[News] Cuba - The Return of C. Wright Mills Amid the Dawn of a New Era

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Mon Sep 17 15:21:10 EDT 2007


http://www.counterpunch.org/alarcon09172007.html

September 17, 2007


The Return of C. Wright Mills Amid the Dawn of a New Era

By RICARDO ALARCÓN

"What planet are you from, anyway?" responded the 
Guantanamero to the insistent question posed by 
someone who apparently did not believe there were 
schools, libraries, teachers, doctors and nurses 
there who offered their services to everyone free 
of charge, as they have been doing for several 
decades in Cuba. This anecdote, mentioned in 
Sicko, Michael Moore's latest documentary, 
describes what many, in one way or another, have 
experienced in the course of nearly half a 
century of encounters ­positive and not­between 
beings that inhabit worlds which are at once 
close to and cut off from one another. In 1960, 
hoping to bridge the enormous gap through the 
noble and generous voice of C. Wright Mills, 
Cubans had noted: “We are so far apart that there 
are Two Cubas - ours and the one you picture to 
yourselves.” By the way, Cuba is not a nation 
about which few things have been written or published.

Over the course of several years publishing 
houses in the United States have printed texts 
essential to understanding our history, which 
have analyzed Cuban society and its Revolution 
profoundly: true must-read classics. Avoiding 
many a time, the barriers erected between our two 
countries in their prolonged struggle and 
overcoming the specific challenges I will address 
later, US academia has given us highly valuable 
works worthy of praise. Its efforts, however, 
have been severely limited by the structures within which it must operate.

The mass media have devoted more attention to 
Cuba than to most other Latin American and 
Caribbean countries. They have created another, 
unrecognizable Cuba through massive errors, 
distortions and inaccuracies many times reaching grotesque proportions.

Voicing superficial opinions about Cuba, assuming 
stances against its revolution and even boasting 
of expert knowledge on the subject is something 
which is not only natural and easy but also 
lucrative for some. In the introduction to an 
extensive study published in 1997, The UN 
Economic Commission on Latin America underscored 
the paradoxical fact that Cuba’s was “one of 
Latin America's most interpreted, but least studied, economies.”

The lack of analytical rigor, superficiality and 
even dishonesty often characterize the treatment 
of the Cuban issue. Many were trained to react 
with reflexive mechanisms and without thinking. 
The mere mention of Cuba or Castro prompts an 
instantaneous and automatic reaction, before the 
brain can even pass judgement. Prejudice, in 
short, is sown through modern instruments of 
information and a cultural industry which, more 
and more, divests thought of true content and encourages banality everywhere.

Another professor from Columbia, Brzezinski, put 
it frankly: with the new technologies they could 
“manipulate emotions and control reason”.

The commotion stirred up by recently-divulged 
declassified documents which describe attempts by 
the CIA and the mafia to assassinate Fidel Castro 
is quite revealing. The plans were known, in 
detail, and acknowledged by the US Senate more 
than thirty years ago. Books on the subject were 
published and box-office hits were made. Nothing 
new has come to light. What is revealing is how 
frivolously the mass media treated the idea of 
assassination and other crimes and the 
passiveness with which the public took in the news.

In a world in which information has become a form 
of entertainment, you can tell the people that 
their government has been involved in all sorts 
of sordid actions without facing a scandal. Some, 
parroting the CIA chiefs, pointed out that these 
things happened so long ago that no one even 
remembers them. Obliged to speak about the Iraq 
war, Abu Grahib, Guantanamo and other current 
realities, they will again avoid any connection 
with the past; they will treat them as isolated 
events, outside of history, present them as the 
inexplicable images of a stupefying spectacle.

This is also how it has been possible, for over 
two years now, to provide safe haven to Luis 
Posada Carriles, prevent the resumption of a 
trial began in Venezuela for the mid-air bombing 
of a commercial airliner and the holding of a 
trial in the United States ­in flagrant violation 
of international anti-terrorist conventions­while 
perpetuating the incarceration of the Cuban Five, 
young men, whose only crime was the peaceful 
struggle against them and other terrorists 
harbored by Washington. These two incidents have 
been mentioned once or twice in some of the US 
media, always in biased reports full of errors, 
and have immediately been buried beneath an 
unrelenting avalanche of misinformation and 
rubbish, dumped upon a captive and defenseless 
public day in and day out. The result: the cases 
of Posada Carriles and our Five Heroes are known 
around the world, voices of condemnation, protest 
and solidarity are being heard more and more, 
while ignorance and silence are forced upon the 
people in the United States. All the while, 
thousands of young Americans go to Iraq to kill 
and die in the name of a supposed war against terrorism.

I invoke Mills again, because this year, the 45th 
anniversary of his physical disappearance, Cubans 
ought to remember with gratitude, and to pay 
tribute to this North American writer who, in 
difficult and decisive times, struggled for 
friendship and understanding between our nations 
like very few did. To this cause he devoted his 
exceptional talent and all of his energies; for 
this cause, put simply, he gave his life.

 From the time of Listen Yankee's publication in 
1960, Mills had to struggle against all sides, 
thrown into an uneven match with the powers that 
be and the owners of the mass media. The FBI and 
pro-Batista gangs based in Miami employed all the 
instruments of persuasion, including threats and pressures against him.

A paradigm of the intellectual committed to truth 
and justice, an independent, lucid and creative 
thinker, he met his death before his time, 
leaving an admirable oeuvre unfinished, an oeuvre 
which was the inspiration of those young people 
who, in that unique moment in US history, sought 
to storm heaven. His indefatigable struggle on 
behalf of Cuba had, for him, more than a present 
significance as part of a debate; it was decisive 
for the future relations of the United States 
with the world and for the well being of the nation in general.

As a prelude of things to come, he wrote: “I’m 
afraid there is going to come about a very bad 
time in my country for people who think as I do
 
What bothers me, is whether or not the  damned 
heart will stand up to what must then be done”.

We have, indeed, faced difficult times, bereft of 
his irreplaceable rebelliousness.

In its policy towards the Cuban revolution, the 
United States has traced an unbroken, unwavering 
line which takes us all the way back to the 
Eisenhower administration and already spans 
across half a century. It is the policy of 
misinformation and lies. While other elements of 
US policy have varied over time, this, its 
fundamental component, has not experienced the 
slightest change since the now remote times when 
Washington worked hard to perpetuate Batista’s 
dictatorship and prevent the revolutionary triumph.

In this battleground, the US government has 
employed financial, material and human resources 
impossible to quantify. Those who have sought to 
delve into the issue of Cuba have had to do so 
over a boggy and mined terrain, to face a single 
and singular obstacle: the most powerful 
government on the planet which has done 
everything in its power, made use of all 
available means, in order to lie, falsify reality 
and deceive. Such premeditated efforts to conceal 
the truth and divulge falsehoods, such 
consistency over so long a period of time, are without precedents.

It is not only a question of prejudice, ignorance 
or moral cowardice. Many who have opposed the 
Cuban revolution have been the object of 
deliberate and systematic intellectual and 
emotional manipulation, victims of an operation 
designed at the highest levels of US power, an 
operation in which an immense governmental 
bureaucracy and its many public and secret 
agencies, reliant on the conscious and 
unconscious complicity of politicians, academics, 
journalists and other intellectuals, has been involved.

Though little was known about this operation in 
Mills’ time, he was able to imagine that 
something of this nature was taking shape and 
alluded to this more than once. Today, we have 
access to all its details, from the time of its 
inception, through its development, to the present day.

In the 1990s, a good many official documents till 
then kept secret came to light. In 1991, the US 
Department of State published a thick volume 
titled “Foreign relations of the United States 
1958-1960 Volume VI Cuba” which contains hundreds 
of documents, reports, internal Department 
analyses, the minutes of the National Security 
Council and other government agency meetings, 
messages exchanged with the US embassy in Havana, 
other diplomatic missions and allied countries 
and other materials which cover the last years of 
the Batista regime and the first two years of 
Cuba - US conflict, up to the breaking of diplomatic relations.

1958 was a crucial year which holds the key to 
understanding what was to happen later. The 
volume contains irrefutable proof of Washington's 
close alliance with the bloody dictatorship which 
scourged the island. Collaboration existed in the 
most diverse spheres, even the nuclear energy 
sector. Military aid was unlimited, extending 
beyond the supply of weapons, munitions, 
equipment and assistance at all levels. All 
officers in Cuba's air force, nearly all army, 
navy and police officials and complete units of 
the troops that fought against the rebels in the 
Sierra Maestra were trained in US military schools.

Batista found support not only in Cuba but also 
in the United States. The FBI and Department of 
Justice kept a tight rein on exiles and 
anti-Batista émigrés and worked to thwart all of 
their efforts to aid those who struggle for 
freedom at home. The two governments exchanged 
information and coordinated actions as part of 
these efforts. In this regard, the actions 
undertaken against then ex-president Carlos Prío Socarras are worthy of note.

As the Batista regime's exhaustion became more 
and more evident, concealing the aid which his 
government continued to receive became a priority 
for the Eisenhower administration, as did the 
obstinate and fruitless efforts aimed at 
preventing the people’s victory. "We must prevent 
a Castro victory" was the conclusion often repeated at White House meetings.

The declassified documents reveal more than a 
political, military and economic commitment 
between the authorities of two governments which, 
at times, appear to merge into a single body. We 
come across anxious and perplexed characters, 
actors in a drama they are unable to understand. 
In the course of 1958, more and more meetings see 
Eisenhower, Nixon, Dulles and his generals draw 
up desperate plans looking for a magic formula to 
save the old regime and prevent its complete collapse.

As with soap operas, there is intrigue and 
melodrama, like the scene in which the President, 
in a grave and solemn tone, asks everyone present 
to promise they will deny, without exception, 
having heard what was discussed there. Or his 
precise and unquestionable instruction, that “the 
hand of the United States remain hidden”. And, as 
if this were not enough, as though suspicious of 
his closest advisors, his personal instruction to 
the CIA director, to stop discussing plans 
against Cuba at National Security Council meetings.

They were forced to interrupt or postpone dinners 
and revelries. In the last hours of December 
31st, from his office, Secretary Herter sends 
Havana his last message of 1958. It is a bitter 
and sorrowful letter which summarizes everything 
Washington had done to support the despot until the last moment.

Before dawn broke that first morning of 1959, 
Washington was already receiving reports from its 
ambassador in Havana. The gentleman had not slept 
a wink; he had been busy trying to prop up the 
military junta which was scrambling to organize 
itself and coordinating the departure from the 
country of those leaders and collaborators who had no fled with Batista.

In those first early hours, already Cuba was to 
receive one of the toughest blows of the United 
States' economic war against the island. The 
fugitives had literally plundered the Treasury of 
the Republic, creating what the Department of 
State itself described as a situation no 
administration could bear. Not one cent was 
returned. Neither were any loans granted the 
provisional government, in spite of its discrete 
and friendly appeals. Therein lies the origin of 
the many fortunes that arose, later to be swelled 
by privileges, tax exemptions and other benefits 
no one else has ever enjoyed in the history of 
the United States, fortunes which the official 
propaganda extols as the supposed successes 
stories of a community of enterprising émigrés.

Washington never let its loyal friend down. One 
of the longest sections of the abovementioned 
volume describes the steps diplomats and US 
officials took to secure a pleasant and safe 
retirement for the defeated tyrant. Since the 
“hand had to remain hidden”, it had to be outside 
of US territory, so it was the good will of the 
then ruling government of Spain and Portugal with 
the United States' approval that came to their 
aid. The dictator’s wife, children and other 
relatives and close friends settled comfortably 
in the homes they had purchased, using stolen 
money, in south Florida. There, they joined other 
fugitives and created an artificial Cuba, with 
all of the characteristics of the Cuba that had 
forever disappeared. The government of the United 
States gave them the resources to become, in a 
short time, a force to be reckoned with, which 
the US people was obliged to accept as 
representative of fictitious values that had hitherto never been theirs.

The first counterrevolutionary organization, La 
Rosa Blanca, was founded in Miami by Rafael Díaz 
Balart, one of Batista's main ministers and 
ex-chief of his political apparatus. Former 
torturers, veteran gangsters, drug-traffickers 
and thieves came to control media spaces and were 
received at Congress meetings and in the offices 
of politicians, both democratic and republican. 
They were allowed to pocket hundreds of millions 
of dollars ­more than $400 million, according to 
calculations by experts from the National Bank 
and New York Times editorialists­and, later, 
incalculable sums taken from US taxpayers, as tax 
exemptions for the supposed loss of properties 
left behind in Cuba, and other, equally 
exorbitant sums, through diverse anti-Castro 
programs which have been generously financed with 
money from the federal budget for nearly half a century.

Batista's lot was to die in Europe but his memory 
lives on in the United States. Every March 10th, 
the day he took power through a coupd´état in 
Cuba when he liquidated its government 
institutions in one fell swoop is celebrated in 
Miami. Batista's relatives, and those of his 
close friends, live in the United States, hold 
positions in the judiciary, the executive and the 
legislature, at the federal, state and local 
levels. They are accorded honors and paid 
tributes at public squares, universities and even 
in the United States Congress. Today, in the 21st 
century, a strange cult of Batista's regime 
survives in the United States, the pathetic token of unconditional devotion.

1959 and 1960, as the recently declassified 
documents tell us, were years in which the 
powerful hand which sought to remain invisible 
wrestled with a small country which sought to 
ward it off. New acts of economic aggression soon 
followed the brutal sacking of the public 
treasury. Given Cuba's then almost complete 
dependence on US financing and markets, 
Washington strategists were confident that a few 
blows to the country would suffice to make Cuba 
collapse and come again under US domination.

With the passing of time, they coined phrases 
which proved useful in concealing the meaning of 
their actions. The learned refer to these actions 
as “sanctions” which are part of an "embargo". 
Now, it is possible for us to read that, as early 
as 1959, one of the first measures, the 
suppression of the sugar quota, was described by 
Secretary Herter as "economic warfare”.

We know, also, that, in those early days, US 
authorities had a very precise idea of what they 
were doing, of the moral implications of their 
actions and the political ends they were 
pursuing. Few times were they as sincere as when 
they wrote: “The majority of Cubans support 
Castro
 the only foreseeable means of alienating 
internal support is through disenchantment and 
disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction 
and hardship
 every possible means should be 
undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life 
of Cuba
 a line of action which, while as adroit 
and inconspicuous as possible, makes the greatest 
inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to 
decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about 
hunger, desperation and overthrow of government”. 
When this policy was designed and applied, it had 
already been many years since the Nuremberg 
Tribunal had handed down its final verdict and 
the United Nations made its Convention on the 
crime of genocide a universal law. Those in 
Washington who coldly decided to apply a policy 
which spelled genocide for the Cuban people were 
fully conscious of these facts. Note that they 
sought to make the people suffer and to destroy 
them, to ignore and ultimately crush their will, 
deny them the exercise of their democratic rights.

More recently, when these documents came to 
light, making a mockery of decency and common 
sense, U.S diplomats and their academic and 
journalistic coryphaei went as far as attempting 
to justify the policy of genocide, in the name of democracy.

In 1997, the Central Intelligence Agency 
declassified another document it had zealously 
kept secret for over thirty years, with the 
pertinent omissions and finishing touches. It is 
the report of General Lyman B. Kirkpatrick, CIA 
inspector general for the actions undertaken in 
1959, which, in essence, describes the policy the 
United States has continued to apply to this day.

The program consisted in:

“a. Formation of a Cuban exile organization to 
attract Cuban loyalties, to direct opposition 
activities, and to provide cover for Agency operations.

b. A propaganda offensive in the name of the opposition.

c. Creation inside Cuba of a clandestine 
intelligence collection and action apparatus to 
be responsive to the direction of the exile organization.

d. Development outside Cuba of a small 
paramilitary force to be introduced into Cuba to 
organize, train and lead resistance groups”.

One finds surprising the importance accorded to 
propaganda and political work, which according to 
Kirkpatrick was allotted a greater part of the 
assigned budget than intelligence and military 
operations. The one aim of the organization in 
exile was to cover up Agency operations to 
guarantee, of course, that “the hand of the U.S. Government would not appear”.

“Anti-Castro propaganda operations were 
intensified throughout Latin America”. To sustain 
these operations, the initially assigned budget 
was constantly being increased and the 
clandestine CIA body in charge of these came to 
have more staff and resources than any other the 
Agency had during the Cold War.

The hidden hand was generous indeed.

It handed out no less than $35,000 a week for the 
publication of Bohemia Libre magazine, whose 
circulation reached that of 126,000 copies, 
second only, in the Continent, to Reader's 
Digest; the reprinting in exile of the daily 
newspaper Avance years before financed by 
Batista; Radio Swan broadcasts, television 
programs and other publications, including comic 
strips; not to mention the travel expenses of 
lecturers, deployed to divulge propaganda across 
Latin America. At the time, the CIA paid Cuban 
leaders in exile $h131,000 in salaries each month.

The Bay of Pigs fiasco did not put an end to 
these activities; rather, these became broader 
and more intense. Clandestine radio broadcasts, 
which have not ceased, were later expanded and 
became special Voice of America programs, today's 
Radio and TV Martí. Since then and up to today, 
the CIA has financed newspapers, journals and 
other publications and continues to have 
lecturers, academicians and journalists on its payroll.

In addition to covert operations, the US 
currently undertakes other, more visible actions. 
The Cuba Program is still in effect, though it 
enjoys a larger budget today, and, in addition to 
the CIA's original program, there are now AID and 
NED ones. Nothing has changed, not even the name.

With the passing of the Helms-Burton Act and the 
reports of the so-called Commission for 
Assistance to a Free Cuba, approved by President 
Bush, US foreign policy has become 
interventionist and arrogant like never before. 
There wouldn’t be enough time to go into an in 
depth analysis. I will limit myself to saying 
that, were the recommendations of these documents 
followed to the letter, Cuba would cease to exist as a sovereign nation.

But this is an irrational and anachronistic 
policy. The real world has not moved in the 
direction longed for by the vindictive supporters 
of Batista and their friends in Washington.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the failure 
of what came to be known as “real socialism” 
dazzled many in the capitalist world, who became 
intoxicated with a simple-minded and 
disproportionate optimism. Absorbed with talk of 
the fall of the Berlin Wall, they were completely oblivious to the Caracazo.

Painstakingly, and not without ups and downs, the 
world would in fact move in the direction Mills 
wisely predicted. Rather than the end of history, 
we witness the end of an era and the beginning of 
a new one that recalls his theory; the same one Mills had long searched for.

Latin America and the Caribbean witness the dawn 
of a new era. National revolutionary processes 
are consolidating themselves, grassroots 
movements are growing stronger, indigenous 
peoples and other marginalized sectors have ever 
greater participation in these and real and 
efficacious alternatives are making progress, 
impelling true unity and independence in the 
region. New alliances and pursuits emerge as the 
region moves towards the construction of 
socialist projects which, in their diversity, 
will make up the socialism of the 21st century; a 
form of socialism which is wholly ours, and which 
will not be “a carbon copy" of previous systems, 
but a "heroic creation", as Mariategui advocated. 
The work of people capable of independent 
thought, the type of people Mella dreamt of when 
Cuban Marxism was coming into its own. As all 
creations it will be unique, it will shatter 
templates and be impervious to dogma. It will be 
the rainbow already heralded by the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas.

Intellectuals on both sides of the Rio Grande 
shoulder great responsibility and are duty-bound 
to make this new age one of peace and friendship 
among our peoples. With the Cold War behind us, 
we now face new possibilities to establish new 
relations, which will only be possible when all 
hegemonic designs are abandoned.

Mills has finally returned. Let us take heed of 
his words: “What I have been trying to say to 
intellectuals, preachers, scientists -as well as 
more generally to publics- can be put into one 
sentence: Drop the liberal rhetoric and the 
conservative default, they are now parts of one 
and the same official line; transcend that line”.

Ricardo Alarcón is President of the National 
Assembly of People’s Power of the Republic of 
Cuba. This is the text of a lecture delivered at 
the Workshop “Dialogos Políticos”, XXVII 
International Congress of the Latin American 
Studies Association, 2007, Montreal, Canada. September 7, 2007.




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