William Mandel on Cuba, Brazil and Venezuela

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Sun Dec 29 09:26:08 MST 2002

(Most of us who are "of a certain age" might
remember William Mandel as the eloquent man
who told the House Un-American Activites
Committee where to get off in the notorious
1960 San Francisco hearings. Mandel is both
alive and vigorously active still. He also
published a memoir two years ago which would
be of great interest to many people.

(This is from a debate about Cuba on another
list, Change-Links, mostly based in Los Angeles.
I though you might enjoy reading this. I'm not
in agreement with some of Mandel's conclusions,
but he makes some great points in defending
Cuba (and Chavez and Lula, too) against those
people who criticize them from the (ultra)left.

(If CubaNews list readers would like to discuss
some of Mandel's points, you're hereby invited.
I'm sharing this with Bill Mandel and will pass
any comments along to him to reply if he wants.

(Whether you agree or disagree with any of Bill
Mandel's comments, he always presents facts and
argues cogently.

(Here's a review I wrote of Mandel's fascinating,
if somewhat overlong autobiography two years ago:


From:  William Mandel <wmmmandel at earthlink.net
Date:  Sat Dec 28, 2002  7:16 pm Subject:

Cuba is doing the best it can so long as the country from
which it could buy essentials most cheaply due to its
proximity refuses to trade with it. It is not carrying out
its initial program if for no other reason than that the
initial domestic program, overthrow of domestic dictatorship
on behalf of latifundistas and owners of casinos and
whorehouses catering to and often owned by American
gangsters, was carried out long since. So was the initial
foreign program: independence from U.S. imperialism.

Thanks to the unwillingness of Washington and Wall Street to
let go, Cuba went on to nationalize foreign property and
adopted a Marxist course. That course wavered between the
Chinese and Soviet models, settling more into the latter,
very much because Moscow provided enormous assistance
economic and otherwise. In some respects Castro made very
bad mistakes, such as not diversifying agriculture, causing
it to continue to be essentially a monoculture, sugar,
depending upon the wildly fluctuating world market.

That last is what the Soviet Union saved it from, offering a
stable market at essentially stable prices. When the USSR
collapsed, Castro improvised brilliantly, and Cuba survived
above all because the people treasured their independence
from the U.S. Today very extensive compromises have been
made in the field of permitting private business and
returning to heavy reliance upon the tourist industry.
Prostitution has returned on a large scale, and the people
whose livelihoods come in one way or another from the
tourists live incomparably better than those who do not,
including skilled professionals such as physicians.

Incidentally, Cuba's was not a mass revolution, but one
launched by a single boatload on the "Granma", which
triumphed both because people joined it for its initial aims
and dictator Batista simply had no mass base.

That Chavez and Lula are proceeding via reforms is totally
understandable. Not one country that eliminated capitalism
continues on that path today, other than Cuba. When Fidel,
who of course does not rule by democratic means, goes, Cuba
will follow the path of all the others, hopefully by some
measured course such as that of China. For anyone who claims
to have the people's interests at heart to write
disparagingly of elections is to advocate the course of
Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot. It is totally possible, as in the
case of the former two and of Castro, as well as of many
East European countries outside the USSR, such as
Czechoslovakia, to bring about very significant improvements
across a very wide range of human needs under dictatorial
government. But that socialism, deliberately destroying the
market, requires a burocracy to perform the functions that
the market would otherwise. And the economic record shows
that a market economy, for all its ups and downs and
unfairness and cruelty, brings a higher living standard to a
larger proportion of the people than does Marxist socialism.
That's why illiterate Haitian peasants, Chinese who have
earned or borrowed enough to stuff themselves into the holds
of smuggling ships, Israeli and Russian Ph.Ds, all do their
damnest to emigrate to the U.S. Stating that obvious fact
does not require backing off any criticism of the
exploitation of the American working class, discrimination
against African-Americans and other ethnic minorities and of
women, or approval of the policies of the Bush
administration domestic or foreign.

Considering all this together, an alliance of Brazil,
Venezuela, Cuba, and as many more Latin American countries
as can be brought into it, pursuing policies suited in each
case to the specific history of that country and not to any
one-size=fits-all theory, is devoutly to be hoped for.

Bill Mandel


My autobiography, SAYING NO TO POWER (Introduction by Howard Zinn),
is a history of how the American people fought to defend and expand its
rights since the 1920s, employing the form of the life story of one who
was involved in most serious movements: student, labor, peace with the
USSR, civil rights South and North, 37 years on Pacifica Radio, civil
liberties (you may hear/see my testimony before the witch hunters (used
in six films thus far) on my website, http://www.billmandel.net ,
and the feminist movement, although I am male. My activities began in
1927. I am 85. My 5 previous books were all used in higher education. I
have taught at six universities, including Stanford and UC Berkeley. The
book is available through all normal sources. For an autographed copy,
send me $23 at 4466 View Pl.,#106, Oakland, CA. 94611

PLEASE clip all extraneous text before replying to a message.

More information about the Marxism mailing list