Faced with a likely victory of his self-proclaimed socialist opponent, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown has issued a statement supporting the reactionary “SOS Cuba” movement. His statement attempts to justify the U.S. push for regime change against the sovereign Cuban government.
Many people in Buffalo have already pointed out the hypocrisy in Brown’s statement. Just last year, the Buffalo Police Department made national news for its violent mistreatment of people here protesting the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. This included Buffalo cops shoving 75-year-old Martin Gugino, inflicting serious head injuries.
The Buffalo force behaves like an occupying army on the city’s East Side. Last year, instead of siding with Buffalo’s people against the local totalitarian police, Mayor Brown kept quiet.
Now Brown is speaking up, saying: “The Cuban people are fighting and protesting for basic freedoms that can only exist in a true democratic society. We are seeing a passionate movement against the socialist ideals that lead to totalitarian regimes which endorse and exploit economic suffering and inequality and deny access to the basic human rights of citizens by their own governments.”
The irony in this statement is plainly visible. For working-class Buffalonians, economic suffering and inequality is the daily norm. The 2020 poverty rate in Buffalo was 30.6%, more than double the New York state average.
Black people in Buffalo experience a poverty rate of 37.4%, while for white people it is 19%. Buffalo has long had a reputation as one of the most segregated cities in the country.
Buffaloʼs literacy rate is a mere 70%, a pitiful figure compared to Cuba’s 99.8%. Cuba managed to nearly eliminate illiteracy by 1962, only three years after the Revolution. Brown has been Mayor of Buffalo for more than fifteen years yet illiteracy persists.
The infant mortality rate in Erie County was 6.2 per thousand for 2016-2018, while Cuba’s rate for 2018 was 4.4 per thousand and has decreased each year since.
These are just a few categories in which Cuba outstrips Buffalo, refuting Mayor Brownʼs claims against the Cuban government. In spite of the crushing effects of the genocidal blockade imposed by the United States over the last 60 years, Cuba is doing better — struggling to build socialism, — with socialist ideals — than Buffalo is doing under Brown in the capitalist U.S.
Is it because Byron Brown is corrupt or doesnʼt know how to run the city? Yes, he is hopelessly corrupt, but the real difference lies in the two economic systems. Socialist countries on average provide a much higher standard of living for their people than capitalist countries at a similar level of development.
Behind the mayor’s pandering to the right
So when Byron Brown rails against socialism, itʼs not because socialism doesnʼt work — quite the opposite. He rails because socialism does work, and Cuban socialism is a living, breathing, fighting example that thrives in the face of global capitalism and U.S. imperialist aggression. Cuban socialism poses a very real threat to the capitalist class, for which Byron Brown and the political elites of both ruling parties are mere mouthpieces.
If Mayor Brown truly cared about the Cuban people, he would demand an end to the blockade, which is designed to make the people of Cuba suffer — yet he failed to mention it at all.
Mayor Brownʼs statement is nothing more than red-baiting against his political opponent India Walton, who beat incumbent Brown in the recent Democratic primary. India Walton, a Black woman with a working-class background, ties to the Nursesʼ Union and membership in the Democratic Socialists of America, would make history as Buffalo’s first woman mayor.
Waltonʼs victory in the primary blindsided Brown, forcing him to run a write-in campaign in an attempt to stay in office. Lacking a positive reputation, Mayor Brown resorts to red-baiting and pandering to far-right elements for support. Brown has rarely taken a position for anything during his time in office; for him this is just another opportunity to slander his opponent in hopes of winning votes from the right.
It is the duty of socialists and progressives across this city and the world to act resolutely in defense of Cuba and its socialist system against imperialist slander — and demand an end to the blockade now!