No 1467 30th April 2015
Joke election pretences from all sides (including “lefts”) about “recovery” deliberately hide unstoppable crisis catastrophe and class war dictatorship moves and chauvinist hate-building for the World War to “escape” it. Correct working class contempt for Parliament shows a readiness for revolutionary leadership but entire fake-“left” tied back to voting instead. “No to austerity” (or war) impossible except by ending capitalism. “Left” single issue feminism and “gay rights” are reformist diversions used for reactionary war hate building by capitalism. “Anti-racism” too needs developing to show the class nature of police killings like Baltimore and Ferguson. Fake-”left” unrestricted immigration is pious moralising, an unworkable fantasy solving nothing but driving workers into UKIP’s reactionary arms. Leninist party and polemic must be built
The West’s “blitz their boats” callous response to Mediterranean immigrant drownings; “suicide” assassinations of pro-Russian MPs and journalists in stooge Nazi-run Kiev; recent failure of yet another coup against Venezuela’s left nationalist regime; and the militarised crackdown on the Baltimore protests against yet another racist police killing, all demonstrate the violent desperation of imperialism as its economic catastrophe inexorably unfolds.
A return in some form to the meltdown disaster of 2008, only ten or a hundred times worse, is due anytime, as soon as the smoke-and-mirrors “solution” of Quantitative Easing fantasy money printing finally implodes.
The desperate cuts poverty in the West and the utter mayhem already ripping half the Middle East apart – caused solely by Washington’s “shock and awe” warmongering and the endless “drone wars” since – will be as nothing compared to future chaos.
Once that happens the fantasy “upturn” will be seen for what it is, a deliberately engineered illusion (giant LIE) to head attention away from capitalism’s epochal disintegration – a credit-fuelled pretence by the ruling class to buy time for class war preparation and dumbly accepted by the whole “left” spectrum.
Their “anti-austerity” protesting is merely a reformist argument about a “better distribution” of the “benefits of the recovery”, sustained by the argument that “cuts are unnecessary” and “just ideological”, or can be “reversed”.
It completely misses the devastating reality of capitalist collapse.
The crisis cannot be reversed whatever short-term confidence trick is pulled with money printing; only complete ending of the capitalist system to build planned socialism can stop the slide into the greatest Slump agony and World War destruction yet seen in history, the inevitable destination for the ruling class’s cynical warmongering escape plans to avoid responsibility for the greatest social and economic failure and collapse seen in all world history.
The whole 57 varieties of “lefts”, from Labourite/trade union class collaborating opportunism, Trotskyist hatred of workers state discipline and mind-numbingly complacent revisionism (including mummified Stalin worship) all fail to give a revolutionary perspective, beginning with the immediate urgent need for to build a Leninist party leadership.
For all their academic posturing they are poleaxed by longstanding hostility to theory and trivial infighting sectarianism, avoiding open scientific struggle to understand the objective world, and blocking polemical methods to hammer out an agreed view of the world class struggle.
Revolution is always to be put off for another day, if it is mentioned at all except in posturing back page lists of alleged “principles”.
What they do not do is point sharply and clearly to the revolutionary lessons that must be learned from the universal degeneracy, international war and torture, non-stop drone terrorising, ever more hate-filled strident aggressive Goebbels provocations, and domestic fascist surveillance, censorship and repression.
And the explosive developments in anti-imperialist revolt throughout the world are condemned and denounced, as certainly the rioters in Baltimore will also be, painted as “criminals” or “doing things the wrong way”, a capitulation to imperialist class war pressure as craven as any in history.
Instead of explaining sharply and clearly the total lying fraud of capitalism’s battered and rusted through pretences of “freedom”, “democracy” and “the rule of law”, every single one of these fake-“left” pretenders is once more dragging the working class back behind the illusions in voting and “socialism by left pressure”.
But as the Syriza “left”opportunists have been making clear in Greece, a desperate ruling class no longer has room to give way to such “anti-austerity” reformism parliamentary pressure (advocated by all the “lefts”, Trots and even the KKE “anti-Syriza” revisionists alike).
In the UK all are still propping up the current election pantomime too, when most of the working class has quite rightly rejected its corrupt establishment “blind-eye” cover-ups for bribery, child buggery and bullshit, declaring “politicians are all the same” and so disgusted that some six million of the population remain unregistered, and of the remaining “voting population” nearly half did not vote in the last election or voted only against the toffs and their Labourite stooge shadows.
It is kindergarten Marxism that capitalism’s “democracy” mechanism has been its greatest weapon to cover the reality of bourgeois capitalist class dictatorship which actually takes all the decisions that matter (maintaining relentless exploitation of the working class domestically and particularly ruthlessly through the colonised Third world).
The cynical “freedom and progress” charade has been the excuse for two centuries for non-stop colonialism, Cold War and post-Cold War bullying oppression of the planet by monopoly capitalism and particularly since the Second World War, with the outright Goebbels lie that capitalism offers a world of “opportunity and improvement for hard-working families” etc etc etc against the supposed bogeymen of communism, the great lie about “totalitarian nightmares” conditioned into every young brain from the moment childhood awareness of the world begins to develop, and now extended to cover supposed “international terrorism” and “rogue states”, the confused Third World revolt which temporarily fills the vacuum left by the supposed “failure” of communism (in fact no such thing but only its temporary suspension because of the idiot capitulation of Moscow revisionist stupidity and retreat to “the free market” and the ever more reactionary Trotskyist “opposition”).
But capitalist “democracy” has been fraying at the edges for over a century and particularly as the post-war consumerist “boom”, engineered by decades of mindless money printing (of completely valueless inflationary paper dollars) to bribe a host of tinpot dictators around the world, keeping ruthless neo-colonial exploitation underway, – has increasingly faltered and stuttered into repeated currency and credit collapses, paralysing whole economies in Latin America, south-east Asia and even mighty Japan and culminating in the total meltdown disaster of 2008, headed off by the even more demented Mickey Mouse money printing of Quantitative Easing, due to implode any second.
The whole termite-eaten economic edifice would have collapsed long ago if it were not for the total vacuum of real leadership in the working class for decades from the fake-“left”, blinkered by illusions in “democratic paths” to socialism, useless “No to War” social-pacifism and permanent peaceful coexistence, and a variety of completely subjective-individualist single-issue causes, all at best completely unsolvable within capitalism like women’s rights, racial equality, ecological destruction and homosexual freedom from persecution, and in fact acting as reformist substitutes and diversions from revolutionary theory, turning to reactionary props for capitalism as crisis has unrolled.
Homophobic persecution is backward but it is not a “victory” that capitalism has eagerly embraced “gay rights” for example, but an indication of how such single-issue campaigns, and the suppression of all rational discussion around them, are no threat to capitalism and are even recruited for the vilest reaction.
The unscientific unprovable assertion that “gay is normal” and anyone who wants to calmly and rationally examine the question further is de facto “homophobic”, which has already used for the suppression of all working class political debate by fake-“left” groups (under such mantras as “No Platform” and “Safe Spaces”) is now adopted seamlessly by the capitalist state via its “Prevent” programme to censor and block so-called “extremism” a step on the road towards total fascist crackdown on all working class politics which the “left” are facilitating.
And beyond such domestic repression, these single issues are turned increasingly into weapons against various Third World struggles with such as the genocidally oppressed Palestinians and other Muslim revolt, monstrously demonised as “reactionary” by the petty bourgeois fake-“left”, because their cultural background does not accept the “gay is normal” orthodoxy; and past years have seen “gay rights” and Pussy Riot “feminism” recruited as leading elements in Washington’s Goebbels anti-Russian war aggression and topsy-turvy provocatory lies, helping support the openly fascist Kiev coup regime (CIA manipulated into place) in its murderous death squad aggression against the eastern working class, its nature increasingly obvious.
Nor was the election of the slick and sophisticated capitalist Democrat party PR machine product Barack Obama, using the “black vote” to win the 2008 election and the “gay marriage” promise for 2012 election (because the black nationalist card was already discredited by then) any kind of a “victory”, any kind of “step forwards” for the world’s masses.
Despite the universal cheering (or at best tacit acceptance) of the fake-“left”, once again blinded by their decades of single-issue posturing and the shallow assumption that a “black skin in the White House” must equal “progress”, it has been a total disaster, not only continuing but extending the worldwide drone terrorising, Guantánamo, Iraq and Afghanistan torture and atrocities, coups against Ukraine, Honduras, Venezuela (attempted) and the Arab Spring in Egypt (reinstalling a vicious dictatorship), destroying Libya, Syria and Iraq all over again, and now Yemen via its feudal Saudi proxies, and ramping up the threatening encirclement of the Chinese revisionist workers state.
Obama’s election was American capitalism trading-in its carefully hoarded “reformist voucher” prepared by decades of fake-“left” posturing on these single-issues, desperate to maintain the presidential election-democracy façade which, just as with British parliament, has been losing credibility with an increasingly disillusioned working class for decades (equally failing to turn out).
The whole presidential pretence was almost destroyed by the neocon fascist warmongering around the Bush dynasty, (with George W the most despised president since the Founding Fathers), and the defeated quagmire of $-trillions of expense and body bags its “shock and awe” rampaging produced, leaving a stinking mess of death-squad dictatorship, corruption and chaotic warlordism everywhere it was supposed to be “rebuilding freedom&democracy”.
Even such fake-“lefts” as the erratically excellent journalist John Pilger have recognised, (despite his own anti-proletarian dictatorship and “democracy” shortcomings) Obama-ism as just as fascist as anything seen in history, expressing what Marxist analysis said from the beginning in 2007 against all the fake-“left” insistence that fascism is some “special different phenomenon” and “you must not throw around the term Nazi because it invalidates the argument”.
But Obama-ism is the face of capitalism in crisis which is Nazism and needs to be identified as such, because otherwise the working class is led into a trap believing fascism is something other and if only it can be “stopped on the street” society is safe.
But it is capitalism itself which inherently is driving the whole world into war, the only way (by its warped class reasoning) to escape the contradictions of accumulated “surplus value” which cannot be invested, (trillions now languishing in cash accounts) paralysing the world economy and which has to be destroyed to restore profitability.
Nor would the election of Hilary Clinton, now tapping feminism, be any kind of an “advance”.
The American ruling class already half-played this card with Obama-ism, with her playing a leading role (in case the black vote alone was insufficient), and she is even more stridently aggressive than Obama sidekick John Kerry, eagerly celebrating the outright international illegality of the death-squad assassination of Osama bin Laden (suspending all alleged “principles” of the rule-of-law and trial, and trampling through another country’s sovereign territory to boot) and laughing out loud at the even fouler killing of bourgeois nationalist revolutionary leader and anti-imperialist Muammar Gaddafi, buggered with an iron blade in one of history’s most depraved murders (along with Edward II).
Her overt warmongering agenda is trumpeted louder than Obama, forced to rein in the outright blitzkrieging temporarily by cost and domestic war weariness and dismay.
The feminist illusions fostered by the fake-“left” (or left unchallenged by a few like the museum-Stalinists who are obviously uneasy with such usually Trotskyist single-issue reformism) have a lot to answer for in diverting attention from the core necessity of revolutionary politics without which no inequalities are going to be solved.
The “left” is also once again elevating the “race” question as a single issue above all else as the US domestic repression of the working class grows obviously more brutal.
It is clear that US oppression has a particularly nasty racist edge and much of the growing rebellious correctly erupting across the whole US against the gross brutality of the police expresses itself as a fight against black victimisation. But as the EPSR said more than ten years ago the vital need is to extend this to an understanding of class oppression. Simply substitute “Ferguson, Baltimore etc” for Cincinnati in this account (Issue 1085 17-04-01):
...riots against black deaths in police custody are what should be expected; but when class-collaborating reformists attack cops’ racist bias as the problem, the ludicrous propositions follow that the Western imperialist states of ‘bourgeois dictatorship’ (as Marx termed monopoly-capitalism’s unreformable domination) have only known the problem of deaths in police custody when a black minority has come under the cosh; and that if this racism would stop...then this problem would stop; and, even more stupid, that the class bias in all capitalist democracy policing (pro property, and against anti-authority and anti-property agitators) would not be a concern if there was no racist bias involved in cracking down on dissidence of every kind.
Clearly, more than a few anti-racist campaigners would be even happier if the exposures of officialdom’s race prejudice in all its workings were also accompanied by an even more important analysis of the relentless and vicious class-war bias in everything that the state authorities do.
But the question is what to make of public campaigns which do not hammer out that important additional class-war message??
Capitalist exploitation’s racist bias always needs identifying as such, obviously. But much more importantly, all such incidents needs identifying first and foremost as class domination.
The Cincinnati rebellion is essentially about a proletarian revolt against the rule of the American monopoly-bourgeois class which creates a society where all authority will always be vested in a system which protects property and property rights above all else, and which will keep control permanently, by any means possible, over all potential threats to that property system.
Obviously, large black proletarian ghettoes in America’s major cities are exactly such a threat, but the constant harassment and repression of them, such as has led to the current...rebellion, is an anti-capitalist propaganda point LOST when presented as a racist issue by the petty-bourgeois class-collaborating race-relations industry inspired by ‘moral’ idealism.
It is legitimate to fear open fascism taking over Western governments again as in the 1920s and 1930s, and anti-fascist propaganda and agitation is obviously a necessary part of the labour movement’s activities; but nothing except complete historical nonsense has followed when it starts to be proclaimed that “at least fascism has been defeated” or “at least racism has been driven back”. The ‘victors’ over the Axis (fascist) powers then gave the world the genocidal slaughter of Indo-China, Algeria, Kenya, Palestine, Rhodesia, etc; and more fascist tyrannies than can be counted, with millions of butchered or tortured victims, in Indonesia, Iran, Guatemala, Chile, half of Africa, etc, with regime after regime financed and armed by the West under the slogan: “He’s a bastard, but he’s our bastard”, notoriously applied to the murderous Somoza dynasty in Nicaragua for nearly 50 years of bloody tyranny.
The point is even clearer with Baltimore which has a female black mayor, petty bourgeois and as reactionary and opportunist as any other capitalist official, whose first declarations were to tell the spontaneous revolt that they were “protesting in the wrong way” and to call in the national guard.
So exactly how should they protest when the lessons have been that “democracy” gives them nothing, a black president even less and the Slump crisis is taking much of that away too???
Lenin’s Guerrilla Warfare article of 1906 spelt out very clearly what is needed from revolutionaries when the working class explodes into spontaneous destructiveness; not condemnation and disowning of such anarchic crudity, but a better leadership to focus class understanding into the organised conscious revolutionary mass struggle that is necessary to overturn this entire rotten festering bankruptcy of this 800 year old bourgeois profit-making class domination and its World War degeneracy.
Even more does this apply in the Third World, where the mass struggle erupting against capitalist warmongering has taken a variety of religious and jihadist forms, even more destructive and even often counter-productively brutal and barbaric in its rejection of Western influence, and with a fanatical sectarianism which has left it open to capitalist manipulation – though not totally under CIA control as ludicrously asserted by “knowing” conspiracy theorists defeatistly avoiding the reality of world anti-imperialist upheaval.
For all its destructive mayhem this mayhem is part of a growing Third World turmoil caused by, and struggling against, the tyrannical capitalist oppression which has held the billions in sweatshop and plantation slavery, poverty and humiliation, and even inflicting defeats and blows on imperialist diktat.
To condemn these upheavals as “reactionary”, or “evil” or the “wrong way” as the entire fake-“left” have done ever since 9/11 (directly or hiding behind various elaborate and contradictory “CIA theories”) is a total capitulation to imperialist pressure and plays into its hands.
This craven siding with the imperialist demonisation of “Islamic jihadism” simply aids the build-up of chauvinism and stampeding of public opinion behind endless “war on terror” blitzkrieging, feeding the self-righteous “kill-them-all” hatred which is keeping the war atmosphere on the boil.
While the “left” is not responsible for imperialism’s warmongering as such, and will even correctly declare that it is the non-stop blitzing of Iraq, Afghanistan Libya etc which has led to jihadist uprising everywhere and multiplying recruitment of tens of thousands of the desperate and hate-filled into its ranks, it still fails to see this revolt as anything but a “problem”.
That takes all the wind from its sails for if jihadism is “just as reactionary” as capitalism, (the line taken in assorted forms by the entire fake-“left”) then trying to argue against the imperialist warmongering is rendered totally useless, as Washington, London and the rest of imperialism argues it is simply “dealing with an evil scourge”.
And this useless cowardice was once more floundering over the horrifying Mediterranean immigration drownings, and the vile dishonesty, and arrogant indifference to basic humanity of the capitalist EU leaders on full show last week in Brussels, outrageously laying the blame for the chaos on “pirate captains”, as if Middle East blitzing, and starvation exploitation of Africa had nothing to do with this wave of desperate humanity.
The stench of humbug and hypocrisy during the “minute of silence” would have been overwhelming if not for the pungent smell of onions being raised to the tear ducts of assembled monopoly capitalist bigwigs, who could not care one jot about thousands of desperate men, women and children drowned in ramshackle boats, let alone the agony of tens of millions behind them whose countries have been pulverised by capitalist war terror or driven to desperation by relentless economic exploitation.
Labourite humbug was even worse, wriggling and squirming to avoid this intrusion of real world slump and war into the petty quibbling of the election game with Ed Milliband’s obfuscatory anti-Tory finger-pointing, blaming the desperate anarchic civil war turmoil created in Libya not on the nazi-NATO warcrime blitzkrieg which destroyed a civilised and prosperous nation (cheered on by the reformists), but on a “failure to organise it afterwards”, a dissembling evasion as sly as a street thief shouting “look, over there” as he slips a victim’s wallet from his pocket.
But the fake-“left” is no better, none of them able to expose the counter-revolutionary rationale of Libya’s deliberate destruction.
Libya, and subsequently Syria, have been utterly destroyed by deliberately provoked counter-revolutionary civil war started by outside provocations and fanned by an inflammatory Western media storm of demented Goebbels lies, to head off the giant and genuinely spontaneous revolt of February 2011 in Cairo against the Western stooge Mubarak dictatorship.
Its Muslim Brotherhood interim regime, while nothing like a socialist or workers state, was a step in an anti-imperialist direction threatening to undermine Western control of the entire Middle East and particularly the Zionist Nazi colonialist intrusion.
But the entire “left” cheered on the subsequent petty bourgeois counter-revolt organised by the West (incidentally further proving the lie of “democracy”) because of their total capitulation to anti-jihadist demonisation, utterly unable to see the revolutionary content of the world turmoil, and the crisis driving it.
The result of their confusion? A more stinkingly repressive fascist dictatorship than ever, massacring thousands in cold blood street shootings and judicial execution (and releasing Mubarak).
Their answer to the Libyan boat agony?? Another part of the “anti-racism” posturing. To quote the EPSR again (1093 12-06-01):
“no immigration controls” and “welcome all asylum-seekers”, etc, is worse than useless. If the literally hundreds of millions who would willingly exchange grinding Third World poverty and/or political disillusionment, despair, or repression for First World affluence could actually make it to Britain, then the practical stupidity and pointlessness of this ultra-’politically correct’ posturing would become all too apparent.
...Changing Britain’s immigration laws is pure reformism and not ‘revolutionary’ at all, no matter how apparently extreme the “no immigration controls at all” academic posture might seem. And not once throughout this whole immigration controversy has the fake-’left’ exposed the deliberate imperialist political encouraging of worldwide emigration for more than a century as a safety valve to take the more enterprising away from crisis-ridden countries where revolution would be the only other option. A socialist revolution in Britain would have the immediate clear internationalist duty, - to instantly start helping every other nation on earth to achieve their own socialist revolution. Tens of thousands don’t like life in Kosovo, or Iraq, or Sudan, or Nigeria, or Bangladesh, etc, etc????? Fine, great. So instantly equip them with training, revolutionary education, and material support for an organised return to their homelands to fight for a revolutionary improvement in conditions there. It would be all-round entirely reactionary, to just encourage the individuals who had the drive and ambition to leave their homelands for something better, to just swell the catering and cleaning casual labour force in Britain, or help British backwardness to continue to ignore its gap in training sufficient doctors and nurses of its own, or teachers, etc, etc.
[and from EPSR 1087..There are arguments to believe that such politically-correct-tinged striving might be counter-productive, even. If it is only the National Front [or UKIP etc] that is ever prepared to argue out loud that waves of economic-opportunist migrants coming into the country and taking up scarce welfare resources, housing, good jobs and good education opportunities, etc, is not necessarily to the immediate practical advantage of already-resident proletarians struggling to get the same scarce things for themselves, and that the unfair ‘foreign monopolist’ system was to blame for all this enforced (and condoned) migratory nonsense, – then would not such ludicrous diversions be as likely to attract proletarian support as the PC anti-racist ‘left reformists’ with their “end all immigration controls” and “welcome to all asylum-seekers, the more the better” slogans, which take politically-correct subjective-idealist philosophy to new heights of absurdity???
Hammer people too ridiculously and too relentlessly for being ‘politically incorrect’ and it is as likely to create a nationalist backlash....
The immigration issue is not solved by TUSC little-Englanderism either of course.
Only taking the argument to a revolutionary level will do. Build Leninism
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World Socialist Review
(edited extracts from a variety of anti-imperialist struggles)
After decades of terrible siege blockade imposed on the titanically defiant Cuban communist revolution by America, despite which suffering it has demonstrated brilliantly the superiority of socialist development, the Empire has conceded defeat. But for capitalism the move in December to normalise diplomatic relations is clearly just a new tactic, hoping to subvert the regime with glossy Western consumerism, as dull-witted Moscow revisionism was undermined. Havana to date has stood firm with its workers state authority despite its own revisionist weaknesses; hopefully it will continue to do so
FEB.13.2015 GRANMA INTERNATIONAL
The blockade has not ended
Interview with Josefina Vidal, Cuban Ministry of Foreign Relations Director General for the US
Cuba and the United States are entering a new stage of diplomatic relations. How can these relations be constructed after so many years of confrontation, and what do the recent talks between the two countries mean? These were the questions posed to Josefina Vidal, Ministry of Foreign Relations (Minrex) Director General for the United States, in an exclusive interview with Cuban television.
Cristina:- Josefina, there are people on the street here in Cuba, and also in the international media saying, or asking, if the United States blockade of Cuba has ended. Is this true?
Josefina Vidal.- No, no, the blockade has not ended; what has happened is that the President of the United States, making use of his executive prerogatives, which he has, announced a series of measures modifying the implementation of some aspects of the blockade. It was within this context that a series of regulations were issued - mandated by him and formulated by the Departments of Treasury and Commerce - to expand travel to Cuba, expand as well allowances for remittances, and permit some commercial transactions, still of a limited nature, in spheres such as telecommunications, for example.
Cristina.- When can we say that the blockade has ended? What must happen before we can say it has ended?
Josefina Vidal.- Since the blockade was first officially declared in February of 1962, until 1996 when the Helms-Burton law was approved, it was the prerogative of the President; that is, just as President Kennedy had declared the blockade in 1962, a later President could have declared an end to this policy.
In 1996 the Helms-Burton law was approved, which codified the blockade as law, which means it was established that, in the future, the President could not on his own terminate the blockade policy, but rather that it was the United States Congress which had the authority to declare can end to the policy.
Nevertheless, it is very important to point out that the Helms-Burton law itself, in an appendix following the codification of the blockade, clearly establishes that the law does not deny the President his executive prerogatives to authorize, through what is called a licensing procedure, the majority of things related to the blockade.
If this were not the case, President Clinton, in 1998 and 1999, would not have been able to modify some areas which allowed for the expansion of trips to Cuba by some categories of U.S. citizens. If this had not been the case, nor would President Clinton have been able to permit, for example, the limited sending of remittances to our country, nor would Obama, in 2009 and 2011, have been able to reestablish family visits to Cuba, restore permission to send remittances to our country, or allow a group of U.S. citizens, those within 12 categories, to visit our country. And what Obama has done now, that is, using this Presidential prerogatives he has broadened the transactions, the operations which can be done within the framework of a trip, a remittance, some commercial operations, and this means he can continue to use these prerogatives.”
Cristina.- Has he used them all?
Josefina Vidal.- He has not.
Cristina.- How much more does he have?
Josefina Vidal.- The President of the United States has options, I would say unlimited, to gut the blockade of its fundamental content.
According to the attorneys who are advising us on this issue - because it is a question which has its complexities from a legal standpoint - there are only a few questions which the President can not modify, because they are prohibited by law.
Beyond these questions, which are a very few, the President can authorize, via licenses or the Departments of Treasury and Commerce, all of the other transactions, which include commerce, services, transportation.”
Cristina.- And what are the items he can not change? Which ones definitively depend on the Congress?
Josefina Vidal.- To begin with, it is only Congress which can one day say that the blockade of Cuba is over. The President can not say this; but the President can approve a series of things,, as I have already said.
Now, excluded, among the things the President can do, are the following: Tourism in Cuba is prohibited by law. There is a law from 2000, a law which amended the commercial sanctions [previously] approved by Congress which prohibits tourism - actually the same law which allowed limited sales of food and agricultural products to Cuba. This means that the President can not even use his authorities to change this, that is, Obama can not allow U.S. citizens to travel freely to Cuba.”
Cristina.- Give with one hand, take away with the other, so to say, limited sales of agricultural products were permitted, but tourism was prohibited.
Josefina Vidal.- That was the condition imposed, during the negotiation of the law, by sectors which opposed granting permission for the sale of agricultural products to Cuba.
Thai is the reason, at that time, in accordance with decisions previously made by President Clinton, 12 categories of persons who could visit Cuba were established. This is what was approved in the law, that, the President can expand travel to Cuba within these 12 categories, and that is what Obama has just done; but he can not allow tourist travel to our country. This is the domain of Congress; until Congress approves a law, U.S. citizens can not freely come to Cuba as tourists.
Another thing prohibited by law is commerce with Cuba by subsidiaries of U.S. companies in other countries.
Cristina.- But is commerce with U.S. companies allowed?
Josefina Vidal.- Obama could tomorrow, for example, using his prerogatives, permit a U.S. company to do business with Cuba, trade in both directions, both export and import; but Obama can not allow the branch, the subsidiary of this same company in another country, to trade with Cuba.
Cristina.- This is the extraterritorial part of the blockade.
Josefina Vidal.- Exactly, and this is contained in the 1992 Torricelli law.
Another item which is prohibited by a Congressional law, that the President can not modify, is the prohibition on granting credit to Cuba to purchase agricultural products. The same 2000 law, the law reforming commercial sanctions which allowed limited sales of agricultural products, under certain conditions, established that credit could not be granted to Cuba for the acquisition of these products, and the only means available to us to make a purchase was to pay in cash, in advance.
Therefore Obama can not change this; but Obama could allow other non-agricultural products to be sold to Cuba on credit. He could use his Presidential prerogative to authorize licenses, which is not prohibited by Congress.
Cristina.- And this isn’t among the regulation changes announced by the Treasury Department?
Josefina Vidal.- It is not among the regulations [announced.] That is why we said that the measures recently announced by the President were positive, a step in the right direction but are still limited to a small number of spheres, areas, and this doesn’t mean that he has exhausted all of his prerogatives.
Recently, among the measures which the President approved is the possibility granted to U.S. financial institutions to establish correspondent relations with Cuban banks. Presumably we can begin using the dollar in authorized transactions between Cuba and the United States, of which there are not many; but for example, Cuba’s use of the dollar in financial transactions with other countries remains prohibited. This is something the President could allow.
Cristina.- That’s to say we can buy from the United States with dollars, but not from any other country using dollars?
Josefina Vidal.- Exactly, according to the new regulations which include the possibility of exporting to Cuba, for example, certain telecommunications equipment. Presumably we are going to pay for these commercial operations in U.S. dollars, although Cuba will continue to be denied the option of using dollars in our transactions with other countries.
Obama could allow trade far beyond what has been limited to the telecommunications sphere. This is not prohibited by law. Obama could allow the import of products from our country to the United States, the import of services.
The President of the United States has the authority to, for example, permit Cuba to also purchase products with more than 10% U.S. made components in other markets, which is today prohibited. He could issue a general license to facilitate this.
He could also permit, for example, that products from other countries, manufactured with Cuban raw materials, be imported to the United States. This is not included in the current regulations.
What I would like to convey with this is that there is, we could say, a practically unlimited opportunity for the President of the United States to eliminate a very significant part of the blockade’s content, through the use of his powers and through the issuance of licenses, leaving to Congress only that which is their exclusive purview, which are the things I have mentioned, and of course, definitively burying the blockade of Cuba, which must be done through a Congressional act.
Cristina.- One of the issues most discussed during the talks which took place recently between the United States and Cuba was the Cuban Adjustment Act, Cuba’s insistence that it be eliminated, and the U.S. delegation’s opinion that the government has no intention of doing so. And, one of the issues specifically mentioned by the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs was that the “wet foot/dry foot” policy was a law, a sovereign decision of the United States. Is it a law?
Josefina Vidal.- No, no it is not a law. There are two questions here. We have tried for years in our rounds of migration talks with the U.S. government to emphasize our opinion that migratory movement between the two countries must be normalized. Because it is not in Cuba’s interest, or in the interest of the United States, that a pattern of irregular migration continue, an illegal maritime flow, or irregular entries into U.S. territory from third countries by Cubans who leave the country in a legal fashion, and this occurs as a result of the combination of two factors. That is why we say this is the principle incentive to illegal emigration and trafficking in persons from Cuba. These two factors are the Cuban Adjustment Act and the “wet foot/dry foot” policy.
The Cuban Adjustment Act was approved by the U.S. Congress in 1966 to regularize the migratory situation in which many Cubans found themselves, those who had left the country since the triumph of the Revolution in 1959, and had not legalized their immigration status in the United States, taking into account that many aspired to return to Cuba with the help of the United States. This situation continued over some time, and the U.S. government arrived at the conclusion that this immigration limbo, in which thousands of Cubans in the U.S. found themselves, should be eliminated, and the Cuban Adjustment Act was approved. The Cuban Adjustment Act is very simple, it is one paragraph which says that the U.S. Attorney General, who heads the Justice Department in this country, has the discretional authority to adjust the status of Cubans who at the time are in the United States; but this law does not say that this discretional authority must be automatically used in the case of every Cuban present in U.S. territory, regardless of the way they got there. And what has happened is that, over the years, the law’s stipulations have been applied in an automatic manner to all Cubans who arrive in the United States, regardless of the ways and means used to arrive there. Therefore, there is an executive power, in the hands of the executive branch of the United States government, to implement the Cuban Adjustment Law as the law states, in a discretional, non-automatic, manner.
To this is added the “wet foot/dry foot” policy, a policy which has existed in the U.S. since the beginning of the 1990s. It is not associated, as some media erroneously report, with the departure of illegal immigrants from Cuba. Its antecedents lie in other migration flows, above all from Haiti to the United States, and it is a policy which is governmental, not a Congressional law. it is a policy according to which a person intercepted at sea is returned to his or her country of origin, while those who manage to arrive in the United States are allowed to remain in the country. It is a policy, as you can understand, which also encourages illegal emigration. Not only this, it also encourages trafficking in emigrants and puts the lives of people in a very dangerous situation at sea, and exposes them to the activities of criminal groups involved in the trafficking of emigrants, that is, it generates a series of additional problems, and more recently has produced phenomena related to migration document fraud, considering that today it is useful for other, nationalities to acquire some Cuban document, given the exclusive, preferential treatment Cuban citizens receive.
To summarize, this is the principal stimulus to illegal emigration, which we have reiterated to the United States as, essential to address and focus on, with a view toward normalizing migratory movement between our two countries, and avoiding situations which put the lives of people in danger, dangerous situations during their attempts to reach that country.
Cristina.- Could we state then that it is Impossible to have normal migratory relations with the United States as long as the Cuban Adjustment Act remains in effect?
Josefina Vidal.- Of course we could state that. In fact, the Cuban Adjustment Act and the “wet foot/dry foot” policy are instruments which apply exclusively to Cuba, similar laws for other countries do not exist, on the contrary, we are seeing the uncontrolled, massive arrival of emigrants from the entire world, as part of the natural tendency which has always existed in the world, for centuries, that some persons attempt to move, tend to move from countries with lower levels of development to those with more development.
Cristina.- There is a perception, Josefina, when U.S. diplomats are heard referring to this issue, and in the international media as well, that, if the U.S. is criticized, it is because they have conceded without Cuba conceding, as if Cuba was obliged to do things to meet the interests of the United States, if we are to have diplomatic relations with them. Is this the case? In diplomatic terms, what is your opinion about this? Is Cuba obliged to do things to please the United States?
Josefina Vidal.- Relations between Cuba and the United States have historically been asymmetrical. Therefore, a focus can not be applied, as it is called in diplomacy, of quid pro quo - I give you something, and you give me something - can not automatically be applied, taking into consideration that there are many more things to dismantle on the U.S. side than on the Cuban side. Because we don’t have sanctions in Cuba against U.S. companies or citizens; nor do we hold occupied territory in the United States which we could exchange for the territory occupied by the Guantánamo Naval Base; we don’t have programs financed by Cuba intent upon influencing the situation within the United States or promoting changes in the internal order of the United States; we don’t have radio or television broadcasts, specially conceived in Cuba and directed toward the United States, but the opposite exists.
Thus, there is a greater group of policies and measures which must be changed on the U.S. side than on the Cuban side. Of course, as in all diplomatic negotiation processes, in some areas it is possible to encounter points at which we can say: Well, I would be willing to give this, and I would be willing to give that, even if it may be asymmetrical, with a view toward moving closer to a solution to many problems. What is happening is that there is confusion, and the press, to a certain degree the international press feeds this confusion, in the sense that there are people who think, aspire, or intend that, as a part of this negotiation process, Cuba puts on the table issues which are totally internal to Cuba, and are issues of Cuban sovereignty. This will not occur.
We have reiterated, including in interviews with the U.S. press, that these questions of an internal nature are not negotiable, as they are not negotiable for any other country.
Cristina.- Those in the U.S. itself, for example.
Josefina Vidal.- Not theirs or those in any other country; these questions are the purview solely and exclusively of the Cuban people, which in sovereign referendum has decided the direction of this country, and it will always be the Cuban people who decide.
Therefore, questions of an internal nature or questions directed toward promoting changes in our internal order will never be put on the table during this process of negotiation, to resolve pending issues. And I think it is important that this be clear. That is why, when they asked me last week in a press conference, I said: It cannot be expected that in order to improve relations with the United States, or to advance in this long, complex process toward normalization which we have before us, that Cuba is going to negotiate questions of an internal nature, in exchange for a policy change on the part of the United States, when they themselves recognize that it has failed. Nor are we going to negotiate questions of an internal nature, of Cuban sovereignty, in exchange for the lifting of the blockade. Beyond this, during the negotiation process, anything which does not’ compromise state sovereignty, everything else can be part of the negotiation process. If this were not the case, we would not have had the results of this past December 17, after 18 months of negotiation between the two countries. We were able to identify, on the basis of absolute respect for sovereign equality and the independence of our countries, very important questions in which we share common interests and which we could resolve.
These are always complex processes, processes which I would describe as prolonged and arduous, but we demonstrated that even on sensitive issues, a solution can be found, when there is good will, and this is the good will we have shown as part of these talks, and of this process which we are beginning. And we have reiterated to the United States government that we are approaching these talks in a constructive spirit, completely willing to seek solutions to the problems which have accumulated over 54 years, and also to identify areas - which are many - in which we have common interests, and on which our two countries can cooperate for mutual benefit.”
Cristina.- You sat across the table from the U.S. delegation, what about their willingness?
Josefina Vidal.- Well, after our Presidents simultaneously announced the decision to first reestablish diplomatic relations, and secondly, advance in a process toward normalization, I think willingness exists on both sides.
Cristina.- But beyond the reestablishment of relations, has there been a change of objectives in U.S. policy toward Cuba?
Josefina Vidal.- I can not say there has been a change in the objectives. I would say, a new stage has begun, a new stage in the relations between Cuba and the United States. The previous stage we shall say, existed until December 14, 2014; it was a stage characterized, marked, by confrontation. I would say that we have now moved beyond the stage of open confrontation, with aggressive, hostile policies, to a stage in which we have decided that we are going to reestablish relations to seek solutions to some of these hostile policies which persist, and which must change, in this new phase we have begun, and a stage in which the contradictions are not going to disappear; political differences between Cuba and the United States, which are deep, are not going to disappear; the different conceptions are not going to disappear, therefore the frictions are not going to disappear, the problems. But yes, it is expected that we are going to move to a period when we reestablish relations, we are going to provide ourselves with mechanisms which have not existed - which do not yet exist, but which we expect to construct - to address these problems, with these difficulties, with these frictions, in a civilized manner, to seek a solution in a joint fashion, even when the differences do not disappear.
I do not believe that the U.S. policy objectives toward Cuba have changed, in fact Ms. Roberta Jacobson, who visited us last week at the head of the U.S. delegation, said so: the United States has not modified its strategic objectives in Cuba, what is changing is the way, the tactics. But, well, we are ready to enter this phase of interacting in a new way.
Not all countries of the world agree on their approaches and conceptions, and there are countries which interact with each other despite contrary objectives, but it can be shown that, despite contrary objectives, we can seek a better, more civilized manner of interacting, without renouncing what either side believes, but, as I have said, using instruments and mechanisms to settle the problems, the differences, and at the same time, seek points of contact which exist, and points of common interest to advance in a relation of civilized and peaceful coexistence between our countries - a difficult co-existence, but I believe it is possible.
Cristina.- In the event that by the end of this year, Josefina, the U.S. blockade remains in effect, as can be presumed since Congress will not soon make a clearer decision on this, will Cuba again present a resolution to the United Nations General Assembly condemning the blockade? If this is the case, can you imagine that the United States would vote against its own government? How do you see this situation?
Josefina Vidal.- I do not know how the U.S. would vote, that’s something they will have to decide, discuss and settle. As for Cuba, of course, as long as the blockade is maintained, and the blockade is being maintained, as President Obama himself recognizes, and President Obama himself has already been saying that he will get personally involved in a Congressional debate with the goal of ending the blockade. On a recent date, the same week he insisted, called upon, the United States Congress, in his State of the Union address, to lift the blockade. Therefore, the blockade is in place, present, it is maintained; the very government of the United States recognizes it as such, and as long as this situation persists, of course Cuba is going to continue in calling for its lifting, because it is an obsolete policy; it is a policy which has damaged the interests of the United States, but it damages the Cuban people, as the President himself recognized this past December 17. Therefore, it is a battle, and something we will continue to do as long as this policy is not definitively eliminated.
Cristina.- We will have to wait, then, to see with whom they will vote - with the administration, with the world or with Congress.
Josefina Vidal.- That remains to be seen.
Cristina.- That remains to be seen... Roberta Jacobson, in her press conference, emphasized the situation of U.S. diplomats in Havana and their request to be able to travel throughout the country, but she did not mention the situation of Cuban diplomats in the United States, both at the United Nations headquarters in New York and the Cuban Interests Section in Washington D.C. What is their current situation? Is it expected that the situation will improve?
Josefina Vidal.- You see, Cristina, when the Interest Sections were opened in September of 1977, this was done with total freedom of movement for the diplomats from the two countries within the respective capitals, in fact the U.S. government decided as well to approve freedom of movement for Cuban diplomatic personnel at the United Nations. Later, with the years, as a result of the policies toward Cuba which different administrations followed, restrictions were introduced on the movement of our diplomats on the part of the United States, It was President Reagan who again imposed limitations on New York - I say again because New York already had their movement limited in the early 1970s - and implemented the first restrictions on our staff in Washington. President Clinton eased these restrictions, but these restrictions were made much greater at the time of the George W. Bush presidency.
Therefore, we are today at a moment when there are restrictions on the movement of Cuban and U.S. functionaries in both countries. At this time, in order to leave Havana, and Washington, permission must be requested.
For the last two years we have been proposing to the U.S. government an intermediate situation, let’s say, eliminate a few of these restrictions in the sense of implementing what is called travel notification, not totally eliminating the restrictions, but having a slightly more flexible framework for movement. But the U.S. government has not agreed to this.
At this time, the U.S. government is saying that freedom of movement is important to the opening of embassies. We have told them that we are open to holding discussions to move in this direction, but it is very important that U.S. diplomats change their behavior in Havana, and in particular we are saying that the manner is which these diplomats behave must change with regards to stimulating, organizing, supplying and financing elements within our country which take action against the interests of our state, against the interests of the Cuban government and people. And we have said, this because the Vienna Convention, which must be the foundation upon which the new embassies function stipulates very clearly that the laws of a receiving country must be respected, and we are emphasizing this very strongly, and we are doing so because our diplomats in Washington have maintained impeccable conduct and would never take any action which could be interpreted by the U.S. government as interference in their domestic affairs. This is the same thing we are saying here in these talks, that the analysis of the issue, that is, the subject of freedom of movement, and what the U.S. side is saying, is associated with a change in the behavior of their diplomatic mission and their functionaries, here in Havana.
Cristina.- There is a concern expressed by various people here in Cuba as well, about the possibility that, when the Obama administration ends, what has happened could be reversed. What has been done has been at the President’s discretion. If, for example, a Republican President should win, or even a female or male Democratic President, this could come to an end. Is that possible?
Josefina Vidal.- It is possible. It must be taken into consideration, as I have said, that President Obama has taken action by using his executive powers, This means that, just as he has made some decisions, a subsequent president, the president who succeeds him, could make the same decisions in the opposite direction. However, of course, these decisions would come as a result of an analysis of the political context, and in order for these decisions to be totally irreversible; I think they must be accompanied by some laws approved by the United States Congress, and even so, nothing is irreversible. Because, just as a Congress can take action in a certain direction, a subsequent legislature can do so in the opposite direction, but all this would depend on the political context, and I would ask myself if it would be more or less costly, more costly for a president who succeeds the current U.S. - President, President Obama, to reverse some of the measures which could be of benefit to many sectors within the United States, and I am speaking of business sectors, but also of Cubans resident in the United States, of academics, universities which are going to benefit now from the modifications the President has made in the travel to Cuba policy, to allow for greater interaction between our countries, cultural exchanges. That is, such a reversal would always, I would imagine, be subject to a cost-benefit analysis, in the political sense. But, yes, it can be reversed, of course, because means to do so exist, and a President has the authority to make these decisions.
Cristina - Josefina, there are high expectations on the street here. First, enthusiasm around the December 17 announcements, the return of our three heroes, the joy of seeing a new stage beginning with the reestablishment of relations between Cuba and the U.S. - but also, sometimes this enthusiasm can lead to confusing certain things. There are people who expect everything to be settled. There are people who hope for an easing of the economic persecution which the U.S. blockade of Cuba implies, and that this will lead to an improvement in our quality of life. That is to say, there are high hopes on this issue, after 55 years of such a hostile policy. What is your message to these people who are watching, and have so many expectations in terms of Cuba-U.S. relations?
Josefina Vidal.- Well, we have decided to reestablish diplomatic relations and begin talks to move toward normalization of these relations, but this is a process, that is, everything will not be resolved in the short term. The first step, or the initial step, we must take is the formalization of diplomatic relations, and this is what we are negotiating at this time. But once we have concluded this step, then we can get into a much longer, more complex process, which is the process of what we are calling normalization. This is going to be in the longer term, because it requires that we find solutions to many problems which have accumulated over 56 years, if we count from the very beginning of the triumph of the Revolution.
Therefore, I believe there is no reason to be either pessimistic or optimistic. This is a process, and all processes involve time frames, involve arduous periods of negotiation. There are issues to be resolved which are very complicated, for example, the lifting of the blockade, and a solution will only be found to these economic difficulties affecting us, the day the blockade is entirely eliminated, although I reiterate, the President has executive powers and prerogatives to go much farther beyond what he has done to date, and eliminate a great many restrictions which today are part of the blockade policy. But, to summarize, it is a process, it is going to require time, it is going to require effort, it is going to require much work on the part of Cuba and on the part of the United States, as well. Solutions to complicated issues must be negotiated, but, at the same time, parallelly, because we can not think of this as a process which requires that one thing be finished before beginning to address another. Many conversations can take place at the same time, to try and find solutions to problems which may take some time, while at the same time, begin to make progress in other areas which are not as complex, which would allow us, for example, to strengthen cooperation between Cuban and U.S. entities, to improve communication between our countries, scientific-technical collaboration, exchanges of a cultural nature, interaction between Cuban and U.S. society. That is, this process can develop along parallel lines, which I believe, in and of itself, has its own dynamic; and can create favorable conditions to help advance the other part of the process which is more complex, that of resolving pending issues.
Therefore, I believe we have before us, I would say, an interesting stage for Cuba and the United States, Interesting in the sense of beginning to construct a relationship of a different nature, while many opinions and visions of the two countries do not change, because they are not going to change. I believe we can construct .a different period in our bilateral relationship. We are conscious of the challenges, of the difficulties which we must resolve; but at the same time, we believe there are opportunities to develop areas for a better relationship between Cuba arid the United States. That is why it is a combined focus, and we are ready and willing.
We have initiated this process and are approaching it with a constructive focus, again, conscious that it is complex, requires work, effort, energy; but at the same time conscious that it is possible, to the benefit of Cuba and the United States, that we find - at least find - a better co-existence, as I say, coexistence upon a foundation of respect, while knowing that our conceptions - which are very strong, and very firm above many other things - are not going to change.
Cristina.- Are you an optimist or pessimist?
Josefina Vidal.- I am, I would say, at an intermediate point; I can not say that I am totally an optimist, because there are things which are beyond my control. The Cuban side can not control everything. There are two countries, and on the U.S. side there is not only a government. There is an administration; there is a Congress; there is a society; there is a political context, thus, everything is not under our control. But neither can I say I am a pessimist; on the contrary, we would not have reached this point, where we now find ourselves. But I believe we are being fairly realistic in our focus and in our appreciation of the circumstances, to attempt to advance as much as possible in the resolution of problems, and at the same time, attempt to take advantage, in the best possible fashion, of opportunities which may emerge for us.
Cristina.- Thank you very much, Josefina, it has been a real pleasure to listen to you.
Josefina Vidal.- Thanks to you, Cristina, the pleasure has been mine. Thank you. •
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