Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Need for Dispassionate Synthesis When Studying Cuban History


Cuban Author Manuel Marquez-Sterling

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.
John Adams, "Argument in Defense of the Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials," December 1770

I want to send out a special shout today to congratulate George Moneo at Babalú for a post he put up which addresses one of the central problems confronting all of us who live outside of Cuba with respect to grasping the larger problem of Cuban history--the facts before us are very much in question to this day.

Anyone who has honestly examined the record of Fidel Castro's rise to power and the progress of his revolution as told in modern historical scholarship will tell you that the body of work which covers the topic suffers from a lack of what historians refer to as a balanced use of primary sources, which is a test of evidence presented, in various ways, in the first person. In other words, historical evidence is most believable and reliable when it comes directly from the source, rather than relying upon opinions given from the outside.

Moneo's blog entry presents a brief overview of a recent program he attended at the University of Miami's Institute of Cuban and Cuban American Studies in which Cuban author and historian Manuel Marquez-Sterling, son of Carlos Marquez-Sterling, a Cuban politician of the late 50's and early Castro era (when politics ended); gave a presentation on a book he published entitled Cuba, 1952-1959: The True Story of Castro's Rise to Power. Marquez-Sterling's principal objective is to present a more complete chronology of events explaining how Castro came to power, with a particular emphasis upon attacking numerous myths generally assumed to be part of the story as it is now widely held within modern historical scholarship. Some of these myths, such as those associated with U.S. support for Batista and the "evolution" of Castro's ideological development as a Communist, are practically accepted without question among those who study the Cuban Revolution, which makes the problem of understanding Cuba and Castroite rule most difficult. Many important facts are simply not known and, as so many within the Cuban-American community will tell you, are frequently denied or excluded from conversation when they are introduced.

While I am not a Cuban-American, and therefore cannot feel that special pain I know they must endure when they attempt to tell their story, I also have faced the problem of contesting the conventional wisdom on Cuba during my own time in college, when I studied History at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. I can especially recall graduate seminars in U.S. Foreign Relations, U.S.-Latin American Relations, and Latin American History in which I attempted to present factual information that undermined the interpretations of leftist historians--I studied under out-and-out Marxists--only to see it attacked repeatedly in what I clearly recognized then, and now, by fallacious argumentation. If my source was taken from the testimony of Cuban dissidents or émigrés who fled the island after Castro, I faced either an abusive or circumstantial Ad Hominem argument, which either attacked or discounted the testimony of eyewitnesses and those who lived the tragedy in the first person for reason of their political attitudes or personal background. When I presented U.S. government documents, especially from the Department of State, they were either dismissed or discounted for representing a minority viewpoint, thus committing either the fallacy of Ignoratio Elenchi (Irrelevant Conclusion or Thesis), or if the attack was prefaced with "everyone knows" the fallacy of the Argumentum Ad Populum (appeal to the people). And I repeatedly found myself in confrontation when I contested the interpretations offered by pro-Castro historians for my refusal to bow down before the demi-gods of the discipline, the purest form of the Argumentum Ad Verecundiam, or the "argument from authority." Logic and evidence have little or no import when faced with the passion of leftist historians who betray the methodology of their discipline when they corrupt it to promote their own political agendas.

Passion is a good source of motivation to encourage the study and writing of history, but it is a very poor impetus for the assessment of historical evidence. Passion and logic will always be at odds with each other and, as John Adams understood only too well, it will never alter the state of facts and evidence, which will ever remain stubborn and resistant to the propagandizing intent of historians who abuse their readers and do harm to their discipline when they ignore and attack the facts of history.

There will come a day, and I suspect it is not as far off as many might think, when the Cuban people will throw off the yoke of Castrista oppression and the truth will come flooding out in a torrent. When it does, there will be a period of reexamination among historians, many of whom will simply run and hide from their personal embarrassment, as was the case with the fall of the Soviet Union. A dispassionate synthesis of Cuban history, so desperately needed but denied us as of now, will then integrate all the evidence needed to tell what happened in the light of truth. The story of Castro's rise to power will be part of that revisionist process and we will likely see the work of scholars such as Manuel Marquez-Sterling reintroduced into the public consciousness as the institutions who manage public information find themselves forced to account for their past errors. And the story of what took place within Cuba under Castro will be retold as well. In the same manner in which historians of the Soviet era of Russian History who once scoffed at the story Anton Antonov-Ovseyenko told of the Stalinist terror suddenly found themselves compelled to write the Black Book of Communism, we will expect to see the Black Book of Castroite Repression in Cuba. It will happen because, as Saladin told us over seven centuries ago, Blood Never Sleeps.

And we know that the spilled blood of Cuban patriots remains awake because we have the good guys to count upon to keep the truth alive. Guys like George Moneo and his fellow bloggers at Babalú and elsewhere on the web, who will never let this story go untold.

Kudos George!




Anonymous said...

You misspelled my name... :-)

StJacques said...


Correction made. Thank God no one arriving after this will catch me.

Thanks George!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the kind words. With liberty-loving allies like you the Cuban people will prevail.

Mariela said...

I like your blog-I especially liked your intro post. Thanks for your encouraging words on Babalublog to all of us thinking of jotting down family oral history.

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