[Marxism] Progressive Cuba-Bashing

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Aug 5 16:04:39 MDT 2005

(This appears in the current issue of Socialism and Democracy at: 
Unfortunately, it is not online. Since it already appeared on Leo Casey’s 
mailing list, I don’t think there is any harm in circulating it here. Since 
it is very long, I am posting the first few paragraphs and including a link 
to it on the Marxmail website. It is about time, I should add, that the 
red-baiting creep Marc Cooper gets the nailing he deserves. Richard Levins, 
the author, is co-author of “The Dialectical Biologist” with Richard Lewontin.)

Progressive Cuba-Bashing
by Richard Levins

Richard Levins is John Rock Professor of Population Sciences, Department of 
Population and International Health, Harvard University

The Current Debate

In the mid-1960s, when Che Guevara dropped out of sight to begin his 
guerrilla campaign in Bolivia, some on the left were asking whether Fidel 
had had him murdered. In the late 1980s, some were quick to assume that the 
trial of the Cuban general Ochoa on charges of attempting to organize a 
drug ring in collaboration with the Medellín cartel was really a political 
purge. What is striking is that these accusations against Cuba were 
accepted by so many without investigation, as if the abuses that were 
alleged were only to be expected and therefore must be true.

Why are so many progressives and liberals taken in by even the most 
outrageous falsehoods about Cuba? Why do they often accept uncritically the 
line of the Miami and Washington reactionaries about Cuba when they doubt 
almost everything else from these sources? Possibly some are tired of 
nay-saying all the conventional wisdoms. They do not want to appear 
"hard-line" or "ideological," and rejecting Cuba is a cheap and easy way of 
being a little more mainstream. Cuba may be relegated by some to the list 
of youthful enthusiasms from the time when "we thought we could change the 
world." This stance is reinforced by the accumulated cynicism of many 
defeats that says that no place can be all that good, that all dreams come 
to naught. Or, perhaps since Cuba's socialism is one of the few to have 
survived, it has become harder to romanticize it.

But, mostly, this vulnerability of the left to rightist propaganda is 
derived from the discouraging experience of the Soviet Union and eastern 
Europe and the unwarranted assumption that Cuba has a similar regime. As 
well, too many progressives have accepted cold-war anti-communism 
assumptions: that all Reds are the same and that any accusation against any 
of them is probably an understatement, that they support good causes only 
to serve their own noxious ends, that revolutionaries once in power are all 
cynical manipulators and monopolizers of privilege, and that their public 
statements are merely propaganda. The burdens of internalized cold war 
anti-communism and conventional political science allow for careless 
judgments and casual denunciations.

Dismissal of Cuba is sometimes simply an off-handed remark in writings 
about other subjects. For example Marc Cooper wrote a piece in The Nation, 
"Remembering Allende" (9/29/03). It was a thoughtful commentary, reflecting 
real experience, knowledge, and sympathy for the Chilean struggle. But in 
the course of it he threw in a careless unsupported denunciation of Cuba, 
referring to "the wholesale jailing of dissidents and summary executions by 
an ossified and dictatorial Cuban state." He is of course free to 
disapprove of the trials of political de-stabilizers in April 2003. But by 
linking the execution of hijackers to the trials of the "dissidents," he 
makes it appear as if dissidents were executed. In fact the hijackers were 
not political people. Two of them had prior criminal records, and they were 
threatening to kill their hostages. Most of us oppose capital punishment 
and support worldwide calls to eliminate it, but this does not justify 
singling out this case as an example of Cuban depravity.

It is worth looking more closely at Cooper's comments in The Nation, his 
article in the L.A. Weekly (April 18-24, 2003), and the letter organized by 
Leo Casey and signed by Cooper and by other progressives and liberals, many 
of whom should know better and some of whom undoubtedly do. Anyone the 
least bit familiar with Cuba knows that it is anything but "ossified." Cuba 
has been undergoing rapid changes since 1959, including the transformations 
of education and health care, the adoption of the Family Code, two agrarian 
reforms, the adoption of an ecological pathway of development, and the 
gradual invention of a mixed participatory and representative political 
system. There was the struggle against homophobia in the '70s, the 
encouragement of whistle blowing during the "rectification" campaign of the 
'80s, the Special Period after the collapse of foreign trade with the 
Soviet bloc and the tightening of the US blockade, and the legalization of 
dollars in a dual system of currency with the Cuban peso. As well, Cuba has 
experienced a tremendous increase in tourism, the phasing out of dependence 
on sugar, widespread decentralization, and the current "Battle of Ideas." 
This last refers to the campaign to increase university enrollment, as well 
as to raise the cultural, scientific, and political level of the whole 
Cuban population. During the decade 1993-2003 the Cuban economy, even 
measured by the misleading GDP, grew four times faster than the average for 
Latin America. Musical and artistic styles, movie making, and theatre are 
also constantly changing.

Cuba is not a dictatorial regime. There is a whole complex of elected 
assemblies at all levels, mass organizations of labor, women, and farmers, 
and all sorts of NGOs that make Cuban socialism what it is (more on this 
below). It is facile and disingenuous to brand this profoundly 
participatory political system as "dictatorial."

full: http://www.marxmail.org/Cuba_Levins.htm

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