All things considered transcript

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Wed Jul 2 09:21:14 MDT 2003

Now that I've had a chance to read this carefully for the first time, I
am struck--as was Walter Lippmann--by Zinn's assertion that Cuba "is
more in favor of capital punishment than the American government." And
this is the most respected left historian in the USA. Isn't he aware
that Cuba has had a moratorium on executions since 2000 and that the
ferry boat hijackers were the first exceptions to this? Anti-Communism
obviously runs very deep in this country. A word or two about Cora
Weiss, who says that "executing fishermen is not acceptable"--a
reference to the occupations of the men who held knives to the throats
of the ferry boat captives, while threatening to throw them overboard
one by one. She says that she tends not to use the word 'left,' because
she is not sure she knows what it means today. I find this persuasive.
Ms. Weiss is the daughter of Samuel Rubin, who made a fortune in the
perfume business (Faberge, specifically). During the Vietnam war, she
was the highly visible leader of Woman's Strike for Peace, an outfit
that we Trotskyists viewed as dyed-in-the-wool Stalinist. What this
really meant is that they were in the CPUSA when they were young and
simply evolved from Browderism into Nation Magazine liberalism. People
like Cora Weiss and her husband are major funders of the left-liberal
Institute for Policy Studies and the Nation Institute. Her latest
hobby-horse is the Hague Appeal for Peace, which has a website at: As is my wont, I went to the page that lists
Board members and funding. There I discovered that the Board includes
Eli Wiesel, the Dalai Lama and the Queen of Jordan along with some
high-profile leftists. Funding sources include Reebok, the Ford
Foundation and the Paul Soros Foundation. You'll never guess who the
brother of Paul Soros is.


All Things Considered (8:00 PM ET) - NPR
June 30, 2003 Monday

Leftist criticism of Cuba's policies



Since Fidel Castro's government arrested and jailed some 75 critics and
summarily executed three men who tried to hijack a ferry to the United
States, there has been much rethinking among those who were seeking to
normalize relations with Cuba. The European Union is now reviewing its
relations with the island. In the US, efforts on Capitol Hill to end the
travel ban have been scaled back. And the Cuba Policy Foundation, a
bipartisan group dedicated to improving US-Cuban relations, has closed
up shop. Perhaps most surprisingly, the harsh sentences given to
dissident writers and activists this spring have brought about intense
discussion and criticism among scholars and writers on the left who have
supported Cuba in the past. NPR's Margot Adler reports.

MARGOT ADLER reporting:

After Castro's actions this spring, the Campaign for Peace and Democracy
released a complex statement. It denounced Cuba's wave of repression,
but it also criticized the United States, both for the war in Iraq and
for its history of attacks on Cuba and the embargo. The statement has
been signed by a star-studded list of left intellectuals, from Noam
Chomsky and Howard Zinn to Barbara Ehrenreich and Edward Said. The Cuban
government denounced the statement and described it as the consequence
of distance, disinformation and the trauma of failed socialist
experiments, and some have said it's the end of the left's romance with

But the signers have a very different view. Relations may be strained,
they say, but they are not broken. Longtime peace activist Cora Weiss is
now president of an international network of peace organizations called
the Hague Appeal for Peace.

Ms. CORA WEISS (President, Hague Appeal for Peace): Executing fishermen
is not acceptable.

ADLER: For years, she said, she admired Cuba's strides in education,
science and health care. She still does.

Ms. WEISS: I tend not to use the word 'left,' because I'm not sure I
know what it means today, but people who are decent and who want freedom
and rights respected for all people are not breaking with Cuba. They're
expressing a very legitimate point of view when something goes wrong.
Something went badly wrong this time and had to be denounced.

ADLER: Cuba has always been seen by the left as a tiny country of 11
million people that, against all odds, has resisted the might of the
United States. While they may have bemoaned Cuba's persecution of gays
and dissidents, it was a brave little sardine facing a shark. Howard
Zinn, the author of "A People's History of the United States," said he
signed the statement because it criticized both Cuba and the United
States. Still, he has found himself receiving a number of angry e-mail
from Cuba's defenders on the left.

Mr. HOWARD ZINN (Author, "A People's History of the United States"): I
thought that, you know, we were taking cognizance of the fact that Cuba
was a beleaguered country, but I think they're mistaking what we
understand and distorting, you know, our position.

ADLER: Zinn says it's totally appropriate for someone like him to
criticize the Cuban government for executions and prison sentences,
something he has opposed everywhere in the world. If there is any irony
here, he says, it is that Cuba is acting like the United States.

Mr. ZINN: With its death penalties, with its punitive, you know, justice
system, with its, you know, incarceration of huge numbers of people, who
is more in favor of capital punishment than the American government, or
maybe China.

ADLER: Sandra Levinson is the director of the Center for Cuban Studies
in New York City, which for 31 years has promoted cultural exchanges
between Cuba and the United States. Levinson spends much of her time
trying to explain the Cuban position to people in the US. She admits
that her position is hard for people here to understand. She says only
those who have been to Cuba recently can believe that Cuba feels
threatened. When people tell her, 'Look, so the US gave dissidents some
copying machines and tape recorders. The dissidents didn't do anything
serious,' she responds...

Ms. SANDRA LEVINSON (Center for Cuban Studies): Well, you know, it's a
little bit like our preemptive strike against Iraq. We don't want anyone
to do anything serious to us. The World Trade Center, that's enough for
us. Well, you have to understand that on a smaller scale it's enough for
Cuba we invaded during the Bay of Pigs. And people will say, 'That
happened 40 years ago.' I know, but a country, a small country, doesn't
forget those things, especially if it's in that small country's interest
to continue reminding people of their history. And I think it is, as
long as we don't have relations, as long as we have an embargo, as long
as we are so strong and Cuba is so weak.

ADLER: Levinson, who is strongly against the death penalty herself,
admits that much of the criticism of Cuba from the left comes from
people with very consistent positions against the death penalty and long
jail sentences. She says the Cubans have been most upset with a
statement against Cuban repression by the Uruguayan writer Eduardo
Galeano, who called Castro's acts 'a sin against hope.' But he also
wrote that the fact that the Cuban revolution had lost the wind of
spontaneity and freshness was something to feel pain about. One Cuban
exile historian quoted in the Miami Herald said the left's pact with
Cuba has now been broken, but most left critics of Cuba's policies
simply believe Cuba has failed in being the example they believe it
still should be.

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