Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Current State of Communism in Cuba: Between a rock and a hard place

Fidel Castro is dead but the Castro dynasty continues plundering Cuba and preaching communism for thee but not for me.

Fidel Castro's gone but when will the dictatorship he created follow him?

Past is Prologue

Communism arrived in Cuba covertly in 1959, was implanted through lies, killing and terror, openly declared in 1961 and today continues destroying the island nation while enriching a communist elite.  The full extent of the numbers killed in Cuba remains unknown but there is anecdotal and documentary evidence of mass graves. Summary and extrajudicial executions were widespread and well documented, especially in the 1960s. As was the case in Ethiopia, Ukraine, China and elsewhere farmers in Cuba's countryside bore the brunt of the terror between 1960-66 in the Escambray.

Executed in Santiago de Cuba by the Castro regime in 1959
To discuss the current state of communism in Cuba necessitates to place it in context. Communism is a totalitarian political ideology that over the past century beginning with the Soviet Union in 1917 has caused the death of over a 100 million human beings and ruined countless more lives.  Wherever it has been tried in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America it has failed causing great hardship. This is also true for Cuba.

Hannah Arendt understood that "the terrible originality of totalitarianism isn't due to the entrance of a new 'idea' into the world, but to the fact that their actions break with all our traditions; they have literally pulverized our categories of political thinking and criteria of moral judgement." This applies to communist totalitarianism.

The immorality of communism
Nevertheless communists continue to have new opportunities to apply this model on other people.  Which raises the obvious question of why?  Other political systems have their highs and lows, moments of decadence or decline which creates an opportunity for new actors. But this does not explain how communists continue to be returned to power instead of theirs. This is because all too often history is rewritten and lies are passed off as truth. Morality and truth are both made subservient to achieving power at all costs and this is explicitly the communist way.

Consider two examples set four decades and a continent apart.

The first leader of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Lenin on October 2, 1920 in a speech to Russian communist youth stated:  "The class struggle is continuing and it is our task to subordinate all interests to that struggle. Our communist morality is also subordinated to that task. We say: morality is what serves to destroy the old exploiting society and to unite all the working people around the proletariat, which is building up a new, communist society." 

Forty four years later Fidel Castro on March 26, 1964 echoed Lenin rejecting objective truth, using better marketing language, but the underlying "ends justify the means" is maintained when he said: "I conceive the truth in terms of a just and noble end, and that is when the truth is truly true. If it does not serve a just, noble and positive end, truth, as an abstract entity, philosophical category, in my opinion, does not exist."

Self-restraint is a condition of freedom and recognizing that there is an objective truth that does not necessarily coincide with your agenda serves as a check on excesses and disastrous errors, but it also limits ones ability to politically reinvent themselves.  Communists reject this out of hand believing that with Karl Marx's theory of class struggle that they understand the key to history and are not bound by anything outside of their struggle for power.

Twenty years ago at Florida International University I had successfully debated a group of communists, something happened afterwards that demonstrated the nature of communist morality. One of them approached me and credited me with doing a good job, but then he told me, "we will win because you are not willing to kill your own mother for your political convictions but I am willing to kill mine."

It was an extreme statement and also half-true. Under communist dictatorships children were trained to spy on their parents and report on them to the authorities for signs of dissent. Some parents were jailed and others killed. In Cuba family members, especially in the 1970s, spied on their families and reported to State Security.  This practice has been well documented in the former German Democratic Republic (also known as East Germany.) I believe it to be half-true because if they "win" - we all lose including him. The Khmer Rouge in the 1970s was the purest example of a "real communist revolution" and in the space of three years exterminated approximately one third of their entire population before being driven out of power.

Hannah Arendt, the political scientist who wrote The Origins of Totalitarianism offered further insights into how a totalitarian regime functions at a lecture in Oberlin College on October 28, 1954:   
“If we look at it as a form of government, it rests on two pillars: on ideology and on terror. It is no tyranny because tyranny is lawlessness and because it is content with the political sphere in the more narrow sense of the word.” ...“Authoritarianism in many respects the opposite of totalitarianism. Totalitarianism possible only after all authorities broke down.” 
International Communism reached a historic low point in influence between 1989 and 1991 that began with the liberation of Eastern Europe and ended with the relatively nonviolent dissolution of the Soviet Union on Christmas day in 1991, but that was not the end of communism. 

Castro's role in resurrecting international communism 
Following the end of the Soviet Union it was Fidel Castro that was a source of inspiration for communist parties around the world. The hard left in the midst of this debacle regrouped in 1990 and began to meet and plan in the São Paulo Forum. The Castro regime was not only a founding member but was a leader of this network to resurrect international communism.

There are two competing agendas in Cuba. The Castro regime is trying to achieve a succession to continue Castroism under a new generation. Fidel Castro died on November 25, 2016 but the old tyrant had been a diminished actor for years with his brother General Raul Castro in charge since 2006 when the elder Castro became ill.

Vaclav Havel in his book The Anatomy of Reticence explains that "[t]he dissident does not operate in the realm of genuine power at all. He is not seeking power. He has no desire for office and does not gather votes. He does not attempt to charm the public, he offers nothing and promises nothing. He can offer, if anything, only his own skin — and he offers it solely because he has no other way of affirming the truth he stands for. His actions simply articulate his dignity as a citizen, regardless of the cost."

Cuban dissidents and opposition activists denounce human rights abuses, recognize that neither they or the regime represent Cubans, and are calling on the people of Cuba to exercise their sovereignty by empowering themselves to freely elect the kind of government they want, thus bringing an end to totalitarian communist rule in Cuba. 

Cuba has been under the rule of a totalitarian communist dictatorship since 1959. Only a few states in 2017 fit the definition of as totalitarian communist dictatorships besides Cuba. The others are Laos, North Korea, Vietnam and China. Although a number of countries are trending that way now in Latin America with Venezuela, Nicaragua and Ecuador leading the way but are not classic totalitarian regimes. The have opposition parties and to varying degrees an independent press.

Cuban Communism
Under the Castro dictatorship only one political party is legally recognized in the Cuban constitution, the Communist party. Private schools were closed in Cuba in the 1960s and all is controlled by the government and students who dissent, such as gather signatures for a legal citizen initiative like the Varela Project are expelled. There are no legally recognized independent non-governmental organizations in Cuba.

The economy remains under the control of the Castro regime. Any foreign investors must enter into partnerships with the dictatorship. Workers salaries are paid by foreign investors to a regime agency that in turn pays Cuban workers in the local and devalued currency. Employers who have tried to pay workers directly under the table have been arrested and jailed. Critical thought can fall under the categories of oral or  written enemy propaganda and is punishable by prison. Also associating with persons with these ideas opens one up to a charge of "predilection to social dangerousness" and can also be imprisoned.

When Fidel Castro died on November 25, 2016 Ammar al-Moussawi, a leader of Lebanon’s terrorist Hezbollah group, celebrated Castro as “a historic symbol whose life was a lighthouse to all revolutionaries around the world.” 

Communist totalitarian networks  
Networks come in various guises. Transnational, regional or global networks and movements are political mechanisms of social organization. These networks are not hierarchical, with a low level of institutionalization and lacking a developed bureaucracy have a decentralized organizational structure. Although characterized by their "creativity", "horizontality" and "solidarity" which, in structural terms, involve the ability to adapt and facilitate participation, are neutral as to its purpose. They can be democratic or totalitarian

The pioneer in totalitarian networks was Wilhelm "Willi" Münzenberg, a man who shaped much of the 20th century and whose impact is still felt today. Münzenberg met Lenin in Bern, Switzerland in 1915. "Willi" already had an agent in the Vatican and was part of the original Bolshevik network that existed prior to the 1917 revolution.

Following the arrival of the Soviets to power Lenin created the Communist International, KOMINTERN in 1919 as a means to disseminate the Soviet revolution and consolidate dominance of Marxism-Leninism over the global Left. The dictator proposed to join together the radicals of the world under a great network of Communist parties under the control of the Soviet Revolution. This was the instrument that Münzenberg used to organize cultural power

The first congress of the Communist International was held on March 2, 1919 and included delegates from communist or socialist parties from Russia, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Poland, Finland, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Estonia, Armenia, France, Switzerland, China, Korea, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Sweden, the United States, Azerbaijan, Yugoslavia, and the Netherlands among other countries. 

Beginning in 1921 Lenin set up Münzenberg as the director of clandestine operations of propaganda aimed at the West. He organized the media: film, radio, theater, books, magazines, and newspapers. He was able to connect to and use all types of makers of opinion respected by the public: writers, artists, actors, priests, ministers, teachers, businessmen, scientists, and psychologists.

The Münzenberg network was one of the key factors for the direction taken in political attitudes that operated in the 1930s. He manipulated and influenced public opinion using a network of writers and intellectuals such as: Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Lillian Hellman, George Grosz, Erwin Piscator, André Malraux, André Gide, Bertolt Brecht, Dorothy Parker to Kim Philby, Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt. He organized protest marches, politicized writers conferencespoliticized art festivals, ad hoc committees signed by famous celebrities for causes without end.  

These international networks don't just foment influence campaigns but also engage in concrete actions such as the murder of Leon Trotsky on Josef Stalin's orders. The Castro regime in the 1960s organized gatherings of international terrorists and communist guerillas in Havana to train and coordinate efforts to overthrow democratic governments around the world called the Tricontinental. The Castro regime also became involved in drug and arms trafficking to advance these ends. This led to the Reagan Administration placing Cuba on the list of state terror sponsors on March 1, 1982.

The effectiveness of the strategies and tactics of Münzenberg to mold progressive public opinion  remains effective today.  The string of articles advancing the talking points of the Castro regime in The New York Times and the Associated Press, copies the old bolsheviks marketing and networking tricks. What we've witnessed over the past four years with the Castro regime is the successful outcome of one of  three Münzenberg type campaigns: 1) freeing in December of 2014 the last of the five Cuban spies arrested in 1998 for acts of espionage, sabotage, and terrorism. 2) the international campaign to end the United States embargo on Cuba. 3) The most  recent campaign to free Ana Belen Montes started up shortly after the last of the Cuban Five were freed by President Obama.

We hear a lot about fake news these days, but it has a long pedigree. The New York Times has a shameful history as not only an apologist, but as a booster for totalitarians. Walter Duranty in the 1930s covered up the deaths of millions in Ukraine in a famine engineered by Stalin to eliminate those who resisted him and in the 1950s Herbert Matthews rescued Fidel Castro from obscurity in a series of articles. Both men wrote for The New York Times.

Fidel Castro: borrowing from Goebbels and Stalin
Man of letters and Cuban politician, José Ignacio Rasco passed away on October 19, 2013 at the age of 88. He was the founder of the Cuban Christian Democratic Party in Cuba in 1959. He was an early and constant opponent of the Castro dictatorship. José Ignacio went to school with Fidel Castro and knew him well and described the dictator's role in setting up the totalitarian apparatus:
From the beginning, following the communist pattern, he concentrated on setting up his propaganda system and his repressive apparatus of intelligence and terrorism. The greatest effectiveness of this regime has been in its marketing capacity -Castro has a lot of Goebbels- and in his powerful instrument of military-police security -Castro has much of Stalin. Those have been his two greatest successes: propaganda and repression and always in close dependence to the cult of personality of the "maximum leader".
The main difference from North Korea's Kim Jong-il and the Fidel Castro is the latter's ability to produce more effective propaganda and effectively use his agents of influence to repeat the message in mass media.

Some of these agents of influence are in extremely high level positions in the US government not only shaping public opinion but providing information to the Castro regime that ended up getting US soldiers killed. For example Ana Belen Montes worked in the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and spied for the Castro dictatorship from 1984 until her arrest in September of 2001. Nevertheless, when the average well informed person is asked about her nine times out of ten no one has heard of her.

She is not the only one, another was Walter Kendall Myers, who had an important post in the State Department and also spied for the regime.  Ana Belen Montes was recruited by Marta Rita Velazquez, once a legal officer at the Agency for International Development (AID). Rita Velazquez fled to Sweden, a neutral country,  where she married a Swedish Foreign Ministry insider and avoided US justice.  The Cubans also had CIA defector Philip Agee working for them. Agee defected and died in Cuba of old age. Some experts have come to understand how deep and comprehensive the Cuban infiltration of the United States government has been and are justifiably alarmed.

Laura  Pollán regularly attacked, died under suspicious circumstance in 2011

Fidel Castro died and human rights groups developed amnesia
Respected international human rights groups released reports on Fidel Castro's legacy that omitted some of the most egregious abuses of his regime shortly after his November 25, 2016 death. Amnesty International released a press release titled "Fidel Castro: A progressive but deeply flawed leader" and Human Rights Watch released one that read "Cuba: Fidel Castro’s Record of Repression Misguided US Embargo Provided Pretext for Abuse". Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International address the lack of freedom of expression, harassment, intimidation and possible prison for speaking out against the Castro government but also go out of their way to praise the dictatorship with claims that are at best questionable.

However there was no mention in either report of the political show trials that fell short of international standards that sent thousands of Cubans before firing squads or that this method of execution would continue until at least 2003. Amnesty mentions that Fidel Castro's provisional government carried out "hundreds of summary executions" in 1959 but doesn't mention that thousands more followed. There is no mention of how prisoners in the 1960s had their blood extracted prior to being placed before the firing squad.  Nor was their mention that family members of the condemned had to donate blood to see their loved ones. This practice was documented by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in its 1967 Country Report on Cuba.

There was no mention of the extrajudicial execution of opposition leaders with Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and Harold Cepero Escalante on July 22, 2012 being two high profile examples. Nor of Laura  Pollán's suspicious death a year earlier. There was no mention of the methods of torture used by the regime against prisoners of conscience including the denial of medical care. Nor the games played by the Castro regime to invite the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture in order to get positive media coverage but then not follow through.

These are curious oversights because in the past both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch had reported on these practices. There was no mention of the massacre of refugees by agents of the Castro regime for the sole crime of trying to flee Cuba although Amnesty International had documented it in the past.

Funeral of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas following July 22, 2012 killing
Meanwhile the Castro dynasty lives the lifestyle of the rich and famous but at the same time manages through its propaganda campaign to portray themselves as social justice warriors looking out for the poor. The reality is the exact opposite.

For example, Fidel Castro's son, Antonio Castro was photographed in Turkey in June of 2015 when leaving a restaurant he had his bodyguards beat up the reporters and try to take their cameras.  Antonio Castro had arrived on board his 160 foot yacht from the Greek island of Mykonos and booked five en suite rooms at a luxury hotel for himself and his entourage. 
Fidel Castro's son Antonio Castro visited Greece in this 160 foot yacht with five suites.
 This lavish lifestyle does not come cheap. The Castro regime exports workers abroad and gets billions of dollars a year with this practice. In 2014 the Cuban dictatorship forecast "$8.2 billion from sending doctors and nurses abroad." In order to achieve these results the health workers are paid miserable wages and as a result some defect, and are denounced as traitors.

Antonio Castro, Cuban dictatorship's point man for baseball business
The existing totalitarian order places Cubans in a dilemma. The Castro regime has destroyed Cuba over the past 58 years and at the same time has engaged in a propaganda effort abroad that has successfully painted the dictatorship in a positive light. Cubans who speak the truth are imprisoned and murdered. Communism in Cuba has placed Cubans between a rock and a hard place.

No comments:

Post a Comment