[Marxism] How can the ISO take Sam Farber seriously?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Jul 12 11:52:04 MDT 2004

In the latest ISR, there's an interview with Sam Farber by Anthony 
Arnove and Ahmed Shawki--two ISO leaders.

It is highly regrettable that they provide a platform for this social 
democratic intellectual who was accused correctly of regurgitating cold 
war mythology in John Rees's "In Defense of October". Rees is a leader 
of the Cliffite SWP in Great Britain that had a falling out with the ISO 
a few years ago. Whatever ideological and organizational differences 
they had at the time, I am quite sure that the ISO'ers would have agreed 
with Rees's assessment. It is really too bad that anybody would invoke 
him as an authority nowadays. He clearly belongs in the "New Politics" 
camp, where he serves as an editor.

Last September I wrote "New Politics" a letter complaining about 
Farber's lies about Cuban "psychiatric prisoners" and related matters, 
which they obviously saw no reason to print. I reproduce it here, so as 
to give everybody, including the ISO'ers who read the archives, to get 
an idea of the kind of bed-fellow they have made.


Dear New Politics,

In your defense of Joanne Landy's anti-Cuba petition, you offer readers 
a long interview with Sam Farber to bolster your case. 
(http://www.wpunj.edu/icip/newpol/issue35/farber35.htm) While nobody 
would gainsay his expertise at demonizing the government of an island in 
the gunsight of the most warlike imperialist power in history, I must 
admit that I was somewhat taken aback by his observation that Cuba 
throws dissidents in psychiatric hospitals. That's a new one on me.

Since I have access to Lexis-Nexis at work, I thought I'd do a little 
digging--not that I would question somebody so committed to socialism 
from below as Sam Farber. It turns out that very little turned up on a 
keyword search of "Cuba", "psychiatric" and "dissent". There were a 
couple of references to a dissident named Milagro Cruz Cano who had 
spent some time in a psychiatric hospital, but please don't consider me 
to be a hard-line Stalinist if newspaper references to her don't quite 
suggest the persecution of Gen. Petro Grigorenko in the Soviet Union.

"Milagro Cruz Cano--a blind worshipper--who plays her guitar outside 
tourist hotels, said her instrument had been taken away by police. Last 
Saturday, she said, someone with an authoritative voice approached her 
outside a hotel and said, 'Enjoy this until the pope goes, because we'll 
take it out on you after he leaves.'" (USA Today, January 26, 1998)

I don't know how quite to put this, but playing a guitar in front of 
tourist hotels is not quite the sort of thing that got Grigorenko tossed 
into a psychiatric hospital.

The next troubling reference to Ms. Cano is after she has fled to 
freedom in the USA and become part of the campaign to keep Elian 
Gonzalez in the custody of his Miami relatives and festooned with gold 

"A few blocks from where the cameras wait and the people chant, Milagros 
Cruz Cano, a blind 32-year-old exile, has been living in a tent on the 
street, existing on Gatorade and water.

"Until the moment she was finally banished from Cuba 10 months ago, she 
believed her daughter, who is now 9 years old, would be allowed to come 
with her.

'When I told my daughter that they allowed me to take my two dogs, but 
not her,' Milagros explained through a translator, 'my daughter, she 
say, 'Mama, put me in the cage and dress me as a dog, so I can be with 
you. Please, Mama, do not leave me.'" (The Boston Herald April 6, 2000)

Lord knows I hate to sound judgmental, but this business about her 
daughter begging to be dressed like a dog does strike me as a bit *odd*. 
In any case, it seems rather doubtful to me that the Cuban 
"dictatorship" would feel any particular need to orchestrate a campaign 
of repression against the likes of her. Did New Politics ever consider a 
petition campaign to defend her right to play the guitar?

When I went googling around with the same keywords I used on 
Lexis-Nexis, a bunch of links turned up but they all ultimately seemed 
to be based on the book "The Politics of Psychiatry in Revolutionary 
Cuba" by Charles J. Brown and Armando M. Lago. Now this Charles J. Brown 
is a kind of shadowy figure about whom very little could be revealed 
except that he is not the stalwart Charles Brown from Detroit who is 
well-known on the leftwing of the Internet. On the other hand, Armando 
M. Lago has been leading a very active public life in the USA, although 
I am not sure that much confidence can be inspired from a socialistic 
perspective, either from below, above or sideways. He is on the board of 
the Greater Washington Ibero-American Chamber of Commerce and the 
Stanford Research Institute. The first outfit is involved in advancing 
the business interests of Latino capitalists, while the second announces 
on its website that it "has performed more than $1 billion in contract 
R&D for the U.S. government, including areas that support homeland 
security." Hmmm.

When I went to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, two outfits 
whose dedication to digging up dirt on Cuba is exceeded only by your 
own, there was little in the way of substantiation except for the fact 
that a Eriberto Mederos got arrested in the USA last year for tormenting 
dissident/mental patients in Cuba. This 79 year old retired Cuban 
immigrant living in Miami was arrested on charges of torturing Cuban 
political prisoners with electric shock therapy when he worked in a 
Havana psychiatric hospital several decades earlier. Unfortunately, this 
Stalinist version of Nurse Ratchet died of cancer a month after he was 
arrested, and thus his conviction was vacated because he had not had a 
chance to appeal it.

Considering the circumstances of the arrest of the Cuban Five, please 
excuse me if I find the Mederos case somewhat dubious.


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