• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

CounterPunch needs you. piggybank-icon You need us. The cost of keeping the site alive and running is growing fast, as more and more readers visit. We want you to stick around, but it eats up bandwidth and costs us a bundle. Help us reach our modest goal (we are half way there!) so we can keep CounterPunch going. Donate today!
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Sixty Years of the Cuban Revolution

Photo by Nathaniel St. Clair

We are urged to resist Trump’s lies: the lies of US capitalism. But there are lies about those lies that are not resisted. They are not recognized.

You see this in an intriguing new book about US interrogation during the Korean War, Monica Kim’s The Interrogation Rooms of the Korean War: the Untold Story[i] The “untold story” it tells is not untold. It is about “a complex eco-system of violence, intimacy and bureaucracy” aimed at solidifying US global power. We learn the self-proclaimed guardian of the world lied about its methods, claiming “our traditional lack of imperialistic ambition”.

The empire denied being an empire. The war in June 1950, Monica Kim argues, was about violation of the 38th parallel; by 1952 it was violation of human subjects. The US made the “stunning” claim that a simple “yes” or “no”, recorded by an interrogator, was the “free individual choice” of Koreans and Chinese prisoners. US policy of voluntary repatriation was psychological warfare.

It is not an “untold story”, not even, or especially the subject-violating part. Only the details change. US subject fashioning was known more than a century before the Korean War. A group of non-radical priests in Cuba began a remarkable debate (1836-8), influencing neighboring countries, about precisely this question.[ii]  They knew imperialism erases people. It erases them to themselves.

It deadens moral imagination so there is no “free choice” to be human. You can’t meaningfully choose what you can’t imagine. This is the part of the “new liberal paradigm” Kim misses: Truth is useless if we can’t imagine, or don’t want to accept, what that truth explains. If, in daily life, I accept the liberal lie about “free individual choice”, I won’t believe what contradicts it, no matter the evidence.

It is how understanding works and it is well-known in North American philosophy of science. The independistas in Cuba, two centuries ago, knew this. Moreover, they wrote about it: a lot.  They exposed the “stunning” lie long ago. They refused to participate in it and their ideas survived. They still do.

Raúl Castro said on January 1, 2019, the sixtieth anniversary of the Cuban Revolution: “Only thus can we understand the feat of having withstood the tough years of the Special Period, when we were left alone in the middle of the West, 90 miles from the United States. Then, nobody in the world would have bet a penny on the survival of the Revolution.”

It’s an understatement. Not only would no one in 1990 have bet on Cuba’s survival, no one in 2019 believes it happened (in the North, at least). If they did, they’d ask how it happened and they’d investigate the “decolonizing subject” that explains it.

The “decolonizing subject”, Kim writes, claimed a voice. Sure, and it is ignored. It is not in English. Trendy jargon like “decolonizing subject” describes the “new liberal paradigm” without understanding what that paradigm does. It lies about freedom, true. But it lies about lies. They are not refuted by truth.

Lies of the empire, sustained by power, “fashioning subjects” through fear, are only fully grasped by rejecting them in daily life, by refusing to participate.

We can learn from Hans Fallada’s Alone in Berlin. The protagonists, Otto and Anna Quangel, leave postcards around Berlin, criticizing Hitler. The postcards are useless. They achieve nothing, materially. But Otto and Anna die “without moaning and whimpering”.

That’s huge. They suffer, of course. But their examples sow seeds for a future (better) Germany.  Or so Fallada suggests. Otto says to his Nazi tormentors, “at least I stayed decent. I didn’t participate”. And the judge at the trial “could see recognition [of Otto’s dignity] in the faces of the spectators in the courtroom”. He wanted at all costs “to strip the accused of that recognition”.

He can’t do it. Otto laughs in the courtroom and Anna’s eyes are “as serene and merry as {Otto] had ever seen them”. The empire lies about Venezuela as it lies about Cuba, and it will continue to do so. But the truth will survive and will motivate because it will be lived by some. And it will be recognized.

It will be lived for the same reason Otto and Anna keep handing out their postcards. As Otto says to Anna: “Who wants to die. Everyone wants to live, everyone – Even the most miserable worm is screaming for life! I want to live too. … [But I want] to die properly, without moaning and whimpering. That would be disgusting to me…”

It is not the lies that matter most. It is whether they are lived. This was known once in the US. During the anti-war movement of the 70s, there was a slogan: There are no innocents. It meant a comfortable life, promoting values sustaining the empire’s lies, was collusion in the slaughter such lies justified.

It is a hard truth for the “new liberal paradigm”.  Kim says the empire used the “power of ideas”. The independistas knew it was the nature of ideas they had to discuss. They must be lived. It will eventually be called an “untold story” by some academic in North America.  But it has been told and still is being told in Venezuela and elsewhere. It is because it matters, as Otto noticed, that “at least I stayed decent”.

Notes.

[i] Monica Kim The Interrogation Rooms of the Korean War: The Untold History (Princeton University Press, Feb 5 2019). See forthcoming review at https://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/

[ii] https://www.counterpunch.org/2015/09/30/cubas-quiet-wealth-why-it-is-needed/

More articles by:

Susan Babbitt is author of Humanism and Embodiment (Bloomsbury 2014).

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

May 27, 2019
John Grant
Congress is Being Punked: Will They Find Their Backbone?
Robert Fisk
The Evidence We Were Never Meant to See About the Douma Gas Attack
Basav Sen
The Terrifying Global Implications of Modi’s Re-Election
Peter Certo
Pardoning War Criminals is a Terrible Way to Honor Veterans
Howard Lisnoff
When War Crimes are Pardoned
Joe Emersberger
Guillaume Long on Ecuadorian President Moreno’s betrayal of Assange and the Citizens Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
Monsanto, Scientific Deception and Cancer
Elizabeth Keyes
Demonstrating for Assange in NYC or Life on Pluto
Mike Ferner
Another Empire’s Boot Stomps on Ireland
Lizzett Talavera
Toward a Culture of Animal Protection in Cuba
Ed Sanders
Monsanto is Evil: a Glyph
Elliot Sperber
The Snow Leopards of Central Park 
Weekend Edition
May 24, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Iran, Venezuela and the Throes of Empire
Melvin Goodman
The Dangerous Demise of Disarmament
Jeffrey St. Clair
“The Army Ain’t No Place for a Black Man:” How the Wolf Got Caged
Richard Moser
War is War on Mother Earth
Andrew Levine
The (Small-d) Democrat’s Dilemma
Russell Mokhiber
The Boeing Way: Blaming Dead Pilots
Rev. William Alberts
Gaslighters of God
Phyllis Bennis
The Amputation Crisis in Gaza: a US-Funded Atrocity
David Rosen
21st Century Conglomerate Trusts 
Jonathan Latham
As a GMO Stunt, Professor Tasted a Pesticide and Gave It to Students
Binoy Kampmark
The Espionage Act and Julian Assange
Kathy Deacon
Liberals Fall Into Line: a Recurring Phenomenon
Jill Richardson
The Disparity Behind Anti-Abortion Laws
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Chelsea Manning is Showing Us What Real Resistance Looks Like
Zhivko Illeieff
Russiagate and the Dry Rot in American Journalism
Norman Solomon
Will Biden’s Dog Whistles for Racism Catch Up with Him?
Yanis Varoufakis
The Left Refuses to Get Its Act Together in the Face of Neofascism
Lawrence Davidson
Senator Schumer’s Divine Mission
Thomas Knapp
War Crimes Pardons: A Terrible Memorial Day Idea
Renee Parsons
Dump Bolton before He Starts the Next War
Yves Engler
Canada’s Meddling in Venezuela
Katie Singer
Controlling 5G: A Course in Obstacles
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Beauty of Trees
Jesse Jackson
Extremist Laws, Like Alabama’s, Will Hit Poor Women the Hardest
Andrew Bacevich
The “Forever Wars” Enshrined
Ron Jacobs
Another One Moves On: Roz Payne, Presente!
Christopher Brauchli
The Offal Office
Daniel Falcone
Where the ‘Democratic Left’ Goes to Die: Staten Island NYC and the Forgotten Primaries   
Julia Paley
Life After Deportation
Sarah Anderson
America Needs a Long-Term Care Program for Seniors
Seiji Yamada – John Witeck
Stop U.S. Funding for Human Rights Abuses in the Philippines
Shane Doyle, A.J. Not Afraid and Adrian Bird, Jr.
The Crazy Mountains Deserve Preservation
Charlie Nash
Will Generation Z Introduce a Wizard Renaissance?
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail