Cuban artists protest at the Ministry of Culture in Havana, November 2020
Distracted by the USA’s Capitol’s storming, readers may have overlooked another, more serious “attempted coup”.
“[T]he US establishment is attempting to carry out a ‘soft coup’ in Cuba”, say some — and the San Isidro Movement (MSI) artists’ collective is to the fore.
The rapper whose arrest sparked the movement videoed a police officer serving him summons while “swearing at the officer and declaring in English ‘Trump 2020, Trump is my President!’ He was subsequently arrested and on 12 November was sentenced to eight months for insulting a police officer”.
An article from the pro-Cuban-regime Revolutionary Communist Group expands on how nasty some of the right-wing US-based opponents of the Cuban regime are, and suggests: this rapper got his just deserts.
At 17, I was arrested at a protest. A friend then swore at the police, and was arrested too. Pretty much everyone I know thought that excessive. And my friend was not even charged — let alone jailed for months. But the RCG thinks it right and good that what they see as socialism should be more repressive than British capitalism?
The RCG article recognises a wider protest of 200 Cuban artists, triggered by repression of MSI:
“They expressed a more general and longer-standing discontent with a proposed law (Decree 349) which places restrictions on artists’ freedoms: requires them to seek licences for exhibiting and selling work, prohibits pornography and other exploitative depictions, and forms of art that offend ‘la patria’ (the nation). This law was withdrawn pending discussion with Cuban artists, given the general discontent surrounding the proposals including from well-known artists committed to the revolution.”
Why should any “revolutionary state” or “socialist” country evenconsider such a decree?
The RCG recognises that the artists are unlikely to make an actual “coup”, so suggests that “a second bet [behind attempts to spark social protest] would be to provoke a crack-down by the state that will make it more difficult for the incoming Biden administration to return to a policy of rapprochement.” What is about the state that just a small group of obstreperous artists will provoke it into a full “crackdown”?
Some Cuban dissidents take money from US government sources and right-wing groups. Some, although not MSI as a whole, are right-wing themselves. Yet others, in a mirror of UK leftists who champion any government which is hostile to UK foreign policy, applaud right-wing US politicians who are hostile to Cuba’s police state even though they do not support what the US politicians stand for.
None of that should impact on their basic democratic rights. None of it justifies police repression.
Sam Farber, a Cuban-dissident in exile, offers a different, and in my view more genuinely socialist, “third camp” perspective:
“Under the direction of the Cuban government, the members of the San Isidro Movement were recently arrested by the police... for publicly protesting as a group against state repression of one of its members.
“With increasing frequency, [the Cuban state] argues that those activities are financed and organized by U.S. imperialism.
“Thus... the “gag law” [prosecuting] the distribution of financial or any other kind of material resources proceeding from the U.S. government.
“This accusation has been well founded in several cases involving the financing of dissident political activities. Even then... at least from the socialist and democratic point of view… it is very unjust and undemocratic for the Cuban judicial system to punish those who have turned to sources such as the government of the United States to obtain the necessary resources to conduct this type of political activity. The US government should be unambiguously and strongly condemned for its hostility to the self-determination of the Cuban nation. But the dissidents and oppositionists that receive those funds are being legally punished in Cuba for engaging in political actions that would be legal in any democratic country.
“For the independent Cuban left, however, the most important thing, in addition to defending the democratic political rights for all, is to ensure the access of the Cuban people to the ideas that criticise the government from a socialist, democratic, and anti-imperialist standpoint. This is a point of view that, above any other consideration, opposes US intervention in Cuba’s internal affairs based on the right to national self-determination.
“Contrary to the argument of many people in the Cuban right-wing opposition, the defence of the right to self-determination of the Cuban nation in no way suggests approval or support for the Cuban regime. Rather, it claims that Cuba’s destiny should be in the hands of the Cuban people and remains opposed to other countries, especially the imperial powers, taking control of Cuba as they did in the pre-revolutionary period.
“It is true that it is difficult to survive as a government opponent or dissident in Cuba today. But there are alternatives to US governmental support.
“By following the easy way of turning to the U.S. government agencies [dissidents] compromise the independence of the opposition to the Cuban government...”