Sen. McGovern will not answer my telephone calls -- a lamentable commentary, that. I am not reversing the charges. I do not whisper obscenties or breathe heavily into the receiver. I only seek his latest exegesis of Cuba's Marxist adventure. Why the sudden exodus?
The senator is one of Fidel's few American amigoes, the friendship going back to 1975 when on a visit to Cuba McGovern found Fidel surprisingly "soft-spoken, shy, sensitive, sometimes witty . . . . I frankly liked him." And why not? The sensitive dictator had evninced "a thorough knowledge of my record as a bomber pilot in World War II," McGovern informed readers of The New York Times Magazine. During this happy stay, the two progressive pols motored across the Cuban countryside, admiring the flora and fauna and even stopping in a pleasant village for ice cream cones. There our intrepid reporter noted that Fidel "was quickly surrounded by laughing children and townspeople who obviously loved him." Well, do they love him still?
Thousands of Cubans are dropping everything and absconding for the nearest boat. Sometimes they get stomped on by those unusual men who ride around in buses marked "Cuban Institute for Friendship Among People," but they depart anyway. Despite all that Fidel has done for them, they head off for America, the land of racism, sexism, militarism, junk foods and plastics. Often they arrive penniless, for before piling into the boats, the boys from the Cuban Institute for Friendship Among People are wont to relieve them of their watches, their wallets, their pictures of loved ones. Nonetheless, they go.
Why do so many fortunate inhabitants of progressive lands like Cuba light out for America the minute there appears a hole in the barbed wire? If they are adamant about leaving, they could just as easily head for one of the booming Third World countries, or for Sweden. Why America?
For over 20 years now, enlightened Americans have been informing us that revolutionary Cuba has become a land of noble ideas: freedom and equality. Writers like Jonathan Kozol have spoken affectingly of the island's spotless clinics, its huge educational enterprise, its idealistic youth -- Cuba, a land of happy cane-cutters, milk and honey, and revolutionary song. Yet now Cubans from every walk of life are vamoosing. Fidel snootily describes them as lumpen. Lumpen? I thought the Marxist magic was the lumpen's salvation. aWhatever happened to Fidel's big warm heart? Is not Marxism devised for the least of thy brothers?
In the mid-'60s we were treated to social-sciency gibbering by men like Edward Boorstein, who wrote that "by the end of this decade, the full benefits of socialism will begin to show themselves in Cuba . . . . Increased output of sugar, nickel and meat will have solved the balance-of-payments problem and begun to produce a surplus."
Later, others like Paul Sweezy and Leo Huberman, writing in "Socialism in Cuba" -- a scholarly tome dedicated simply "to the memory of Che" prophesided that "before the 1970s are out, perhaps well before, Cuba should be over the hump, her strategy of development vindicated, her labors and sacrifices rewarded." And in 1977 Sen. McGovern assured us that "from all indications, Castro has the support and outright affection of his people, which he has earned by giving them a sense of purpose, by broadening the benefits of free education and health care, by improving their housing and by ending the prostitution, gambling and crime that used to dominate Havana."
This is a familiar theme with the friends of Marxist experiment. Prostitution, gambling and crime were driven from China by Mao. Vice is supposedly gone from Vietnam. One would think that men like McGovern were linked with men like Fidel in one vast international vice crusade, sponsored by the League of Women Voters and dedicated to raising clinics and classrooms where gambling dens and brothels once stood. Unfortunately, Fidel also builds prisons and torture chambers, and the poverty remains. Why are Cubans leaving Fidel's socialist laboratory? What is today's Cuba really like?
Carlos Franqui, the former Cuban revolutionary and confidant of Fidel, has described it vividly in an interview in the May number of The American Spectator: "You can see all of Cuba during the sugar harvest. Look out on a field with sugar cane. Some cutting the cane are from the local jails, some are from the concentration camps, some are voluntary workers, some are military personnel, and some are peasants. In Cuba, all those working on the sugar cane harvest look like they are doing the same thing. In a way, they are. All of them are there under different circumstances. Today, when one gets down to it, Cuba is still an island of sugar and slavery. I want the readers of this interview to know one thing: Russian communism and Castroism are a cancer of history. I certainly have no nostalgia for the Cuba of the past. I have nothing more to say."
Perhaps I shall send the full inteview to Sen. McGovern.