Annually, a near-ritual unfolds in the Fall Session of the United Nations General Assembly: the assembled states and governments dutifully, in near-unanimous consensus, vote in favor of a Resolution on the “Necessity of Ending the Economic, Commercial, and Financial Embargo by the United States of America Against Cuba.”
It was in 1991 that the revolutionary socialist Cuban government first attempted to bring such a Resolution before the United Nations as a whole. A furious US campaign of threats and blackmail, directed primarily against Latin American governments and other countries who were members of the Movement of Non-Aligned Nations, succeeded that year in getting them to pressure the Cuban UN delegation to withdraw it. (The Cuban delegation produced a communiquÃ© which Washington had dispatched to regional capitals stating: “We urge you to instruct your ambassador in Havana and/or your UN permanent representative to approach the Cubans in an effort to have the resolution withdrawn. The Cubans should understand that their insistence that you support them threatens your good relations with the US and could damage their bilateral relations with your government.”) The next year the Resolution did get to the General Assembly floor with a vote of 59-3 in favor and 71 abstentions.
As an activist in New York fighting against Washington’s economic and political war against Cuba and to free the Cuban Five, I was able to attend this year’s vote on October 29, 2013 which took up several hours before a full house in a large UN facility off 47th Street and 1st Avenue in Manhattan, while the regular General Assembly Hall is undergoing repairs and renovations. Resolution A/68/L.6, sponsored by Cuba, passed this year, for the 22nd year in a row, with Washington once again in humiliating political loneliness. The vote this year was 188-2 in favor, with 3 abstentions.
Washington’s formal political isolation over its anti-Cuba policy can hardly be more complete. Is it possible to imagine any significant political issue in world politics uniting so many disparate entities often in significant conflict with each other — from the semi-feudal ultra-reactionary “Sunni” Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the “Shi’ite” Islamic Republic of Iran, from India to Pakistan and Syria to Turkey; “North” Korea and “South” Korea; Russia and Georgia, and so on across the spectrum from the most industrialized capitalist ex-colonial powers in Europe and Japan to their most “underdeveloped” ex-subjects in the so-called Third World?
And, it has to be underlined, that this vote was in defense of Cuba — a revolutionary socialist government ruling over a state where capitalist property relations have been overturned since the early 1960s and which has renounced nothing of its revolutionary legacy, heritage, and program even as it maneuvers and navigates in the reality of a disintegrating capitalist world order?
Support for Washington in 2013 was technically the lowest ever, with only Israel in its now impossible-to-be-smaller corner. (Notably, Israel has significant two-way economic trade and commercial relations with Cuba and there is fully legal travel from each country to the other. “We assume that at least 10,000 Israelis have already visited Cuba,” said Daniel Faians, president and CEO of Polaris Group, a large travel wholesaler and airline agent based in Tel Aviv. That would be the equivalent, in an Israeli population of just under 8 million, of around 400,000 US visitors. Faians has found no anti-Semitism in Cuba and no personal hostility towards Israelis even though the Cuban government is a strong supporter of Palestinian self-determination and has normal or friendly diplomatic relations with all the Arab countries as well as Iran. Faians emphasized, “And we don’t have any problems with the authorities. If you arrive with an Israeli passport, you get the same treatment as anybody else.” Fifty-six Cuban Jewish athletes participated in the 2013 Maccabiah Games — the so-called Jewish Olympics — in Jerusalem with no incidents or problems. There has been significant Israeli-based capital investment in numerous Cuban projects and industries including irrigation technology, office towers, and agricultural production.)
The only change in the vote tally this year was that the Pacific Islands archipelago of Palau (population 21,000 spread across 250 tiny separate islands) switched its vote from “No” and openly siding with Washington and Tel Aviv, to abstaining, joining its sister Pacific Island countries of the Marshall Islands (population slightly less than 70,000 spread over 1,156 islands and islets) and Micronesia (population slightly over 100,000 spread over 607 islands) in the three abstention votes recorded. All three countries are in what is formally called a “free association” status with the United States. That is, Washington provides “defense,” funding grants, and minimum social services. Washington’s main interest, of course, is military and strategic, particularly in light of its trumpeted “Asian pivot” aimed at strengthening US power against China in the so-called Pacific Rim. A report in the May 2, 2012 online Al-Jazeera by Jon Letman states, “The Republic of the Marshall Islands, along with the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of Palau, is party to the Compact of Free Association (COFA), which grants the US military virtually exclusive use of a vast swathe of the Pacific for the transport, training and testing military personnel and weapons.” Despite this position of abject dependence, the best Washington could get from the three was abstentions this year. In years past when Washington’s military invasions produced client regimes in both Afghanistan and Iraq, both governments still managed to conjure up enough dignity or embarrassment-avoidance to vote against Washington (as they did this year as well). It’s a pretty sad state of affairs when even your puppets and charity wards need to take their distance.
Sharp and Frustrated Tone
The next speaker was from Fiji, another Pacific Islands archipelago. He spoke, as was the case for several other diplomats who took the podium, for a distinct bloc or alliance of nations, in this case the “Group of 77 Plus China.” Chile later spoke for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States; Iran’s representative spoke for the Movement of Non-Aligned Nations; Ethiopia spoke for the “African Group”; Djibouti for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC); Venezuela for the Latin American-based Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR) as well as specifically for itself; and the island of St. Kitts and Nevis for the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM). In the course of the debate (ctually the whole proceeding could hardly be called a “debate” since neither the US or Israeli representatives nor the Pacific Island abstainers spoke in the main round) other national representatives would then “associate” themselves with one, several, or all of the various bloc statements.
The tone from many speakers was often sharp and frustrated. And the list of those wanting to speak went way over the allotted time as nearly everyone wanted to get on the record in support of Cuba. The speaker representing the OIC said forcefully that “the prevailing situation is unsustainable!” The Chinese representative said that all the successive Resolutions have “never been effectively implemented by the United Nations.” He further calculated that the “enormous economic and financial losses” for Cuba over the decades of US economic warfare amounted to over one trillion dollars and were a “tremendous obstacle to economic development and Cuba’s efforts to eradicate poverty.” He concluded by saying “the call of the international community is getting louder and louder” for normalized relations and an end to the embargo, that “Cuba has the right to choose its own social model and development path” and that “China’s friendly ties with Cuba are growing.”
The representative from Ecuador spoke of the “incapacity of the United Nations to pursue justice” beyond the annual vote. Brazil’s representative called the US anti-Cuba policies “unacceptable” and voiced Brazil’s “firmest opposition.” He further stated that Cuban-Brazilian “economic and social relations are growing warmer and warmer” and that the Latin American and Caribbean “consensus is that there can be no more Summits in our Hemisphere without Cuba. We cannot see an America without Cuba.” Brazilian capital is currently working closely with Cuba and completing a major project developing the port of Mariel as a fully modern shipping and trade hub that should be a big boost to Cuba’s economic progress.
“Cold War Leftover?”
The Russian representative, who spoke first, called the embargo a “leftover from the Cold War” and an “anachronism.” Such phraseology was echoed by a good number of subsequent speakers. But is US anti-Cuba policy primarily a legacy of the Cold War confrontations between the former Soviet Union, the United States and their allies and so-called “surrogates?” Or has it been more fundamentally in continuity with US foreign policy toward Latin America and the Caribbean and anti-imperialist revolutionary struggles since at least the Spanish-American War of 1898, nineteen years before the Bolshevik Revolution? In any case Washington had unbroken diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union from 1933 until its disintegration in 1991 despite the decades of intense conflict (as well as four years of alliance during World War II). The same normal US relations exist with China and Vietnam today, nations, like Cuba, whose contemporary state power had their origins in socialist revolutions and the overturning of capitalist property relations, and where the ruling parties, again as in Cuba, call themselves “Communist.” There must be something exceptional in Cuba’s domestic and foreign policies that prevents Washington from changing its posture, the longest lasting unchanged foreign policy in US history. (I reject the notion that the lack of normal relations is due to the influence of the Cuban-American community in the United States.)
The Fijian spokesperson expressed “deep concern” for the “unilaterally imposed” embargo which “contravenes the fundamental norms of international law, international humanitarian law, the Charter of the United Nations” as well as “the principles of the sovereign equality of States and of non-intervention and non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs.” (Such references to violations of “international law” were myriad throughout. While these assertions are true enough factually on the face of it and I suppose useful for propaganda purposes and exposing hypocrisies and double standards, their rather impotent repetition served to reinforce my conviction that, as far as the great imperial powers, ruling classes, families, and castes throughout history are concerned, domestic and international law — which may look mighty fine and worthwhile on paper — are primarily a question of power, the relationship of forces and counter-forces, and the political price one might pay for transgressing them in any concrete situation. In any case, domestic “law” in the advanced capitalist “democracies” is generally preserved for use against working people, oppressed nationalities, and the impoverished who fill up their prisons.
These days many international laws register the need to adjudicate, with authority and credibility, the endless trade and commercial conflicts between the ruling classes of different countries and their industrial and financial monopolies. Such things tend to get out of hand and can have unintended and cataclysmic consequences, e.g. Depression, World War, Revolution. In any case violations of stated international laws supposedly governing war crimes, to give an example outside of narrow commercial imperatives, show the essential hypocrisy and mendacity that ultimately reigns. Several African leaders — almost always lackeys of the “Western” capitalist powers in previous political periods, and no doubt formally guilty as charged — have ended up in the Hague war-crimes court. But George W. Bush and Tony Blair, who launched an invasion of Iraq without UN Security Council authorization and on a pretext of blatant falsehoods, leading to tens of thousands (at least) of civilian deaths, millions of invasion-induced refugees, and a permanent hornet’s nest of violent chaos that continues to boil over a full decade later, are free to either stew in Texas –Bush — or make multi-millions in business consulting fees and even be on the UN payroll as a peace envoy for the Middle East –Blair! I’ll save the example of Henry Kissinger for another time.)
Another trope trotted out in this was the question of “non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs.”, and many other occasions . Generally this is just another mirror for naked hypocrisy and mendacity depending on who is the “interfered,” who is “interfering,” and what exactly is being “interfered” about. Regarding Cuba, clearly the US does not limit itself to verbal, political criticisms, but employs a huge apparatus of subversion and intervention aimed at weakening and overturning the revolutionary socialist Cuban government. And it claims its right to do so, sweeping aside with contempt those who stand on the grounds of “non-interference” in another countries “domestic affairs,” citing a “moral” imperative to stand for “human rights” and “democracy” which “transcends” such narrow concerns in a global world. Nevertheless, when, on November 4, 2013, not a week after the UN vote, US Secretary of State John Kerry was asked at a press conference in Riyadh, about the “domestic” policy of US ally Saudi Arabia of not allowing women to drive automobiles in that ultra-reactionary absolutist monarchy. And he replied, “With respect to the issue of women driving here in Saudi Arabia…it’s up to Saudi Arabia to make its own decisions about its own social structure…I think that debate is best left to Saudi Arabia.”
As I watched and listened it struck me that, hovering in the atmosphere of the UN space, was the recent revelations of US National Security Agency (NSA) and CIA blanket surveillance down to the cell phone conversations and email/text correspondences of even the bourgeois leaderships of regimes “allied” and friendly with Washington from Germany to Mexico as well as quasi-social-democratic regimes such as in Brazil. Of course, no one has been subjected to such US covert action, up to and including terrorism launched from US soil, and so on far beyond the tapping of phone conversations and gathering of emails and texts.
The “Group of 77 Plus China” statement further raised the “extraterritorial impact” of US sanctions. As opposed to the rhetoric about “international law” and “non-interference” here was a factor of concrete substance insofar as it registered genuine threats and overt action by Washington, codified in US law, against the national sovereignty of other nations commercially engaged with Cuba. “Extraterritoriality” was repeatedly stressed, including by Washington’s imperialist allies in the European Union (EU), who voted as a bloc for the Resolution. In reality the “extraterritoriality” of US anti-Cuba sanctions is central to the effective implementation of Washington’s policy aim of crushing the Cuban government and workers state. Washington’s knee-jerk line is that it’s economic and political war is simply and only a “bilateral” issue between the US and Cuba and everyone else should just butt out. Speaker after speaker referred to the US “Torricelli” and “Helms-Burton” laws which require and mandate US punitive measures and sanctions against other states and private enterprises that carry out trade, financial arrangements, investments, or other economic exchange with Cuba that Washington deems as forbidden. A number of specific examples of this were cited by Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruno Rodriguez in his compelling and strong remarks.
Cuba’s foreign policy of international solidarity was highlighted by many speakers. Speaking for the “African Group” the representative from Ethiopia said “Cuba has a proud role in Africa that will always be remembered by the people of Africa.” The representative of South Africa said, “Cuba has remained true to the principles of international solidarity. We know because we have benefited.” The Venezuelan representative said that the “illegal blockade has not prevented solidarity from Cuba to other peoples,” and spoke with some passion of the 2000 health agreements between Cuba and Venezuela that have brought great health advances to Venezuelan working people. Speaking for CARICOM the representative of the island state of St. Kitts and Nevis gave a heartfelt and straight-up statement, “This is such a fundamental injustice, especially when viewed in light of Cuba’s generosity and selflessness, it is even more acutely unjust. We are and will be unstinting in our solidarity with Cuba…Cuba has helped all of us with physical education, sports, and health care, and medicine. Cuba has built hospitals and clinics. We are filled with the utmost appreciation.” He went on to single out Cuba’s outstanding role in sustaining the health care system in Haiti and treating the Haitian people before, during, and after earthquake-spurred 2010 human catastrophe that killed over 100,000 people.
Not a Victim, But a Fighter
There was a tone in some remarks almost reducing Cuba to a suffering victim, but more often the emphasis was on the cruelty and arbitrariness of US sanctions. More importantly and accurately several speakers cited Cuba’s heroic resistance (what the Venezuelan speaker called “Cuba’s undeniable political resolve”) and the outstanding social progress and conquests that the Cuban Revolution has registered and sustained in the face of Washington’s hostility and aggression. The Mexican representative registering his government’s “strong opposition to the blockade” which he called the “main impediment to Cuba’s greater development” but that Cuba has made “great progress despite the blockade” and that Cuba and Mexico had “good neighborly relations” and “high-level political dialogue.” He called their vote for the Resolution and “condemning” US policy as “the least we can do.” The Iranian representative spoke of the US sanctions as representing an “era of lawless behavior” and highlighted Cuba’s “great advances in education and health care.” He said the US “has failed to achieve and will never achieve” its aims in Cuba. Referring to the “brave nation” of Cuba the Egyptian representative said the embargo was “morally unjustifiable [and] legally indefensible” and “the damages of the embargo on Cuba are enormous…Despite this undue economic and social hardship, Cubans have continued to make developmental gains, most notably in education, health care, and gender equality. We salute their determination and resilience in the face of adversity.”
Perhaps the most moving and forceful speech was given by the representative of Bolivia, one of the few to depart from his written text. “Cuba provides the example of solidarity in this world…We repudiate as vehemently as possible this open wound that is lacerating the conscience of humanity.” Referring to US President Barack Obama’s recent speech before the General Assembly where he defended and praised US military aggression and its ubiquitous international military and “intelligence presence, on the basis of the “exceptional” character and mission of the US in the world, the Bolivian speaker ended with these words: “[Obama] speaks of the exceptional nature of his country as if the rest of us have not been blessed. This is offensive. This is dangerous. This is a demonstration of pride against humanity. It is sullying the history of mankind. Allow me to break with protocol and say, ‘Up With Cuba!, Viva Cuba!’” The chamber broke out in steady, mounting applause.
The European Union
It is worth a few extra paragraphs to examine the EU Statement which was read by a diplomat from Luxembourg. The EU includes governments, such as Poland and the Czech Republic, which have been quite hostile to Cuba in past years, and a few that are relatively friendly or at least not openly hostile. In any case, all are capitalist governments with varying forms of “parliamentary democracy” and are opposed politically to the domestic and world outlook and policies of the revolutionary socialist Cuban government. The Statement begins with a bow to Washington saying the US “trade policy towards Cuba is fundamentally a bilateral issue.” The next paragraphs then negate that hollow assertion by referring to the extraterritorial measures of the “Torricelli” and “Helms-Burton” legislation. “We cannot accept that unilaterally imposed measures impede our economic and commercial relations with Cuba.” The EU as a whole has a commercial, and therefore diplomatic and political, interest in separating themselves from Washington’s extremely unpopular anti-Cuba policy across the Americas in the ever-more ruthless competition between US-based and EU-based capital for access to markets, raw materials, joint economic ventures, and so on.
The Statement, which was read separately after the vote, quickly turned to clinically attacking Cuba over “human rights” and other “restrictions on rights and freedoms.” “We reiterate our call on the Cuban Government to fully grant its citizens internationally recognized civil, political and economic rights and freedoms, including freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and free access to information…”. This from a political entity which in this ongoing period of economic and social crisis has overseen vicious austerity measures and massive assaults on working people, leading to astonishing levels of general and youth unemployment, all in the defense of private capital and widening social inequality. How many endless pictures and video have we seen of European police — armed to the teeth, dressed like Darth Vadar — clubbing, gassing, beating, sometimes shooting, and sometimes killing — masses of protesting working people and youth fighting to defend their living standards and rights from the same government leaders and bureaucrats who condemn Cuba, where such occurrences never happen despite very difficult economic conditions (conditions which, of course, are of a very different character and which do not include mass unemployment and government policies that put private profit ahead of the rights and living standards of working people).
Washington and the EU condemn Cuba (they are actually attacking Cuban society) for the organization of citizen counter-demonstrations where average Cubans gather — non-violently but militantly — to denounce the handful of so-called “dissidents,” such as “Ladies in White” who march and demonstrate against the Cuban government — opponents of the Revolution who are exercising their right to do so under Cuban law. As has been documented time and time again, all the so-called “pro-democracy opposition” have financial and political ties to the US or EU governments and their subversive programs. (I’d like to know of any exceptions. The US government openly allocates tens of millions of dollars to such manufactured formations in public budgets, aside from secret covert programs and projects.) This conjured up “opposition” represents no real, actual, legitimate, or credible political movement inside Cuba. They have no popular support whatsoever. If they represent anything, it is the US government. There is massive debate, including discontent and contention, over government policies in Cuba today, but the overwhelming majority of it is within the Revolution and within the determination to defend Cuban socialism and Cuban sovereignty.
In a bone or two to Cuba the EU goes on, “The existing restrictions on rights and freedoms undermine and offset the Cuban achievements in healthcare and education.” And that the “economic, commercial, and financial embargo imposed by the United States contributes to the economic problems in Cuba, negatively affecting the living standards of the Cuban people.” (This latter sentence is true enough as a formal assertion. But it begs the decisive political question and context which is the continuity — for over five decades now — of Washington’s determination and actions on every available front, and by any means possible, including violence and military aggression, to overthrow the revolutionary socialist Cuban government.
While it is true that current political conditions preclude direct US military intervention and aggression — much to the chagrin of bloodthirsty US politicians of Cuban origin such as Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart, and Robert Menendez — they do include, right now and every day under the Barack Obama Administration, the fully-funded subversion and covert intelligence operations referred to above, which supplement the economic sanctions opposed by the EU and the entire “world community.” It is precisely these programs that are aimed at creating the conditions — economic collapse, social demoralization, and political chaos — for the kind of military intervention that would actually achieve the goal of “regime change” in Cuba. Perhaps, the high-and-mighty, human-rights-loving, ultra-democratic European imperialist powers — whose record of blood soaked colonial wars and wars between themselves for booty and loot is perhaps unmatched in world history in scale and scope, and who are masters of shrouding it all with honeyed language and hypocritical cant, might consider that “the existing restrictions on rights and freedoms” in Cuba might have something to do with the legitimate self-defense of the Cuban Revolution and its undeniable conquests, including the massive expansion of democratic rights and freedoms and direct political participation — among other things made possible by becoming literate and educated, having access to health care, and guaranteed social security — for the vast, previously excluded, majority, that was ushered in by the Cuban Revolution. The fact is that expansions of democratic rights and civil liberties are particularly moving forward in Cuba today as the Revolution shows more strength and confidence and as Washington’s political and economic war shows more weakness and limitations on its ability to strangle Cuba — as the overall political authority and economic hegemony of US imperialism in world politics relatively declines. But Cuba has little choice but to remain vigilant since US policy remains in place, unmoved by world or even US public opinion.
Just Become Capitalist Already!
The real ideological concern of the EU governments and bureaucracy is registered in the Statement’s sentence that read, “[D]omestic Cuban economic policy seriously hampers its own economic development.” Here the EU Statement (with far less huffing and puffing) echoed the official US “Explanation of Vote” which was read after the vote was called but before the actual tabulation. US UN Ambassador Samantha Power fobbed off the job of reading it to Ronald D. Godard, a “Senior U.S. Adviser for Western Hemisphere Affairs.” Godard, looking none-too-happy in his role, read, “Cuba still has one of the most restrictive economic systems in the world. Irrespective of US policy, it is unrealistic to expect the Cuban economy to thrive until the Cuban government opens its state monopolies to private competition, fully empowers Cuban entrepreneurs, respects intellectual property rights, allows unfettered access to the Internet, and adopts the sound macro-economic policies that have contributed to the success of many of Cuba’s neighboring countries in Latin America.” Without breaking down all the doubletalk and mendacity (for one, we can happily compare social indices such as infant mortality, life expectancy, functional literacy and general education, free at all levels, mass access to health care, also free, and athletics as well as pre-eminence of workers rights, and much more, between Cuba and its “neighboring countries in Latin America”) in this paragraph, what is clear is that for both Washington and the EU — demagogy about “Democracy” and “human rights” aside — what is really necessary is for Cuba to just get on with it already and adopt capitalist methods and mechanisms, and reinstate capitalist property relations and capitalist social relations.
There are, of course, and the Cuban government and society are tackling this head on, many distortions and bureaucratic absurdities that have grown over the years as a contradictory byproduct of what were once necessary or unavoidable measures to defend the Cuban Revolution. There were also many errors made from the period where Cuba was perceived, and may have perceived itself, as dependent on the Soviet Union and the Eastern European “socialist camp” for survival and development while the US economic and political war, with its accompanying military threats and violence, that existed and was escalating at a far more intense level than is the case today. These errors involved, as Fidel Castro and other Cuban leaders have spoken of candidly, mechanically copying without thinking certain economic and bureaucratic nostrums and policies independently and developing ipso facto an administrative, top-down mindset that created and institutionalized certain policies and dynamics that are now being — and have been for some time — discarded and transformed.
Cuba and Lincoln
The Cuban Revolution has an utterly remarkable history of unimaginable heroism with a core of great humanity and unmatched internationalist solidarity with oppressed and exploited people’s. But no historical event, no matter how earthshaking and progressive, no matter how much it shapes subsequent history, can escape its own historical context, circumstances, and conditions. So the Cuban Revolution has developed — how could it possibly be otherwise — great contradictions and unresolved problems. It is the worst kind of political demagogy and disingenuous muddle-headedness for the EU in its Statement and policies to downplay or de-emphasize the crucial historical context of Washington’s unremitting economic, political, subversive, intelligence, and in many cases violent war against the socialist island.
It would be like attacking Abraham Lincoln’s (greatly admired in Cuba) Administration for preventing the political assembly, public organization, “freedom of the press,’ and so on of supporters of the US Confederacy — that is the government of the owners of slaves — without pointing out in its proper weight — that is, the fundamental starting point and overwhelming politically decisive context — that these “dissidents” were part of a campaign and real war to subvert and overthrow a government that was at first opposed to the expansion of slavery and eventually became committed to its revolutionary destruction. Or, later during Radical Reconstruction, attacking the “Carpetbagger” Administrations in the formerly slave South for suppressing and repressing the former slave-based planters and their white supremacist allies under a regime that many racist propagandists called a “military dictatorship” — and was in fact based on the military occupation of Union Army troops — but which vastly expanded democratic freedoms and representative democratic forms for the vast majority, ex-slaves as well as poor white farmers and laborers. Of course, all analogies have limits but Cuba is a small nation of less that 12 million people facing the unremitting hostility of the government of the largest military power in the history of the Planet Earth, ninety miles away, with vast resources at the service of a openly stated policy of subversion, regime change, and the destruction of Cuban socialism and its compelling, undeniable social conquests, and, decisively, its example for and solidarity with the world’s working and oppressed people.
Since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution over 3500 Cubans have died from violent assaults and sabotage, assassinations and bombings — all organized from US soil by the US government and/or US-backed Cuban-American counter-revolutionaries
And so it went on at the UN: “unacceptable” “unsustainable” ‘”coercive” “unilateral” “extraterritorial” “unjust” “illegal” “arbitrary” “inhumane.” It is easy, and I did, fall into a political schizophrenia: Is the UN just a talking shop with an unending litany of cliches and boilerplate — and I don’t mean to say that at least some of it is not sincere — but ultimately backed up by nothing? Or are we actually reaching a tipping point where the rhetoric and the accumulation of world public opinion which it is reflecting and registering, may actually also reflect and register the beginning of the end of US sanctions and the first crumbs loosening in the coming crumbling of the policy?
None, or very little of this gets transmitted to US public opinion by the big-business mass media. Not a word — not even a perfunctory paragraph in a “World in Brief” buried in the back pages — made it into the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, or Washington Post or, I imagine more local print or online newspapers.
APPENDIX on How Washington’s Economic and Political War Against Will Actually End
The following is the excerpted end of my March 12, 2010 essay “Obama and Cuba: End of an Illusion” written slightly more than a year after Barack Obama’s first Inauguration as US President.
There is no question that if Cuba were to drop its revolutionary political orientation and become more responsible to the interests and dominance of world capitalism and imperialism, then Washington would change course and establish full diplomatic relations and end all sanctions in a New York minute. But short of Cuban political capitulation, what will end the US economic and political war against Cuba? There are three factors which can be looked at separately, but which are totally intertwined, playing upon and off each other.
First and foremost is independent mass pressure inside the US, that is, independent of the maneuverings, machinations, and intrigues of the bait and switch game on Capitol Hill. This first factor is weak today, although that can change. And while there is a vibrant, committed core of Cuba solidarity activists in cities across the United States, as a national movement it is decentralized and diffuse. Of course the “Cuba Question” is not at this time a pressing issue in US politics. There is no imminent or clearly building momentum towards direct US aggression. Widespread sentiment against the US embargo in US public opinion exists, and there is even a small but significant layer of US public opinion that is consciously sympathetic to the example, legacy, and historic leadership and of the Cuban Revolution, particularly among Blacks. There is furthermore great, broad interest in Cuba, and the prospects of visiting there, among ordinary US citizens. Preventing people from seeing the actual Cuban reality as opposed to the hell painted by imperialist propaganda is, of course, a major reason US authorities strain to maintain travel restrictions.
Second is Hemispheric and world pressure. In formal diplomatic terms it’s hardly possible for Washington to be more isolated in its Cuba policy, especially in the Western Hemisphere. Nevertheless, among Washington’s imperialist allies who are also its dog-eat-dog competitors on the world capitalist market, opposition to the US embargo at the UN has more to do with antagonism towards US attempts to impose its economic and financial policies extraterritorially than with any sympathy for revolutionary, socialist Cuba. The above-cited EU Parliament vote strongly condemning Cuba is a truer reflection of the class and political antagonism of European imperialism. In the Americas while popular solidarity with Cuba is very widespread and is a big factor weighing on the postures of even conservative governments, it is certain that as social and political polarization deepens in the wake of growing economic crisis, antagonism towards Cuba – the permanent example and inspiration for all Hemispheric forces fighting for social justice – consciously fostered and demanded by Washington, among certain governments and political tendencies is bound to grow. There are many delicious contradictions within the actuality and dynamics of the Cuban Revolution’s place in Latin American history and contemporary politics.
The third factor is divisions within the US ruling class. This factor totally flows from and is dependent on factors one and two. Short of a victorious social revolution inside the United States bringing working people to political power, it is the political representatives of the US “Establishment” that will make the decision to end the five decades of economic and political war against the Cuban Revolution. So far we have only seen tactical divergences from within an utterly united policy of defeating the Cuban Revolution and destroying Cuban socialism.
If Obama and Clinton had any illusions that the Cuban government under Raul Castro would be less inclined to promote revolutionary internationalism and solidarity with the oppressed and exploited overwhelming majority of humanity against the policies of world capital, they have had enough time to shed them.
Despite years of stupid speculation and assertions about splits and divisions between Raul and Fidel Castro, it seems fairly clear that Washington no longer views as serious or real that anything fundamental has changed, or is going to change, in the Cuban leadership and political orientation, either within Cuba or in its foreign policy, under Raul Castro’s Presidency. Cuba remains revolutionary and Marxist. Revolutionary continuity is the reality in Cuba.
Therefore so does continuity remain the reality of US policy under Barack Obama.
Ike Nahem lives in New York.