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Castro's Library Pass (Part I) By: Walter Skold
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, October 12, 2005


[This is Part I of a four-part series on the American Library Association's pandering to Fidel Castro's totalitarian regime. - The Editors]

Another annual Banned Books Week (BBW) ended just over a week ago, and some readers may have read news accounts about how the valiant efforts of librarians are saving our social fabric from rabid groups of theocratic, homophobic monsters just waiting to emerge from church basements and Conservative foundations to torch any book from any library that doesn’t meet their rigid doctrinal standards. The nationwide marketing campaign is promoted each year by a coalition of publishers, booksellers, and the American Library Association (ALA), and it usually gets heavy coverage in the press. Some of the rhetoric connected with the celebration is shrill, or hysterical, while in other cases librarians and writers are indeed trying to focus attention on ill-advised, unconstitutional and serious challenges to intellectual freedom and First Amendment freedoms in the United States, from left, right and center.

But amidst all the press releases and speeches and warnings about censorship and the threats to our freedoms to read under an authoritarian King George Bush, II, there is a troubling little matter that top ALA officials seemingly have no qualms about censoring. Now I happen to agree with many of my “liberal” or far-left library colleagues that there are very real potential threats to our liberties that increased secrecy and authority in government policies and capabilities represent, yet American should be asking why various leaders of the ALA are so timid, if not supportive, of a current squashing of liberties that is far more draconian than anything John Ashcroft has ever dreamed of.

Though liberals are usually a bit queasy about lists, BBW organizers present a list every year of the “most challenged books” in the U.S., and displays of banned books are put up in school and public libraries across the land. Students and community groups are encouraged to get together during the week to either read from the so-called “banned books,” or to take part in events which will hopefully spark public debate. There is one very troublesome list of books, however, that is being ignored – perhaps even censored – by the “watchdogs” who compose our lists of censored books.

For some background, most of the books on the yearly lists have been “banned,” not usually, if ever, by governing authorities, but by individuals or local groups who feel that the offending books are too racist (Mark Twain), too racy (Madonna’s “Sex” book) too religious (The Bible), too demonic (Harry Potter), too anti-gay, too PC (Cop Killer ) or too you fill in the blank. In the majority of these cases the situation is worked out locally by compromise, open debate, educating the complainants about the Library Bill of Rights, shame due to media pressure, or threats of a lawsuit. In some cases it is decided that certain books do not actually belong on the shelves of elementary school libraries, for instance, but with few exceptions, the people involved do not often demand that such books be removed from adult collections in public libraries.

 

But the legitimate semantic and philosophical discussions over what constitutes “banning,” challenges, and community values, which itself shows the strength of our public discourse and the free and widespread exercise of our liberties, is clearly distinct from the incineration of books, which burst into flame at 451 Fahrenheit.

 

Don Wood is the Program Officer of the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF), and of all people at the ALA he is considered one of the leading experts regarding intellectual freedom issues and controversies. As part of his job, Mr. Wood edits IFACTION, an Intellectual Freedom Action e-mail list, and he is also in charge of the OIF’s truly fascinating and generally excellent web pages related to book burning. It is precisely because of his background and well-established activism that it is so troubling that he will not promote the list of which I am speaking.

 

It is a list – or we could even say “black list” – that includes authors like Martin Luther King Jr., Carlos Franqui, Huber Matos, and Vaclav Havel, and includes titles like the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, the US Constitution, the Life of John Paul, and The Black Book of Communism, to name just a few.

And if you wonder what these books may have in common then my friend Steve Marquardt, PH.D, the co-founder of a group called FREADOM, and the Dean of Libraries at South Dakota State University, has the answer for you.

“They are among the hundreds of books, pamphlets, and personal papers that have been judged ‘subversive’ and ordered burned by Cuban authorities in recent years in their crackdown against independent libraries and independent thought,” says Marquardt, who is a long-time human rights activist.

“In America, local librarians are often on the front lines of defense for upholding the principles of intellectual freedom and the freedom to read,” said Marquardt, in a press release issued last week by FREADOM, “But in Cuba, book burning is documented as a state-sanctioned answer to independent reading.”        

The 2-year old list of books that he is referring to is found at the Rule of Law website of the Center for the Advancement of Human Rights, which has posted sentencing documents smuggled from Cuba from the well-known trials of 75 journalists, independent librarians, and opposition group activists who were jailed in 2003. These bizarre and absurd, yet chilling documents, detail the numerous materials that were ordered incinerated and/or destroyed by the magistrates of Castro’s own personal kangaroo courts.

“We librarians have the freedom to oppose our President, circulate books which argue that he is a criminal, help change our laws, or find any book on any topic that a patron wants,” Marquardt reminds his fellow librarians, “But in Cuba you can go to jail for lending the wrong book to your neighbor.”

Unfortunately, high school students searching the OIF’s web pages for projects about BBW recently would have never found out about this remarkable list because Mr. Wood has so far refused to acknowledge that the damning documents are “legitimate.” It is yet another chapter in the sorry tale of the ALA’s abdication of principle when it comes to Cuba, and I will address Wood’s disingenuous justification for this information blockade on Castro’s latest crimes in Part II.

Part III will discuss how Castro’s Leninist librarians have joined with Pro-Castro ALA leaders to justify the repression of the independent library movement in Cuba and will contrast that with the outspokenness and principle of Eastern European librarians who together have centuries of understanding about the burning and banning of books. Despite the mountains of evidence, much of it presented in the list of books the ALA wont publicize, the same 20th Century blinders described in Stephen Karetzky’s brilliant and groundbreaking Not Seeing Red: American librarianship and the Soviet Union, 1917-1960, continue to plague official American and international librarianship today. What’s worse, Part IV will describe in detail how some of the ALA’s most influential supporters of Castro’s failing brand of communism with a bearded face lobby for him at the ALA, and do so out of ideological commitment and agreement with him, not just because of “Ignorance, naiveté, [or] fantasy,” as Karetzky describes in his 500-page expose.

By way of disclosure, I am also the co-chair of FREADOM, but I write on behalf of myself, not the group. For two years my fellow FREADOM members and I have witnessed what is arguably one of the most egregious examples of hypocrisy and Castro-bootlicking by Marxist elites that exists in a major US organization (unless you consider Hollywood an “organization”). Were the whole story to be written it would take a book (some of it is chronicled here), but in the spirit of BBW, it is appropriate for Americans to know about this list of books which met their death by fire, and now again by ALA silence.

Before we look at the books, and the reasons why Fidel might have wanted them burned, I want to make it clear that the actions of ALA individuals and committees which I condemn and/or question here are not indicative of the mass of American librarians, the great majority of whom are committed to intellectual freedom, the necessity for truly diverse collections, and quality public service. In fact, in my own experience in New England, 9.5 out of 10 people that I have talked with about the ALA’s betrayal of principle in relation to Cuba have responded with either outrage or disbelief when they were apprised of the facts.

Unfortunately, the facts keep getting worse the deeper one digs for them.

So, as an exercise in bringing what has been hidden to light, let’s analyze the censored list by taking a look at the very words of book reviews which have been written in the library profession’s own leading journals. Readers will make their own judgments, but I think this brief literary experiment clearly indicts the pro-Castro sycophants on various ALA committees, and it does not speak well for the non-ideological majority of ALA Councilors who either refuse to speak up or simply choose not to see the obvious abridgements in Cuba of nearly every principle and right which American librarians say they cherish.

First on this blacklist is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (#1), especially article 19, which the ALA itself adopted as official policy in 1991. It states:

"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." - Article 19, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

That sounds great, and it is, and hey, what do you know, this is what a 1997 Cuban report to the UN declared: “The rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights are formulated in and protected by current legislation in Cuba. In particular, the Constitution of the Republic endorses each of those rights and specifies the essential guarantees of their exercise. Furthermore, all the rights and freedoms enunciated in the Constitution are duly elaborated in various legal provisions that make up our domestic substantive law.

Question: if this is true, why is it that the court documents from Cuba detail the orders to literally incinerate over 100 copies of this human rights pamphlet, which is in accordance with Cuba’s great socialist Constitution? The answer is seen in a pattern which will develop as we go along: public statements and promises to gullible international bodies and leaders on the surface, with brutal repression in reality.

Speaking of the Cuban Constitution, this brings us to the 2nd title on the burn list, the 1999 report by Human Rights Watch, entitled Cuba's Repressive Machinery. The comprehensive report, which also details torture, executions, beatings, show trials, loss of job, loss of rights and assorted other benefits of “Progressive” states, also has much to say about the Cuban Constitution.

The lengthy report points out that while the Cuban constitution guarantees "the full freedom and dignity of men… multiple constitutional provisions undermine these guarantees.” For instance, “the constitution nullifies freedoms when they are contrary to ‘the goals of the socialist State,’ ‘socialist legality,’ or the ‘people's decision to build socialism and communism.’”

The publication then explains how several additional constitutional articles actually restrict the very rights they claim to ensure, for example, the freedoms of speech and press exist "in keeping with the goals of the socialist society;" that these freedoms are assured by mandating that "press, radio, television, films, and other mass media are state or social property, and may in no instance be the object of private ownership;" and that “Cuba's educational and cultural policy must adhere to the ideology of Marx and Martí; promote communist training; and allow for free artistic creation, provided that its content is not contrary to the Revolution."

It seems as though this study making the case for repressive machinery is being devoured by the same repressive machinery it seeks to describe. Borrowing a slogan from US comrades in the 1960’s, “Burn, baby, burn!”

Cleary, since the Communist Party of Cuba has crafted such a versatile Constitution for its subjects, one can see why Fidel might want to commit copies of the US Constitution (#3 on the list) to the flames. But then again, maybe he fears it is subversive of the powers he has labored so long to maintain, because Article II. Sec.1 says that the President “together with the Vice-President, chosen for the same term,” should “be elected,…”

As if article two isn’t bad enough for Fidel the Wise, he would certainly be discouraged if, after he allowed his people to have a real election, they then proceeded to adopt something like our XXII Amendment, Sec.1: which mandates that “No person shall be elected to office of the President more than twice…” (We must not hamper the will of the People!)

Number Four on the list involves an estranged family member of the Castro inner circle by the name of Carlos Franqui, who wrote the book “Family Portrait with Fidel.” He was one of the most popular early revolutionaries in the Cuban imagination, until he perhaps began to shine brighter than the real star of the show would allow. A short review in the Library Journal, perhaps the tool most often relied upon by public librarians to make book selection decisions, says that this insider account “..does document the reasons that led Fidel to betray his colleagues.”

 

Now why would someone like Castro want any copies of tell-all accounts of family secrets circulating among his populace, especially since his life is covered so often and well in the Cuban press? Maybe, like Jack Nicholson said in 1998, “He is a genius?” (Too many flights over the cuckoo’s next, eh Jack,?)

 

In 1991, the reviewer in Library Journal of Georgie Geyer's biography, “Guerrilla Prince: The Untold Story of Fidel Castro,” (No.5) gave a rating of highly recommended, and wrote that the book details “Castro’s brutal treatment of thousands of Cubans and his fanatic hatred of the United States.” The reviewer went on to claim that “The reader is left with a persuasive picture of a paranoid, erratic megalomaniac, whose personal life is a microcosm of his public behavior.”

 

Now normally a megalomaniac would be thrilled that volumes dedicated to his own life’s history were being read by the peasants and workers in his paradise, but in this case the Guerrilla Prince must not have liked some of what was inside the book, which perhaps hit a little too close to home?

Speaking of biographies, another dangerous book sent to paper gehenna was “The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.” (No.6) I guess there is no speaking Truth to Power in Cuba? (There is no racism here in Cuba!)

What makes the burning of this book especially symbolic of the two-faced nature of Castro’s governing and propaganda skills, is that on his historic 2002 trip to Cuba, Jimmy Carter went to visit Hector Palacios, then the director of the Independent Library Project of Cuba, and gave him an autographed copy of King’s autobiography. That book, by the way, was stolen from Palacios’ house a year later when police confiscated nearly the entire collection of books that he was daring to lend to those neighbors brave enough to borrow a copy.

As an important aside from our journey, Human Rights First reported this March in an international appeal that Palacios’s health was seriously deteriorating within the Sugar Cane Gulag. So far, there has been no public response or comment by any official within the ALA, but we can hope someone has written a letter.

And while we are on the subject of dying dissident-librarians, if anyone at the ALA can take time out from warning us about copies of Goosebumps being challenged in school libraries, and read this article, then I’d like them to consider making an appeal to Castro on behalf of Víctor Rolando Arroyo, who was, before being jailed, the director of the Reyes Magos Independent Library of Pinar del Río province. A September 27th International Freedom of Expression Alert says his family is worried about his health in the Guantánamo Provincial Prison hospital after a 2-week hunger strike to protest the treatment he is receiving during his 26-year sentence at this “Guantanoamo Hilton.”

Having taken this brief detour, this is a good spot to provide readers with another quote that is right there on the top of the OIF’s web page on book burning: “Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings." (German: "Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen.")—Heinrich Heine, from his play Almansor (1821).

Another human rights activist that Carter met with on his 2002 trip was the internationally-renowned Oswaldo Payá, who was spearheading the Varela Project just then. Therefore, it may come as no surprise that for book #7 on our menu of Castro’s cooked books, we find El Proyecto Varela, by Alberto Muller and Oswaldo Payá. Not only were copies of this book destroyed, but perhaps hundreds of personal notebooks and petition forms related to this democratic initiative were stolen from independent librarians. And Fidel’s agents did not need to first get permission from any FISA court either. How about that for effective law enforcement! (This is why the crowds love me!)

In his report on the trip, Carter wrote how Castro, after having talked about peanut farming with him the day before, was busy “taking notes” while our former President spoke directly about the human and civil rights issues related to Mr. Paya and the Varela Project. Now we know that he was apparently scribbling a reminder to himself: “When this turkey leaves and the publicity dies down from his speech, remind Raul to take care of all unsecured documents and reports related to Varela.”

The reasons why Castro may feel the need to expunge book #7 from the uncensored library collections threatening his island is precisely due to the information found in book #8: “The Power of the Powerless: Citizens Against the State in Central-Eastern Europe,” by Vaclav Havel, former playwright-dissident and President of Czechoslovakia. Clues can be found in a Kirkus Review of a different Havel book, in which the reviewer says of his style and content:

“The many short critiques and longer, more theoretical essays (``The Power of the Powerless,'' ``Anatomy of a Reticence'') can easily be viewed as calls to action on a wide front; and by calmly and objectively taking stock in each instance, undermining the Party line with ready humor and logic, Havel wields the pen mightily to prove how richly his reputation is deserved. A fitting tribute to a cultural and political hero, and a valuable resource for anyone seeking reassurance that the principles of democracy are still cherished in our time.”

(That will be enough of that thank you. Mr. Castro will decide just who is and who is not fitting for tributes as political heroes and just when calls to action are necessary….)

Given the fate of the last two books, it is not hard to see why #9 was deemed just as dangerous. It is “The Global Resurgence of Democracy”, by Larry Diamond and Marc F. Plattner. A review in Political Studies called this "A useful compilation popularizing the work of an influential journal... The Journal of Democracy is an effective tribune for mainstream U.S. thinking on these issues."

Whoa now --- we all no how insidious mainstream US thinking can be!!!

Time and space prevent me from listing the hundreds of different magazine, books, and pamphlets that went up in Fidel’s bonfires of immense vanity, but a few more are worth mention before we come to the Mother-of-all-Burned-Books.

Book number 10 is “Como Llego La Noche” by Huber Matos, a courageous Cuban patriot whom David Horowitz referred to in his controversial 1986 speech on Nicaragua (Damn traitors, both of em). Number 11 is “Evidence That Demands a Verdict,” a popular apologetics book among Evangelical Christians (Apologizing for the wrong King?). And number 12, which was cremated even before the Pontiff had died, is the book “EI Viaje de Juan Pablo II.” (His visit helped with tourism, but there shall be no other gods besides…”)

Item Number 13 is the one humorous incident that is buried within the sentencing document of one hapless Ivan Hernandez Cheek, who was sent to prison – not by the FBI for having looked at the wrong books at the local library, but because his reading habits were not in goosestep with Cuba’s socialist Constitution. One is almost tempted to say that an appropriate item was burned, for in addition to the 80 copies of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, “several texts of Literature of a religious type,” 113 “subversive” magazines (like Time), he was apparently guilty of possessing a copy of the Communist Party’s own “Granma!” newspaper, which was duly sent to the incinerator with the rest of this ideological garbage.

On second look, it is not so funny, because this judge also ordered that a copy of the Penal Code be torched as well!!! Gulp. If this judge’s mistakes ever come to the light of day we can rest assured that all mentions of him will no longer be found in past editions of Granma! He will get the Trotsky treatment, much easier now that Granma is online.

Saving the most damning book for last, we come to the monumental “The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression,” by Stéephane Courtois [et al.], which was published in the US by The Harvard University Press. Perhaps if Mr. Wood or others on the Intellectual Freedom Committee up there in windy Chicago could read just some of the many good things that were said about this book in so much of the library literature, they would re-consider whether the burning of this book is worthy of mention in their next Banned Books Week?

Starting with the prestigious Library Journal, the review said “Concluding [the authors] that communism's death toll stands at 85 to 100 million, they wonder forcefully why such ‘class genocide’ is excused more easily than the Nazis' ‘race genocide.’ This book burned a hole in the French Left when it was published--and also hit the best sellers lists. Not easy reading, but a seminal document.”

Moving on to the equally authoritative Publisher’s Weekly, we read that the 1,120-page monster is a “damning reckoning of communism's worldwide legacy…(and) Essentially a body count of communism's victims in the 20th century.” It is also called “a fact-based, mostly Russia-centered wallop that will be hard to refute: town burnings, mass deportations, property seizures, family separations, mass murders, planned famines--all chillingly documented from conception to implementation.”

The esteemed journal Booklist described the authors as “Tabulators of the Red Terror from its inception in 1918 down to its vestigial continuation in such countries as North Korea and Cuba,” and continued “It was not, apparently, the recitation of killings that irked the left in France but Courtois' condemnation of Leninist regimes as criminal enterprises. That stance challenged the left's deeply seated tenets that communism, despite excesses, was progressive; that Stalinism was an effect of one personality, not an entire system;…”

 

In words that will have bearing on the third part of this series, the reviewer, Gilbert Taylor, added “...but there remain precincts in the U.S. where it could ignite debate, especially among those who stubbornly cleave to a belief that Lenin, Mao, and Pol Pot were aberrations rather than the essence of communism.”

 

Then in the New York Times Book Review, a company which Mr. Wood cites as one of his highest authorities, Alan Ryan commented of this mother-of-all-blacklisted-books by noting that “To the extent that the book has a literary style, it is that of the recording angel.... It is a criminal indictment, and it rightly reads like one.”

 

In the same vein, here is what one Lack Lauber wrote in 2000 in a volume of History: Review of New Books: “This is an important book for anyone interested in understanding the role of communism in the twentieth century; it expands on the work of such authors as Alexander Solzhenitsyn. The final body count reaches an incomprehensible 85-100 million! The Nazi regime, responsible for an estimated 25 million deaths in its relatively short but brutal career, pales by comparison.”

 

His very last sentence is especially noteworthy: “That the authors are all associated with the intellectual Left makes it even more interesting and valuable.”

 

Chiming in with the chorus of praise for this massive damnation of Leninism was the New Republic, which called it “an extraordinary and almost unspeakably chilling book. It is a major study that deepens our understanding of communism and poses a philosophical and political challenge that cannot be ignored.”

 

Lastly (and there are many more here), writing in the Spring 2001 Wilson Quarterly, Andrzej Paczkowski, the Polish author who co-wrote a chapter in the book, penned a superb essay on the intense academic debate the book sparked.

 

He quotes the insights and criticisms of numerous scholars, including these thoughts from Kenneth Minogue: "The essence of totalitarianism is the project of transforming human life by making people... conform to some single overriding idea," and "What makes Marx central to the totalitarian project is his clear recognition that it was incompatible with the . . . idea of the individual as a unique soul or self capable of bearing rights."

 

From these reviews, it would be obvious to a literate third-grader as to why Fidel would not want copies of this magnum opus mixed into the free debate that he assures visitors takes place under his benign rule. What is more befuddling and much harder to understand, however, is why on earth so many ALA officials seem to doubt, judging by their actions and especially their inactions, that the indictments contained in the Black Book do not pertain to Castro as well?

 

Is it possible they missed the chapter on Cuba in the book? It is not pretty reading, and yes, as one review complained, it is not based on as much solid evidence as the information on the Soviet Union is. The very good reason for that is because Cuba is still ruled by the Communist Party, and the secret archives are not yet available for scholarly review.

 

Maybe next time one of the journalists from the ALA’s American Libraries magazine travels to Cuba with another delegation of “progressive” librarians on yet another tour monitored and guided by Cuban intelligence officers, they could do me a favor and check the library shelves for this book. (Ah, the cost of paper, you see; it is because of the blockade!) It would also be interesting to try and confirm just how many people have taken the book out if in fact it is there? Of course, given the duplicitous history of the State-beholden and unelected library leaders, and the skill with which they give Potemkin-village tours, they may have asked the police to save a copy or two from the flames so they can “prove” to gullible and self-blinded American visitors (Look for yourself, it’s right there in the card catalogue, ya dumb Yankee) just what wonderful freedoms to read everybody has in Cuba.

Nearing the end of this literary exercise, I’d like to cite from another remarkable quote by President Eisenhower that happens to be displayed prominently on the main ALA book-burning page referred to earlier. It reads:

“How will we defeat communism unless we know what it is, what it teaches, and why does it have such an appeal for men, why are so many people swearing allegiance to it? It's almost a religion, albeit one of the nether regions.”

So here are two questions for those folks at the ALA whose job it is to monitor abuses of intellectual freedom: 1.) Do you still believe that the defeat of communism is a positive good? 2.) Do you believe that the Cuban people ought to have the freedom to read and debate books like the ones above, which would enable them to read the nefarious history of communism in other countries, and which would teach them how to defeat it through peaceful, democratic means?

It is an eminently fair question: this Eisenhower quote, and the Library Bill of Rights, are displayed on their pages.

 

In reference to this question, all 7 articles in this guiding document could be cited, but #2 of the Library Bill of Rights will do:

 

“Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

 

Not wanting to end on a sour note, I’d like to mention one other very tiny detail that gives me some hope in the otherwise Bradburian court documents. Waiting quietly in one of the long lists of items catalogued for the furnace, as though it were searching for discovery, the judgment makes reference to the “title page of the Black Book of Communism.”

 

O the Glory! Do you understand what that means? Here, let us visualize it together. 

 

A poor family is sitting in their home, not dwelling on the poverty of their physical environment, but grateful for the incredible wealth that books bring to all people, especially those whose minds have been on starvation rations since birth. Suddenly they hear wheels screech and car doors slam and the husband and wife give each other one quick glance, mixed with great love and great fear, knowing and not knowing what lies ahead. And  then the terror begins. Somehow during the commotion of armed guards dragging her husband away, the tears of her children, and the laughter of the police, she manages to remove a book from a shelf and to rip the cover from the most treasured book that came to her mind. Unbeknownst to those who then proceed to confiscate every single book or magazine from the small library collection that she and her husband once lent to interested neighbors, she finds a place to hide the actual pages of the dangerous “Black Book.”

 

That little gem of hope which resides in the draconian orders which otherwise mandated the burning and destruction of whole, independent, uncensored library collections, means that at least one copy of that book, stripped of its title page, remained hidden in circulation. And perhaps on another, quieter evening, if this man’s daughter was carefully and quietly reading the forbidden book, she would count herself blessed after having read the stories of how young, class-enemy children in Cambodia were hung from the roof by their feet and kicked from side to side until they died.

 

Still, that would have given her lonely heart little comfort after having read of the descriptions by survivors of the torture and murder they experienced in Cuban jails.

 

But perhaps it is true what the Leninist-left in the ALA says, that folks like me have been duped by slick, CIA propaganda and swayed by nasty, greedy capitalist-oriented criminals in the Miami Mafia, which has now opened for business in Moscow and other Eastern-European capitals. Perhaps I am blind because I do not understand that in Cuba, by definition, there can be no banned book week, because members of previous ALA trips to Cuba have repeated the assertion that there really are no censored items in Cuba. These Castro apologists say any lack of controversial titles is because of a lack of money to buy certain books, or a lack of interest on the part of the population regarding such books, or certain illegalities surrounding books which were criminally imported from the U.S., or whatever was the line crafted for that particular group of pilgrims.

 

But here in America, where, if you read the news accounts and ALA press releases and lists, so many books are being banned, and burned, and challenged, and censored, and pressured into pre-publication death, or preached against by fanatical Puritans bent on bringing back the bonfires, we do have the luxury of a committed and independent library profession. And since we beleaguered and persecuted librarians (The FBI wants to take a look at perhaps one-in-a-million, or less, of our patron records!) still have the freedom to encourage citizens to read – before it is too late!— I can think of few other books to recommend that have been so positively reviewed in our journals as “The Black Book of Communism.”

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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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