Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES – Samuel Farber’s review on Rafael Rojas’ book “Fighting over Fidel: The New York Intellectuals and the Cuban Revolution”, which I hope to read some day, was very interesting. The author wrote some eyeopening lines here on Havana Times about Farber’s respectful criticisms, as well as Farber’s own counter claim.
Beyond the historic and academic details that both of them insisted on clarifying from each of their points of view (where I was able to capture the great similarities between these two writers); I felt like Farber really liked the subject matter and remained keen wanting the subject matter to be broader and explored in more depth; whilst Rojas simply had a more specific objective with this book. That was the only dichotomy I could pick up on.
What has inspired me to write this article more specifically however is something which Farber pointed out about the attitude US intellectuals had towards the Cuban Revolution. They gave their support and stood in solidarity with Cuba, in spite of not sympathizing with Stalin’s tyranny, so as not to diminish the anti-imperialist struggle. Siding with “a partner” such as the Cuban Revolution, which practices an “exchange of rights”, that is to say, some human rights are sacrificed so as to improve others, is in my opinion unethical.
Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated case of past and current US intellectuals. There are many people, all over the world, who have uncritically, or have pretended to, take the Cuban process as an example of a legitimate struggle for a better world. In doing this, they reject their own demands and objectives; they stain and stigmatize their political persuasion and their integrity, while they contribute to praising and maintaining a regime which isn’t the solution for Cuba or anybody for that matter. Even Fidel, in a fleeting moment of political sincerity, admitted this openly to a US journalist, even though he then clumsily withdrew this statement.
This reminds me of the introduction to the book “One Hundred Hours with Fidel” written by Ignacio Ramonet. He laid out the differences in two or three paragraphs of this with “the Revolution’s democratic focus” and even tried to justify the need to shut Cuba off from the Imperialism’s siege. As well as revealing the contradictions implied with giving death penalties to ferry hijackers and executions during the “Black Spring”  in Havana. It needed to be so seriously redressed that in the version directed at the Cuban audience as part of the famous “family library”, promoted by Fidel, there was a response made in the “Notes of the edition”.
They responded like this in the words of Pedro Alvarez Tabio: “…Ramonet presents some things in his introduction which, from his European intellectual viewpoint, might not agree with that of us Cubans. With the same transparency, these indications appear within the text of this Cuban edition. We wouldn’t have remained loyal to this friend nor to his ideological honesty if we had not done so.”
It seems that, in the mind of this editor whose mission it is to save the government’s policies without offending Ramonet, an “intellectual” must be “European” to defend a multi-party democracy, oppose imprisoning others for “thinking differently and disagreeing”, as well as the death penalty, especially when it’s essentially a political lynching. This is far from our reality and even offensive to those of us Cubans who disagree with the government’s ideology. Do they really believe that nothing or noone exists outside of those who follow them? Denying this fact is part of their strategy.
These words also indicate the exceptional character they have when being “transparent when transcribing and ideologically honest.” On the other hand, Paul Sweezy’s second book, which Farber mentions, should also be published in Cuba so as to promote the critical and constructive debate surrounding the causes why the writer distanced himself from the Cuban government’s political standing. Although there are thousands of examples, it would only be possible in this case if the objective was to seek more justice and democracy. However, unfortunately, this is something that still lies far on the horizon and is only referred to in an abstract way: they continue with a system that allows them to act like Divine Redeemers from privileged positions of unquestionable power.
Just like the US intellectuals, who Farber mentions, who support the Cuban Revolution praising its achievements and downplaying its crimes; the same thing happens in the rest of the world. Not to mention those in our own backyard. They refuse to adopt a critical standpoint because of their shared anti-imperialist struggle, for “society” trying to build a better world and out of fear for losing the refuge this protector State gives those who take part in this fight. You always need a sponsor, somewhere to hide out in difficult times.
Cuba has been more than this over the last few decades; it just hasn’t done it selflessly: in exchange they ask for complicity in sweeping the dirt under the carpet. But, where do the ethics and principles of these intellectuals lie? Farber hits the nail on the head and says, “Just like then, and even today, it’s possible to criticize and oppose the social and political system that has been established in Cuba and, at the same time, reaffirm your opposition to US intervention in any of its forms, whether that’s a military invasion, sponsoring terrorism or the trade embargo.”
I totally agree with Farber in this statement. I’ve watched many foreign intellectuals who I admire and with whom I share important ideological congruence, come to Cuba, embrace the regime and shower it with praise. Of course, the Revolution has praiseworthy ideals and its anti-imperialist struggle invites brotherhood. However, things go much further than that and the values that it steps on are just as important, or maybe even more important, than the values they stand up for.
I bet Jose Marti, a champion of ethics above all else, would have never approved of such a path. Whoever doesn’t believe me can read the letter he sent to Maximo Gomez on October 20, 1884. It’s like he was sending it to Fidel himself! It’s impossible to be a fidelista and a martiano at the same time: they are opposing positions on the political scale; just like it’s impossible to be a martiano and support the excesses of Imperialism which are hypocritically justified by democracy or the fight on terrorism. Unfortunately, a fair, critical position of everything that is despicable and unfair and welcomes only positive comments on both sides seems to be left out by many.
It’s in this last vein that I’d like to direct my ideological reflections upon Cuba’s contemporary political reality. This is the grounds on which I maintain my contribution to the debate on Cuba. We need a compulsory dialogue and exchange of ideas and intentions, from different political viewpoints, so that an agreement can be reached sooner rather than later. It won’t be a unanimous agreement, because that is impossible and unnatural, but it would reconcile the interests of the majority.
That is the path we need to take and we’re slowly walking along it. Well done to Rojas; well done to Farber; well done to all the intellectuals in this world who analyze and promote what is just, not the doctrines of one extremist group or another. These are our guides!