FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Civil Society Ploy

by SAUL LANDAU and NELSON P. VALDES

Can the United States export democracy to another country, the way it exports Coca Cola? Apparently the government,particularly, USAID, and the mass media – think so. But, some tricky issues emerge because we – the USA – the ‘city on the hill” represent “exceptionalism.”

The United States, our teachers tell us, was God’s special gift to the world. God blesses America. Yet, as the exception, we ironically attempt to export the very qualities that make us exceptional? Or maybe our policy elite just want other countries to behave like junior partners of the GRAND OL’ EXCEPTION?

Moreover American “exceptionalism” has unfolded from the 17th Century when “the chosen People” landed at “The City on a Hill”(Boston, Massachusetts) and others came to “the promised land” (Virginia) and bought slaves from Africa to farm their lands.

The American “Dream” has also evolved into a land of foreclosures and evictions in the best democracy that money can buy. And banks provide credit cards that have helped shopping become our universal spiritual value.

When nations disobey US rules, as Cuba began to do in January 1959, following its revolution, Washington administers rebukes and punishment. In October 1960, President Eisenhower invoked Cold War rhetoric to disguise his real motives. He castigated disobedient Cuba by imposing an embargo Kennedy formalized that cut of US economic relations with the island during and the Missile Crisis two years later.

By the late 1990s, however, the Soviet Union and Cold War had vanished and Washington found new “reasons” for maintaining its hostile Cuba policy: a newer version of counterrevolution emerged under the name of ‘democracy promotion” or the THIRD WAVE of democratization, a bizarre academic misnomer that those university professors aspiring to government offices articulate and for which they receive grants. By the 1990s, the aspirants to power and status around government and media had jumped onto the federally-funded gravy train called “”building a civil society in Cuba.”

The Washington and Miami elite identified no Democratic organizations on the island. So, they planned to export the US model — “little Havana” into big Cuba. And do it in the American way: pay people here to develop a civil society — “democracy building” — there.

Miami shone as an example of civil society. The democracy for Cuba project does not say that Miami has 163 crimes per square mile, a figure that would clearly inspire Cubans on the island. Other winning Miami data includes: a violent Crime Rate three times higher than the national average, including a startlingly towering murder index that should certainly make Havana residents envious. Miami boasts a three times more than the national average robbery rate as well. 7.36 out of 1000 residents in Miami Dade get assaulted, compared to the US average of 2.52. Likewise, burglary and theft rates for south Florida rate as exceptionally elevated.

(http://www.bestplaces.net/docs/studies/crime3.aspx;

http://www.neighborhoodscout.com/fl/miami/crime/)

According to the FBI, Miami has also become the center of Medicare fraud and stolen identities. In fact, the FBI has created a Medicare Fraud Strike Force and one of them resides in Dade County. Such a civil society paradise should surely entice 11 million Cubans to throw out their government and import the US option. We adore our civil society. But the above figures cast doubt on its civility.

Amazingly, no reporter has asked US officials what they mean when they call for a “civil society” in Cuba. Trace the term back to the French revolution, and to Jean Jacques Rousseau’s version: a civil society would provide peace for everyone and ensure the right to property for anyone lucky enough to have possessions; or, an advantage to property owners, since it transforms their de facto ownership into rightful ownership and keeps the poor dispossessed. In his social contract government insures that the poor get much less out of the arrangement than do the rich. But the rich live in fear and worry because they think the poor will rise up and seize their property.

In fact, the bourgeoisie designed civil society in post-revolutionary France to insure their property, privilege, power and status.

For the US imperial policy elite the reintroduction of this old phrase offered comforting sounds, but little meaning to the public.

To bring civil society to Cuba, the policy elite devised a plan to create social unrest in Cuba by making “dissidence” financially attractive. But those who receive civil society promotion grants inside Cuba serve far better paid US intermediaries: the Miami or Washington-based entrepreneurs making big bucks in the “civil society grants” business. They pocket large sums of taxpayers’ dollars; then, farm out smaller contracts to dependent recipients in Cuba. For their “political” work on the island, the Cuban recipients get US government HANDOUTS like welfare chiselers” or “welfare queens.” These so-called “dissidents” parade on Havana’s streets under the dignified title of “Ladies in White.”

Oddly, the US government does not promote real independent producers inside the island. For example, tobacco or coffee growers – mostly family farmers, independent of the state since the 17th century cannot, by US law, sell their product to Americans, despite the fact that if they were able to do so they could become an autonomous class of producers. But, US law allows our government to send tax payers’ monies to Cubans on the island who never develop an independent economic base, but continue a cycle of dependency on the US Treasury.

Cubans overthrew the old, pre January 1959 civil society because it did not behave in a civil manner. In 1952, General Fulgencio Batista, staged a coup d’etat, received US blessings for it, and then tortured and murdered his opponents, and went into the gambling bed with the Mafia. But he always behaved obediently toward Washington. For those reasons, most of the Cubans who removed Batista’s civil society wanted a different order, one based on equality and social justice, not on property rights. They also fought for an old Cuban goal: sovereignty, independence from Washington’s dictates.

The propertied and those aspiring to property did not appreciate the Revolutionary uprising. Nor did the powerful in Washington. After half a century of from violence (terrorism) and economic strangulation as policies to oust the revolutionary government, US officials have switched to “civil society” creation.

Congress yearly allots money through USAID to subvert the new order and replace it with a US-type civil society — our fizzy product, but without Coca Cola’s carbonation. Yet, Cuba’s real and new civil society is unfolding, at the behest of the Cuban government, and no one in Foggy Bottom seems to know or care.

Saul Landau’s WILL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP screens n Oct 24 at the Vermont International Film Festival.

Nelson P. Valdes is Professor Emeritus at the University of New Mexico.

May 03, 2016
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Resumé: What the Record Shows
Michèle Brand – Arun Gupta
What is the “Nuit Debout”?
Chuck Churchill
The Failures of Capitalism, Donald Trump and Right Wing Terror
Dave Marsh
Bernie and the Greens
John Wight
Zionism Should be on Trial, Not Ken Livingstone
Rev. John Dear
A Dweller in Peace: the Life and Times of Daniel Berrigan
Patrick Cockburn
Saudi Arabia’s Great Leap Forward: What Would Mao Think?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Electoral Votes Matter: Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump
Chris Gilbert
Venezuela Today: This Must Be Progress
Pepe Escobar
The Calm Before the Coming Global Storm
Ruth Fowler
Intersecting with the Identity Police (Or Why I Stopped Writing Op-Eds)
Victor Lasa
The Battle Rages on in Spain: the Country Prepares for Repeat Elections in June
Jack Rasmus
Is the US Economy Heading for Recession?
Dean Baker
Time for an Accountable Federal Reserve
Ted Rall
Working for US Gov Means Never Saying Sorry
Dave Welsh
Hunger Strikers at Mission Police Station: “Stop the execution of our people”
John Eskow
The Death of Prince and the Death of Lonnie Mack
May 02, 2016
Michael Hudson – Gordon Long
Wall Street Has Taken Over the Economy and is Draining It
Paul Street
The Bernie Fade Begins
Ron Jacobs
On the Frontlines of Peace: the Life of Daniel Berrigan
Louis Yako
Dubai Transit
Bill Quigley
Teacher, Union Leader, Labor Lawyer: Profile of Chris Williams Social Justice Advocate
Patrick Cockburn
Into the Green Zone: Iraq’s Disintegrating Political System
Lawrence Ware
Trump is the Presidential Candidate the Republicans Deserve
Ron Forthofer
Just Say No to Corporate Rule
Ralph Nader
The Long-Distance Rebound of Bernie Sanders
Ken Butigan
Remembering Daniel Berrigan, with Gratitude
Nicolas J S Davies
Escalating U.S. Air Strikes Kill Hundreds of Civilians in Mosul, Iraq
Binoy Kampmark
Class, Football, and Blame: the Hillsborough Disaster Inquest
George Wuerthner
The Economic Value of Yellowstone National Park
Rivera Sun
Celebrating Mother Jones
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir and Postcolonialism
Mairead Maguire
Drop the Just War Theory
Weekend Edition
April 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail