Corbynites have avoided weighing in on the protests
Extraordinary images from Cuba, as thousands of protesters take to the streets. One can only wish them the best, but — given the precedents of Iran, Hong Kong, Venezuela and Belarus — one fears the worst.
Of infinitely less importance is the tricky position in which the British Left finds itself. Cuba has long been the acceptable face of communism. Point the camera away from the obvious signs of decay, and the scenes of sun, sea and socialism can be sold to a gullible western audience.
However, it’s much harder to sell the dream of a workers’ paradise if the workers are out on the streets calling for the delivery of basic services — plus bourgeois fripperies like freedom and democracy. It’s especially awkward when some protestors are waving American flags.
So what does the Corbynite Left make of it all? I wish I could tell you, but they’ve been rather quiet on the matter. Let’s start with Jezza himself. As of 11am this morning, there was nothing about it on his Twitter feed. This is odd because he’s been more that happy to weigh in on Cuban matters in the past — for instance here and here. I checked the accounts of a number of other prominent UK Lefties. Crickets.
In desperation, I turned to the website of the Cuban Solidarity Campaign, where I found this statement. It acknowledges there have been “some street protests” that “took place against the scarcity of food, medicines and power supplies.” However, the statement mostly consists of a diatribe against the US and its decades-long trade embargo.
If the protests continue, expect this to become the standard line for regime sympathisers in the UK. It’s all the fault of those damned Yankees, you see. Definitely nothing to do with a visibly failing communist regime, whose autocratic, incompetent rule Cubans are so desperate to be free of.
To be clear, I think the US embargo is ridiculous and should go — but it can’t be blamed for the current crisis. Most obviously, Cuba can and does trade with the rest of the world. Also, isn’t America supposed to be an evil capitalist vampire whose corporations grow fat by sucking dry the developing world? If that’s true, then surely not trading with America makes Cuba richer.
In any case, it’s not the Americans who centrally-manage the Cuban economy, but the country’s undemocratic government.
Time, then, for the Left to do decide who they want to express ‘solidarity with’ — the Cuban people or their dictators.