Response to S Sivasegaram’s Rejoinder

Ron Ridenour

S Sivasegaram’s rejoinder to my series on the plight of Sri Lankan Tamils and the role of Cuba – ALBA in this tragedy is an excellent, well-thought and balanced piece. He, much more than I, knows the history and the peoples.

Without knowing anything about that part of the world until the end of the civil war, I was moved to conduct research because of the treatment the Sri Lankan government and military conducted against Tamils. I was also moved by what I believe essential for revolutionary morality: one does not side with a brutal government which practices discrimination (genocide even) against an entire people regardless of errors or incorrect attitudes by members of that people. I did not write to support elitism on any side, nor the Tigers, who, as I understand it, did act as Sivasegaram described they did. I wrote, in part, to admonish my comrades, the governments of ALBA countries whose resolution in the Human Rights Council is abhorrent in its applause for such a government and in its lack of solidarity for the interned Tamil people.

The fact that Sri Lanka has become a pawn in the hands of imperialism and authoritarian governments sometimes in opposition to US-led imperialism (China and Iran) in no way justifies an immoral stance by revolutionaries. The enemy of our enemy is not necessarily our friend. So, if ALBA must trade with the authoritarian-anti-democratic-anti-revolutionary governments of China and Iran that is for them to decide, but that must not make them dependent upon them politically. We certainly should have learned that, after all those years with the Soviet Union, which did not always conduct foreign policy in the interests of the people at hand.

We revolutionaries must not act cynically. Even if the Tamil nationalists should support other peoples and should have discussed matters with Latin Americans, this failure cannot justify abandoning a tortured people and applauding the torturers.


  1. Sivasegaram says:

    I thank Ron very much for his response.
    It is seldom that one has such a kind response to an opposing view.

    I thought that I will add a brief comment urging the need to respond with understanding towards the conduct of allies working under difficult conditions.

    When Soviet troops entered Czechoslovakia in 1968, China, Albania, Romania and Yugoslavia were prompt to denounce it.
    Cuba criticised it initially, but subsequently yielded to Soviet pressure. (Cuba has since self-criticised its action on that and other issues).
    Vietnam was unhappy, but unable to take a public stand.
    No friend of Cuba or Vietnam took either to task over their ‘amoral’ (or ‘immoral’ ?) stand.

    The point that I wish to make, with which I believe that Ron would not seriously disagree, is that we should be aware that our moralistic stands cannot be matched by others who are subject to pressures which are even threatening their survival.
    My concern was mainly about the rash response of some genuine friends of Latin America, which, again, I can understand but not endorse.

    Criticism should be friendly, and not hostile. Dissent and criticism are not bad things, but distancing from friends and denouncing them are bad.
    Also, we should remember that it was not Cuba or Venezuela which initiated the UNHRC resolution, which was precipated by a US-led conspiracy.

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