Monday, April 25, 2016

Reply to Walter Lippmann

Walter Lippmann is a Los Angeles-based Cuba solidarity activist and the editor in chief of the US-based CubaNews email list. The list has over 2000 subscribers worldwide. Walter has always encouraged me to share my translations and commentaries with his audience. As well as overseeing the list and posting his own translations of Cuba-related material, he editorialises as he sees fit.

Below is my paragraph-by-paragraph response to one such 'editorial' which Walter posted to his list on April 18. I'm sharing this spirited exchange here because it serves to clarify my own stance and because it concerns important questions of principle for the Cuba solidarity movement.

I'm open to persuasion and I presume Walter is too. I encourage you to share your thoughts either on Walter's list or by submitting a comment at the foot of this post—or both. (You can browse the discussion threads on this topic on Walter's list by typing 'marce' into the Search Conversations box at the top of the list's homepage.)

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Reply to Walter Lippmann (CubaNews editor)

By Marce Cameron

Walter wrote:

Marce Cameron has made a positive contribution in the past through his translations. However, he has clearly now decided to set himself up as a side-line critic of the Cuban leadership. He seems to be practicing a kind of latter-day Kremlinology on Cuba, reading between the lines, and finding fault after fault after fault. Cameron isn't just making observations. It's clear now that he has a political agenda.

My 'political agenda' is the same as ever. I am in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution and the Cuban Communist Party. But the Revolution should not be equated with the Party, nor the Party with the Central Committee. I plead guilty to finding fault with the Central Committee's approach to the Seventh Congress. Frankly, it's undemocratic. Esteban Morales said so, 'Paquito' Rodriguez said so, numerous Granma and Cubadebate readers said so, and I agree with them. Reading between the lines is a legitimate part of analysis (Walter's denunciation of me indulges in much 'reading between the lines').

Without even waiting for the English translation of Raul's report to be made available, Cameron launches into his critical English-language commentary on what's wrong with Raul's report to the PCC, which Raul and the Central Committee presented to the Cuban people, and the world public, just YESTERDAY. This is an extraordinary act of political presumptuousness for a young foreigner.

I pointed out that Raul's speech made no mention of the Central Committee's prior commitment to hold a public consultation before the Congress, and that Raul did not acknowledge the rumblings of discontent from the Party's grassroots. I pointed out that Raul's report was inconsistent in that it claimed that a public consultation was both necessary and unnecessary. Walter doesn't challenge these points of mine because he knows them to be true. Anyone who reads Raul's speech carefully can see for themselves. Instead, he complains that I didn't wait for the full English translation to come out before making these points. Well, now that the full English transcript is available, does Walter have anything to say about the content of my analysis? Or is he only interested in shooting the messenger? And what is so "politically presumptuous" about noting an inconsistency (and what's not said) in Raul's speech? Does Walter hold up Raul's speeches as if they were holy scriptures rather than human creations?

Bitter opponents of Cuba's leadership, like David Thorstad and Cort Greene have leaped up to embrace Cameron's stance. Birds of a feather, after all, flock together.

Walter accuses me of sympathising with or collaborating with bitter opponents of the Cuban Revolution because they and I agree that the preparatory process for the Seventh Party Congress was undemocratic. That's like saying that because Walter Lippmann has no objection to the Cuban state's promotion of small private businesses in Cuba (he tells his audience how much he enjoys eating at these establishments), and bitter opponents of the Cuban Revolution also favour this policy, that they and Walter have the same political agenda. That's both illogical and absurd.

Writing from the comfort of an imperialist metropolis, while Washington and its mediatic presstitutes are working 24-7 to impose capitalist "democracy" on Cuba, Cameron does Cuba a serious disservice, promoting himself as the island's virtual judge, jury and executioner.

My personal circumstances are actually rather precarious. My casual employment is sporadic enough that I'm dipping into my modest savings to make ends meet. Perhaps Walter imagines me puffing on Cuban cigars. As for promoting myself as the island's virtual judge, jury and executioner, I think Walter may be guilty of polemical exaggeration here. I'm insignificant. I write on behalf of nobody but myself. I'm not the US government.

After all, Granma published the critical letters which Cameron translated and shared. Granma didn't bury those letters. They acknowledged them precisely by publishing them. Granma says the documents adopted by the Congress will be submitted to nation-wide discussion and consultation. But to Marce Cameron, none of this is worth mentioning, except to criticize and complain, from way faraway down under in Australia.

Having denounced me for interfering in Cuban politics by merely commenting on Raul's Congress report (as every journalist and commentator covering the event did), Walter indulges in some 'interference' of his own here by defending the Central Committee against the criticisms of Esteban Morales, Paquito Rodriguez and other ordinary members who spoke out against the undemocratic way in which the Congress was organised. I wonder if they appreciate Walter's 'interference' from afar? From Los Angeles, to be precise, i.e. from the belly of the beast? As a matter of fact, I did mention the post-Congress discussion: I translated and posted that part of Raul's report. I also commented that this was putting the cart before the horse.

Paquito praised Raul's decision, but Cameron chose not to publish Paquito's support for Raul's decision. Instead, Cameron prefers to complain about Raul and the PCC Central Committee. Paquito's views evidently don't coincide with Cameron's agenda for criticism of Cuba and its leadership.

I did not choose not to publish Paquito's brief comments on the post-Congress discussion that Raul announced. I simply wasn't aware of them at the time of writing. In any case, I don't let Paquito or anyone else do my thinking for me. I think for myself.

Let us keep in mind that Paquito is Cuban, a member of the PCC, a staff-writer at Trabajadores, and an open and activist gay militant in Cuba, while Cameron is a graduate student writing from the comfort of the imperialist metropolis of Australia. Because Paquito lives and works in Cuba, he has to live with the consequences of his actions, while Cameron is only responsible to the man who looks out at him from the bathroom mirror when he brushes his teeth.

I plead guilty to not being Cuban and not living in Cuba, and to being answerable only to myself. Walter is answerable, it seems, to the Cuban Communist Party's Central Committee.
 
Of course, anyone with a computer and Internet access has the RIGHT to say anything about anything, but political experience and judgement would suggest a sense of modesty and caution before passing judgement on the Cuban political system. It's that incredible chutzpah and presumptuousness which is most striking with Cameron.

I didn't pass judgement on the Cuban political system. All I said was that the preparatory process for the Seventh Party Congress was rather undemocratic and suggested why this may be the case. Does Walter wish to put forward an alternative explanation? Or is he only interested in shooting the messenger?

The world imperialist media is in a frenzy of attacks on Cuba and the alleged secrecy and lack of democracy in the PCC and this Congress. This mediatic terrorism is part of the blockade, whose existence and reality go completely unmentioned in Cameron's list of grievances.

The secrecy in which the Seventh Congress resolutions were drafted is not an allegation. It's a fact. According to Granma, only the Central Committee, the National Assembly deputies, selected expert advisors and some 3,500 other consultants have seen these documents, officially. I'm not aware of any leaks. Let's say that comes to 5,000 people. That's about 0.05% of Cuban citizens. I made no sweeping claims about democracy in the PCC. The series of posts that Walter objects to focus solely on the Congress (in comparison to previous PCC Congresses). The US blockade was in existence during the public consultation that was carried out in the lead-up to the Sixth Congress, so that hasn't changed. If Walter wants to defend the Central Committee's decision not to organise a comparable public consultation prior to the Seventh Congress on the basis of the blockade, he needs to explain his reasoning.

Cuba has an endless litany of problems, not all of which can be attributed to the US blockade. And the blockade can be used as an excuse for some people to hide from the discussion of Cuba's many problems. If you read the letters column in Granma, it's obvious that public criticism is acknowledged and being addressed. More and better would always be more and better, but to fail to take account of the context in which Cuba and the revolution's leadership functions, shows an extraordinary poverty of political judgement, in my opinion.

Walter says that I have failed to take account of the context in which the Revolution's leadership functions. How so? Here's what I acknowledged in my post on Granma readers' responses to the Granma editorial: "[T]he PCC leadership is—of course—far from infallible. Beset by great difficulties on all sides and by new challenges, from Obama's shift to 'soft power' subversion to a generational leadership transition at the highest level, a lapse into old habits that die hard, such as the very secrecy that Raul Castro has repeatedly denounced in recent years, is perhaps understandable."