Lecture delivered at the Workshop “Dialogos PolÃticos”, XXVII International Congress LASA 2007,
“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 not—between 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
By the way,
Over the course of several years publishing houses in the
The mass media have devoted more attention to
Voicing superficial opinions about
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
Another professor from
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
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 conventions—while perpetuating the incarceration of the Cuban Five, young men, whose only crime was the peaceful struggle against him and other terrorists harbored by Washington. These two incidents have been mentioned once or twice in some of the
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
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
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
In this battleground, the
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
Batista found support not only in
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
They were forced to interrupt or postpone dinners and revelries. In the last hours of December 31st, from his office, Secretary Herter sends
Before dawn broke that first morning of 1959,
In those first early hours, already
The first counterrevolutionary organization, La Rosa Blanca, was founded in
Batista’s lot was to die in Europe but his memory lives on in the
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
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
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
d. Development outside
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
“Anti-Castro propaganda operations were intensified throughout
The hidden hand was generous indeed.
It handed out no less than 35 thousand dollars 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 131,000 dollars in salaries each month.
In addition to covert operations, the
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,
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
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
Intellectuals on both sides of the
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 AlarcÃ³n, President of the National Assembly of People’s Power of the Republic of Cuba
 C. Wright Mills, Listen Yankee – The Revolution in
 Zbiegniew Bszezinski, Between Two Ages,
 C. Wright Mills, Letters and Autobiographical Writings, edited by Kathryn Mills with Pamela Mills, University of California Press, 2000, p.324
 Foreign Relations of the United Status, 1958 – 1960, Volume VI, Cuba, United States Government Printing Office, Washington 1991, p. 885
 Inspector General’s Survey of the Cuban operation and associated documents, CIA historical review program release as sanitized 1997, p.3 – 4
 C. Wright Mills, The causes of World War Three, Ballantine Books,