Fidel Castro asked the U.N. General Assembly in 1979, “Of what use is the U.N.?” Cuba has since used the platform to advocate its non-imperialist stance and promote internationalism, while other countries simply offer various messages of appeasement.
At a time when the United Nations is rapidly expanding its imperialist agenda, opposition to the organization’s duplicitous role is rarely reported in mainstream media. In his address to the U.N. Security Council on Aug. 21, Cuban Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the U.N. Rodolfo Reyes reserved harsh criticism for the organization’s role in manipulation.
Further, Reyes said, the organization’s alleged goal to “maintain peace and security” is being visibly deformed by its continuous imperialist scheming and its creation of conflict and terror.
Reyes stated, “Repeatedly the causes of many conflicts appear to be: the interest of hegemonic and imperialistic domination, acts of aggression, struggle for the seizure of natural resources, remaining colonialist and neocolonialist strategies and practices, the current, unjust and excluding international order, unequal exchange, discrimination, xenophobia, interventionism and violations of the right to self-determination of peoples.”
Diverging from many other representatives, whose speeches are often cluttered with fluctuations of appeasement, Reyes’s anti-imperialist discourse provides an important link between history and the present reality — a link that many leaders prefer to sever in order to enforce the dynamics of widespread oblivion.
Divesting the current imperialist violence of historical context and reality provides further opportunities to propagate a fragmented view of current abuses. Hence, for example, U.S. interference in Cuba through USAID programs becomes an isolated occurrence under the guise of “the promotion of freedom,” Israel’s colonial massacre against Palestinians in Gaza is reduced to a “conflict,” and regional turmoil in the Middle East is stripped of the true intent of imperialist dominance.
Preventing violence? Or promoting it?
The U.N. trend is to support foreign intervention and violence in the name of freedom and human rights until destruction in the targeted countries eclipses the instigators of such atrocities within the mainstream framework. Of particular interest is U.N .Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s address to the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday, in which the origins of the organization — namely its declared intent to prevent widespread war — are cited as “a vision of what the world could be if we ‘unite our strength.’”
The notion of conflict prevention following the Second World War, therefore, provides the framework for the existence of the organization, which has been at the helm of promoting and sanctioning imperialist violence against resistant populations since its inception. The veto provision — a central feature of the U.N. Security Council granted to the five permanent members including the United States and the United Kingdom) — has resulted in draft resolutions not being adopted if they are deemed to be of detriment to imperialist interests. Similarly, the power wielded by the U.S. within the organization has also resulted in the oppression of resistant countries subjected to the indignities of foreign intervention.
When this is accomplished, the humanitarian conjecture is promoted, allowing the organization to deceptively call for a cessation of violence in the aftermath of imperialist exploitation. International law, ostensibly safeguarding populations from violence, has been regularly manipulated in order to provoke perpetual cycles of aggression and impunity, the latter benefiting imperialist countries, their allies and, indeed, the U.N. itself.
The cycle of violence sanctioned by the U.N. is proof that the organization is dependent upon illegal action to safeguard its survival. In turn, its survival is bolstered by a lack of accountability.
“Of what use is the United Nations?”
As social, political and economic interests dictate the evolution of international legislation, the resulting exploitation is incorporated within human rights discourse as a disassociated phenomenon that, in turn, renders human rights a humanitarian concern rather than a political one.
Such criticism of the U.N.’s imperialist propaganda can only be attributed to representatives of resistant nations such as Cuba. Following the triumph of the Cuban Revolution on Jan. 1, 1959, revolutionary leader Fidel Castro utilized the international platform as a means through which to assert Cuba’s anti-colonial, anti-imperialist and internationalist stance. Staying authentic to its historical processes, Cuban representation at the U.N has been consistent in articulating its anti-imperialist stance through the lens of the country’s experience, thus providing a tangible alternative to the conspiracies endorsed by the imperialist organization.
In 1960, The First Declaration of Havana, ratified by the First National General Assembly in response to the San Jose Declaration (1960) which justified U.S. aggression against Cuba, provided a clear anti-imperialist framework that prioritized the duty of people and nations “to fight for their liberation; the duty of each nation to make common cause with all the oppressed, colonized, exploited peoples, regardless of their location in the world or the geographical distance that may separate them.”
In his address to the U.N. in September 1960, Fidel expressed Cuba’s anti-colonial stance while referring to problems faced by other countries resisting imperialist aggression, such as Egypt, Algeria, Puerto Rico and Iran: “The case of Cuba is the case of all underdeveloped, colonized countries.”
Running contrary to other leaders whose stance at the U.N is to reiterate conventional rhetoric, Fidel’s revolutionary stance bore no reverence for the organization. “Freedom does not consist in the possession of a flag, a coat of arms and representation in the United Nations,” he insisted.
Besides providing a thorough framework for the revolution’s anti-colonial and anti-imperialist stance, the speech also revealed the organization’s complicity in oppression juxtaposed against the Cuban Revolution’s internationalist stance – a stance that has remained consistent through the decades, in particular with regard to issues such as aiding liberation movements, education and health.
At the 34th General Assembly in 1979, Fidel expounded further upon the inequalities sustaining exploitation and the contradictions embodied by human rights discourse routinely spouted by the U.N. He posed a direct challenge with regard to the complicity of the imperialist organization, asking: “Of what use is the United Nations?” This was followed by a widely unappreciated comment calling for an end to imperialist exploitation: “The exploitation of poor countries by rich countries must cease.”
As both Fidel and Reyes have pointed out in different decades, Cuba’s example of internationalism differs greatly from the compromised internationalism propagated by the U.N. Internationalism is in conflict with another phenomenon, that of international capitalist exploitation. Within the current international political context, the U.N. routinely embarks upon an internationalization of “conflict,” which has become a euphemism for perpetual intervention in various forms. Further, fragmenting narratives in order to retain only a part that satisfies imperialist dictates has become a dominating aspect of U.N. politics.
In the case of Palestine, for example, the U.N. is at the helm of disseminating a “conflict” narrative, thus ensuring that the limited platform available to indigenous Palestinians becomes even more restricted as more space is allotted to hostile narratives that eliminate the reality of Israeli settler-colonialism in favor of disassociated “occupation.”
Cuba, on the other hand, has prioritized internationalism through solidarity actions ranging from resistance to diplomatic support without compromise. Reyes asked, “How can we understand the passivity and ineffectiveness of this Security Council as against the killing of innocent Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, victims of the excessive and indiscriminate use of force?” The statement reflects Fidel’s scathing commentary delivered during Operation Protective Edge, in which he singled out the U.S. as the prime entity acting in complicity with Israel’s colonial massacre.
The U.N.’s persistence in its predictable and perilous passing of resolutions to the detriment of the oppressed ensures not only the constant creation of victims, but also its own existence. Emulating Cuba’s persistent denouncing of the imperialist framework supporting the U.N. would help to shift discourse away from the static charters and move toward profound scrutiny. This would reverse the propaganda surrounding human rights discourse and democracy in order to expose the organisation for what it really is – an imperialist tool paving the way toward influencing a humanitarian agenda divested of political ramifications in order to ensure impunity for the perpetrators.