Recently, writer Dave Osler, whose work has appeared in the online political magazine Red Pepper, received a rather lengthy – and, well . . . bizarre – response from RP co-writer Diana Raby. Osler had responded to Raby’s piece titled “Why Cuba is still important,” where the author makes every attempt to support the ongoing subjugation of Cuba’s 11+ million enslaved citizens. Raby responded in kind and I thought I’d take the opportunity to disassemble and toss into the proverbial dustbin – her main points. Let us tackle Raby’s bullet points one-by-one.
1) To begin with a few of Dave’s specific allegations. It is a myth that the ’Castroites’ were fundamentally middle-class. Although some obviously fit that description, the majority of the revolutionaries were of worker or peasant background.
Truth-be-told, Miss Raby, those allying themselves with the revolutionary movement came from many different demographic backgrounds. There was no one particular socio-economic group that could classify itself as a majority in the movement. Cubans from all walks of life desired a return to constitutional democracy. Perhaps Fulgencio Batista’s gravest error was the suspension of the vaunted 1940 constitution – which vehemently protected civil liberties and was widely respected as one of the primary tools that broke another link in the chain that had historically bound the Cuban people to the colossus of the north – the United States. By reducing that document to nothing more than sanitary paper, Batista himself created the movement that would eventually topple him and end the island’s march toward perpetual democracy.
2) Secondly, the Cuban leadership is not ‘a family business’. Raul is there on his merits, having played a leading role in the struggle alongside his brother from the beginning. None of Fidel’s children has a significant role in the government.
Raul was hand-picked and installed by his brother, Fidel Castro. Furthermore, the entire world knew from the beginning that this dynastic transition would take place. How did the world know? Because Fidel and co. had ANNOUNCED it on numerous occasions. I suppose Miss Raby missed the memo. If that isn’t an example of corruption and nepotism, I simply don’t know what is.
As for Fidel’s children – it is common knowledge that Fidel Castro Jr. was in fact being groomed for the upper echelons of the de-facto government. His tenure as a government nuclear scientist and adviser to his morally bankrupt father was so inept, that no one could preserve his place at the overseer’s table. In recent years, he has largely disappeared from the public arena as a result.
Most of Fidel’s other children – I can only speak in an informed manner regarding the one’s I’ve met – have no interest in politics. They are content to enjoy the benefits of association with their ignoble father. What I find so intriguing about some of the children – Alejandro for example – is the fact that they use the island’s thriving black market as a tool just like the rest of Cuba. I feel I should remind the readers of the obvious here – it certainly isn’t out of necessity that they turn to “el Mercado negro.” Fidel’s children all enjoy the benefits of new cars, freedom to travel and the ability to enjoy those restaurants and facilities that Cuba’s vast majority can never hope to experience. The children are – in a word – apathetic. They have neither the desire nor the need to seek higher office. The corruption inherent in the Cuban system will always provide for them. It is their greed and ambivalence that drives them towards the island’s illicit markets.
3) It is also a caricature to compare Cuba to former Latin American military regimes. This is a revolutionary army which shares the same values and conditions of life as the majority of Cubans and has never taken repressive action against its own people; and in any case the regular military establishment has been reduced in size in recent years with the adoption of the ‘War of All the People’ defense strategy.
If Miss Raby is unable to identify one of the most notorious military regimes in Latin American history – she is either mentally deficient, or simply not being genuine in her analysis. The entire Cuban system is based on militarism. Cuban pesos are emblazoned with images of Kalashnikov-toting fighters. The island’s military parades are considered the largest in Latin America. And ALL of this is designed to keep the people in check and demonstrate exactly who’s in charge. Military officers receive a wide variety of perks – from new model Volkswagen automobiles, to televisions and stereos. Going further, there are plenty of military men who realize their lives could be in danger once the regime collapses. On more than one occasion, I have chatted with officers – loosening them up by mentioning my love of target shooting. Twice, oddly, I have been shown semi-automatic pistols always kept tucked in a waist band or stashed in a car’s glove box (when out as a civilian) in case anyone “fucks” with them. “If people begin to get out of hand, I’ll be ready,” said one officer to me as we chatted beside his shiny red VW Golf. Myself? I was tooling around in a 1970’s vintage Moscovitch with so little bottom left to it, that I felt more like Fred Flintstone than Anatasio Blanco as I drove the streets of Havana.
And just who is it that patrols the streets of Cuban cities? Police, right? This is correct but, not the whole story. Those green-clad men you often see patrolling the streets in places like Havana . . . those aren’t beat cops – they’re Interior Ministry troops, ready to react to any potential Maleconazos.
4) Democracy – rule by the people – begins from below. It means direct engagement of communities, beginning at street and neighbourhood level, in running their own affairs. Similarly at the workplace, in factory, field, office or school, it implies direct worker and citizen involvement. At one remove, democracy is the coordinated authority of local communities in running municipal, county or provincial affairs, and at further remove, in national government.
Miss Raby goes on to speak of democracy in Cuba. What democracy, I ask you? Is she referring to the type in which those not voting for party-approved municipal candidates risk losing their jobs or never-ending harassment at the hands of the local CDR committees? Is it the democracy that hasn’t allowed a single open presidential election since its inception in 1959? Or is it perhaps the type of democracy that announced to voters in 1958 – when Batista had finally relented and agreed to a national vote (and his stepping down) that threatened any citizens casting ballots in the election would be subject to bombings at polling stations? Miss Raby’s assumptions are simply laughable.
Even when Cuban citizens have chosen to use the communist constitution as a tool to achieve change – working within the very framework that enslaves them – we see the party’s willingness to simply ignore its own laws and regulations. Remember the Varela Project? Cuban citizens who submit a petition signed by at least 10,000 individuals are to have their legislative suggestions considered by the government. Fifo and co. simply ignored Varela’s OVER-10,000 signatures and responded with a constitutional amendment making Cuban Stalinism and irrevocable system. Some democracy.
Listen, folks – I could go on and on regarding Raby’s bullet point-laden class on repression and state intimidation but that would result in a 50-page missive on Babalu. I’m turning this over to the readers. Please, folks, let us take Raby down – point by point. Have at it!