FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Democratic Left and Cuba

by STEVEN SHERMAN

 

The “Democratic Left”, aka Leftists Against the Same Stuff as Bush (LASSAB for short) are at it again. You know these folks-Leo Casey, Michael Berube, Eric Alterman, Todd Gitlin In recent times they have bravely stood against such forces as the Taliban and the ANSWER coalition. Now they have found a new target. Not ones to be distracted by the chaotic beginnings of the occupation of Iraq, police attacks on anti-war demonstrators, or ‘mass killings’ (as the UN Human Rights Commission recently described them) by the Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza, they have zeroed in on what they seem to believe is the major threat to freedom in the world today: Cuba.

The focus of their activism is a letter being circulated by Leo Casey of The United Federation of Teacher in New York. “In solidarity with the people of Cuba”, they condemn the recent detention of 80 “non-violent political dissidents” and their closed court trials and harsh sentences. Fair-minded as they are, the Democratic left also has some words about US policy towards Cuba: “The democratic left worldwide has opposed the US embargo on Cuba as counterproductive, more harmful to the interests of the Cuban people than helpful to political democratization.” Nevertheless, the rest of the three paragraph long letter is devoted to the alleged crimes of the Cuban government, which LASSAB clearly perceives as the greater wrongdoer. By the end, Casey declares that “Despite (Cuba’s) claims of social progress in education and health care, (it is) just one more dictatorship.”

Predictably, that great chronicler of LASSAB, Marc Cooper, has weighed in with a column praising the letter. Cuba is basically a society where, “say, a John Ashcroft would be unrestrained by the niceties of constitutional law”. The people arrested by the Cuban government were doing nothing more pernicious than meeting with US diplomats (“meeting with delegations of foreign political leaders”, in Casey’s somewhat more circumspect phrasing) and Cooper has met with Cuban diplomats in the US without being arrested! Cooper notes that his friends urged him not to write this column, but he dismisses their concerns-“the actions taken by Fidel Castro.. are guaranteed to only please the ultraright.” He urges readers to sign on to the letter being circulated by Casey, “one of the few, too few, leftist statements on the issue”, signed by a “number of prominent leftists”.

Looking over the signatories, the absence of many leftists-both those coming out of a Marxist background, who one might suspect are ‘soft’ on revolutionary regimes (Alexander Cockburn, Mike Davis, James Petras, Tariq Ali, etc) and those who come from more anarchistic perspectives (Michael Albert, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein)-is striking. One might call all those leftists who failed to sign this letter LAUSI (Leftists Against US Imperialism). So the leftist reader might be confused: should she or he stand with LASSAB, or LAUSI?

Closer examination of both Cooper’s column and Casey’s letter might clarify the matter. For example, members of LAUSI probably believe that, if they are living in the US, they are already living in a society where “a John Ashcroft would be unrestrained by the niceties of constitutional law”. How else to explain various arbitrary detentions, attacks on peaceful protest, and the ongoing nightmare of the ‘detainees’. Since LAUSIstas oppose the Republican parties’ combination of apocalyptic Christian fundamentalism, US pre-emptive strike doctrine, and Enron style capitalism, they might worry about the fact that, according to Cooper, who seems to approve, the “Bush administration’s top diplomat in Cuba.. has been quite assertive.. Publicly challenging Castro”. They might suspect that, given the lengthy history of terrorism and blockade against Cuba that the US has sponsored, he is trying to build a spy network to bring down the regime or at least provide intelligence to ease the likely pre-emptive strike.

LAUSIstas might also wonder about Casey’s claim that the “Cuban state’s current repression of political dissidents amounts to collaboration with the most reactionary elements of the US administration.” After all, since the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the US federal government are now firmly in the hands of the aforementioned Republican party, it is difficult to know what non ‘reactionary elements’ Casey would like to see Cuba ally with. LAUSIstas might also wonder about that description of the US embargo of Cuba as ‘counterproductive’. Most LAUSIstas would probably argue that the embargo is meant to punish the Cuban government for building (not ‘claiming’ to do so, but actually building) decent health and education systems, and providing their citizens with some protections against the worst ravages of capitalism experienced by their neighbors. In this sense, they might argue, the embargo’s success at limiting the Cuban achievement has been quite ‘productive’. LAUSIstas not familiar with the guiding principles of LASSAB might wonder where the signatories of the letter were when the revolt in Bolivia against neo-liberalism was being violently repressed, or when Bush announced he was sending American troops to guard an oil pipeline and possibly fight guerrillas in Colombia alongside the worst human rights violators in the hemisphere. Those more familiar with LASSAB might explain that LASSAB rarely criticizes US allies or the US government, unless its actions might be construed as ‘counterproductive’ to broader goals of US power.

While few among LAUSI are likely pleased at the closed courts or executions in Cuba, they would likely worry that, in the near future, the US government will set its sights on regime change in Cuba. They may expect that the New York Times will site Casey’s letter as evidence that much of ‘the left’ is opposed to Castro, and in fact believes that “the Cuban state.. is not a government of the left”. They may worry that as the US begins to move toward a military confrontation, LASSAB will continue to scream about how awful Castro is while offering minor bleats in objection to US unilateralism or failure to pursue regime change through diplomacy (although, to be sure, LASSAB’s fire will probably turn away from Castro and towards those parts of an emergent anti-war movement seen as excessively supportive of the Cuban leader). I hope the above fairly describes the positions of LASSAB and LAUSI, and help the reader to make an informed choice about whether or not to sign Casey’s letter.

STEVEN SHERMAN is a resident of Chapel Hill North Carolina who teaches at UNC-Greensboro. He can be reached at: sherman@counterpunch.org.

 

More articles by:
November 22, 2017
Jonathan Cook
Syria, ‘Experts’ and George Monbiot
William Kaufman
The Great American Sex Panic of 2017
Richard Moser
Young Patriots, Black Panthers and the Rainbow Coalition
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima Darkness
Lee Artz
Cuba Libre, 2017
Mark Weisbrot
Mass Starvation and an Unconstitutional War: US / Saudi Crimes in Yemen
Frank Stricker
Republican Tax Cuts: You’re Right, They’re Not About Economic Growth or Lifting Working-Class Incomes
Edward Hunt
Reconciling With Extremists in Afghanistan
Dave Lindorff
Remembering Media Critic Ed Herman
Nick Pemberton
What to do About Al Franken?
November 21, 2017
Gregory Elich
What is Behind the Military Coup in Zimbabwe?
Louisa Willcox
Rising Grizzly Bear Deaths Raise Red Flag About Delisting
David Macaray
My Encounter With Charles Manson
Patrick Cockburn
The Greatest Threats to the Middle East are Jared Kushner and Mohammed bin Salman
Stephen Corry
OECD Fails to Recognize WWF Conservation Abuses
James Rothenberg
We All Know the Rich Don’t Need Tax Cuts
Elizabeth Keyes
Let There be a Benign Reason For Someone to be Crawling Through My Window at 3AM!
L. Ali Khan
The Merchant of Weapons
Thomas Knapp
How to Stop a Rogue President From Ordering a Nuclear First Strike
Lee Ballinger
Trump v. Marshawn Lynch
Michael Eisenscher
Donald Trump, Congress, and War with North Korea
Tom H. Hastings
Reckless
Franklin Lamb
Will Lebanon’s Economy Be Crippled?
Linn Washington Jr.
Forced Anthem Adherence Antithetical to Justice
Nicolas J S Davies
Why Do Civilians Become Combatants In Wars Against America?
November 20, 2017
T.J. Coles
Doomsday Scenarios: the UK’s Hair-Raising Admissions About the Prospect of Nuclear War and Accident
Peter Linebaugh
On the 800th Anniversary of the Charter of the Forest
Patrick Bond
Zimbabwe Witnessing an Elite Transition as Economic Meltdown Looms
Sheldon Richman
Assertions, Facts and CNN
Ben Debney
Plebiscites: Why Stop at One?
LV Filson
Yemen’s Collective Starvation: Where Money Can’t Buy Food, Water or Medicine
Thomas Knapp
Impeachment Theater, 2017 Edition
Binoy Kampmark
Trump in Asia
Curtis FJ Doebbler
COP23: Truth Without Consequences?
Louisa Willcox
Obesity in Bears: Vital and Beautiful
Deborah James
E-Commerce and the WTO
Ann Garrison
Burundi Defies the Imperial Criminal Court: an Interview with John Philpot
Robert Koehler
Trapped in ‘a Man’s World’
Stephen Cooper
Wiping the Stain of Capital Punishment Clean
Weekend Edition
November 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Thank an Anti-War Veteran
Andrew Levine
What’s Wrong With Bible Thumpers Nowadays?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The CIA’s House of Horrors: the Abominable Dr. Gottlieb
Wendy Wolfson – Ken Levy
Why We Need to Take Animal Cruelty Much More Seriously
Mike Whitney
Brennan and Clapper: Elder Statesmen or Serial Fabricators?
David Rosen
Of Sex Abusers and Sex Offenders
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail