The Left’s Romance With Cuba’s Archipelago

The Biden administration’s clear hostility toward the Cuban people is part of a long “progressive” tradition.

Editors’ note: As we witness the Cuban people taking to the streets to confront the barbaric communist regime that has tortured them for decades, we witness the leftist Biden administration — and leftist groups such as Black Lives Matter — signal support for Cuba’s Stalinist tyranny and engage in a callous disregard for the Cuban people. It’s no surprise, for instance, that the Biden administration just issued a statement telling Cubans they are not welcome in United States, while illegal aliens are, of course, most welcome.

While the Biden administration clearly turns its back on the Cuban people while they risk their lives for freedom, FrontPage Mag editors have deemed it vital to run, below, an excerpt from Jamie Glazov’s book United in Hate: The Left’s Romance with Tyranny and TerrorThe excerpt is the fifth chapter, titled “Castro’s Slave Camp: Affection for New Killing Fields.” It provides a documented — and frightening — history of the Left’s love affair with Castro’s monstrous tyranny. Don’t miss this essay below.

Castro’s Slave Camp: Affection for New Killing Fields

Crazy with fury I will stain my rifle red while slaughtering any enemy that falls in my hands! My nostrils dilate while savoring the acrid odor of gunpowder and blood. With the deaths of my enemies I prepare my being for the sacred fight and join the triumphant proletariat with a bestial howl.
—Che Guevara, Motorcycle Diaries.

Until July 26, 2008, Fidel Castro ruled Cuba with an iron grip for nearly five decades. On that July date in 2008, he stood to the side because of health problems and made his brother, Raul, de facto ruler. Raul officially replaced his brother as dictator on February 24, 2008; the regime remains just as totalitarian as before and can, for obvious reasons, continue to be regarded and labelled as “Fidel Castro’s” regime. [1]

Having seized power on January 1, 1959, Fidel Castro followed the tradition of Vladimir Lenin and immediately turned his country into a slave camp. Ever since, Cuba has distinguished itself as one of the most monstrous human-rights abusers in the world.

Half a million human beings have passed through Cuba’s Gulag. Since Cuba’s total population is only around eleven million, that gives Castro’s despotism the highest political incarceration rate per capita on earth. There have been more than fifteen thousand executions by firing squad. Torture has been institutionalized; myriad human-rights organizations have documented the regime’s use of electric shock, dark coffin-sized isolation cells, and beatings to punish “anti-socialist elements.” [2] The Castro regime’s barbarity is best epitomized by the Camilo Cienfuegos plan, the program of horrors followed in the forced-labor camp on the Isle of Pines. Forced to work almost naked, prisoners were made to cut grass with their teeth and to sit in latrine trenches for long periods of time. [3] Torture is routine.

The horrifying experience of Armando Valladares, a Cuban poet who endured twenty-two years of torture and imprisonment for merely raising the issue of freedom, is a testament to the regime’s barbarity. Valladares’s memoir, Against All Hope, serves as Cuba’s version of Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. Valladares recounts how prisoners were beaten with bayonets, electric cables, and truncheons. He tells how he and other prisoners were forced to take “baths” in human feces and urine. [4] Typical of the horror in Castro’s Gulag was the experience of Roberto López Chávez, one of Valladares’s prison friends. When López went on a hunger strike to protest the abuses in the prison, the guards withheld water from him until he became delirious, twisting on the floor and begging for something to drink. The guards then urinated in his mouth. He died the next day. [5]

Since Castro’s death cult, like other leftist ideologies, believes that human blood purifies the earth—and since manifestations of grief affirm the reality of the individual, and thus are anathema to the totality—mourning for the departed became taboo. Thus, just like Mao’s China and Pol Pot’s Cambodia, [6] so too Castro’s Cuba warned family members of murdered dissidents not to cry at their funerals. [7]

The Castro regime also has a long, grotesque record of torturing and murdering Americans. During the Vietnam War, Castro sent some of his henchmen to run the “Cuban Program” at the Cu Loc POW camp in Hanoi, which became known as “the Zoo.” Its primary objective was to determine how much physical and psychological agony a human being could withstand. The Cubans selected American POWs as their guinea pigs. A Cuban nicknamed “Fidel,” the main torturer at the Zoo, initiated his own personal reign of terror. [8] The ordeal of Lt. Col. Earl Cobeil, an F-105 pilot, illustrates the Nazi-like nature of the experiment. Among Fidel’s torture techniques were beatings and whippings over every part of his victim’s body, without remission. [9] Former POW ______ John Hubbell describes the scene as Fidel forced Cobeil into the cell of fellow POW Col. Jack Bomar:

The man [Cobeil] could barely walk; he shuffled slowly, painfully. His clothes were torn to shreds. He was bleeding everywhere, terribly swollen, and a dirty, yellowish black and purple from head to toe. The man’s head was down; he made no attempt to look at anyone. . . . He stood unmoving, his head down. Fidel smashed a fist into the man’s face, driving him against the wall. Then he was brought to the center of the room and made to get down onto his knees. Screaming in rage, Fidel took a length of black rubber hose from a guard and lashed it as hard as he could into the man’s face. The prisoner did not react; he did not cry out or even blink an eye. His failure to react seemed to fuel Fidel’s rage and again he whipped the rubber hose across the man’s face. . . . Again and again and again, a dozen times, Fidel smashed the man’s face with the hose. Not once did the fearsome abuse elicit the slightest response from the prisoner. . . . His body was ripped and torn everywhere; hell cuffs appeared almost to have severed the wrists, strap marks still wound around the arms all the way to the shoulders, slivers of bamboo were embedded in the bloodied shins and there were what appeared to be tread marks from the hose across the chest, back, and legs. [10]

Earl Cobeil died as a result of Fidel’s torture.

Maj. James Kasler was another of Fidel’s victims, although he survived the treatment:

He [Fidel] deprived Kasler of water, wired his thumbs together, and flogged him until his “buttocks, lower back, and legs hung in shreds.” During one barbaric stretch he turned Cedric [another torturer] loose for three days with a rubber whip. . . . the PW [POW] was in a semi-coma and bleeding profusely with a ruptured eardrum, fractured rib, his face swollen and teeth broken so that he could not open his mouth, and his leg re-injured from attackers repeatedly kicking it. [11]

The reign of terror against American POWs in Vietnam was just a reflection of Castro’s treatment of his own people. In addition to physical hardships even for those who don’t wind up in prison or labor camp, his police state has denied Cubans any freedom at all. Cubans do not have the right to travel out of their country. They do not have the right of free association or the right to form political parties, independent unions, or religious or cultural organizations. The regime has outlawed free expression; it has consistently censored publications, radio, television, and film. There is a Committee for the Defense of the Cuban Revolution (CDR) for every single city block and every agricultural production unit. The CDR’s purpose is to monitor the affairs of every family and to report anything suspicious. A Cuban’s entire life is spent under the surveillance of his CDR, which controls everything from his food rations to his employment to his use of free time. A vicious racism against blacks accompanies this repression. In pre-Castro Cuba, blacks enjoyed upward social mobility and served in many government positions. In Castro’s Cuba, the jail population is 80 percent black, while the government hierarchy is 100 percent white. [12]

Cuban Communism follows Lenin’s and Stalin’s idea of “equality,” wherein members of the nomenklatura live like millionaires while ordinary Cubans live in utter poverty. The shelves in the stores are empty, and food is tightly rationed for the average citizen. Teachers and doctors drive taxis or work as waiters to support their families. Under the system of tourist apartheid, ordinary Cubans are not allowed inside the hotels designated for tourists and party functionaries. There are, of course, police inside every such hotel to arrest any unauthorized Cuban citizen who dares to enter.

The $5-billion-a-year Soviet subsidy that just barely kept the Cuban economy afloat during the Cold War is long gone. And notwithstanding the $110 billion that the Soviets pumped in over the decades, Cuba has become one of the poorest nations in the world. Its sugar, tobacco, and cattle industries were all major sources of exports in the pre-Castro era. Castro destroyed them all. [13] Because of his belief in “socialism or death,” Cuba is now a beggar nation. Even Haitian refugees avoid Cuba.

Denied the right to vote under Castro, Cubans have voted with their feet. Pre-Castro Cuba had the highest per-capita immigration rate in the Western hemisphere. Under Castro, approximately two million Cuban citizens (out of eleven million) have escaped their country. Many have done so by floating on rafts or inner tubes in shark-infested waters. An estimated fifty thousand to eighty-seven thousand have lost their lives. [14] Not content to trust the sharks, Castro has sent helicopters to drop sandbags onto the rafts of would-be escapees, or just to gun them all down. Epitomizing this barbarity was the Tugboat Massacre of July 13, 1994, in which Castro ordered Cuban patrol boats to kill forty-one unarmed Cuban civilians—ten of them children—who were using an old wooden tugboat in their attempt to flee Cuba. [15]

Naturally, the Left initiated a romance with Castro and his slave camp, just as it did with Lenin’s and Stalin’s Gulag. American leftists even, in 1969, formed the Venceremos Brigade, a coalition whose members traveled to work in Cuba to show their solidarity with the Communist revolution. These fellow travelers participated mostly in sugar harvests in the first pilgrimages, while later brigade members engaged in various types of agricultural and construction work. High-profile Western leftists, meanwhile, including Susan Sontag, Jean-Paul Sartre, Norman Mailer, and Abbie Hoffman, also made pilgrimages to Cuba. [16]

As earlier believers had done with Stalin, Castro’s devotees heaped grossly disproportionate praise upon him. Leo Huberman and Paul Sweezy made their pilgrimage to Cuba in the fall of 1960. The two believers ended up receiving all the attention they craved from their father-god, marveling at how “lucky” they were to spend “two long evenings with Fidel, in relaxed surroundings and with only a few present.” After their visit, they reported that

Fidel is a passionate humanitarian, not in the fraudulent sense that he loves all humanity but in the meaningful sense that he feels compassion for human suffering, hates injustice because it causes unnecessary suffering, and is totally committed to building in Cuba a society in which the poor and the underprivileged shall be able to hold up their heads and enjoy a fair share of the good things of life. He treats people within this framework—kindly, sternly, implacably, according to their actual or potential role in creating or hindering the creation of the good society. [17]

Castro personally drove his guests around to certain locations he wanted them to see. The two believers recall this tour with great awe and emotion:

On the way out of Havana he made a long detour through the wealthiest residential streets of the Miramar district. As he drove around, he kept saying, as much to himself as to the rest of us, “Look at how they live”; and in that brief phrase there was expressed not so much a feeling toward “them” as a sense of outrage at a system that could enable a few to live like kings while the great majority stagnated in ignorance, squalor, and often outright hunger. [18]

While trying to digest the notion that this secular messiah was driving them around, Huberman and Sweezy witnessed that they were not alone in their reverence:

Accompanying him as he goes among his people, one not only sees it; all of one’s senses are overwhelmed by it. To watch the faces light up as their owners suddenly recognized the driver of our car; to hear the delighted cries of “Fidel, Fidel”; to experience the rush of people, young and old alike, whenever the car stopped, even if only for a red light, people drawn like iron filings to a magnet, wanting to shake his hand, touch his sleeve, wish him well; to smell the sweaty bodies of hundreds of construction workers who swarmed around the car when it was halted by an obstruction in the road, pouring out to him their problems and urging that he take action to clear away obstacles to the more rapid completion of their project—those were indeed unforgettable experiences. [19]

One assumes that Huberman and Sweezy, had they been in Moscow in March 1953 and witnessed Soviet citizens sobbing hysterically upon learning of Stalin’s death, would also have considered that an “unforgettable experience.”

It is eerily apparent from their tone and choice of wording that Huberman and Sweezy are completely immersed in one of the key dynamics of the believer’s diagnosis: the surrendering of self to a stern and all-knowing secular god. Castro is driving them, leading them, explaining all to them. They have no minds of their own, disagree with absolutely nothing, and, like the rest of “the people” in their imagination, are completely in his hands. They are all worshipping Castro, trying to touch his sleeve, surrendering their wills to his supremacy. In this desperate attempt at a religious epiphany, Huberman and Sweezy shed their own individuality and submerge their entire beings into the collective veneration of the tyrant before them.

Huberman and Sweezy did not even consider the vital questions they ought to have asked themselves while observing the cult of personality in action: What if one of these individuals had stood apart from the crowd and voiced his dissent? What if he had announced that he did not think like the others and that he did not approve of Castro or support his policies? What would happen to such an individual? These are the questions that we would expect someone concerned with human dignity, freedom, and “social justice” to ask. But Huberman and Sweezy seem completely unaware that expressions of support for a regime, and expressions of love for a leader, are utterly meaningless in a country where any contrary expression will be punished by imprisonment, torture, and execution.

Jerry Rubin joined the chorus of devotees during his trip to Cuba in 1964, when he engaged in negative identification vis-à-vis Castro’s chief executioner, Che Guevara. Rubin proudly recalls:

We were 84 Amerikan students visiting Cuba illegally in 1964. We had to travel 14,000 miles, via Czechoslovakia, to reach Cuba. . . . As Che rapped on for four hours, we fantasized taking up rifles. Growing beards. Going into the hills as guerrillas. Joining Che to create revolutions throughout Latin America. None of us looked forward to returning home to the political bullshit in the United States. [20]

Berkeley activist Todd Gitlin traveled to Cuba with an SDS delegation to a Cultural Congress in 1967. In the belly of the totalitarian beast, where he was well aware that dissidents were rotting in jail and being tortured beyond imagination, Gitlin too experienced the intoxication of negative identification. Leaving Cuba proved quite painful for him. He recalls:

What was palpable was the pain of re-entry to my homeland. . . . At the Mexico City airport, having a drink with Dave Dellinger and Robert Scheer, I looked out the window and saw a billboard advertising Cutty Sark. I had to change seats: after twenty-three days where public space was turned to revolutionary use, capitalist propaganda disgusted me. [21]

What disgusted him, of course, were the withdrawal symptoms he was experiencing—analogous to a drug addict coming off his fix. For twenty-three days he had experienced his euphoria of shedding his inner self and submerging himself within the totalitarian whole. In Cuba he had found a home where even the slightest dissent would be crushed instantly and the concept of the individual was non-existent. The advertisement he saw, therefore, was a horror to him, since it symbolized a free society where individuals could use their free will to pursue their own tastes and desires. This reality is anathema to the believer.

As Gitlin so well revealed, Western leftist intellectuals were greatly inspired by the persecution of intellectuals in Cuba, just as the earlier generation had been by the persecution of intellectuals in Stalin’s Soviet Union. Charmed by the notion of a society in which their own talent—as well as their entire being—would be extinguished, they continued the practice of labeling the totalitarian monstrosity the opposite of what it was.

Acclaimed American cultural critic Susan Sontag was one of many true believers who similarly engaged in this practice. After a trip to Cuba in 1968, she claimed that “No Cuban writer has been or is in jail, or is failing to get his work published.” [22] She stated this falsehood with full awareness that dissident Cuban writers languished in Castro’s Gulag, and that not one work that was critical of the regime had been published in Cuba. Instead, she boasted that “the Cuban revolution is astonishingly free of repression. . . . Not only has the Cuban revolution not begun eating its children . . . it has no intention of doing so.” [23]

Sontag believed she had found utopia in Castro’s Cuba. Here human beings had been able to shed many elements of capitalist oppression, which included, as Sontag noted with satisfaction, the socially manufactured need to sleep. Sontag observes how it is completely “common,” ten years into the revolution, “for people to go without sleep—talking and working several nights a week.” [24] She also notes, with approval, how “Even deprived of the right to go into private business or to see pornographic films, the great majority of Cubans feel vastly freer today than they ever did before the revolution.” [25] These insights raise several crucial questions: Why did Sontag believe she could speak for the “great majority” of Cubans? How exactly did she know that they felt “freer”? How about the ones who didn’t feel freer? And what exactly would happen to an individual who did try to go into private business or watch pornography? Did Sontag believe that Armando Valladares, and the thousands of other political prisoners who languished in isolation cells while covered in feces, felt “freer” as well?

As leftist intellectuals like Sontag followed the tradition of venerating regimes that imprisoned, tortured, and executed intellectuals, so counterculture leftists who supported gay rights worshipped a tyranny that persecuted homosexuals, dishing out prison sentences of up to twenty years for homosexual behavior. [26]

Castro’s persecution of homosexuality is part of the phenomenon of totalitarian puritanism. As discussed in the believer’s diagnosis, human beings must submit every aspect of their lives to the greater whole of the totalitarian order. Homosexuality is especially reviled in totalitarian structures: because it cannot lead to procreation, it is seen as being solely the pursuit of individual pleasure for its own sake. As Paul Hollander notes in the case of Cuba,

Evidently the persecution of homosexuals can be explained not only by cultural traditions or machismo—plausible as it might seem to be—but also by the totalitarian puritanism of the new regime and its zealous pursuit of conformity in all walks of life. Apparently prior to the revolution no comparably massive and systematic repressive measures were taken against them. [27]

While adamant about the right to “free love” and sexual self-determination in their own society, believers sacrificed—and continue to sacrifice—these principles in regard to Cuba, the Taliban regime, the Palestinian Authority, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and any other society that has won their affection. This is because they see sexual freedom, like intellectual freedom, only as a weapon to be used to destroy their own society. They don’t care about these rights and freedoms in and of themselves. Once Ground Zero has been accomplished and the utopia they dream of is under construction, they see them as no longer important—and even dangerous to hold onto, since they threaten to destroy the road to earthly redemption. Ernesto Cardenal, the Sandinista minister of culture and one of the nine comandantes who ruled Nicaragua after the 1979 revolution, represented the Left best in this regard. After returning from a trip to Cuba, he reported that Cuba’s homosexuals “were actually happier in the concentration camps [that Castro had built for them], a place like that where they were all together must have been almost like paradise for them.” [28]

In true leftist tradition, Western believers continue to shower adulation on Castro  to this day. Humberto Fontova has written a succinct account of the Left’s continuing dalliance with Castro in Fidel: Hollywood’s Favorite Tyrant. Here is just a portion of his compilation of leftist praise for the death-cult leader:

“Cuba’s own Elvis!”—that’s how Dan Rather once described his friend Fidel Castro. Oliver Stone, another friend, describes Fidel as “very selfless and moral” and “one of the world’s wisest men.” “A genius!” agreed Jack Nicholson. Naomi Campbell said meeting Castro was “a dream come true!” According to Norman Mailer, Castro is “the first and greatest hero to appear in the world since the Second World War.” Jean-Paul Sartre said, “Castro is at the same time the island, the men, the cattle, and the earth. He is the whole island.” . . . Actress Gina Lollobrigida cooed, “Castro is an extraordinary man. He is warm and understanding and seems extremely humane.” Francis Coppola simply noted, “Fidel, I love you. We both have the same initials. We both have beards. We both have power and want to use it for good purposes.” Harry Belafonte added: “If you believe in freedom, if you believe in justice, if you believe in democracy, you have no choice but to support Fidel Castro!” [29]

Steven Spielberg visited the father-god in Havana in the fall of 2002. He called the meeting with Castro “the most important eight hours of my life.” [30]

Castro’s Cuba has been an exhilarating gift to the American Left, presenting it with a totalitarian death-cult to worship with a wonderful geographical bonus: it is close to home, just ninety miles from the Florida coast.

Notes:[1] Raul Castro served the Cuban tyranny faithfully and was just as vicious—if not more so—as Fidel. For an account of Raul’s career as executioner and hardliner in Fidel’s despotism, see Humberto Fontova, “Cuba’s New and Improved Tyrant,”, February 27, 2008.

[2] For one of the best accounts of the brutality of the Castro regime, see Pascal Fontaine, “Cuba: Interminable Totalitarianism in the Tropics,” in Courtois et al., The Black Book of Communism, pp. 647–665.

[3] Ibid., p. 657.

[4] Armando Valladares, Against All Hope: A Memoir of Life in Castro’s Gulag, trans. Andrew Hurley (San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2001), p. 137.

[5] Ibid., p. 379.

[6] For China’s case, see chapter 7 of this book; for Cambodia’s, see John Perazzo, “Left-Wing Monster: Pol Pot,”, August 8, 2005.

[7] Valladares, Against All Hope, p. 378.

[8] Stuart I. Rochester and Frederick Kiley, chapter 19, “The Zoo, 1967–1969: The Cuban Program and Other Atrocities,” in Honor Bound: American Prisoners of War in Southeast Asia 1961–1973 (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1999).

[9] Fontova, Fidel, pp. 141–142.

[10] Rochester and Kiley, Honor Bound, p. 400.

[11] Ibid., p. 404.

[12] Fontova, Fidel, p. 88.

[13] Ibid., pp. 14–15 and 49.

[14] Ibid., pp. 8 and 56–57.

[15] Ibid., pp. 157–163.

[16] For a comprehensive account of the Left’s adoration of Castro’s Cuba, see Hollander, Political Pilgrims, pp. 223–267.

[17] Leo Huberman and Paul Sweezy, Cuba: Anatomy of a Revolution (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1961), p. 176.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid., p. 177.

[20] Rubin, Do It, p. 20. In fact, Rubin did return to the “political bullshit in the United States.” He ended up earning private fortunes working on Wall Street and becoming a business entrepreneur, something that the victims of Vietnamese and Cuban tyranny had no opportunity to do.

[21] Quoted in Collier and Horowitz, Destructive Generation, p. 272.

[22] Susan Sontag, “Some Thoughts on the Right Way (for Us) to Love the Cuban Revolution,” Ramparts, April 1969, p. 18.

[23] Ibid., p. 14.

[24] Ibid., p. 10.

[25] Ibid.

[26] For discussions of Castro’s persecution of homosexuals, see Valladares’s Against All Hope; Fontaine, “Cuba,” p. 656; and the memoir Before Night Falls by the Cuban gay writer Reinaldo Arenas, trans. Dolores M. Koch (New York: Viking, 1993).

[27] Hollander, Political Pilgrims, p. 261.

[28] Collier and Horowitz, Destructive Generation, pp. 246–247.

[29] Fontova, Fidel, p. 11.

[30] Ibid., p. 154.

EDITORS NOTE: This The Glazov Gang column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

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