BY INGRID FRANCO
NEW BRUNSWICK, New JerseyNearly 80 students attended a debate here at Rutgers University on October 17 titled Can Communism Work? It was sponsored by the Rutgers Union of Cuban American Students (RUCAS) and Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity.
The debaters were Fernando Villars, a member of the College Republicans at Rutgers University in Newark, and Santiago Beck, a member of the Young Socialists who is the Socialist Workers Party candidate for New Jersey State Assembly in the 29th District. RUCAS students organized the meeting to assure an atmosphere of free discussion and respect for all viewpoints.
Villars asserted that in Cuba there is no communism but rather Fidelismo. He referred to Cuban revolutionary leader Ernesto Che Guevara as a butcher and accused the revolutionary government of Cuba of arbitrarily carrying out executions against political prisoners.
(He was referring to the fact that after the overthrow of the U.S.-backed Batista dictatorship, several hundred of Batistas torturers and murders were put on trial for their crimes and executed, with enormous backing among the Cuban people.)
Here, in this democracy in the United States, we can speak freely, said Villars. In Cuba you cannot speak freely; if you do you will get arrested.
Villars said that in the United States people are free to do whatever they want, such as open a Dunkin Donuts.
He argued that communism goes against human nature. He used an analogy of four students on a group project who get the same grade. He said it would be unfair if two of the students did more work than the others; the lazy students would be mooching off the others.
Beck pointed to the nearly 50 years of U.S. aggression against Cuba, from the failed 1961 mercenary invasion at the Bay of Pigs to the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Actdesigned to entice Cubans to leave the island outside legal channels, whether by raft or armed hijackingto the U.S. governments frame-up of five Cuban revolutionaries for defending their country against attacks from ultrarightist groups operating from U.S. soil.
Washington is clearly under the impression that something, whether you call it communism or socialism, is working in Cuba, said Beck, and that example for working people worldwide is what the U.S. rulers are afraid of. If anything, the U.S. rulers have underestimated Cuba and continue to do so.
Cuba has more doctors serving in the Third World than the World Health Organization, said Beck. Cuba has a higher literacy rate than most large U.S. cities. How is this possible? Because, he said, in 1959, workers and farmers made a socialist revolution.
What does capitalism mean for most of the world? Beck asked. Two billion people have no access to modern forms of energy. One sixth of the world has no access to drinkable water. In this country millions lack health insurance.
Beck concluded by encouraging students to join the Young Socialists and others in demonstrations on October 27 to oppose the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
In the discussion, several students in the audience raised differing views on the Cuban Revolution and communism. Several disagreed with Beck on the revolution, citing what they said was the experiences of their families in Cuba. Others spoke in agreement with him.
Several students challenged Villars analogy about the student group project, pointing out that youth from rich families who go to exclusive private schools have different opportunities from youth from poor families.
One woman said that what Villars said just sounded selfish. Another said that in Cuba before the revolution, the elites owned everything; the poor had nothing. What else were they to do?
Another student asked Villars if it was OK to throw immigrant workers in prison. Villars said no, but that in Cuba they throw independent journalists in prison. Beck replied that those lauded in the U.S. media as independent journalists are actually members of small political groups who carry out activity, with U.S. funding, against the Cuban Revolution.
Another audience member pointed to the U.S. Patriot Act and said that people in this country are targeted for their political views.
After the program, a fraternity invited the Young Socialists to speak at a meeting on Che Guevara on November 12. Several students signed up for more information on joining the YS contingent in the upcoming antiwar actions.
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home