Sunday, May 18, 2014

Out of the Cuban Closet


   This review of Gays Under the Cuban Revolution, by Jim Peron, originally appeared in the October, 1982 issue of Inquiry magazine. 

   The Cuban Freedom Flotilla of 1980 stunned the American people. Day after day, thousands upon thousands of Cubans abandoned their families, friends, and material possessions to start life anew in the United States. While history is replete with instances of masses fleeing war, economic misery, and political repression, such flights have always been conducted by the general population, or by religious, racial, or political minorities. The Cuban Freedom Flotilla, however, involved a little secret that very soon came out. Socialist Cuba had—and has—the distinction of being the world’s only nation to experience a mass emigration based on sexual preference. Huddled in the crowded boats fleeing Castro’s Cuba were an estimated 10,000 homosexuals.

  This most irregular flotilla evoked a great response in the American gay community. Homosexual organizations and churches banded together to sponsor gay refugees. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were privately spent to buy clothes, find homes, and secure jobs for these desperate men and women.
Andre Gide
   Amidst this flurry of charitable activity, the deep questions presented by the exodus remained unanswered. On the whole, the “gay intelligentsia” in the United States, and especially in Europe and Canada, is and has been, left of center, often socialist and even Marxist. Suddenly these intellectuals were facing the living proof of the oppression of their own under the rule of socialism. By and large, the gay left was silent. Horror stories told by refugees were ignored. Political implications were evaded.
  Several decades ago, French writer Andre Gide, himself a homosexual, confronted similar questions. In the early 1930s he had proclaimed his profound sympathy for the Soviet Union, the bright hope of the world’s oppressed. With great anticipation, he voyaged to Russia, “a convinced and enthusiastic follower, in order to admire a new world.” At first, he traveled with the government tour guides and saw the model communes, mixed with the Soviet elite and sat at their lavish tables. But, Gide confessed, “I only began to see clearly when, abandoning the government transport, I traveled alone through the country in order to be able to get into direct contact with the people.” There he found shocking poverty and oppression, in contrast to the luxury enjoyed by the communist new class.
  Above all, Gide was appalled by the sacrifice of human individuality to Marxist conformity. Years later, in his contribution to The God That Failed, this pioneer of homosexual liberation wrote:


I doubt whether in any country in the world, not even in Hitler’s Germany, have the mind and spirit been less free, more bent, more terrorized over, and indeed vassalized—than in the Soviet Union... Humanity is complex and not all of a piece—that must be accepted—and every attempt at simplification and regimentation, every effort from the outside to reduce everything and everyone to the same common denominator, will always be reprehensible, pernicious, and dangerous.


    Not since Gide has any author exposed the consequences of socialist conformism for the homosexual minority as has Allen Young. Young previously co-authored or edited (with Karla Jay) Out of the Closets, After You’re Out, Lavender Culture, and The Gay Report. Like Gide, he was an ardent advocate of Marxism, and as Gide was devoted to the Soviet revolution, so was Young to the Cuban revolution. He also experienced results of socialism first hand; in the tradition of The God That Failed, he published his findings in Gays Under the Cuban Revolution.
   Young describes himself as a “red-diaper baby”—both parents were active members of the Communist Party. He grew up accepting their political beliefs as most children reared in the church accept Christianity. Like many children of religious parents, Young’s zeal eventually surpassed that of his parents.

   During his college years at Columbia, which coincided with Castro’s coming to power, Young began to take an interest in Cuba. Later he studied at the Institute of Hispanic-American and Luso-Brazilian Studies at Stanford, where he worked for the Hispanic American Report. The writers for this journal assigned to cover Cuba “were all partisans of the Castro regime;" Young concedes that “one-sided reporting on Cuba by Cuba’s friends was seen as a legitimate response to the establishment’s one-sided approach; we had no qualms about our involvement in such bias—indeed we accepted our mission.” Young continued his studies, went to Brazil, worked for the Peace Corps in Colombia, and contributed articles to journals like New Left Review. In 1967 he returned to the United States to work at the Washington Post, only to leave it eventually for publications further to the left. All this time he had been a confirmed believer in the Cuban experiment without having witnessed it himself, but in 1969 the Cuban government gave Young and another activist an all-expenses-paid trip to the country. Finally he would see for himself the new society on whose behalf he had been propagandizing for a decade.

   Young was supposed to write glowing articles on the people’s revolution, but he found this difficult. As he traveled with his host and guide, doubts started to hatch in his mind. “Watching his behavior, and that of other officials, I began to develop a notion of privilege under Cuban communism. They had access to cars, air travel, imported wines, and fancy restaurants, for example.” Meanwhile, Young noted the deprivation of the people, the strict control of the press, and the militarization of society. He also learned how socialism oppressed his gay friends. Before Castro’s revolution, persecution of homosexuals existed, of course, but it was sporadic; gay bars, for instance, thrived in Havana. The revolution closed the bars, because of their “decadence.” Sexual preference became a highly political issue in society that was totally politicized.
Allen Young

   Young’s own homosexual con-sciousness had been raised, following the Stonewall Rebellion when the patrons of a Greenwich Village gay bar, instead of meekly acquiescing as the police staged one of their habitual raids, fought back. And his second visit to Cuba, in 1971, intensified his disenchantment. On his return to the United States, he went public with his criticisms, and broke with many of his former allies: “I felt I could not be faithful to myself and continue in the dual role of Cubaphile and gay liberationist.” Since then he has continued to follow the vicissitudes of Cuba’s persecution of homosexuals and the left’s response to it.

   The attack on homosexuality began within a few Years of Castro’s taking power. Long before the crusades of Anita Bryant or Jerry Falwell, Castro stated that “those positions in which one might have a direct influence upon children and young people should not be in the hands of homosexuals, above all the educational centers.” A homosexual was a “deviate” who could never rise to the level of conduct required of “a true Revolutionary.”

   Gays suffered greatly at the hands of the two new socialist bureaucracies. Thousands of them were placed, without benefit of trial, in camps run by the Military Units for Aid to Production. Basically these were forced labor camps, where gay people were mistreated and often assaulted and where it was not unusual for them to be executed or driven to suicide. After a while, international protests compelled the closing of these camps, but the persecution has continued in other forms.

   The Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs) are neighborhood block committees throughout Cuba consisting of tens of thousands of volunteer police spies. They are “dominated by busybodies, snoops, and moralistic prudes,” who consider it one of their prime duties to harass homosexuals and, frequently, to funnel them into the prison system. (In all the articles in American leftist periodicals praising these institutions of “popular justice,” Young reports, he has never found hint of “the suffering of gay people and dissidents” caused by the CDRs.  Homosexuals are the chief target of the ley de peligrosidad (“law of dangerousness”), which provides for from four to six years for “antisocial behavior.” At the University of Havana, it is the policy to expel gay students “after a public humiliation.” The merciless crusade extends even to Cuban writers of international repute, who might be thought to furnish the regime with a certain cultural respectability:  “Cuba’s greatest playwright [Virgilio Pierna] and greatest novelist José Lezama Lima] were persecuted, humiliated, and forced to live the last years of their lives in ignominy—all because of their homosexuality.”

   As for the response of American leftists to this institutionalized vendetta, Young accuses them—those who have even acknowledged the issue of “grasping at anything to avoid forthright, angry condemnation . . . and, more generally, to avoid coming to grips with the left’s historic role in reinforcing and creating antigay prejudice.” When gay liberation arose in the late 1960, the left opportunistically seized on it, “primarily to illustrate dissatisfaction with the status quo of American society.” The aversion of leftists to dealing with the facts of Castro’s antihomosexual campaign, and their continued presentation of Cuba as “a promise of what the future has to offer,” even in the teeth of those facts, demonstrate the shallowness, if not the hypocrisy, of their “pro-gay” stand.

   Why so many gay liberationists themselves should attempt to hide the facts concerning Cuba and other communist societies is more of a mystery. The eminent scholar Simon Karlinsky concluded, in a communication to Christopher Street, that the most brutal oppressors of homosexuals in this century—even worse than the Nazis have been “the totalitarians of the left—the Marxist-Leninists, to be precise." left-the Marxist-Leninists, to be precise.”
   And yet he confessed that in stating this conclusion, he felt he was “breaking an aspect of the unwritten, but rigidly enforced gay liberationist etiquette, one that says that gay oppression today exists only in pluralistic societies such as the United States and West Germany.” This “etiquette,” Karlinsky observed, has resulted in a “self-imposed brainwashing” in the gay movement.

   His knowledge of what has been going on in Cuba has caused Young, with great courage, to rethink his whole political position. While he remains in some sense a socialist, he has been led, in his words, “inevitably to a questioning of Marxist doctrine itself, especially the idea that central planning by a state apparatus could erase inequities.” Indeed, a new appreciation of the value of capitalist society, especially to those concerned with freedom of personal lifestyles appears to be surfacing among gays. It can scarcely have escaped the notice even of the most doctrinaire leftists that the Gay Pride parades that are now held annually in London and Stockholm, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Toronto, Sydney, and elsewhere, commemorate an event that took place in June 1969 in New York City -- the Stonewall Rebellion. This is a symbol of the central place that the pluralistic, capitalist society of the United States has today in the international gay liberation movement. As another socialist, Dennis Altman, states in his recent The Homosexualization of America, The Americanization of the Homosexual (St. Martin’s Press), the advances experienced by gay women and men over the past decade were “only possible under modern consumer capitalism, which for all its injustices has created the conditions for greater freedom and diversity than are present in any other society yet known.” As the saying goes, “Only in America...”

   As for the gay flotilla of 1980, it may yet become a symbol to set alongside Stonewall. The only ones who came out looking good were the American gays and their own self-help organizations, who sacrificed and worked to welcome the refugees. They gave the back of their hands to the antigay laws of the U.S. government, which exclude homosexual foreigners from this country, and they rescued thousands of the victims of Cuban socialism. The massive relief effort they conducted epitomizes the spirit of voluntarism and liberty.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Adam Smith Benevolent Fund Recent Loans

The Moorfield Storey Institute also manages the Adam Smith Benevolent Fund through which we make microloans to developing regions to encourage entrepreneurship and economic development. We believe that development does more to solve the problems of the world than charity ever could. A portion of all sales through our book site Fr33minds.com goes into this fund and is loaned out. All loans are revolving so that the fund grows with time. We believe benevolence and economic freedom go hand in hand. Here are are the latest loans we have made. If you wish to donate to the Fund through the Institute, you can do so here.



The first loan is to Norris of Barranquilla, Colombia. Norris is 51 and lives with her husband and two children, 15 and 17. Her grocery store sells an array of home products, food, canned items and meals. She started her business 20 years ago in an area where there were few stores. She will use the loan to expand inventory.

Leonardo is 21 and married with one son. He lives in El Sauce, Nicaragua and runs a small a small cafe outside his home. He sells juices, soft drinks, pastries such as cachos, tortas de piña, picos, dedos, etc.), sopa de leche (a traditional soup) and baked goods. He spends about 10 hours a day at his business offering his product to regular customers and on order. His hope is to expand working capital by investing in more pastries and items to sell to his customers.



Juana is 54, married with five children, one of whom still lives with her. She operates a general store in Bogu, Philippines, where she sells sugar, coffee, canned goods and noodles. She has been in business for 10 year and wants to expand her selection. Due to the impact of Super Typhoon Haiyan on the country we have decided to make additional loans in the Philippines, though the typhoon damage may make it harder for recipients to repay the loans.



Mrs. Maingerel, 31 years old, lives with her husband, daughter and son in a traditional Mongolian ger (portable felt dwelling) on a plot of land in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. She has been selling phone accessories by renting a stall at a trade center since 2012.

Her husband, together with three other people, decorate house interiors. Their daughter and son go to kindergarten. She is requesting a loan to buy phone accessories at wholesale prices, so that she can continue to run her business without worrying about inventory shortage.

Nenita is a 42 years old and lives in P-1 Upper Langcangan.

In order to help the family, she sells plastic wares. She also operates a sari-sari store. She wants to obtain financial assistance to purchase additional inventories of plastic wares. Due to the impact of Super Typhoon Haiyan on the country we have decided to make additional loans in the Philippines, though the typhoon damage may make it harder for recipients to repay the loans.

The Storey Institute is a registered 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization that promotes social tolerance, depoliticized markets, trade and a peaceful foreign policy. It sells books through Fr33minds.com to help cover expenses, and produces books through its publishing arm, Cobden Press. All donations are tax deductible.  

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Oxygen of Liberty


Tonight we are gathered here for something that, in a rational world, wouldn’t be very important—politics. Why do I say it is really not all that important?

If I were to ask you to sit down and write down the five most important things in your life, I can assure you that politics would not be one of them. What really is important?

Perhaps it’s a walk on the beach with the person you love most in this world; or a son’s graduation, the birth of a grandchild, the joy of wonderful music, the discovery of new places, the quest for knowledge, finding a flower that you have never seen before, the satisfaction of productive work, or the thrill of scientific discovery.

The lists we would make would vary from person to person. But I think I’m on safe ground when I say that none of us would list a political campaign.

Most people instinctively dislike politics—and probably with good reason. What we see when look at it is back room deals, low ethics, big promises but poor delivery, lies, lies, lies and then to cover them up, usually more lies. The quality of people attracted to such ventures is not very high. There seems to be a direct inverse relationship between electability and decency.

When we think about those things in our lives that are important we realize that there is one crucial ingredient that makes all of them possible. It doesn’t matter what you value because the inescapable nature of man is such that liberty is absolutely necessary.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A Return to Liberalism

Liberalism, as originally  and properly understood, is the historic advocate of individual freedom. It has promoted the rule of law and private property, with the free exchange of goods and ideas. Its opposition to censorsh

The entire liberal philosophy revolves around the primacy of the rights of the individual. As two philosophers put it: “Rights are the language through which liberalism is spoken” (Douglas Rasmussen and Douglas Den Uyl, Liberalism Defended).

Thomas Jefferson put this liberal ideal into one succinct paragraph in his magnificent Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the Governed . . . .”

Liberalism turned the prevailing doctrines of human rights and politics upside down. For centuries it was assumed that man lived for the sake of the state; that what rights he possessed were gifts, given to him by his king or government. Li berals argued that the opposite was true. People possess rights first, and governments receive their sanction from the people. The government is not the giver of rights to the people but the people are the source for the legitimacy of the government.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Collective rights: winning the battle, losing the war.


Because many libertarians came to their philosophy from the Right they often bring with them a style of discussion that betrays their roots. While their position may be correct philosophically  the way in which they express themselves conveys meanings they may not intend, alienating the people they are hoping to address.

Libertarians believe in individual rights. I have no problem with that. Rights reside entirely with the individual. There is no such thing as collective rights, just the rights of the individual. So it would seem logical for a libertarian to shun terms like “woman’s rights” or “gay rights” or “minority rights,” etc.

We should be clear that people use the term “rights” in two different ways, and without clarifying which one is using can lead to unnecessary confusion. When a libertarian says that someone has “rights” they are referring to the ideal situation, not to the actual situation. It is to the libertarian vision of individual rights that they are referring.

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Libertarian Look at Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela was everything people have said about him—and yet nothing like the man they claimed he was. He was saint and sinner, a miracle for the nation, and just a man, flaws and all.

I was in line at McDonalds in Cresta, a northern suburb of Johannesburg, when suddenly the order clerk glazed over and stopped paying any attention to my order or me. I kept trying to finish the order with no response. My partner whispered in my ear: “Mandela just walked in.”

I turned to my left and, sure enough, there was Madiba, shuffling toward the back where his grandchild was celebrating a birthday. We got our food and sat down, watching Mandela and the children in the back of the restaurant. People stopped eating to stare. The mostly white crowd had cell phones out telling everyone they knew that they were in the presence of Mandela.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Dumpster Diving and Libertarianism


The Left-of-center website, Demos, has a somewhat dishonest attack on libertarianism by a Mr. Matt Bruenig. Bruenig is happy to announce that a libertarian from the Cato Institute has agreed to discuss the nature of libertarianism with him. He then pulls one of the more dishonest stunts that one can pull in a debate or discussion—he set up an extreme, minority position as if it is the mainstream and then demanded his opponent justify it.

This is similar to conflating left progressives with the Communist Party USA. It was a shameful stunt when pulled by McCarthyites, Birchers and others on the extreme Right and it is just as shameful when pulled by left progressives, such as Mr. Bruenig.

Bruenig demands that his Cato discussant defend the antics of Han-Hermann Hoppe, who is absurdly described as “a very prominent libertarian academic.” In truth, Mr. Hoppe is hardly “prominent,” though he and his small band of followers would rush to agree with Bruenig—which makes Bruenig the one keeping odd company.

Bruenig notes Hoppe’s affiliation with the paleolibertarian Ludwig von Mises Institute—formed by a former staffer from the Conservative Book Club, well after Mises died. Now, if you were to take the budgets of the various libertarian-oriented think tanks and combine them together, you would probably find that this organization represents less than 1% of libertarian funding of ideas in any one year.