Re: More re 'dreams and nightmares'

From: dashyaf@EASYNET.CO.UK
Date: Wed May 21 2003 - 06:40:21 EDT


An excellent contribution, concrete and realistic. The address of the web
site given for Roque's contribution was slightly wrong - it should be

David Yaffe

  At 01:17 21/05/03 -0400, you wrote:
>Dear friends and comrades,
>        I confess to impatience with people who talk about gross human rights
>abuses and repression with respect to the recent trials of so-called
>dissidents in Cuba--- without any sign that they have done any
>investigation beyond reading an Amnesty International press release (if
>that). The most significant repression in Cuba (where I have been-- except
>for trips to Venezuela--- since early February) has been the repression of
>law-breaking--- first and most significantly against an emerging drug
>network and extending to prosecution of people renting apartments without
>licenses, serving food obtained through the black market in the paladares
>and even to people selling peanuts on the street without a license.
>(Policing and fines for traffic violations are also up substantially.)
>Since so many people rely heavily on getting a little (and in some cases, a
>lot) on the side, this crack-down has had great impact, and my personal
>view (not the Cuban official position) is that it is an important part of
>the explanation as to why there was an upsurge in hijackings (not only the
>ones which made the headlines but also the 27 foiled plots)--- and why
>people with criminal records were prominent in these.
>        That's not the repression, though, that people mean when they go
> on about
>the plight of independent journalists, librarians, trade unionists, human
>rights activists, etc--- as if these people were tried for this rather than
>for receiving money and instructions from the US. Please, folks, take a
>little time to read the text of the Helms-Burton Act--- eg. sections 205
>and 206 on the regime change demanded (character of the 'transition
>government' and who cannot be part of it) or sections 109 and 115 on the
>money to be provided for the overthrow of the existing government openly
>through the USAID and secretly. Look, too, at the official US declarations
>of the over $22 million devoted to this purpose by the USAID. And, finally,
>read some of the evidence on-line (eg., copies of hand-written notes giving
>instructions and sending money for the establishment of the Varela Project,
>'conceived, financed and directed' from the outside) or, for a shorter
>version, look at the text of Felipe Perez Roque's press conference
>(available on-line at many sites, including When you've
>read some of the statements by the Cuban undercover agents who were
>receiving as much as $450 US a month--- over 20 times the average Cuban
>salary) and their evidence about writing articles for foreign circulation
>on specific subjects suggested by US officials, you'll understand why the
>so-called dissidents are viewed in Cuba as mercenaries working on behalf of
>the US government to overthrow the Cuban government. Of course, it's so
>much easier to recoil with horror at the concept of independent
>journalists, etc being persecuted!
>        In contrast to my feelings about the defenders of those mercenaries, I
>respect people whose criticism of Cuba proceeds from their view of the
>absolute sanctity of human life--- including those who signed statements of
>condemnation or demonstrated against Cuba for this reason-- if  they have
>done so in opposition to capital punishment in their own countries and in
>the United States (including that country's heinous torture of people---
>teenagers among them--- in occupied Cuba, i.e. Guantanamo). There have been
>very strong statements about capital punishment made on this list---
>suggesting that capital punishment must be viewed as a moral (and/or
>political) absolute and that no circumstances could ever justify it.
>Accordingly, having resorted to capital punishment recently, from this
>perspective Cuba must be condemned. (This position is to be distinguished
>from one which argues that the use of capital punishment was a tactical or
>strategical error--- one which has reduced support for Cuba at this
>critical time.)
>        I think that it is unquestionable that state murders cannot be
> part of the
>society that we want to build. From my perspective as a Marxist, though,
>central to a dialectical world-view is that parts do not exist separate
>from a whole; their properties are those that they acquire from being in a
>particular whole--- ie., from a particular combination with other parts.
>(Eg., money has different qualities if it mediates exchange between
>independent peasants and craftsmen than it does mediating exchange within
>capitalism.) From this perspective, one always has to consider context and
>combination. If you are willing to accept in principle that under some set
>of extreme circumstances, ie., in a particular context, capital punishment
>may be acceptable, then our discussion becomes not one of absolutes but,
>rather, whether the context in Cuba in any way justified capital
>punishment. (I.e., as George Bernard Shaw said in another context, we've
>established the principle, and we're just haggling over the price.) But,
>then, you really DO have to investigate the context--- and not be satisfied
>with making ill-informed comments about repression in Cuba.
>        Although I've argued in the past about the necessity to separate the
>capital punishment question from the spy trials, I now think that the two
>issues need to be understood together--- i.e., that the actions of the
>Cuban government in both cases must be placed in a particular context.
>There are two questions that I think everyone needs to ask: (1) why, after
>several years of a moratorium on capital punishment (which has meant that
>terrorists who bombed hotels, resulting in a death, in Cuba are still alive
>in prison despite receiving a death sentence), did the government apply the
>death penalty in the case of the hijackers of a small ferry? (2) Given the
>clear isolation and ineffectiveness within Cuba of the 'dissidents', why
>did Cuba choose this time to surface 12 undercover agents who were so
>well-placed that they included the head of the Pro-Human Rights Party, the
>'dean of Cuba's independent reporters' (so trusted by the US Interests
>Section that he had a permanent pass into the US Interests Section) and the
>secretary of one of the best-known dissidents-- so trusted that she had her
>e-mail password)? I.e., why throw away years of investment in intelligence
>        In part, the obvious answer is the escalation of the US campaign to
>overthrow the Cuban government--- starting from James Cason's taking of
>office as Head of the US Interests Office in Havana. (His actions---
>including the setting up of a Cuban political party--- are
>well-documented.) Add to this the recent welcoming of hi-jackers in the US;
>rather than returning them to Cuba and sending the signal that hijacking is
>not rewarded, they are out on bail (and walk the streets of Miami along
>with other Cuban terrorists). Add to this the fact that, despite an annual
>quota established by treaty for a minimum of 20,000 legal immigrants from
>Cuba, since October (the beginning of the year), the US Interests Section
>had by March given out only 505 visas. Add to that recent statements from
>US officials that they would view a mass illegal emigration from Cuba as a
>threat to national security, the demands in Miami that Cuba be next after
>Iraq and Rumsfield's comment that there was no intention of attacking Cuba
>'now'---- and you can understand why Cuba might feel that the US was
>attempting to provoke an incident in order to justify an attack.
>        But, there's more than just the direct provocations and assaults
> on Cuba.
>The essential context in which to understand Cuba's actions is the US war
>against Iraq--- both the execution of that war and the impunity of
>opposition to it. The US determination to go ahead despite the historic
>world-wide demonstrations against the war revealed that, whatever long-run
>effect the mobilisation might have, in the immediate situation the
>demonstrations could not stop an aggressor nation determined to have its
>way; i.e., as long as there was business as usual, no high costs to be felt
>by the aggressor, every country was on its own. Cuba was on its own. (Do
>you think that the leaders, eg., in Venezuela were not making the same
>observations when watching the US proceed to ignore the UN and world
>opinion?) This is why the Cubans speak about a Nazi-Fascism stalking the
>world. In this situation, I think Cuba opted for its own 'shock and awe'
>campaign. It surfaced its undercover agents to demonstrate to the US how
>skillful Cuban intelligence is. (Lest anyone not get that message, Felipe
>Perez Roque underlined it at the press conference, noting 'that no one in
>Cuba is a fool, that we have revealed only a small part of what we know;
>... our people have learned to defend themselves.') And, Cuba took the
>dramatic and painful act of executing the hijackers. As Fidel told the
>foreign participants to the Marx conference at an unannounced evening
>gathering (and subsequently told a Mexican journalist), the choice was
>between those deaths and many more which would result from the US plan to
>provoke an immigration crisis which would be used 'as a pretext for a naval
>blockade, which would inevitably lead to war'.  '"We know full well this
>has a price, since a great number of friends - and many of our best friends
>- for various reasons, whether religious, humanitarian or philosophical,
>are opposed to the death penalty," Castro explained. But he insisted that
>"we didn't have the right to hesitate, and we will not hesitate."' That
>part was meant to send a message both to those within Cuba, thinking about
>hijacking planes, etc and being let out on bail in the US, and also to
>those within the US planning for Cuba to follow Iraq. The message was that
>Cuba was prepared to do what is necessary to defend itself.
>        I think that some of those friends of Cuba who are criticising Cuba at
>this moment should explain what they would do at this time--- not by
>reference to what they would do in their ideal socialist society but what
>they would do in Cuba's shoes in this real situation. And, if they differ
>from what Cuba has done, they should explain why they think they know
>better the real threat that Cuba faces than Cuba's own intelligence
>network. And they should explain what they are prepared to do to help Cuba
>defend itself.
>        in solidarity,
>         michael
>Michael A. Lebowitz
>Professor Emeritus
>Economics Department
>Simon Fraser University
>Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6
>Currently based in Cuba. Can be reached via:
>Michael Lebowitz
>c/o MEPLA
>Calle 13 No. 504 ent. D y E, Vedado, La Habana, Cuba
>Codigo Postal 10 4000
>(537) 33 30 75 or 832  21 54
>telefax (at night): (537) 33 30 75

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