Sunday, January 04, 2015

Christian in Awe of Castro's Mass Rallies: "Wow, Was He Ever Popular!"

From Christian C. 

"The U.S. did not 'fund and arm Batista's forces...'"

It armed Batista’s forces up until the arms embargo, after which the U.S. continued to clandestinely back Batista in every other way possible. The arms embargo was a symbolic blow that had no practical implications as Batista easily continued purchasing arms from other countries. The U.S merely wanted to be seen as a neutral actor in Cuba’s "civil war" after having supplied Batista with the means to murder and oppress the opposition.

By 1958, Castro’s political positions were ambiguous (indeed, nearly identical to what was promised by other Cuban leaders who had come to power on the tails of revolutionary movements; a platform Batista himself endorsed at one point), and the Batista regime was completely untenable. The U.S. hedged its bets, believing that in the event Castro prevailed he would, as precedent indicated, ultimately bring stability and protect the role of American interests in Cuba. Those who fell victim to Castro’s shrewd political calculations collectively contributed to his rise: the U.S. government, American corporations, Herbert Matthews, elements of the private sector, the moderate Batista opposition, and most importantly, the Cuban people. The Cuban Revolution was more a public relations victory than a military triumph.

You acknowledge the fact that Cubans supported the 26th of July Movement after its victory (“victory”?) and that many Cubans supported him based on false pretenses, but stop short of accepting that this support encompassed a majority of the island’s population in spite of the overwhelming evidence. Why is the fact that the majority of Cubans initially supported him so inconceivable?

Fidel came into power making a strong case for what every Cuban desired — sovereignty, democracy, and justice — after it had been cruelly abrogated by Batista. The nation was reeling from the repression, economic recession, and corruption wrought by the Batista regime and Castro promised to unite them in a path to national redemption. Fidel was also buoyed by the messianic narrative of the revolution that swept Cuba’s vast media landscape (before it was nationalized). This catapulted him above the rest of the anti-Batista opposition, which ultimately united in support of his revolutionary program.Support for the revolution was powerfully demonstrated in hours-long rallies attended by masses of Cubans of all backgrounds and in all provinces — by some estimates, some of the largest mass rallies in the history of the Western hemisphere — which Fidel saw as a form of “direct democracy” (he would address the million+ attendees as “the General National Assembly of the People.”).

To accept that he was initially supported by the people does not diminish or justify his crimes. History provides us with many examples of charismatic dictators who were able to successfully consolidate totalitarian states by deceiving the people through demagoguery, stoking nationalistic fervor, politicizing everything under the sun, and uniting them against a foreign enemy— Hitler in Nazi Germany and Mao in Communist China, for example. Totalitarianism is unachievable without that initial process of mass mobilization. Do Cubans possess some superhuman trait that renders them immune to duplicity?

P.S. — You should ask me about my Cuban bona fides instead of speculating. I’m a Hialeah-born Cuban-American. My maternal grandparents were Batista-era exiles, and my paternal grandparents were Castro-era exiles. My paternal grandfather was involved in the anti-Castro insurgency and held as a political prisoner. On my mom's side, my great great great grandfather was a major general in Cuba’s 10 Years War and is honored with a marble statue and park in his native Holguín, check him out —> http://www.ecured.cu/index.php/Julio_Grave_de_Peralta

Now put that in your pipe and smoke it.

I'll reply to some of your other points in a subsequent post.


Christian:

You have a wonderful facility for reiteration, which you have demonstrated on prior occasions in our dialogue. Rather than address points which I have already answered, I will identify whatever is new in your reply and confine myself to that.

The U.S. arms embargo on the Batista government was not a "symbolic blow." It telegraphed to all Cubans that Batista no longer enjoyed the support of the United States and that they were free to choose for themselves between Batista and Castro.

I do not care what Castro promised the Cuban people prior to 1959 because everything he promised was a lie. If they supported the Revolution based on those lies, then their support was for what he promised, not for what he really represented nor for what he actually delivered. In short, they supported an illusion. The con-artist who created that illusion before their eyes was actually its very negation. I do not understand why you place so much importance on Fidel Castro's supposed popularity, which as I've already explained was obtained fraudulently and hence was meaningless.

There were mass demonstrations in Cuba in support of the Revolution before 1959 (the largest at Frank País' funeral). But there were also mass rallies in support of Batista. I am not impressed by Batista's mass rallies as much as I am by the fact that Batista allowed Castro's supporters to gather en masse in support of the Revolution. The rallies staged by Castro after 1959 impress me no more than the Fascist and Nazi rallies on which they were modeled. If these are credible in your eyes, then Hitler's rallies, which were much better choreographed and attended, must seem positively mystical to you.

Do you seriously believe that attendance at Castro's rallies was a spontaneous expression of support for him? Ask your parents and grandparents, whom I'm sure attended them. Did they feel that their yearning for democracy was fulfilled by standing in the hot sun listening to that charlatan spew lies for hours on end? What these rallies "powerfully demonstrated" was that dissent of any kind was already lethal in Castro's Cuba. Listening to you gush about these rallies ("some of the largest mass rallies in the history of the Western Hemisphere... attended by masses of Cubans of all backgrounds and in all provinces"), I am convinced that you would have attended them out of conviction rather than compunction.

Fidel Castro enjoyed his greatest popularity immediately after the triumph of the Revolution. First, because everybody wanted to be on the winning side. Second, because the people had not yet realized that they had been deceived by him. And, lastly, because Cubans were confident that the U.S. had their best interests at heart and would rescue them if necessary. (If nothing else has been accomplished by the Revolution, the Cuban people at least have been cured forever of that dangerous assumption).

As for your "bona fides," my dear Vana must be laughing, because she knows mine. Of course, I don't have to "check out" who Julio Grave de Peralta was. But more about that on another occasion.

BTW, why would I put your cubanidad in a pipe and smoke it? If you had written, "OK, Sherlock, put that in your pipe and smoke it," you would have scored a point.

11 comments:

Vana said...

Manuel:

You are so good at giving me a chuckle.

Christians maternal grandparents were Batista era exiles, perhaps they were castro supporters, (there were many) could be they were a bigger influence on him.

When castro first came to power I had just turned 8, he was going to speak to the crowd, my mom's best friend was curious, the word here is curious, and asked my mom to let me accompany her, Lucy looked at me and said, ese tipo esta loco, a lot of people who attended these rallies at the begining were simply curious, later on they were forced.

Manuel A.Tellechea said...

Vana:

I suppose that Christian wants desperately to believe that Fidel Castro was always wildly popular and that he was able to fool all Cubans, and not just his parents and grandparents.

On the contrary, I become more convinced every day that more Cubans saw through him than were taken in by him, but chose not to oppose him in those heady first days because they saw for themselves the fate of those brave Cubans who did. Most believed that all they had to do was sit tight and wait for the U.S. to come to the rescue. If they had only known what awaited them, millions would have died to prevent it while that was still an option.

Christian C. said...

At first, mass rallies were sincere displays of unanimous support. Castro had not yet seized the means of repression and no risk was associated with not attending. Then, the revolutionary state is consolidated and participation carries serious consequences, potentially marking you as an enemy of the state. That's history-textbook totalitarian mass mobilization. You don't have to like it or be impressed by it; its just a fact.

Any penchant for reiteration is in response to your tendency to dodge points because you cannot produce a good argument in rebuttal, or perhaps because you're just not gracious enough to admit you are wrong.

You've essentially agreed with what I've said -- that Castro was initially supported by Cubans and that this was based on lies -- but your ego prevents you from communicating this unless its wrapped in an unnecessary package of contempt and condescension.

I only wish that Castro had been as openly scornful and unpleasant as you are when he was mobilizing support for the revolution. He would've never attracted any supporters.

Christian C. said...

P.S., I only recently made the discovery about my ties to Julio Grave de Peralta and haven't found much information -- any suggestions?

Manuel A.Tellechea said...

Christian:

Of course, I agree with you when you tell me what I myself have been saying for twice your lifetime — "that Castro was initially supported by Cubans and that this was based on lies." If you still insisted on asserting that he was supported by a majority of Cubans either before or after 1959, then I would disagree with you. Regardless, it is still my contention that such support, however great or small, real or coerced, was meaningless because they were supporting an illusion.

I have debated about Cuba with literally hundreds on the internet, and since you apparently need some positive reinforcement from me, let me tell you that you are among the smartest and best-informed about Cuba. Moreover, you are sincere in your opinions which the vast majority were not.

For someone as "scornful and unpleasant, contemptuous and condescending" as you suppose me to be, I have never lacked for sparring partners on the internet, indeed, one would think I was candy since everybody wanted to have a shot at the piñata (Vana is my witness).

And, really, I have treated you with exceptional kindness, because of your age but also because we are in agreement about almost everything regarding Cuba and Fidel Castro.

I am still hopeful that you will someday be in total agreement with me. If you cherish that same hope in regard to me, please give it up.

Yes, perhaps I will write a post about your distinguished forebear and then these proceedings will no doubt be more congenial. Perhaps I will entitle it, "What Christian C. Can Learn from Julio Grave de Peralta y Zayas-Bazán."

Manuel A.Tellechea said...


Vana:

Again you have done it! The most important point on this thread, and, indeed, the most important point in this whole discussion, was made by you:

¡Ese tipo está loco!

That's exactly what most Cubans thought after 1959, though they didn't have the guts to say it, as your mom's friend Lucy did.

Vana said...

Manuel:

I think the most delusional quote was made by Christian
You have essentially agreed with what I've said!

Hahahaha! Gave me a good laugh!

Christian C. said...

You forgot to criticize me for saying that the anti-Castro insurgency is imaginary, then later saying my grandfather was involved in the anti-Castro insurgency. I admittedly forgot about the insurgency in the Escambray, but so did the Kennedy administration and everyone involved in Operation Mongoose, apparently. There's virtually no mention of it in the operation's plans even though it should have been a central component of any effort to overthrow Castro. And I still don't know the details of abuelo's involvement and his imprisonment. He understandably doesn't want to be brought back to that dark place.

And I hope you wouldn't use Julio Grave de Peralta to insult me but that's apparently not beneath you. At least be gracious enough to spew invective in a separate post.

Manuel A.Tellechea said...

Christian:

You write that I "forgot to criticize [you] for saying that the anti-Castro insurgency is imaginary, then later saying [that your] grandfather was involved in the anti-Castro insurgency." It's OK, I attributed the discrepancy to magical realism, which was invented in Cuba (where else?).

The Escambray was a truly indigenous insurgency, which, of course, Castro's was not. It was also truly a peasants' revolution, which Castro's, of course, was not. It was not supplied by foreigners, as Castro's was, but by the local population, which paid a heavy price for their support. It did not depend on the good-will of the local or international media for its successes, as Castro's revolution did. And the only reason that it failed, unlike Castro's revolution which deserved to fail, was that Castro was not Batista: he had no scruples about bombing the Escambray mountains and its environs back to the Stone Age, in the process killing thousands of civilians, mostly women and children, since almost all the men had joined the anti-Castro forces.

No, Christian, we should never forget about the heroes and martyrs of the Escambray. They constitute the last honorable page in the history of our wars of liberation.

It is lamentable that you "still don't know the details of abuelo's involvement [in the counter-insurgency] and his imprisonment." Ask him before you assume that "he understandably doesn't want to be brought back to that dark place." Sometimes sharing those experiences helps veterans to return at last from that dark place.

As for your Parthian shot ("I hope you wouldn't use Julio Grave de Peralta to insult me but that's apparently not beneath you"), who is insulting whom?

BTW, you need a thicker skin. Your great (X3) grandfather had one of the thickest skins in history. Of course, heredity doesn't guarantee a thick skin; in fact, it doesn't guarantee anything.

Manuel A.Tellechea said...

P.S.:

I have replied to your latest comments regarding The New York Times and dictatorships of the right, at:

Cuba Is Now More Hopeless than North Korea.

Manuel A.Tellechea said...

Ditto. See same comment thread above.