Friday, June 23, 2006

Sam Farber's new book on Cuba

Paul Hampton has a review of Samuel Farber, The Origins of the Cuban Revolution Reconsidered (University of North Carolina Press, 2006) on his blog at the Alliance for Workers Liberty.

Farber grew up in Cuba, but has lived in the United States since the 1960s. He has been associated with "third camp" socialism, including the journal New Politics, the organization Solidarity, and its magazine Against the Current.

Hampton writes

... Farber’s book is exceptionally useful, dispelling the veil of romanticism that surrounds Castro’s Cuba on the left. It is vital contribution towards reorienting the left and a tremendous contribution towards understanding the nature of the Cuban regime today. With Fidel Castro’s death likely to set off a chain reaction inside and outside Cuba, Marxists have a substantial task in seeking to understand the Cuban social formation and its direction. This book helps us to do that work.
[Not only "Marxists." This book should be valuable to a wide spectrum of the democratic left.]

Hampton's review is divided into several parts. I've linked to them indivually below. The most critical is Part Six.
Farber's book is not an analyis of the Stalinist system that Castro created after 1961. But the basis of the Castro system is defined by Farber in these terms
The mass rally, in which leaders control the podium and speak and spell out policies while the masses applaud, not daring to amend or object, became emblematic of the regime. Such manipulative methods, together with the spying functions of the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution, the activities of the newly-established state security apparatus, the purging of many individuals and groups, and the elimination of all opposition and independent newspapers (which occurred during the summer of 1960, when most of the printed and visual media supported the regime and the government faced no clear and present danger), completed the tripod on which Castro consolidated his power: popular support, manipulation pf that support, and repression.
Earlier this month U.S. labor leaders appealed to Castro to release imprisoned trade unionists

Cuban workers given lengthy jail sentences for efforts to form free trade unions

Campaign for Free and Independent Trade Unions in Cuba, June 5, 2006.

WASHINGTON - A petition urging Cuban President Fidel Castro to release eight workers imprisoned for attempting to form free trade unions was delivered to the U.S. Cuban Interest Section today. The petition, signed by leaders of 23 U.S. unions, calls on Castro to restore fundamental workers' rights guaranteed by international conventions long ignored by the Cuban regime.

"Cuba is obligated as a member of the International Labor Organization and as a state which has ratified Conventions No. 87 and 98 to guarantee freedom of association - the right of workers to form organizations of their own choosing and to bargain collectively. But these rights have long been repressed in Cuba," the petition states. The ILO is the oldest UN organization.

The workers were among scores of journalists, human rights activists and pro-democracy reformers who were rounded up and imprisoned in Cuba in 2003 for terms up to 26 years. While some of the others have been released, the trade unionists remained locked in walled-in cells "filled with vermin and rats," according to a report by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. Some are gravely ill because of the harsh prison conditions and lack of medical attention.

Those jailed include Pedro Pablo Alvarez Ramos, Alfredo Felipe Fuentes, Miguel Galván, Ivan Hernandez Carrillo, Nelson Molinet Espino and Hector Raúl Valle Fernández. Another, Carmelo Díaz Fernández, has been granted leave status because of failing health. Lázaro González Adán, has been in prison since October 2004 without charges or trial.

"The only 'crime' they committed was talking with other workers about organizing to bargain with their employers," said Thomas R. Donahue, the former president of the AFL-CIO who is spearheading the campaign. "What Castro is doing to these men not only is inhumane, but it also is a violation of international law."

The ILO's Committee on Freedom of Association in June 2005 issued a report finding that Cuba was in violation for imposing a trade union monopoly controlled by the state, and urged the immediate release of the imprisoned workers:

"The Committee can only express the firm hope that the Government will take steps to ensure a climate free of violence, pressures or threats of any kind so that trade union activities can be carried out freely, even by organizations which do not share the same economic and social objectives," the report concluded.

Union leaders signing the petition submitted [June 5] to the Cuban government represent millions of American workers in both the AFL-CIO and Change To Win labor federations. They include: Leo W. Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers; Edward J. McElroy, president of the American Federation of Teachers; James P. Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters; Edwin D. Hill, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; R. Thomas Buffenbarger, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; William Lucy, secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and chairman of the AFL-CIO International Affairs Committee; Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union/United Food and Commercial Workers; William Burrus, president of the American Postal Workers Union; and Capt. Duane E. Woerth, president of the Air Line Pilots Association.

In response to the Campaign for Free and Independent Trade Unions in Cuba, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney added his voice in April, sending a letter to Castro urging the release of the imprisoned trade unionists. The AFL-CIO's International Affairs Committee also has endorsed the campaign to insist on freedom of association and freedom of expression in Cuba.

Full list of signers:

  • Paul E. Almeida, President, Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO
  • Stuart Appelbaum, President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union,UFCW
  • Baxter M. Atkinson, President, American Federation of School Administrators
  • Dana A. Brigham, General President, International Union of Elevator Constructors
  • R. Thomas Buffenbarger, International President, International Association of M achinists & Aerospace Workers
  • William Burrus, President, American Postal Workers Union
  • Thomas R. Donahue, Former President, AFL-CIO
  • John J. Flynn, President, International Union of Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers
  • Warren S. George, President, Amalgamated Transit Union
  • Leo W. Gerard, International President, United Steelworkers
  • Edwin D. Hill, President, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
  • James P. Hoffa, General President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters
  • Joseph J. Hunt, President, Iron Workers International
  • Frank Hurt, President, Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union
  • Thomas F. Lee, President, American Federation of Musicians
  • James C. Little, International President, Transport Workers Union
  • William Lucy, International Secretary-Treasurer, American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees; Chairman, AFL-CIO International Affairs Committee
  • Edward J. McElroy, President, American Federation of Teachers
  • Patrick Quinn, President, Actors' Equity Association
  • Kinsey M. Robinson, International President, United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers, & Allied Workers
  • Michael Sacco, President, Seafarers International Union
  • Michael J. Sullivan, General President, Sheet Metal Workers International Association
  • Capt. Duane E. Woerth, President, Air Line Pilots Association, International
Campaign for Free and Independent Trade Unions in Cuba
1925 K Street, NW, Suite 401, Washington, DC 20006

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