Monday, May 23, 2005

Marc Cooper on an important conference in Cuba

Marc Cooper, columnist for The Nation and LA Weekly and translator for Salvador Allende at the time of the Chilean coup, has some valuable comments about a conference this past weekend in Cuba.

First, what happened and what didn't happen was, as Cooper puts it, remarkable.

For the first time in the 46 years since Fidel Castro has been in power, a coalition of opposition dissidents were allowed to assemble publicly for two days without disruption from the Cuban government.

More than a hundred delegates from small, illegal groups dispersed around the country met in a Havana backyard, denounced one party rule and elected a 36-member steering committee.

In the past any such attempt was smashed with nightsticks and handcuffs. Remember, in Cuba, as Fidel warned sometime ago, you are “either with the Revolution or against the Revolution” and only El Comandante-en-Jefe decides who’s in and who’s out (Hey, didn’t George W. Bush say more or less the same thing when he declared the Global War on Terrorism?).

This time around, the Cuban State Security limited itself to arresting and deporting some European politicians and reporters who came into Cuba to observe the meeting.

Second, Cooper asks why the American left is silent about Castro

the longer Fidel clings to power, and the longer the democratic dissidents are snubbed, the farther and harder to the right Cuba will fall after Castro. The best way to guarantee that the next Cuban regime will be a mafia-dominated dictatorship is to continue the current paradigm—the absolutely stupid polarization of Cuba’s future as either pro or anti-Castro.

That the Neanderthal Right should promote this thinking is perfectly logical. It’s in their favor. But why the continuing silence of most of the American Left on Castro? Why is it left only to Nat Hentoff to speak out? What does it tell us that a great civil liberties lion like Nat is left to publish his op-ed piece in the Washington Times? Why isn’t it on the front page of some other magazines that I could think of?

Third, what's at stake
much of the middle-class, guilt-ridden American Left continues to blindly focus the Cuba issue as solely an American foreign policy question (effectively cutting 10 million Cubans out of their considerations). Standing up to the Yankees is always amusing and often quite the right thing to do—but it shouldn’t win dictators like Castro a moral or political pass.

For those on the Left who say they desire some sort of just society in Cuba in a post-Castro future, it’s time to put up or shut up. Simply apologizing for Castro, usually by repeating ad nauseum the old saw that we as Americans have "no right to criticize" him, will no longer cut it. The choice will only be Castro (who will eventually die) and the dead end Cuba finds itself in, or the worst of the Miami wingnuts, unless that is, you help support and bolster a third, democratic alternative.

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