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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: « Une certaine hypocrisie globale »

by Gérard Devienne

For or Against Cuba: A Touch of Global Hypocrisy!

Translated Thursday 20 March 2008, by Isabelle Métral

Mempo Giardinelli is an Argentinian writer (notably famous for his novel “Luna Caliente” (“Fiery Moon”) 1983.)

« For close on fifty years intellectuals in Latin America and the world over have felt uneasy over the Cuban question. Adhesion to the Cuban revolution in the sixties corresponded to a specific ideological profile (its influence on thought and creation over two generations was not and cannot now be denied), but with time the question has become a most uncomfortable issue for intellectuals worldwide.

Globalization which fascinates the Northern hemisphere and spells ruin in the South inspires radically opposed views in this respect also. The historical process that was initiated in the Sierra Maestra in the late 1950s has remained a prickly issue. First because of the cold war and Soviet inflexibility, which threw into relief the fact that socialism was as unquestionably real as capitalism. Then because of Cuban inflexibility, which did not allow the development of political parties opposed to Fidel Castro’s rule or internal dissent. Lastly because intolerable measures were adopted, like capital execution by firing squads, or heavy sentencing of intellectuals and dissidents. For all these reasons support for the revolution suffered a decline that led to severe indictments even on the part of intellectuals that were friends of mine like José Saramago.

At any time –as is the case now with Fidel’s illness – incidents will occur that are met with declarations of solidarity from those that back the revolution, or solidarity with Fidel at least, and condemnation from those that oppose it. And whenever one is called upon to make a statement, one comes under terrible pressure: to be either “in favour” of Cuba or “against” it is like having to present one’s passport.

The executions that took place in April 2003 raised very harsh protests, one of which came from eminent European intellectuals. When invited to sign it, I refused, but wrote an article in the Buenos Aires daily “Pagina 12”, which also appeared in Chile, Uruguay, and Mexico, in which I once more adamantly condemned those capital executions while reaffirming my decision “not to take part in a campaign the effect of which (whether intended or not) was to undermine what survived of a revolution that had been a beacon and a reference for my generation.”

My personal attitude to the Cuban revolution was always a difficult one, for I never was one of its fans, or flatterers, or stipendiaries. I have always viewed it impartially and critically, and more than once have questioned its home and foreign policies, even on the three occasions when I met Fidel Castro in Havana. I was annoyed at the fact no recording or pictures were allowed: I felt I was expected to keep obediently silent and obsequious. In 1985 I sat on the jury of the Casa de las Americas Prize and just before I left made a speech in which I called for the gradual setting up of a multi-party system, after which some Cuban officials viewed me suspiciously for years.

Later on in the 1990s, I wrote a text to condemn other executions in the island. I developed arguments against the death penalty, explaining how I opposed it in Cuba exactly as I put up a resistance against Carlos Menem’s attempts to legalize it in my country. I explained that there could not be a “good” or a “bad” variety of capital punishment, depending on the regime that instituted it. My condemnation of capital execution is absolute, being based on fundamental principles.

But at the same time I maintained and still maintain that the Cuban revolution, or what remains of it after forty-seven years of the most revolting blockade in history, is still to be vindicated. It is still to be defended today, in these gloomy days (for America and for the world), despite its leaders’ mistakes, and independently of Fidel Castro’s poor health.

An intellectual must have the freedom to say that the executors are bastards, whatever the reasons they invoke. But it is no less bastardly to wreck the most daring political process in the last fifty years, the only one that the White House and the Pentagon have been powerless against.

Cuba today is neither paradise nor hell, nor ever was. You just cannot pass a summary judgement on what was and still is one of the 20th century’s most original social and political processes, one that brought with it the most justice. One may well wish pluralism and freedom of expression as we conceive of it were guaranteed and yet maintain - as one must - that of all Latin-American countries, Cuba remains the one where social inequality is the least offensive to human dignity. This should be emphasized not with a view to justifying the blunders of public employees or the executioners (they are real enough), but so as not to take the wrong path and end up passing final sentences that will serve the most vicious interests of the fascist free-market rule that prevails over the world.

After the atrocities that the White House and Guantanamo perpetrate in Iraq and Guantanamo and the immoral war they wage with practically all of Europe’s help, the Cuban question remains a fundamental ethic issue that demands that intellectuals give up all forms of prejudice or dogmatism. What prevents a truly democratic and pluralist process, what makes an orderly transition after Fidel’s death more difficult is the revolting blockade Cuba has been subjected to for four decades and a half.

As long as this is not made clear, the so-called progressive intellectuals will be compelled to give a summary, white or black opinion: yes or no, for or against Cuba. This kind of Manichaeism makes it impossible to understand anything.

That is why some of the criticisms that Argentinean or Latin-American intellectuals have been in the habit of voicing seem to me stupid. They do not realize that in our countries offences against human rights are constant and very serious, that Cuba’s positions on international conflicts are often more consistent and dignified than those of our governments, at least in the last decade. Not counting the fact that the population in Cuba has the highest health indicators, the best rates for literacy and further education.

To exert pressure on a government that has refused to be tamed into subjection but is worn away by an immoral blockade that has exhausted the population, seems to me a doubtful show of courage, when the White House and the Pentagon nearby are at the hands of fundamentalists capable of just any kind of barbarity.

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