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We should, I suppose, be grateful that the American Library Association does not actually support the burning of books, but, as Jay has written before now, its shilly-shallying over Cuba’s independent libraries reveals a dismaying tendency amongst its members to put ideological affiliation before freedom of speech. The New York Times has more on this squalid little story today.

Amongst the people interviewed are Mark Rosenzweig, the director of the Reference Center for Marxist Studies, something that is blandly described by the Times’ reporter as a ‘research center in New York City’. That’s true so far as it goes, but it might have been helpful to add that this reference center (“the official designated depository of the papers of the CPUSA”) leans, shall we say, somewhat to the left. Reading their newsletter from Winter 2002 we learn that:

“The RCMS [the center] joined with libraries across the country in celebrating “Banned Books Week”, an annual event celebrating the ‘”freedom to read”. Our exhibit was unique however, in emphasizing something which has been for the most part expunged from the history of the fight against censorship in the US. That is the role the Communist Party of the United States played from its founding onward in fighting tirelessly against laws meant to stifle free speech, freedom of association and discussion, freedom to publish and read. “

That is, to put it mildly, an interesting spin on the CPUSA – an organization variously dedicated to Lenin, Stalin and other 20th Century butchers. What’s more, it’s instructive to contrast those fine-sounding words with Rosenzweig’s contemptuous dismissal of the Cuban dissidents as “a ragtag bunch of people who have been involved on the fringes of the dissident movement.”

If Rosenzweig is an important player in this controversy it would be interesting to know why. If not, it raises another question. Why did the Times choose to give quite such prominence to his views?

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