Senator Bernie Sanders in his remarks on both Cuba and China in tonight's CNN Townhall is engaging in paltering, which is the art of deceiving with true statements. He also omitted inconvenient truths, and fudged on some facts ignoring context.
He argues that the reason Cubans did not rise up against Castro in 1961 was due to literacy programs and public health campaigns.
Senator Sanders is wrong on three counts.
|Anti-communist guerrillas in Cuba in the early 1960s|
The peasants in the Escambray Mountains, an independent group even during the anti-Batista struggle, took up arms again, this time in opposition to the government's heavy hand. Castro had taken a lesson from Batista's hapless efforts at counterinsurgency, however, and he responded to the Escambray guerrillas with more force and ruthlessness than Batista had dared employ. With the guidance of Soviet counterinsurgency experts, Castro sent thousands of army troops into the mountains to pursue the guerrillas. Captured Escambray insurgents were often executed on the spot, and in a move reminiscent of the Spanish army's "reconcentration" strategy during the independence war, Castro ordered the relocation of entire villages where the guerillas enjoyed mass support. The villagers were moved en masse to western Cuba, where they could be closely monitored.The guerrillas were eventually exterminated and the uprising was crushed by 1966, but the Castro regime had to obtain outside assistance to destroy the resistance, and they obtained it from hundreds of Soviet counterinsurgency "advisors." It was described by Mary O'Grady in The Wall Street Journal in 2017 as a "Soviet cleansing."
|Eusebio Peñalver with machine gun and Joaquin Membibre, with M-1 carbine.|
Secondly, the Castro revolution executed thousands of Cubans, locked up hundreds of thousands of Cubans, built a police state, with the assistance of the KGB and the East German Stasi, and imposed revolutionary terror to consolidate power. Credible and conservative estimates of the Castro regime’s death toll against Cuban nationals ran from 35,000 to 141,000, with a median of 73,000. In the beginning executions were televised in Cuba to terrorize the populace.
Che Guevara addressing the United Nations on December 11, 1964 did not mince words: "We must say here something that is a well-known truth and that we have always asserted before the whole world: executions? Yes, we have executed people; we are executing people and shall continue to execute people as long as it is necessary. We know what the result of a losing battle would be and the worms also have to know what the result of the lost battle is today in Cuba."
Third, Fidel Castro lied about his true intentions, because he knew that if he had told Cubans that he was a communist he would never have taken power. On December 2, 1961 he explained his reasoning.
These are the truths that Senator Sanders omitted, but let us examine his claims of the literacy program that he used to distract from what actually happened between 1959 and 1966.
Senator Bernie Sanders: "When Fidel Castro first came to power, which was when 59? That sound right? Ok, you know what he did? He initiated a major literacy program. There was a lot of folks in Cuba at that point who were illiterate. He formed a literacy brigade and they helped people to learn to read and write. You know what I think teaching people to read and write is a good thing."
It it true that the Castro regime, in the early days of the Revolution carried out a literacy campaign between January and December 1961. This was part of a propaganda offensive for both internal and international consumption. Senator Sanders makes the claim that "there was a lot of folks in Cuba at that point who were illiterate."
Let us examine that claim further. According to the 1953 Cuba census, out of 4,376,529 inhabitants 10 years of age or older 23.6% were illiterate, a percentage lower than all other Latin American countries except Argentina (13.6%), Chile (19.6%), & Costa Rica (20.6%). Factoring only population 15 years of age or older, the rate is lowered to 22.1% ( Source: Alvarez Díaz, José R. “A Study on Cuba .” Cuban Economic Research Project. Coral Gables : University of Miami Press, 1965. pg 426-427.) According to UN statistics other Latin American countries achieved similar or better outcomes without becoming Communist. There are other myths that are worth exploring about the Castro regime's supposed achievements.
Senator Sanders: "I have been extremely consistent and critical of authoritarian regimes all over the world, including Cuba, including Nicaragua, including Saudi Arabia, including China, including Russia.
For the sake of time did a google search of "Bernie Sanders" "criticism" and "Fidel Castro." What I found going back decades was an apologist of the Castro dictatorship with a deep admiration for the communist dictator. I also found a communist critique of Castroism, but it was not by Senator Sanders, but Slavoj Zizek.
Senator Sanders: I happen to believe in democracy not authoritarianism, but you know you can take China as another example. China is an authoritarian country, becoming more and more authoritarian, but can anyone deny, I mean the facts are clear, that they have taken more people out of extreme poverty than any country in history. Do I get criticized because I said that? That is the truth, so - that is a fact, end of discussion." ... "Truth is truth, all right?
He left out that under Mao over 45 million people were starved to death during the Great Leap Forward. That at least another million were killed during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and that the brutality of the system continues to the present day with the descendants of that first generation of communist leadership. He also failed to point out the role Western Democracies have played in building up and empowering this monstrosity.
Senator Sanders: If you want to disagree with me, if somebody wants to say that — and by the way all of the Congress people you mentioned just so happen to be supporting other candidates ... but you know, the truth is the truth. And thats what happened in the first years of the Castro regime."
The whole truth is the truth, not the strategically incomplete version that Senator Sanders has presented on the national stage. There is one last item that Senator Sanders left out, that would bother a democrat, but not a hardcore Marxist Leninist, that there is no morality beyond whatever serves you to take power. Vladimir Lenin stated it clearly in a speech to Russian communist youth on October 2, 1920:
"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."This is why Fidel Castro denied being a communist, why Hugo Chavez called Fidel Castro a dictator during his first presidential campaign, and why Senator Sanders claims to be critical of Cuba and Nicaragua, when he has been a long time apologist, and made no mention of Venezuela that is currently the victim of an authoritarian regime that has generated millions of refugees.