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Castro's Library Pass, Part IV By: Walter Skold
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, October 17, 2005


[This is Part IV of a four-part series regarding the American Library Association's pandering to Fidel Castro's totalitarian regime. Click here to read Part I, Part II and Part III. - The Editors]

It is understandable when leading Cuban librarians obediently sing the praises of their island’s owner; it is reprehensible when American librarians, living in freedom, do the same thing.

Karen Schneider is one of the most well-know writers, innovators, and outspoken members of the library community, and during the contentious internal ALA debate over Cuba in 2003-4 her independent thinking got her branded as a heretic for calling on her fellow Council members to come to the aid of the independent libraries of Cuba.

During the debate that raged on the Council e-mail list she announced that “I need to fully distance myself from the faction in [the] ALA that appears almost Stalinist in its refusal to recognize the very real human rights violations in Cuba” For illustration she explained how “Members of Council are metaphorically hauled away and pilloried for objecting to ALA's approach to Cuba, and unfortunately, few folks seem willing to risk the wrath of the Cuban hardliners.” 

Schneider, who was also one of the co-founders of FREADOM, but has since withdrawn her active participation, complained that “The somewhat arrogant assumption is that anyone questioning Cuba's actions, let alone suggesting human rights is a growing edge for Castro, is a dupe of the far right.”

This is laughable in Schneider’s case, whose liberal credentials are impeccable for having led the successful charge against those librarians who favored internet filtering, for condemning the Patriot Act, and for being an outspoken proponent of “gay marriage.” Actually, what makes people like Schneider such a threat is precisely the fact that they are liberals on most social issues, and the left is the only market segment Marxists have left to agitate among. Stalinist have always feared competition from those they cannot smear as “rightists,” or “deviants.”

The head heretic award, however, definitely goes to Ellen Zyroff, a feisty free-speaker in the best traditions of California. She is the principal librarian for the San Diego County Library (who speaks only for herself in these internal debates), and she has tangled with “hardliners” before when they pushed for ALA and world condemnations of Israel.

When certain Council members tried to re-write history this June regarding the 2003-4 Cuba debate, Zyroff reminded them that it was “The lovers of Castro and his repressive Marxist country [who] fought” a call for Castro to free the jailed librarians, and she pointed out the travesty that these people were the same ones who “..who sat on the two ALA committees that were charged with coming up with a resolution.”

As one can imagine, her outing of these intellectual misfits and pseudo revolutionaries allowed her the honor of having her thoughts criticized by some of the resident Sandalistas (the same folks who slavishly supported the communist Sandinistas when the KGB was trying to destroy that national liberation movement too). The smarter of them don’t tangle with Zyroff, however, as they don’t like to argue with people armed with the facts who are willing to take the fight public.

“As a whole and as individuals, ALA councilors, more than most elected boards, tend to go with the safety of the crowd,” Zyroff said back in 2004, when she and Schneider were tag-teaming in defense of Nat Hentoff. “Either out of insecurity about their understanding of the new topics plopped in their laps, or out of embarrassment to vote differently from the most vocal, the most self-assured, and the most long tenured of our group.”

Getting closer to what some librarians, including me, think lies at the heart of the matter, Zyroff then said “They would rather not raise a question or objection for fear of being labeled "other," for fear of being shut out by a circling of the wagons by an internal ALA Council clique.”

The self-anointed “Progressive Librarians” in the clique she was identifying are always ready with canned responses of “hysteria,” “persecution,” “intolerance,” and the great boogey-boo “McCarthyism!” whenever people expose their ongoing Leninist attempts to steer the ALA in their direction through front group tactics and parliamentary trickery.

This “clique” of which Zyroff speaks is what my friends and I at FREADOM affectionately call the “Gang of Five.” Though there are more in the gang than five, this is a fun way to delineate the main “Squealers” whose speeches and quotes are often found not just in the pages of American Libraries, but also in Granma, the loud-mouthpiece for the Cuban Communist Party and only paper of record permitted in Cuba. These are Fidel’s faithful library idiots, but sadly they have exercised undue moral and political influence within the ALA.

The first is kind of a small fry, except when you learn that Al Kagan has served on ALA committees which judged the veracity of human rights abuses in Cuba. Mr. Kagan was one of the wolves responsible for investigating the incidents of book burning in Cuba, though as we saw that investigation was a sham in this regard (See Part II).

What is especially inexcusable for a supposed civil liberties group like the ALA is that Mr. Kagan has managed to get himself appointed as ALA’s representative to IFLA’s important FAIFE committee. As such, he is responsible to carry out the ALA’s intellectual freedom policies in accordance with Article 19 of the UN Declaration – the very same document that Castro stops at his borders and then burns if it gets through.

The reason it is treasonous to the ALA’s mission to have Kagan in that position is clear, based on just one example. In his own words he has reported to his colleagues, in one of those reports that get filed but never read, that he actually sided with the Cuban delegation at a FAIFE meeting in vilifying and pre-judging the persecuted independent librarians and in backing up her “impassioned rebuttal to the FAIFE report” which had criticized Cuba.

It is a disgrace that a man who had openly sided with tyranny against liberty, with imprisonment against freedom, and with Castro against the ALA principles, was appointed by the ALA hierarchy to judge the accuracy of the charges of persecution against dissidents that he himself had already joined Cuban lackeys in slandering!!! And as you will see, it only gets worse the deeper you dig.

Second in the gang is New Jersey public and labor librarian, Ann Sparanese, whom the New York Times voted one of the top librarians in the nation a few years ago. (This was partly because she became a heroine for rescuing Michael Moore’s Stupid White Men from a pre-publication pulping) She is a smooth operator who has served on ALA committees in the past, but who can also turn into an attack dog as quick as you can say “Che.” (The open-access faife-list previously mentioned has examples of this.)

The one bizarre incident that basically sums up her hostility towards the jailed “lawbreakers,” can be seen in the fact that she tried to have documents related to an appeal from the wife of a jailed librarian actually struck from the official Council record in 2004! Furthermore, she then moved to squash the freedom of International Relation Committee officials by strictly mandating how they had to reply when public inquiries were made about Cuba. The motions were absurd and insanely censorial, and the Council did reject them, but it showed the contempt she has towards Cubans in jail for spreading the wrong reading material.

What is perhaps most telling about Ms. Sparanese, which would explain her zeal to defend Castro wherever curses against him are found, is her confession to a journalist that joining the Venceremos Brigade was “the most formative experience of my life.

Since we found out in Part II that Mr. Wood trusts the New York Times as a source of information, I would like to draw his attention to the October 9th, 1977 issue of that paper of record. It was reported there how the testimony of Cuban intelligence (DGI) defectors revealed to US investigators how the DGI actually created the Venceremos Brigade. They saw it as an active measures and subversion effort in hopes of recruiting loyal activists who could gather valuable intelligence on the US., as well as spread positive propaganda at the same time.

Furthermore, in one of those magnificent gifts of timing from God, it was reported just last week that the second volume based on the incredible Mitrokhin papers confirm the old New York Times story about the KGB origins of the Venceremos Brigade. Vasili Mitrokhin was a former KGB archivist who defected to Britain in 1992 and this new volume by a highly acclaimed author confirms that the KGB helped set up Cuba's DGI intelligence service, which saw American Venceremos travelers as "an important propaganda asset."

Interestingly enough, even the daughter of former ALA-President, Mitch Freedman, has joined up with the Brigade, and in e-mails to one another the “progressives” proudly address the others as “Brigadistas.” Of course most members of the Brigade were and are not now apprised of this original purpose for sending worshipping mobs of American radicals into the sugar cane fields, but then again that is why Lenin and his heirs considered them useful idiots.

Of course many ALA Councilors, if they happened to stumble upon this article, would probably take issue with most of what I document, though I think it is rather how I interpret the public record that might upset them. But in the case of Sparanese, let us even leave aside for a moment her devotion to the most Pro-Castro group in the US, and consider just one comment of hers to the Council e-mail list. How can fellow Councilors argue with Mrs. Zyroff’s assessment of their own lack of courage when Sparanese makes comments like these and nobody seems to blink?

“At some point, maybe not yet, we will have to confront the dilemma that it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to have libraries and library values as we know them, in a society that no longer has the other civil liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. I am pretty sure that Al Kagan, in one of our debates on the council floor, made this point, and it is even more true as time goes on.”

No doubt a good many thinking people would see this kind of statement as an example of the hysteria that former Attorney General, John Ashcroft, got in trouble for opining about. His critics have made him into more of an adversary than he really was, considering that three decades and more ago his predecessors at Justice, and in Congress, were rightly questioning such loose ties with foreign diplomats and known intelligence operations. In some cases the ties were innocent, non-existent or entirely fabricated, or even legitimate, but in other cases they were not (See Stephen Karetzky’s Not Seeing Red: American librarianship and the Soviet Union, 1917-1960).

It would seem to me that if librarians do not want to be called hysterical then we should acknowledge when extremists do make hysterical claims and then have the fortitude to challenge those statements. In fairness to the many Councilors who probably never even read the debates on the voluntary, unofficial Council e-mail list, they may not be aware of comments like these that are frequently made. Perhaps someone skilled in public relations could recommend that they take notice occasionally to what some of their colleagues are writing and voting on. Erstwhile allies and editors certainly are.

And since I will be charged with witch hunting for merely documenting these things, let me make clear that I am not charging Ms. Sparanese with being a Cuban intelligence contact, or a paid propagandist for the Cuban diplomats she shares the podium with at Venceremos meetings (although of course with this week’s confirming Mitrokin revelations it is just as possible that she could be). In fact, one of the great differences between the US and Cuba is that she has the right to express these views, while those she castigates in Cuba are entitled only to wrongs.

What I am suggesting, however, is that one would certainly be justified in being skeptical of the conclusions of people like her, who routinely charge that Cubans distributing books that are hard, or dangerous, to find in the official Cuban libraries, are paid agents of the CIA – with absolutely no shred of evidence, except for the word of Cuban prosecutors. Let’s remember, some of the “evidence” used to convict the unorthodox librarians at their 1-day show trials was presented by intelligence agents who posed as librarians or reporters in order to entrap and infiltrate “the opposition.” If an FBI agent posed as a librarian in order to fabricate evidence against a librarian, even against someone like Ms. Sparanese, every conservative, libertarian or liberal librarian that I know would go to the streets in protest.

The third person in this 'moguchaya kuchka,' Rhonda Neugebauer, shares one of the same sterling credentials for judging Cuba that only Sparanese and an elite group of 5069 others do. In April of 2003, when most of the world – left, right, center, over, and under, including Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky — had sharply criticized Castro for publicly stepping on 75 cockroaches for freely expressing things that he doesn’t permit, these two Council members signed the frantic propaganda statement “To the Conscience of the World.”

Think about that? At a time when hundreds of artists, intellectuals, and even Communist Party members who had previously been among Fidel’s staunchest ideological supporters were abandoning him for this flagrant violation of human dignity, two of the ALA’s main Cuba experts were basically signing a loyalty statement to His Bearded Majesty. You may begin to see the travesty in all this when you then consider that both Neugebauer and Sparanese served as primary witnesses in 2001 for the ALA International Relations Committee’s (IRC) “investigations” regarding Cuba! Neugebauer has led numerous groups of librarians on trips to Cuba as well. 

Another distinguishing sign of Neugebauer’s professional credentials is that both Philip Agee, writing in Granma, and Cuba’s official librarians, have cited her oft-repeated 2002 report in their fulminations. (Anyone wishing to understand the clever but twisted arguments of this gang would find most of them delineated well here. A short critique of Neugebauer’s logic by a librarian is found here.) The reasons we are supposed to side with the jailing of “gusano” (worm), counter-revolutionary maggots are usually these: the evil blockade, the evil blockade, the evil blockade (it is embargo in fact), the Congressionally-legislated funding of non-profit groups which promote civil society and “transition” in Cuba, and send faxes and books to independent thinkers. When these arguments weaken, screaming “CIA” usually confuses people whose critical thinking skills are lacking anyway.

Isn’t it strange how people who have fled places like Cuba have such a different perspective than those who come on tours? Consider the case of Norma Montero, a branch manger of a Los Angeles-area library, who for some reason has not been asked to testify before any vaunted ALA investigations. Unlike visitors, she actually spent 10 years working in the National Library that Senor Acosta feasts ALA leaders in. She confirmed for me this information found in a 2000 news report:

“She [Montero] also recalls how, after Cuban writers were arrested, went into exile, or were otherwise officially disgraced, staff meetings were held at the National Library and orders issued to remove the works of the offending authors. Ms. Montero reports that some of the purged books were destroyed; others disappeared into a special locked area of the library known among staff members as the "Infiernillo" ("Little Hell"). Only a few librarians, members of the Communist Party, were permitted to enter the Little Hell or to possess keys to it, and only approved researchers were allowed to read books kept in the Little Hell.”

Once again, dozens of articles in library journals and elsewhere confirm that this is precisely the same pattern of censorship and destruction that the Soviets forced on every national library system they ever took over. Of course, even Leninist systems can reform, and Mrs. Montero also confirmed that this “Infiernillo” arrangement is probably no longer in operation at Cuba’s National Library. But for American librarians to visit such libraries and proclaim them censorship-free zones just because they find controversial, anti-revolutionary titles in the card catalogue is worse than a complete joke. Cuban security agents don’t need a warrant to trace down who has been checking out certain books.

By accepting such assertions, the ALA is in fact contradicting a 2001 FAIFE report which clearly points out how the freedom to read is practiced in Cuba. As FREADOM member, Werner Lind, pointed out last week on the faife-list, that report concluded:

“…should a work hold opinions that contradict the cultural or educational policy of the country it is not likely to be selected and made publicly available…. there is no doubt that a wide range of information or literature expressing current opinions is unavailable in the libraries of Cuba.  Even when publications are held, their use may be restricted or monitored to the extent that ordinary people may be inhibited or even prevented from gaining access to them.” 

Now, how did our Number 3 respond to Montero when they met up in 2001 at an ALA forum on freedom of speech in Cuba (they need “forums” for such “questions”)? Montero – who grew up around Party hacks mind you – told me that meeting this ALA Latin American “expert” was one of the nastiest experiences she ever had. As was mentioned earlier with regards to the censure of open debate about Cuba in Toronto: some free speech has no right to be heard.

Moving on the Fidelista #4 is the ALA Council’s resident Stalinist, and unlike Mrs. Schneider, I am not being rhetorical. The ever-colorful Mark Rosenzweig is the unofficial librarian and archivist for the US Communist Party (CPUSA), he credits Gus Hall (that brilliant Leninist theoretician!) with the idea for starting the Marxist Study Center and CPUSA archives that he heads, he led the failed legal effort to prevent the Library of Congress from publicly releasing the early and damning archives of the CPUSA, and he has actually hawked books by Joseph Stalin on his website (and we all know what a champion for liberty old Joe was).

One interesting historical, and perhaps biographical, note is that the front portion of Rosenzweig’s personal e-mail account is “iskra,” which most Council members may not remember is the Russian word meaning “spark,” and the name of an early  propaganda organ which Vladimir Lenin resigned from when he couldn’t force his Marxist doctrinal interpretations on other “Social Democrats.” 

Like his Bolshevik predecessor, Rosenzweig is the author of countless proclamations and drafts of resolutions, some of which occasionally make it to the floor of the ALA, where, thankfully, they usually fall victim to revisionism. One such “Librarians Against War” emergency declaration against the US forces about to “occupy” Afghanistan in 2001 was going to declare: “We call for the causes of terrorism against the United States to be addressed within the lawful framework instead of through the perpetuation of barbarism!”

Then, sounding like a war cry from Trotsky, Rosenzweig, whose loud and lengthy missives sometimes influence Council votes, concluded by proclaiming “Cultural workers, teacher, librarians, artists: unite against vengeance for vengeance sake, unite against terror bombing as an answer to terrorism!”

Oddly enough, part of that declaration calling for legal action against the U.S. for causing terrorism, got it completely right about “The misery of rule by a theocratic police state which has imposed an aberrant, pathological form of Islamic fundamentalism on its hapless people.” (Fortunately, the proposed resolution never made it to the Council; the liberation of Afghanistan began the day it was unveiled.)

Like Castro’s great “love” of books, all one really needs to know to understand Mr. Rosenzweig’s position on Cuba is that when the ALA Council issued its January 2004 report, which did contain some appropriate but mild criticisms of Cuba (along with the requisite condemnations of the US), he immediately wrote a public apology to Uncle Fido for the way in which US librarians had shamed themselves by attacking ‘The Revolution.’

His own views on the “non-librarians” who were jailed in 2003 are also indicative of how the gang views dissidents in Cuba, who are apriori judged guilty because they have openly received books, fax machines, radios, and medicine from the imperialists at the US Interests Section and US-based non-profit groups. It is true, the number of publications sent, including pamphlets and 1-page newsletters, has perhaps reached more than 2 million over the last several years, but the legitimate question as to whether our tax dollars should be spent in a post-Soviet era on these psychological and cultural warfare games with Castro is not the issue. Whether or not the people of Cuba have the right to receive such information from any source and lend it freely, as ALA core principles say they do, is the key intellectual freedom issue the Sandalistas refuse to acknowledge.

In a Feb 2002 New York Times article Rosenzweig said "These people were caught up in an unfortunate affair set up by the regime change experts in the United States…I can't say they got what they deserved, but they ended up violating the laws of the Cuban state. They were tried in trials which to the best of my knowledge conformed to the principles of Cuban legality."

Apparently this great theorist of political freedom is another Council member who has yet to read the chapter on Cuba’s “legal” system, which was outlined clearly by the Human Rights Watch Report that Fidel’s goons were burning in 2003.

Or, maybe the problem is that he agrees with another famous fellow-traveler and supporter of Stalin, Roger Baldwin. Mr. Baldwin, who co-founded the ACLU and who always welcomed Communist Party members on the board, once acknowledged that “Repressions in western democracies are violations of professed constitutional liberties and I condemn them as such. Repressions in Soviet Russia are weapons of struggle in a transition period to socialism.’” 

Speaking of Russia, Rosenzweig served as the front man for the failed effort by the US Communist Party (CPUSA) to prevent the Library of Congress (LOC) from releasing what researchers called “Red Ink,” the pre-1940’s secret CPUSA record of millennialist crusades and treason. As such, the esteemed scholar and head of the LOC, Dr. James H. Billington, was the recipient of one of Rosenzweig’s infamous tirades .

“These papers of the CPUSA are being treated as the booty of the Cold War!” he complained to Billington indignantly, protesting that there was “more than a whiff of the old Cold War mentality” in the LOC’s press release, because it had dared to refer to the CPUSA as “a secret organization.”

The real reason Mr. Rosenzweig and his comrades at the CPUSA did not want these papers to see the light of day, among other reasons, is because they verified that the Party was a fully-owned subsidiary of Stalin, Inc., and the beneficent intelligence operatives at the Comintern. This is very troublesome to Rosenzweig, as he never misses the opportunity to lecture uninformed librarians about how his buddies who were committed to revolutionary violence and absolute fidelity to a foreign organization were merely innocent, first amendment victims of witch hunts, who did so much for social justice in America’s history. (Of course Rosenzweig has also vilified the books of Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes, about which even a Booklist review said “The documents Klehr's team unearthed illustrate the total dependence of U.S. Communist Party members on the Soviet Union.”)

When documented statements like these are presented in public, especially to fellow librarians, Rosenzweig goes absolutely intercontinental ballistic. He starts making wild accusations of anti-Semitism (this from a Jewish atheist who supports the PLO?), launching character-assassination attempts, and screaming “McCarthyism” at the top of his Leninist lungs in hopes that this itself will stifle discussion of his ideological baggage (The interested reader who really wants to substantiate the kind of mentality I am talking about can search the archives of the ALA Council e-mail list messages, like this one. The e-mail archives of the Progressive Library Guild on the other hand, where Rosenzweig makes many of his charges, remain closed to outsiders, which is their right as a private organization. Despite the secrecy however, lurking “traitors” on the list routinely pass the more outlandish messages around the Internet, a practice this intellectual freedom fighter has threatened to sue people over.)

When famed columnist, Nat Hentoff, outed Rosenzweig as a Castroite ass-kisser, Hentoff was subjected to tirade after tirade about how he hates women because he is pro-life, supports fascism for discussing the Communist-affiliations of certain anti-war protesters, and is an elitist “pseudo-intellectual” whose criticisms the Council should disregard as irrelevant. Oh, and I forgot, Hentoff is also a racist because he publicly chastised Rosenzweig many years ago when Hentoff complained that an ALA resolution forbidding books to be sent to South Africa was a clear violation of intellectual freedom and hurt blacks as well.

Frankly, I don’t think anyone can argue that portraying Rosenzweig as a Stalinist is unfair. Nor have I implied that he is less-than-human or unworthy of respect because he holds such discredited dreams. But seriously, would it be unfair to label an ALA member who worked to prevent the public release of Nazi records, praised Nazi theoreticians for their theories on race relations, and sold the speeches of Adolph Hitler online a….well, Nazi? Yet ALA Councilors are content to let a fellow who sells the speeches of Joseph Stalin give them lectures on civil rights and influence policy towards Cuba.

Moving on to number five in the gang, we arrive there by way of one of Rosenzweig’s most slavish disciples, the mild-mannered radical, Rory Litwin. He is not, per se, one of the gang of five, but his recently-defunct and occasionally thought-provoking journal was widely respected in library land and was always open to repeating the proper line on Cuba. Jack Stephens, the LA-based librarian and conservative blogger, recently reminded his readers to “…recall that Litwin devoted seven entire issues of Library Juice to defending Fidel Castro's one-party state in Cuba.” 

In several of those articles Litwin published the comments of a British chap who would certainly win the Lenin Peace Prize if Brezhnev were still alive and bloviating. Recently even Paul Sturges, the head of IFLA’s FAIFE called him “one of the chief apologists (in the information world) for the few remaining socialist countries…” To read the statements, speeches, travelogues, reviews, lectures, sermons, hostilities and denunciations of someone as prolific and persuaded as Mr. Pateman is like stepping into the pages of Paul Hollander’s classic study, “Political Pilgrims: Travels of Western Intellectuals to the Soviet Union, China, and Cuba.” There one meets dedicated people like him on nearly every page.

But like his Brigadistas across the sea, Pateman’s “objectivity” as a valid source needs to be vigorously challenged by scholars in my profession who claim they are trained to sniff out this sort of thing. For instance, here are just some of comrade John’s academic achievements: glowing book reviews of the speeches (YEEK!) of Fidel Castro and his chief head-hunter, Che; articles in library journals talking about how happy the Cubans are to have the works of Marx and Lenin available in their libraries; and essays which argue how Cuba, North Korea, the former Soviet Union, and Vietnam have the truly advanced library services (The same Vietnam that even Don Wood’s book burning page has a link to because of the periodic book-burning orgies by-the-ton by that country’s ideological pit bulls.)

After the Eastern European luminaries made their historic appeal to IFLA (which was pretty much shushed under the table), brother John was not a happy camper. Sounding even more revolutionary than his handlers -- (Oops, did I write that?)--, ah…friends back in Cuba, this was his reasoned response: “Vaclav Havel, Elena Bonner and the former Prime Ministers of Estonia and Bulgaria, these East European has-beens are venting their bitterness and hatred of communism by assisting the US in its relentless attack on Cuba.”

Then, in a history lesson and ideological spanking that must have been news to the Europeans he said:

“Before the organized removal of communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, these countries had very well developed library and education systems and high levels of literacy. Today much of that legacy has been wiped out by market forces, consumerism and capitalism. Cuba, on the other hand, has a comprehensive library system that is well stocked, well staffed, and fully socially inclusive. There are more teachers per head of population in Cuba than in any other country in the world. And the literacy rate of nearly 100% puts the UK and US to shame.”

The whining about the “organized removal” of communism is thinner than Gulag gruel, but it is true that several national library systems have suffered decline in some areas since they stopped receiving Russian assistance. But since they were Leninist (See Part III), they were also hostile to intellectual freedom, private book ownership, tens-of-thousands of individual titles, and any hint of deviationist “bourgeois individualism.”

And what of the fate of the authors and readers of all these banned books? They were burned to death by the frostbite in the Kolyma death camps. “Ah yes, but they had great libraries!” Pateman would probably respond (See Ilkka Makinen, “Libraries in Hell:: Cultural Activities in Soviet Prisons and Labor Camps from the 1930’s to the 1950’5,” Libraries and Culture 28 [Spring 1993]: 117-42)

If Mr. Pateman sounds like a communist ideologue, that’s perhaps because he probably is. One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry when they read confessions of his pilgrimages to Cuba. If you think I am being unfair, here is the highlight of his fifth trip to Cuba, when he received awards for his service to the Revolution: 

“The medal was pinned on me by the Vice Minister who gave me a very firm Cuban hug of friendship and solidarity. I made a short acceptance speech which ended with the slogans "Long Live the Cuban Revolution ! Long Live Comrade Fidel Castro ! Venceremos !" We were then served with rum cocktails while I talked with the Vice Minister and he explained the important role that Culture plays in the Cuban Revolution.”

But wait, it gets worse. 

Describing his 6th holy-rollin trip to Cuba’s messianic island he concluded by exclaiming “And so my sixth visit to Cuba came to an end, crowned with the honour of sharing a stage with comrade Fidel Castro, commander of the Cuban people and the Revolution. Having visited the Museum of the Revolution at the start at my visit I could only marvel at and admire the way in which Fidel has kept the Revolution on course for 44 years.”

The facts to not phase these people! Arguing with a hard line Fidelista is like trying to reason with a drunk; nothing can really be accomplished until the stupor wears off, and they find themselves with a hangover. Whether or not he too works closely with the British version of the CPUSA, or in cahoots with Cuban “diplomats,” I have no idea, but in this regard the response of one Polish librarian who faced Pateman’s revolutionary wrath is interesting:

“I would not be surprised if a letter similar to yours originated from Cuban officials or from an obedient organization of Cuban librarians: I would have no right to blame them, for little choice do they have,” responded Bozena Bednarek-Michalska. “But you? living in a free country and enjoying the liberty to obtain, judge and disseminate any kind of information puts on one an obligation to remain honest and critical in one's assessments; your letter is not.”

The exact same question needs to put to the ALA leadership – how can librarians living in a free country, who have the liberty to obtain and judge all the information I have mentioned (and much, much more), tell us they are being critical when they allow Fidel’s own Gang of Five to have any influence whatsoever with regards to “investigations” into Cuba? Of course, I don’t doubt this would be highly embarrassing for them, for the gang members have often been their tour guides on trips to Cuba!

When I discussed some of these extreme oddities with Holly Ackerman, the chief US researcher on Cuba for Amnesty International (See Part II), she was incredulous that a professional organization like the ALA would allow functionaries like these to sit in places of judgment regarding Cuba. While shocking, it did help her to understand why she never received an answer to her offer of help to the ALA when she discovered that Al Kagan was one of the handful of Councilors picked to write a report.

In a better day, these folks would not have such influence on the ALA’s international affairs, nor would they be sitting on Intellectual Freedom Committees. Rather, they would be sitting in front of Congressional Committees answering questions about ties to Cuban diplomats and relationships with the Cuban Communist Party. In fact, Ms. Sparanese’s name appears twice in 1970’s Senate and House Internal Security hearings on the Venceremos Brigade and Weather Underground. Of course that sentence will be the one the gang members choose to try and discredit me with, so this is a good time to recall the words of David Horowitz, who, while he has rightly criticized the abuses of Senator Joseph McCarthy, also pointed out that:

“The opening of the Soviet archives and the release of the Venona decrypts have established beyond any reasonable doubt that McCarthy's so-called victims - with few exceptions (James Wechsler would be one) -- were people who either served the intelligence agencies of the biggest mass murderer in history or supported the despotic empire he built, or were fellow-travelers of the same,” said Horowitz, who added that “The remedy for preventing such injustices as occurred through the hearings of McCarthy's subcommittee and the House Committee on Un-American Activities would be to close congressional hearings to the public.”

One can only wonder what kinds of surprises await us when the Havana archives and Cuban intelligence files are finally opened? The Mitrokhin files give us a hint, but don’t go hoping that the government watchdogs at the ALA and ACLU are going to file Freedom of Information Act requests about the Venceremos Brigade anytime soon.

Of course, as Americans living under the guarantees of the Constitutions, which they claim are nearly defunct, Sparanese & Gang are free to associate with CPUSA, side with Cuban delegates at international forums on human rights, or applaud shock brigades founded by the Cuban intelligence services, but why must the majority of ALA Councilors passively go along with such trumpeting of totalitarian lies? How can they accept the recommendations of colleagues who take the side of the Cuban policemen who beat dissident librarians, and who pontificate as if they know better than Amnesty International about the real status of human rights in Cuba? (Everyone eats, everyone reads, everyone is healthy, everyone obeys…)

Despite there being some principled committee members not mentioned here who have in fact worked behind the scenes to produce stronger and more principled committee reports on Cuba, why have so few been willing to challenge this travesty in public? How is it that they can pass a resolution on torture (the brain-child of Rosenzweig it turns out), which includes the following words from their own by-laws, and yet not come to the aid of librarians and writers who are beaten, framed, and jailed?

"Courageous men and women, in difficult and dangerous circumstances throughout human history, have demonstrated that freedom lives in the human heart and cries out for justice even in the face of threats, enslavement, imprisonment, torture, exile, and death.  We draw inspiration from their example.  They challenge us to remain steadfast in our most basic professional responsibility to promote and defend the right of free expression." ALA policy 53.1.12

Why can’t ALA President, Michael Gorman, not take some initiative and make a public statement about the ongoing persecution of independent librarians in Cuba, or invite Ramon Colas to come and give a presentation at the next convention to honor him? After all, this is what Gorman said about Cuba when asked about the issue during his campaign:

"I am utterly and unalterably opposed to restrictions on freedom of speech and expression by any government or government agency in any country,” he said, adding, "I believe in intellectual freedom and the right of free expression and wish those were available to all people in all countries."

Whatever the reasons are, it is a sham and a professional embarrassment that such relics who support last century’s murderous communist regimes are not resisted within the ALA, or ignored altogether. The spectacle of allowing such dogmatists to sit on policymaking committees dedicated to the very principles which Castro so routinely stomps on—is this really that different than if there were members in good standing who publicly advocated the Nazi Party or Aryan supremacy? In short, why do the commies still get a free ride?

Ah, but I forget, according to the reigning worldview, it is primarily Nazi’s and crazed Fundamentalist Christians who burn books; who would do that kind of thing on the left?

As a librarian I think it is important to remember, even given these nonsensical political shenanigans, and the oversimplifications and distortions about “banning” that we hear each Banned Books Week, that our nation’s libraries are indeed one of the greatest assets to our national wealth and political health. Although official library mythology places these “arsenals of democracy” at the top of the list of vital institutions guaranteeing American liberty (above the family, churches and synagogues, Congress, and the free press), it is nonetheless true that Americans of all persuasions have much to thank our librarians for every week of the year.

The quotes from Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, Lincoln, and many others, which are found on ALA web pages, are not just window dressing. National issues of government secrecy and accountability, the right for citizens to be informed, the freedom to publish and to assemble and speak freely, and other practical, more local issues like literacy, archival and historic preservation, civic education and involvement and plain old leisure time are just some of the reasons why our public libraries are worth supporting.

Plus, critics of the ALA nomenklatura like myself are happy to remind people that the Council has almost no power to enforce any of its recommendations at the local or state level: the Gang of Five & friends could push through a resolution commending the collected works of Chairman Mao as essential reading, but not a single citizen is bound to pay any attention to anything they say. It isn’t like a lot of folks are that concerned about what the Council resolves to say anyway. Honestly, how many people know that the Council recently passed anti-Iraq war and anti-torture resolutions?

But the question remains: how is it that the American Library Association, which is supposed to represent the great diversity of opinion within our Republic, has been allowed to morph into the American Left-Wing Library Association, as one library blogger recently argued in the Chronicle of Higher Education? It is the library profession’s moral powers of persuasion that suffer when people see this obvious hypocrisy. Fortunately, this political incorrectness in the hierarchy in most cases does not trickle down to stifle free debate and freedom of expression at the local level, and most actual public libraries remain free-thinking zones where all citizens can sponsor events or request items for the collection without doctrinal hassles.

It is also good news that Fidel’s loyal librarians within the ALA cannot prevent local libraries from coming to the aid of Cuba’s beleaguered Independent Libraries. As is the case for those citizens who dare to check out dangerous books in Cuba, it is civic involvement that will eventually destroy the trappings of an entrenched bureaucracy. So, if you’d like to pick up the rifle of a book and lend a hand in breaking the information blockade not only within Cuba, but also about Cuba, then the example of the Vermillion, South Dakota library is a great one to follow. (Visit the FREADOM website or e-mail here to learn how.)

The trustees of that library voted last November to adopt the Dulce Maria Loynaz Library in Havana, which had most of its collection confiscated in government raids. Following the cities of Paris and Strasbourg, they were the first library in the US to sponsor an independent Cuban library. Sponsorship has included periodic shipments of library materials and the moral support that solidarity provides for people who have to live through the nightmare now that the ALA elites keep warning is coming to a library near you soon.

Cuban librarians have to say what Party propagandists instruct them to say in foreign venues, and lately, in order to deflect criticism, they have been yelling and screaming about the horrible, abusive Patriot Act in the USA. Funny how the Gang of Five and other leaders in the ALA talk about this over and over as well, with all their urgent warnings of lost freedoms and creeping fascism.

I wonder sometime, if in the privacy of their own thoughts, many Cubans who hear about the details of the Patriot Act might not think: “If only we had such laws in Cuba: an independent judiciary to approve warrants, a real Congress and real newspapers to change and debate the laws, and a free library to read about it in with librarians who had the right to dissent.”

Cubans understand communism; what’s wrong with those who claim to be protectors of our liberties?

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Walter Skold is a librarian, poet, and journalist living in Freeport, Maine with his five children and trusty computer, Rover. He is co-chair of the advocacy group FREADOM.


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