An acquaintance recently posted the above video and I was a taken aback. I’m no specialist on Cuban history, but what was presented didn’t seem right to me as I knew many of claims he was making to be half-truths, not correctly contextualized or were outright lies.
Let just consider some of the claims made.
1) Matt Kibbe quotes Castro as saying that Rock and Roll was the “Music of the Enemy”. Well, if you are a nationalist that didn’t like the fact that United States capital was controlling the political situation in the country than it was. Following the Spanish-American war Cuba was no longer a Spanish colony but an American Protectorate. From 1898 to 1935
What was the Platt Amedment?
- Cuba could not make any treaty with another nation that the U.S. did not agree to.
- Cuba must allow the US to buy or lease a naval base.
- S. had the right to intervene in Cuban conflict to protect it.
- Cuba had to keep it’s debts low to prevent foreign countries from landing troops to enforce payment.
This amendment was used multiple times in order to bolster different factions of the Cuban political elite that were protecting American investments in the sugar and railroad industries. At this time the Cuban elite – predominantly peninsulares and lighter skinned mulattoes – were exceptionally racist and prized American culture. In the period after the Platt Amendment’s repeal, despite the Good Neighbor policy much of the American extensions of power at times when U.S. capital was threatened remained the same. Consider the U.S. history in the Caribbean – even before the Cuban Revolution the U.S. had established a habit of propping up military dictators throughout Latin America for financial gain and 1961 Cuba’s neighbor, Dominican Republic, had over 20,000 US troops on the island that were fighting a Communist-inspired insurgency against American-backed rule!
2) Kibbe claims that Fidel Castro “banned rock music” in his country? A little research shows that while The Beatles were banned for two years, from 1964-1966, by 1974 the MNT (Nueva Tropa Movimiento) helped to end this often unenforced “ban” on certain musical acts playing in public.
3) Following the banned music claim, Matt Kibbe alleges that “you could be beaten, jailed or send to a work camp for having long hair.” The manner in which transitions to a 2008 example of this gives the impression that this has gone on continuously since that point. As the above has already shown, this is not true.
The example that Kibbe gives, is also more complex than he informs us. The names of the band (which Kibbe doesn’t cite) is Porno Para Ricardo. Readings this article for context, it becomes apparent that Matt is grossly misrepresenting both what happened to the band as well as the overall context. I recommend reading the whole article, but here’s an except from the close that does a good job summarizing the complexities of this.
“the band’s oppositional stance is complicated by the fact that Gorki’s pronouncements dovetail—at least in some aspects—with the rhetoric of the Miami right. For example, in interviews with the foreign media, Gorki has suggested that the Cuban government has purposefully caused food shortages and described the leadership as motivated by a desire to “humiliate” the people. Such statements are rarely heard on the island, despite the proliferation of other types of complaints and allegations, yet they are daily fare in Miami.
Although the band has no formal political affiliation and states that it has never accepted funds from abroad, the possibility of such a relationship is latent, as suggested by the Cuban American National Foundation’s immediate offer to provide legal assistance to Gorki.”
4) Haymarket. The Palmer Raids. Pinkertons. American Legion. Red Squads and Special Investigations Bureau’s committed to undermining radicals throughout every major city in the United States. The KKK’s mass entry into policing. Florida’s Johns Committee. Detroit’s Black Legion. New York’s Bureau of Special Services. Los Angeles’ Public Disorder Intelligence Division. Philadelphia’s Civil Defense Squad. Memphis’ Defense Intelligence Unit. McCarthyism. The FBI’s COINTELPRO. House Un-American Activities Committee. House Internal Security Committee. Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Internal Security. The corporate, extra-legal origins of the Law Enforcement Intelligence Unit.The Tenney Committee. The assassination of the Black Panthers. The fracturing of the Students for a Democratic Society. The attempt to blackmail Martin Luther King, Jr. The monitoring of anti-war groups.
These are important instances of American history to know when considering the binary the Kibbe is setting up with Socialism as Evil and Capitalism as Good. They are important as it they are all examples of times when the U.S. government spied on citizens, beat up activists, prevented mail that’s considered politically unsavory to those in power from being sent, assassinating activists, and all around having their lives interfered with by the U.S. state. This list isn’t even a comprehensive one of all of the examples of the massive state intervention in the political lives of Americans. So let’s not buy into this dichotomy of Socialism bad cause you can’t express yourself, cause it ain’t true.
5) If you are going to define any sort of large social operations, be it Capitalism or Socialism, any encapsulation of it to two words is a grave distortion of it. The two words that Kibbe uses is “plan” and “conformity”, which could equally be used to describe capitalism – owners create a “plan” for production based upon their market knowledge and capital and require workers to “conform” to their wishes through wage labor in order to produce. Socialism could be better stated as a system of political economy wherein workers own and direct the means of production through the state. This sort of faulty generalization allows him to replace what he is calling socialism with what is more properly called authoritarianism. What’s the difference? Check this video out for a brief primer: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwYmcbRYi1w)
6) Kibbe claims that with Socialism you can’t get no satisfaction, however there are many counterfactuals to prove this wrong – from the quasi-socialist Nordic countries having the highest rates of happiness to the nostalgia of people in the former Soviet Bloc for the stability offered by the government without it’s repressive aspects.
Matt Kibbe’s video presents the viewer with a false dilemma, it is either Capitalism and Freedom or Socialism and Repression. It furthermore distorts Cuban history prior to the revolution both as an official protectorate and as an unofficial one. Arthur Schelsinger, Jr reported about the country under Batista that: “The corruption of the Government, the brutality of the police, the government’s indifference to the needs of the people for education, medical care, housing, for social justice and economic justice … is an open invitation to revolution.” As this short article shows this is not the case and the claims he made are off for a number of reasons. I hope you found this article interesting and that you can gain greater media savvy as a result of it.