Arnold August is the author of many articles and books including: “Democracy in Cuba and the 1997–98 Elections” (Editorial José Martí, 1999), “Cuba and Its Neighbours: Democracy in Motion” (Fernwood Publishing/Zed Books, 2013), “Cuba-U.S. Relations: Obama and Beyond” (Fernwood, 2017). An accomplished journalist, he contributes articles in English, Spanish and French to news and research sites in the United States, Canada, Cuba, Latin America and Europe. Since 1997, he has spent extended periods in Cuba pursuing his intensive investigations. We had the honour of having Arnold August visit Vancouver from his home in Montreal, Quebec in October 2017 for the 7th International Che Guevara Conference. After many lively conversations about politics and his work, we were inspired to invite him to do an exclusive interview with Fire This Time Newspaper.
Fire This Time: Now it is one year after the passing of Fidel, what do you think are the most important things for people to know about Fidel?
Arnold August: His thinking is valid today and tomorrow. On the first anniversary of his passing last November 25, I wrote about his ideas on Cuba–U.S. relations as the principal guide for today and tomorrow. He is in fact the architect of Cuba’s U.S. policy, which resulted in the December 17, 2014 formal mutual Cuba–U.S. recognition. Fidel’s dedication since 1959 is also coupled with his incessant warning to be wary of U.S. imperialism’s long-term goals which never change. Thus, on principles, “Ni un tantíco así, nada!” – Not one iota, but nothing! This sums up his justified apprehension.
FTT: Congratulations on receiving the Friendship Medal from Cuba, because of your dedication and commitment to Cuba solidarity work and the Cuban Revolution. Besides doing the important promotion of your book, what other upcoming educational projects about Cuba do you have in mind?
AA: Thank you, Ali, but the Medal is no longer “mine.” It is still at home, but upon reception I publicly dedicated it “to the ever-valid work of Fidel Castro Ruz.”
Well, I think that the promotion of the book Cuba–U.S. Relations is still my most important educational project task now. The publication is the only one (as far as I know), written in the context of Cuba–U.S. relations, that thoroughly deals with Cuban resistance to the U.S.-led cultural war. I use this term “culture” in the broad sense to include artistic endeavours, politics and ideology. Here is a scoop for Fire This Time: the Cuban Spanish-language edition is to receive special treatment with a series of book launches (in which I am fully participating) in Havana, Santiago de Cuba and elsewhere in April 2018.
In addition, I am continuously humbled by the multiple invitations received from a half-dozen prestigious Cuban universities and research institutes to give conferences and to exchange experiences on Cuba–U.S. relations in February and March 2018 alone.
FTT: Your first two books, Cuba and Its Neighbours: Democracy in Motion and Democracy in Cuba and the 1997–98 Elections, were very educational. What do you think is the most significant lesson to be learned from your third book, Cuba–U.S. Relations: Obama and Beyond?
AA: Not to fear writing about reality based on investigation and guided by Marxism-Leninism and Fidel’s work. I began following Cuba–U.S. relations more closely after Obama came to power in 2008, as it seemed that change was in the offing, accelerated by his 2016 Havana visit. Thus, my third book was born in these conditions. It would have been easy to write by contributing towards the festering illusions about the Obama Cuba policy. But look Ali, I have been studying the U.S. since 1968. You, I and millions of people around the world know better. We remember that Obama said the U.S. Cuba policy failed because it did not bring “democracy” or the “market economy” to Cuba. Right? Thus, time for Washington to change tactics to subvert the Revolution in another way: from aggression to seduction. Another concern was the false notion that the Obama “thaw” amounted to “normalization” of Cuba–U.S. relations, or if not so, “normalization” just on the horizon.
Furthermore, based on the publication’s analysis, the Trump Cuba policy is intriguingly presented as follows, for example in the Winnipeg and Washington D.C. book events in January: “From Obama to Trump: Change and Continuity” and “Cuba Policy from Obama to Trump: Differences or Only Distinctions.” Thought-provoking? That is the idea!
During investigation, I found that I was on the same page as many Cuban revolutionaries. Allow me to provide you with just two of many examples: Cuban writer Luis Toledo Sande and blogger Iroel Sánchez. For those who have already read my book, you would be familiar with his extraordinary work and writing style. We now collaborate on projects, and we are like brothers, part of a larger “brotherhood” in Cuba.
To summarize my answer to your question, the most significant lesson of this book is that – Yes! – it was right to raise these controversial issues and – No! – it would not have been possible without this collaboration with Cubans who are part of their Revolution.
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