Haroldo Dilla And The Cuban Revolution, by Louis Proyect

Gilles d'Aymery aymery at ix.netcom.com
Tue Nov 18 09:44:52 MST 2003


Swans

Haroldo Dilla And The Cuban Revolution
by Louis Proyect
November 17, 2003

The September/October 2003 issue of Against the Current (a monthly
journal affiliated with the socialist group Solidarity) includes an article
by Haroldo Dilla Alfonso titled "Cuba: Opposition and Repression."
Whatever the intentions of the editors, the article dovetails with an
ideological campaign being waged by certain elements of the
American left against the Cuban revolution. A number of the
magazine's editors signed the anti-Cuba petition initiated by New
Politics editor Joanne Landy, (1) although -- to its credit -- Solidarity
as an organization did not. Dilla himself was another signer.

As one of the island's leading socialist intellectuals before going into
exile in the Dominican Republic, Dilla has credentials that Miami-
based counter-revolutionary exiles lack. According to an introductory
note preceding the article, Dilla was expelled from the Cuban
Communist Party in 1999 for his "theoretical work concerning
socialism and democracy." Before responding to Dilla's points, it
would be useful to review the circumstances that led to his
estrangement from the revolution. Lacking documentation, it would be
virtually impossible to pass judgment on his expulsion. We do have
ample background, however, on the underlying tensions within Cuban
society from that period and how they played out among the
intelligentsia. Not surprisingly, they are quite similar to those that led to
recent controversies surrounding the execution of three ferryboat
hijackers and the jailing of US funded "dissidents."

In 1996 Cuba faced a series of provocations from Washington, D.C.
at a time when it was still undergoing major economic duress. As has
always been the case, the United States was carrying out a two-
pronged strategy against Cuban socialism. On one hand, it
encouraged the Miami counter-revolution to play the role of "hard
cop" as it had for over 35 years. On the other, it was seeking ways to
create a pole of opposition on the island using elements of "civil
society" that were initially encouraged by the government itself. Some
institutions were relatively innocuous or even beneficial -- especially
those that expressed the particular needs of historically marginalized
groups such as Afro-Cubans. Others were less benign. They tended
to be Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) funded by and
responsible to North American government agencies, universities and
wealthy benefactors. As this drama unfolded, Dilla got caught in the
middle.

In the March/April 1999 North American Congress on Latin America
Report, Dilla wrote an article titled "The Virtues and Misfortunes of
Civil Society," which posited good civil society institutions such as the
Protestant church affiliated Martin Luther King Center in Havana. In
order for Cuban socialism to survive, such community-development
project would have to become hegemonic. They would have to
supersede old-guard mass institutions disguising themselves as
"socialist civil society" and used as "transmission belts" to issue
bureaucratic marching orders to the masses from above. This included
the Committees in Defense of the Cuban Revolution, the Federation
of Cuban Women and the Union of Cuban Workers.

In March of 1996, Raul Castro gave a report to the Central
Committee of the Cuban Communist Party that went on the offensive
against NGOs, (2) some of which he described as "Trojan horses." In
a section of this report titled "Our concept of Civil Society is not the
same as the one they refer to in the United States," he referred to an
article by Gillian Gunn, a highly placed "Cubanologist" at the
University of Georgetown, that illustrated the nature of the problem.
(3) Titled "Cuba's NGOs: Government Puppets or Seeds of Civil
Society?," Gunn's article is a highly sophisticated policy statement on
behalf of NGOs in Cuba, even when they appear at first to bolster the
Cuban government.

She observed, "The state's new support for NGOs is a matter of
financial necessity. As subsidies from Moscow declined in 1990, the
government sought alternative resources. Foreign NGOs' assistance
was perceived as helping solve developmental problems in other
countries where potential funders were uneasy about direct donations
to governments accused of undemocratic practices." After reviewing
the ups and downs of a number of NGOs, she advises her readers to
be patient, despite the appearance that the government is using them
to maintain power. Her article concludes, "Are Cuba's NGOs
government puppets or seeds of civil society? The answer is
ideologically and intellectually unsatisfying. They are both, though the
latter characteristic is very gradually growing."

The Cuban leadership recognized this tendency as well. Raul Castro
pointed out that several US academic centers had begun to meddle
openly in Cuban politics with the "brazen support" of the US Interests
Section in Havana. Evidently the Clinton administration was just as
capable of interjecting itself into the island's politics as the Bush-
Cason gang.

[Full: http://www.swans.com/library/art9/lproy09.html ]


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