián's fate itself is only a sideshow. The kidnapping was a convenient
incident the bourgeoisie seized on (yes, with heartless indifference to the
boy and his family) in pursuing other aims.
And it is this position that Steve Clark specifically reaffirms in the
May 15 issue, even while sugar coating it with any number of true enough
generalities about Cuban sovereignty.
Instead of understanding the ACTUAL stakes, Steve Clark seizes on
a couple of perhaps overly broad sentences of Karen Wald's letter to the
editors (which the Militant, to its shame, did not print IN FULL, as I
believe it was duty-bound to do if it was going to make its author's views
the target of a polemic).
Worse, the Militant also prints as a "letter" one of Karen's emails,
without her knowledge or approval. And Steve Clark quotes selectively from
This is an absolutely unacceptable procedure. For one thing, emails are
often written very one-sidedly as part of an ongoing conversation, and often
the author's meaning can be obscure if one hasn't been following the thread
of discussion. They also deal with considerations of tactics or stance in a
way which is out of place in a public article for a general audience.
In this case, Clark seizes on some ironic statements by Wald castigating
Janet Reno for her failure to ACT to rescue Elián to make it seem as if Wald
had been trying to give advice to Reno on police tactics.
Clark denounces "Wald's casualness, even pride, in proffering such
advice to U.S. imperialism's top police official."
It is astonishing that The Militant's dead-end factionalism against
those who, like Wald, agree with Cuba's position is so great that it blinded
the paper to her obvious, intentional sarcasm. In making the charge that
Wald has set herself up as some sort of pro-cop adviser to Reno, Clark not
only ignores her long record of activism on the other side of the barricades
from those very same cops, but also the extensive written record of the
discussion around this very point by pro-Elián activists in discussion lists
like the Marxism List and Cuba Sí in mid-April. Having chosen to quote
selectively from those discussions, Clark at the very least was duty bound
to acquaint himself fully with them so he could be sure that what he was
quoting was accurate and fair. He wound up being neither.
So on the basis of this trumped up accusation against Wald we are
subjected to a lecture on Lenin's state and revolution, revolutionary
defeatism, the class nature of the state, etc.
Karen Lee Wald certainly needs no defense from me. Her *record* in these
past few months as a leader of the international campaign to
free Elián speaks for itself. Karen, through her emails, has done as one
individual what the Militant should have been doing in this campaign:
raising a fighting voice for Elian's liberation, exposing each and every
maneuver by the Clintonites and the Miami Mafia, keeping people abreast of a
fast moving situation, and above all making sure that Cuba's genuine voice
was never drowned out by the barrage of bourgeois and counterrevolutionary
propaganda in the US media.
And, of course, Karen has been defending Cuba and getting out the truth
about the revolution, not just for these past few months, but for decades.
Yet this doesn't stop Steve Clark from ranging far and wide, making an
amalgam of Karen, David McReynolds, the CPUSA's "Daily Worker" in World War
II and even the Russian Mensheviks in World War I.
Despite all this, the Militant is unable to respond to Wald's central
point: what should we have demanded, if not that Reno ACT to rescue Elián?
"From the standpoint of the exploited and oppressed, however, a question
posed this way can never produce an answer in the interests of the working
class," Clark pontificates. "Because it proposes that those of us in the
workers movement share responsibility with the capitalist rulers and
imperialist state whose interests are irreconcilable with ours--in solving
their problems and resolving their dilemmas."
What then of the Militant's statement two weeks ago that workers
"demand" that the bourgeois state "intercede on behalf of children" who are
I think Clark's statement is ultraleftism of the purest water, a classic
example that should be preserved and displayed in vitro, like those that
Lenin analyzed in his booklet about the "infantile disorder" of the
communist movement of his day. Except, of course, that this is hardly a
childhood illness that the SWP leaders have contracted, unless we're
referring to what's delicately called the second childhood.
What Steve Clark is saying is that to place demands on the government
implies political confidence in the ruling class and its institutions.
To try to weasel out of having to respond to Wald's very obvious point,
which is that if the Militant opposed demanding that the U.S. government
give the child back to his father, then the Militant owes us an explanation
as to what we should have done, Steve Clark throws absolutely everything
into this article: two world wars, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the war against
Yugoslavia, East Timor, the assassination of Lumumba, Che and much else
besides, all to make the point that the imperialists are really, REALLY bad
people, so how can we ask THEIR state to do anything.
Yet despite its super r-r-r-evolutionary airs, Clark's position would
have led to the movement to free Elián taking Reno and the Clintonites
completely off the hook. No, we couldn't demand that the U.S. government
TAKE Elian from the Miami kidnappers and RETURN him to his father, that, you
see, would be to "share responsibility" with Reno. So we would have been
left completely disarmed, with the fond hope that somehow Elian would
disappear from the gusanería and reappear in Cárdenas with no idea how that
The free Elián movement did not counsel Reno on how she might extricate
herself from the bind she had put herself in; we *demanded* that Reno return
Elián to his father by any means necessary. It was a clear and powerful
political statement: we hold you, the American government, responsible for
this kidnapping and for putting an end to it.
Clark accuses Wald of having become an adviser on tactics to Reno, but,
in reality, the ones who have set themselves up as judges of what was and
was not permissible for Reno to do is the SWP. We saw in the May 8 Militant
how they linked up with Lawrence Tribe, the Editors of the New York Times,
Alan Dershowitz and others in an exercise of what can only be called
judicial cretinism. They didn't get a warrant! They came at night! They
"pretty please with sugar and honey on it" before knocking down the door!
It was all lies, of course, which the Militant swallowed hook, line and
sinker and the following week Steve Clark doesn't even have the decency to
tell his readers that subsequent information has proven the Militant's
report to have been inaccurate. But even if it had been true, what of it? If
Elián's rescue had been completely extra judicial and extra legal, it would
not change matters one iota: rescuing the child and giving him back to his
father was the right thing to do.
* * *
This brings us back full circle to the beginning of Steve Clark's
article, and its headline "Cuba's sovereignty is the issue."
However true that statement is, it is ALSO TRUE that the concrete form
in which "Cuba's sovereignty" expressed itself, was in the right of this boy
to be reunited with his dad, and in the right of Elian and his family to
resume their normal life in Cárdenas.
As Fidel pointed out, Juan Miguel's audacious initiative in coming to
the United States was a brilliant tactical move, precisely because it posed
the question in the most concrete possible way: does the boy belong with his
father, or does he belong with the pack of scoundrels the U.S. government
gave him to, and who have treated him like war booty?
That's why the Militant is wrong to denounce the raid that reunited
Elián with his dad, even though this raid is not yet a complete victory. The
"Cuba sovereignty" issue and the "kidnapping" issue are two sides of the
same coin. Not because I, Karen Wald or Fidel Castro says so, but because
that was the reality of the situation.
Cuba's whole campaign to free Elián, and, I repeat, the most massive and
sustained EVER in the history of the revolution, has been waged in this
spirit, with Elian's kidnapping as the central issue. And if you go back and
review what the Militant has said about the case, you'll see that they
haven't said much about Cuba's campaign.
Let no one doubt that this was a conscious decision, made, I believe,
because the SWP thinks there are so many political problems with the way
Cuba is conducting the campaign that they do not want to closely identify
Both the May 8 Militant editorial and the May 15 Clark article make
clear the Militant thinks the campaign was important and has had a big
impact. And the SWP goes out of its way to identify with those aspects it
considers positive, such as the combativity of the Cuban people and their
But the SWP is ALSO clearly and unambiguously signaling that it
with the way Cuba has formulated its demands and focused the campaign,
otherwise those things would have been singled out for praise also and held
up as an example for working people everywhere. And, as we saw, it was
precisely when Fidel got into that territory that Steve Clark stopped
quoting his comments about the fight waged by the Cuban masses.
I believe that ealier, it was entirely proper for the SWP to try to
avoid a public, polemical discussion of these matters while the battle was
still on, emphasizing instead the common demand that Elián be sent home, and
presenting in a positive way as much of their own analysis as they cared to.
But with Elian's rescue, the situation has changed. That's because,
frankly, the position the Militant took is an international scandal on the
left, and I suspect among those in Cuba who have regarded the SWP as an ally
of the revolution and follow what it does. Especially among comrades who had
been associated with or worked closely with the SWP or its international
current, there is tremendous concern. I've personally received email about
this from Germany to Australia, and from Canada to the Southern Cone. More
than once comrades have suggested that with this position, the SWP has
crossed the Rubicon.
For there is simply no way to deny or hide the fact that the SWP's
position on the raid that rescued Elián is 100% diametrically the opposite
of that taken by the boy's father, the Cuban leadership, and virtually
everyone else who has been demanding the boy's freedom. Figuratively
speaking, the Militant was with those who tried to block the way of the INS
agents that morning; whereas Fidel hailed the raid as just what the doctor
ordered and even declared a symbolic, 24-hour truce with Washington in
recognition that, for once, an administration had done the right thing.
In response to one of the comrades who raised the crossing of a Rubicon
I responded privately and too flippantly that, no, the SWP
hadn't crossed the Rubicon, they'd crossed the Florida Straits.
But it is clear from Steve Clark's article that this is not their
intention. They would like to be aligned, not with the right-wing opponents
of the revolution in Miami, but with its supporters in Havana and around the
world. Which is why they shifted the axis of their coverage from denouncing
the raid to stressing that sovereignty is the key issue. And I welcome that
shift. It is an important political statement about which side they are on.
Nevertheless, this is far from a complete correction, for the SWP has not
examined those mistakes in its analysis that led to the coverage in the May
8 issue of the paper.
In fact, it is clear that what we've heard from the SWP so far in
explaining its position is only the tip of the iceberg. We don't really know
what the thinking of the comrades is on all the issues involved.
Despite the nearly 4,000 words in Steve Clark's May 15 article, what we
have there is mostly dodging and weaving, a huge amount of material on the
attitude of revolutionaries to cops, raids, and imperialism in general, all
of which is well and good, and none of which is particularly helpful,
because Marxism isn't some sort of rule book that can be mechanically
applied as the SWP is urging us to do in this case.
I for one find it hard to even take the stuff seriously, for as we saw
two weeks before, the Militant itself was urging workers to "demand" that
the state "intercede on behalf of children" who are victims of abuse in
general, and it was only when the state did in fact "intercede on behalf of"
Elián that this "demand" became an impermissible crossing of class lines in
the Militant's eyes.
Yet a more forthcoming explanation of the SWP's thinking is now
necessary. Without it, many activists will be reticent to work on joint
projects with the party around Cuba or other issues, fearing that at any
point in the middle of a campaign the SWP may suddenly lurch out into outer
space, as it seems to have done here.
I suspect the SWP feels it is unlikely to convince many people under
current conditions with a fuller explanation and that may well be true. But
even if its doesn't, at least people will understand why the SWP has taken
certain positions, and be able to gauge in what areas there is genuine
agreement and a basis for collaboration, and in what areas there isn't.
James P. Cannon, the founder of the Socialist Workers Party, once said
in an internal party debate that in politics there are often two reasons why
people do things: a good reason, which they announce publicly, and a real
reason, which they often keep to themselves.
I feel the Militant so far has given us a lot of "good" reasons why it
denounced the raid to rescue Elián. What I'd like to hear now are the *real*
NetZero - Defenders of the Free World
Click here for FREE Internet Access and Email
More information about the Marxism