In defense of Fidel Castro's internationalist stand on the Iraq war

Richard Fidler rfidler at
Mon Mar 10 20:22:39 MST 2003

Fred Feldman has made a valiant effort to fill in the blanks on the
possible reasoning behind some of Fidel Castro's formulations. But
whatever the merit of Fred's argument - and I agree with much of what he
says - the fact remains that Fidel did not say those things. As Fred
concedes, the arguments are "implicit" in his view.

The problem (and we shouldn't give too much weight to this) is that, as
the speech stands, the explicit content is directed mainly to urging
even greater concessions on Iraq, and only on Iraq. I fail to see how
this particular keynote speech to the National Assembly makes the Cubans
"leaders in the antiwar fight", as both Fred and Walter Lippmann argue.

I think what the speech shows above all is the depth of concern among
the Cuban leadership at the unfavourable situation created
internationally by the irresponsible actions of Saddam Hussein's
government. "Implicitly", it is a critique of the limitations of a
national bourgeois leadership, and the way in which it has played into
the hands of U.S. imperialism. Fidel has no confidence in that
government, and thinks the best it can do in the circumstances is
concede to the diktat of the Security Council by disarming completely.
This is not the appeal he would make to a revolutionary leadership.

That is how we should understand the references Fidel makes to Iraq's
"grave and unjustifiable acts" in invading Iran and occupying Kuwait.
Fidel is right; the invasion of Iran was conducted in close
collaboration with U.S. imperialism, while the invasion of Kuwait had
nothing to do with liberating the Kuwaitis from their semifeudal regime.

Furthermore, comrades are quite wrong if they see this condemnation of
the Iraqi leadership as some retreat by Cuba from previous positions
they have held. In fact, it is quite consistent with the Cuban position
since the beginning of their socialist revolution of opposing any and
all violations of state sovereignty outside the framework of
international law. Since they are a country constantly threatened and
harassed by the most powerful imperialist power, it is not hard to see

In fact, pretty well every country in the Third World - the so-called
Non-Aligned bloc - shares this perspective. It is a principle of the
charter of the Organization of African States for example, for it
applies with particular force to countries that have been quite
arbitrarily carved out of other geographical and social entities by
imperialism, with all the potential explosive social, national and
tribal conflicts that can present openings for imperialist intervention.

Néstor's opposition to national independence struggles within
semicolonial countries reflects similar thinking, as I understand his
argument. It has little to do with one's position on national liberation
as such --- and, in the abstract, it is not addressed to the various
ways in which such conflicts and tensions can be resolved short of the
formation of new independent states --- but is rather one of the few
principles weaker states can invoke in international law as a means of
restraining imperialist attempts to destabilize such states and
overthrow governments deemed uncooperative. This is a valid concern for
revolutionary socialists, as well, and dictates extreme caution toward
movements for political independence in such countries, although I think
Néstor is wrong to make it an absolute principle that brooks no

Because laws, as formal principles, tend to be expressed in abstract
terms, what is valid for semicolonial countries by extension tends to
apply to all countries. Thus, the Cubans, to the disappointment of many
Quebec nationalists, have never expressed any support for Quebec
independence from the Canadian state (although they did provide refuge
for the FLQ terrorists in 1970, as part of a hostage release deal). In
Havana during the 1980s I met some Basque nationalists who complained
bitterly about Cuban failure to support their cause. In fact, I can't
think of a single instance where the Cubans have supported a struggle
for state independence by a national minority. I am sure this was a
factor in their failure to support Eritrean independence as well, which
was more serious because they were militarily supporting the Mengistu
regime in Ethiopia, albeit in a struggle directly primarily against the
Somali attacks on that country.

I think we should be very careful about critiquing the Cubans for this.
They are not supporting any "one camp of the imperialist rivalry against
the other", as John Paramo absurdly argued. They are expressing their
entirely justifiable wariness of imperialist intentions.

By the way, my description of Fidel's speech as "pathetic" stirred some
strong reactions from a number of comrades, who gave it a more critical
slant than I intended. I used the word in the sense the Oxford
Dictionary gives: "In modern use: Affecting the tender emotions;
exciting a feeling of pity, sympathy, or sadness; full of pathos".
Nothing more.

Richard Fidler

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