Friday, May 30, 2008

***Free The Cuban Five- Ahora!-In Defense Of The Cuban Revolution

Click on title to link to the National Committee To Free The Cuban Five web site for updates on this important international case.

The following is being passed on from the Partisan Defense Committee (2008). Please note the link to the National Committee to Free the Five below to find more information about the Cuban Five. As always here is a case where defense of the Cuban revolution begins concretely with the defense of the Five- Ahora!

The Cuban Five have now been incarcerated for almost ten years. Three Cuban citizens and two U.S. citizens who infiltrated and monitored violent anti-communist exile groups in Florida in order to stop terrorist attacks against Cuba, these men were arrested in 1998 under the Clinton administration on bogus charges of conspiracy to commit espionage and murder, as well as lesser charges like failing to register as agents of a foreign power. After being tried in Miami, a den of counterrevolutionary gusano (worm) activities, Gerardo Hernandez was sentenced to two life terms plus 15 years; Antonio Guerrero and Ram6n Labanino to life plus ten and 18 years, respectively; Fernando Gonzalez to 19 years; and Rene Gonzalez to 15 years. They are held in federal maximum security prisons, separated by hundreds of miles from loved ones, their lawyers and each other. As Marxists, we demand immediate freedom for the Cuban Five, whose heroic actions were in defense of the Cuban Revolution against U.S. imperialism and its counterrevolutionary agents.

From the CIA-backed invasion at the Bay of Pigs in 1961, to the repeated attempts on Fidel Castro's life, to the ongoing starvation embargo, the U.S. imperialists, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, have never ceased in their drive to overthrow the Cuban Revolution. In 2002, Ana Belen Montes, a Defense Intelligence Agency officer, was sentenced to 25 years for passing military information to the Cuban government.

In their drive to restore capitalism in Cuba, the U.S. rulers have trained terrorists like Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles, who engineered the 1976 bombing of a Cubana airliner that killed 73 people. In the 1990s, as the Cuban government began to promote tourism, gusano groups launched a campaign of bombings that targeted hotels and airport buses in an attempt to cripple the economy. Posada has admitted to masterminding bombings of tourist spots in Havana in 1997 that killed an Italian businessman. We say: Send Posada and Bosch back to Cuba to be tried by their victims!

It was in the context of such terrorist activity that gusano activities were being monitored by the Cuban Five, three of whom were veterans of Cuba's military campaign in Angola that in the 1970s and '80s fought the U.S.-sponsored invasion by the South African apartheid regime. In June 1998, the Cuban government shared its intelligence on gusano terrorist activity with the FBI. In September of that year, the FBI arrested the Cubans instead of the CIA's "ex"-employees.

The government built its case on "conspiracy to commit espionage" charges, conspiracy charges being the hallmark of political witchhunts when the government has no evidence that an actual crime has been committed. Months after their arrest, "conspiracy to commit murder" was tacked on to the charges against Gerardo Hernandez in connection with the deaths of four pilots from the Brothers to the Rescue gusano outfit. The latter were shot down by the Cuban air force in 1996 after repeatedly and provocatively flying into Cuban airspace in a brazen challenge to the country's air defenses.

Held in Miami, the trial was engulfed in anti-communist hysteria and intimidation of anyone not toeing the gusano line on Cuba. The judge refused five defense requests for a change of venue. During jury selection, potential jurors asked to be excused, fearing the consequences of rendering an "unsatisfactory" verdict. The impaneled jurors' license plates appeared on nightly news broadcasts. The prosecution claimed that Guerrero, who worked as a janitor at the Boca Chica Naval Air Station in Key West, had endangered secret U.S. military plans by watching aircraft take off and land in training exercises. As Guerrero's lawyer pointed out, the information he gathered "could've been published in the Miami Herald." So inflamed was the atmosphere that the jury even convicted Hernandez of conspiracy murder charges that the prosecution itself had already concluded would be an "insurmountable hurdle" to prove!

In 2005, a three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta threw out the 2001 convictions and ordered a new trial in a new venue because of the "pervasive community prejudice" in Miami. The Justice Department under Alberto Gonzales appealed for a rehearing by the full court, which reinstated the convictions in August 2006. Last August, another three-judge panel heard oral arguments in the case that this time focused on the bogus murder and espionage charges and the gross prosecutorial misconduct.

The brutality these five men endure in prison is designed to break them and echoes the treatment of other class-war prisoners like Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal. Before their trial even started, the Cuban Five spent 17 months in solitary. Between their convictions in June and their sentencing in December 2001, they spent 48 days in the hole. In 2003 as they worked on their first appeal, they were sent to solitary and denied communication with the outside world, even their lawyers.

Every family visit involves an arduous and arbitrary visa process. Sometimes a relative waits out the precious time they are allotted and never gets to see their loved one. Adriana Perez, wife of Gerardo Hernandez, has been repeatedly denied a visa. Olga Salanueva, wife of Rene Gonzalez, was deported on phony spy charges in 2000.

In combatting the degenerate end-products of a decaying capitalism, the Cuban Five have performed a service not only in defense of Cuba but for working people throughout the hemisphere and around the world. Free the Cuban Five! Defend the Cuban Revolution

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Real Smell Of Success


The Sweet Smell of Success, Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, 1957

Apparently screenwriters when characterizing Broadway theater critics refuse to touch them with anything less than a cattle prod. At least that has been my recent film review experience after watching All About Eve and its totally cynical critic Addison played superbly by George Saunders. Here we are confronted with the weasel Broadway critic and man about town J.J played by Burt Lancaster ably assisted by press flak Sydney Falco played to a grovelling tee by Tony Curtis.

The story line is a little thin, mainly concerning J.J.'s overweening concern that his very much younger sister does not wind up with some ne'er do well. The tricks, manipulations, and down right skulduggery hatched up by this pair seem all too real to a modern audience who know that fame is fleeting and one better grab it by the neck, fast. More than a few bargains with the devil have been made for that elusive commodity. The tricks played in this film set in 1950's Broadway, however, seem almost like kids stuff compared to the vicious action today. That, my friends, was something of a `golden age' of gentile skulduggery by comparison.

A note on Tony Curtis who on the face of it seems to have been billed as something of a `pretty' boy in his early career. But then you think about the excellent performance here and in Spartacus and in Some Like It Hot and one, including this reviewer, is compelled to start changing one's opinion of the depth of Mr. Curtis's talent.

Monday, May 26, 2008

In the Time of the Rump Parliament


The Rump Parliament, Blair Worden, Cambridge University Press, 1974

Most historians, especially Marxist historians, have recognized the great English Revolution of the mid-17ht century, a revolution associated with the name of Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans as the first great modern revolution. Moreover, this writer would argue that as with all great revolutions the fate of the English Revolution had many lessons to impart to later generations of revolutionaries. Professor Worden’s little book on a specific part of that revolution is filled with such lessons concerning the period that has become known as the rule of the Rump Parliament (1648-53). That is the period from Pride’s Purge (the exclusion by the Army of those parliamentarians who wanted to continue to treat with King Charles I despite his various acts of treachery) until the time of the Barebones Parliament and the personal rule of the Army General-in-Chief Cromwell.

The Rump Parliament, as the derogatory designation implies, has not been treated kindly, at least not before Professor Worden’s book, at the hands of historians. This nevertheless was a period where dear King Charles I lost his head and scared the crowned heads of Europe out of their wits, leaving them ready for armed intervention against the English revolution. Furthermore, this period, despite confusion about what form of executive power to establish, firmly confirmed the rule of parliament supremacy. However, in retrospect it has also been seen as a sluggish period in the revolutionary saga where no serious reforms were implemented; to the relief of many conservatives and the dismay of the radicals- civilian ones like the Levelers and the various religious sects as well as Army ones, especially in the ranks.

Worden does a fine job of analyzing those conflicts and the basis for those claims of sluggishness. In his hands that reputation for sluggishness is exposed to be false as the work done by this body at that time was as good (if that is the correct word in this context) as any 17th English Parliament as far as dealing with the serious questions of religious toleration, land reform, tax reform, political exclusions, army grievances, extension of the political franchise, law reform and finances. Moreover, in the context of that above-mentioned threat of foreign intervention early in this period it held its own against the internal forces that wanted to make a truce with the European powers.

I have argued elsewhere in this space, in reviewing the books of Professors Hill, Underdown and others who have written about this period, that the shadow of the New Model Army hovers over this whole period. Its periodic interventions into the political events of the time are key to understanding how the revolution unfolded, as well as its limitations and its retreats. There is almost no period where this is truer than the rule of the Rump. Pride’s Purge, an army intervention, set the stage for who would govern (and who would not) for the period.

The early period of Rump rule, beset by constant military needs in order to defend the Commonwealth is basically an armed truce between civilian and military forces. In the later period of the Rump’s rule when there are more dramatic clashes between the Army’s needs and attempts to maintain civilian control the balance shifts in the Army’s favor. From that point Army rule is decisive. Some argue that the defeat of the civilian Leveller forces and their army supporters in 1649 was the watershed. I am not so sure now, although certainly the democratic, secular forces represented there were those modern revolutionaries would support.

I believe that there was no question that Army intervention was definitely necessary at the later time (1653). Moreover the New Model Army represented the best of the plebeian classes that fought for and then defended the revolution. It therefore represented the sole force that could consolidate the gains of the revolution. That it could not retain power over the long haul in the face of a conservative counter-revolution is a separate question for another day. For more insights about this period read this little gem of a book.