knhiebert at shaw.ca
Tue Feb 12 16:27:04 MST 2013
Louis has asked for contributions on Cuba that go beyond one-liners. I will try to write such a contribution. I will leave it to your judgement as to whether I have succeeded or simply written a collection of one-liners. Let me suggest that we can start with some agreement. No one on this list has suggested that the Cuban Communist Party is so bad that we should not oppose the US embargo of Cuba. I assume that people on this list are opposed to the embargo and they are willing to say so publicly, to campaign against the embargo. And I don't think anyone on this list has such a positive view of Cuba that they would want to organize their co-workers to travel to Cuba so they can be convinced of the merit of socialism.
I believe that the victory of the Cuban revolution was a giant step forward for the human race and for the struggle for socialism. A defeat for the revolution today would be a defeat for all of us. Even today, more than 50 years after the revolution, Cuba continues to inspire. I recall a Caribbean co-worker who pointed to the achievements of Cuba in health and education. Or, just recently, a Latin American man in my small town who is considering a move to Cuba to find a better life.
Why were we inspired? Think back to the defeat of the Batista dictatorship, the literacy campaign, the defeat of the Bay of Pigs invasion and the nationalization of basic industry. None of this could have happened without a mobilization of the Cuban people.
With a bit of research I could not doubt write a much longer list of things that inspire us about Cuba. Eg. their capacity to send practical aid to stricken countries under difficult conditions.
But reality is complex and without too much effort I could write a long list of criticisms of the Cuban leadership. I have said that many people are inspired by Cuba. But not everyone is. Who could blame people in Eastern Europe for identifying Cuba with the Stalinist dictatorships that they overthrew? I recall reading Granma in late 1989, with some Eastern European regimes tottering or overthrown. Granma published an article warmly praising Nicolae Ceaușescu. Within months of the publication of that article Ceaușescu was dead and their insincere embrace of him was a waste of time. At least, i hope it was insincere and not an expression of political affinity.
And in the Arab world the identification of Cuba with Gaddfi and now with Assad can only diminish the authority of the Cuban Revolution in the eyes of the Arab masses. This will make it more difficult to build the left in Arab countries. We can be sure that anti-Communist forces there will not hesitate to remind people of the stance taken by Cuba.
Looking more narrowly at advances in human knowledge there are some areas where we look to Cuba. Medical science and life sciences come to mind. Organic farming is another one. They have made some wonderful films. People on this list will be able to point to some other areas of study. There are other areas of knowledge where I do not turn to Cuba to increase my knowledge. When is the last time you read an article from Cuba that helped you to understand the collapse of the Soviet Union, the changes in China, the Arab Spring?
As for our work, have the Cubans published something that would help deal with a situation where a woman comrade has accused a male leader of rape?
There was a time when the Cuban press was a source of inspiration. I remember when i joined the Trotskyist movement in Vancouver in 1967. When we went out to sell our newspaper, we would sometimes take along the English language Granma and sell it, too. But today, when is the last time you forwarded an article from the Cuban press?
We have an elementary duty to defend Cuba. We have no obligation to look at Cuba through rose-coloured glasses. Criticism can be very useful. When i look at the progress that Cuba has made on gay rights, i wonder how much of that was brought about by criticism from foreign leftists. As far as i know, this progress was made without gay rights organizations, newspapers or marches inside Cuba.
Rather than keeping quiet about my criticisms of Cuba, the best thing I can do is express them publicly. That allows others who know better than I do to correct me.
Lastly, I may have recommended this film before. But let me do it again. La Vida es Silbar - Life is to Whistle. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_is_to_Whistle
It portrays a fierce loyalty to Cuba along with a restiveness and a desire for change.
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