Cuba Drifting May 20, 2005 by RedStar2000
One of the questions that comes up a lot among western hemisphere leftists is "what will happen to Cuba when Fidel dies?".
It's almost as if "this one guy" holds everything together...a remarkable lack of confidence in the Cuban revolution itself.
Or perhaps not so remarkable after all...because once you stop talking about Fidel, there's not much left to say.
And what there is to say is not very encouraging.
I have no problem with the idea that Cuba has achieved much...probably more than anyone had any reason to expect.
But where are the signs of any movement towards communism?
On the contrary, the growing role of foreign investment in Cuba "points" towards the open restoration of capitalism...that's the "direction" things are moving in.
If all goes well, Cuba may one day attain the status of a tropical "Sweden"...is that good enough? Is that "all" you or they want?
First posted at RevLeft on May 8, 2005
Communism can only work on a global scale, yes?
A "communist federation" only requires sufficient productive resources to effectively withdraw from the global capitalist market, except on its own terms.
Granted, of course, that Cuba by itself is very far from being able to do that.
Nevertheless, we ought to see something that "points in the direction" of communism there.
And I don't see it. Indeed, what I do see points back to capitalism...mainly, as I noted, the growing role of foreign investment in the Cuban economy.
I don't get the impression that the Cubans take communism seriously. If they did, we'd see them discussing how to begin the "transition"...what initial steps would be most practical under their circumstances.
Instead, they seem mainly concerned with building an economy that's "half-socialist" and "half-capitalist".
If you want to argue that "that's all they can do at this point"...well, you may be right about that.
But you know what happens when "socialists" dismiss communism as "utopian"...they end up building capitalism.
First posted at RevLeft on May 9, 2005
Or do you think that the USSR could easily have achieved communism by themselves, if only they had followed your suggestions?
What is truly revealing about the USSR is that they never even tried.
On the Cuban attitude to communism:
Your arguments are as credible as if you had said of Lenin when he introduced the NEP- "I'm very concerned, Comrade Lenin, that you don't take communism seriously enough."
Fucking self-righteous bullshit!
Doesn't sound as if you're suffering any shortage of that malodorous commodity yourself.
The NEP was a (and maybe even "the") fundamental step towards the restoration of capitalism in the USSR. Had Lenin been able to get the foreign investment that he begged for at the time, that probably would have been the whole ballgame...the USSR would have been openly capitalist by 1930 or so.
Unfortunately for Lenin and fortunately for the USSR, the European and American capitalists "refused the bait".
The Cuban people have been struggling tooth and nail for over four decades against the worst that the world's greatest imperialist superpower can do to crush it, and you DARE to say they're not serious. Pompous prat!!
I did not say the Cubans were "not serious" -- I said they were not serious about communism.
Before you start calling people names, how about taking a course or two in remedial reading.
Then you plainly don't know communism from capitalism, and have no business making silly judgments on the Cubans' "seriousness" (For fucks sake!!!!) in building communism. I know, I'll ask Fidel this July when I see him to send you a personal essay on how he thinks Cuba can build communism, and let you mark it.
You may not appreciate my views on Cuba...but your attitude suggests that I "farted in church".
Every communist revolutionary has an obligation to examine social reality critically. Not to do so is to cultivate the attitude of a fan...or worse, a worshiper.
I would certainly be interested in an essay by Castro on building communism in Cuba...but I strongly suspect that the subject is no longer of any interest to him.
Where is the evidence that Cuba has dismissed communism as a utopia? (Only in your head)
No, it's not "in my head" -- it's that they simply don't discuss it. It plays no role in the arena of public discourse in Cuba.
Where is the evidence that Cuba is on a capitalist road?
The direct evidence is in the growing importance of foreign (capitalist) investment in Cuba.
Do you imagine that when capitalist multi-national corporations own 49% of the Cuban economy that they will "stop right there" and say "that's all we want"?
Why is democracy being EXTENDED further in Cuba?
Where did that come from? As far as I know, the leadership of the Communist Party of Cuba "runs the show"...as has always been the case.
On what grounds do you suggest otherwise?
Just because there aren't a whole lot of Redstar-inspired factory co-operatives all over Cuba, going on strike and placing the fragile economy in further jeopardy, doesn't mean the place is capitalist.
That idea of workers having real power really sticks in your throat, doesn't it?
Good heavens, if people started thinking like that, there'd be no "leading role" for you.
I can't help but wonder, Redstar, when you mouth the word "transition", whether you stop to think what the past 46 years have been in Cuba?????
Mostly "welfare-ism", I'm afraid.
First posted at RevLeft on May 9, 2005
Nonsense. The opposite is true: Cuba has been moving away from capitalism lately, reversing some of the retreats it made during the "special period" immediately after the collapse of the USSR.
Yes, some of those "special period retreats" have been reversed.
Do you have any facts showing Cuba has been moving further towards capitalism lately?
The absence of any discussion of progress towards communism -- even of a hypothetical nature -- suggests to me that at best they are drifting. In a capitalist world, "drifting" means drifting towards capitalism.
There are two "symptoms" that particularly disturb me. One is Castro's public love affair with the Catholic Church...to the point where Catholics are now welcomed into the "Communist" Party.
You mentioned the other, though, as usual you misunderstood.
In the past, you've criticized Cuba for letting the dollar circulate, maintaining dollar-only stores, etc; now that they've ended these policies, you say.....nothing.
No, the crucial fact is not that dollars were circulating or that some Cubans could shop at "dollar-only stores".
What is important is foreign currency and who has it.
Euros and Canadian dollars still circulate in Cuba as well as special "hard pesos" that are convertible to foreign currency. All can still be used in foreign currency food stores -- though I don't know what else is for sale in those stores besides food.
Well who's got it? People who work with tourists in any capacity, obviously. Government/party bureaucrats undoubtedly have part of their salary paid in "hard pesos" or can, in some cases, tap into a hard peso account. Cubans with gusano relatives can expect regular shipments of Canadian dollars...and so on.
Most Cubans don't have any access to hard currency...and are poor as dirt as a consequence.
What's the psychological effect of this "two-tier" economy?
Cubans with hard currency access are bound to look with favor on the end of Cuban "socialism"...they think they will become even more prosperous compared to the average Cuban.
And, worse, Cubans without hard currency access will see that others prosper...and wonder that if socialism ended, would they prosper too?
What do they have to lose?
And it's been pointed out to you before, and not just by me, that the idea of a Sweden in the Third World is ridiculous, even Swedish capitalism can't afford the kind of welfare state it used to.
If Cuba has serious oil deposits in its territorial waters, it could indeed become a "tropical Sweden"...I posited that as the "best possible outcome" of the present situation.
The worst is the return of U.S. imperialism, of course.
And please note: I did not say or even hint that Cuban "socialism" was "about to collapse".
What I said was that they are not moving towards communism -- like good Leninist states "are supposed to do" but never seem to manage.
Since stasis doesn't exist in the modern world, the logic of the situation suggests movement towards the full restoration of capitalism...even if it's not immediately visible.
Go ahead and shoot the messenger if you like...but it won't change the message.
First posted at RevLeft on May 10, 2005
I don't really understand your cynicism towards Cuba, redstar.
It's not "cynicism"...it's trying to figure out what's really happening there.
I do not contest what the Cubans have achieved...what I'm concerned about is what happens next.
If you understand the underlying principles of Marxism, then you know that history does not stand still...it may move forward or backward, but it always moves.
Are the Cubans moving forward or backward?
Why isn't Cuba moving towards communism? It couldn't possibly have to do with the fact that it's a rinky dink island less than a hundred miles off the coast of the most powerful nation on earth that's been trying to survive on its own for the last 4 decades with its revolution intact.
All right...let's assume your explanation is correct.
In the Marxist paradigm, there's no such thing as just "keeping your revolution intact" -- movement is taking place even if the institutions still look like they did in the past.
Cuba still has, for example, a "Communist Party" -- but what is the political nature of such a party when open Catholics can freely join it?
Can it still really be said to be "communist"? In what sense?
Then Castro has the audacity to pay respect to a dead pope? God, what sellouts to capitalism.
Your sarcasm here, in time, may rise up to bite you in the ass. What you attempt to dismiss as "trivial" is actually symptomatic of the changes taking place in the Cuban political atmosphere.
Which, in turn, reflect deeper changes in the objective material conditions in Cuba.
I don't know how you can simultaneously agree with him in saying "yes some of the "special period retreats" have been reversed, then say, "Since stasis doesn't exist in the modern world, the logic of the situation suggests movement towards the full restoration of capitalism.."
I can say it because I disagree with him (and probably you) on the weight to give those particular changes.
Are they sufficient to reverse the drift of Cuba into a "two-tier" economy...a relatively prosperous capitalist enclave and a majority still living in fairly wretched conditions?
I don't think they are...though I would be happy to be proven wrong.
But I don't see how you can argue against my general principle in this discussion: a socialist country that is not making visible progress towards communism is -- visibly or invisibly -- moving back to capitalism.
If you deny that, then you've just trashed the whole idea of the "transitional socialist state".
Which is fine with me...but do you really want to do that?
First posted at RevLeft on May 16, 2005
There is nothing INTRINSICALLY wrong with allowing Catholics (or religious people of any type) to join a communist party. The issue becomes more important if they form a platform within the party or allow their religion to actively dictate their political direction. In a society still overwhelmingly Christian, NOT to allow 'Catholics' to join would be a step towards isolation from the people.
You state your position -- with which I disagree, of course -- but you really didn't answer my question.
In what sense can you call a party "communist" if it accepts members who are professing Christians?
Communists are supposed to be, first of all, Marxists -- people who reject idealist conceptions of the world...because those conceptions are wrong.
Now you have a "communist party" that has people -- some of whom are Marxists and some of whom are opposed to Marxism.
Perhaps it was thought by the Cuban communists that the Marxists "would always outnumber" the anti-Marxists...but clearly there's nothing that makes that outcome "inevitable".
Indeed, if the Catholics really are the "majority" of the Cuban population and given the career advantages of party membership, the long-run trend should produce a communist party in which the majority of the membership is Christian -- that is, anti-Marxist.
You may argue, of course, that such a trend is meaningless since the membership doesn't control party policy; the "leadership" is Marxist and that's "all that counts".
But the time will come when the current leaders are retired or dead and new leaders will emerge...and what if they are not Marxists?
One of the things that is a top priority of the Catholic hierarchy in Cuba is the right to own and operate their own schools again...they need to get the kids indoctrinated or else, in the long run, they lose.
Thus far, Castro has resisted that demand...but how long will he continue to do so? And after he retires, will the new leaders of the "communist" party resist that demand...especially when many party members may well support it?
You are under the illusion (as was, for that matter, Lenin) that a person's religion "doesn't" dictate their political direction.
That's wacko! It certainly does "dictate political direction"...and 99.999% of the time, the direction is reactionary.
Cuba is visibly moving TOWARDS communism AWAY FROM the special period, when it RETREATED from communism by necessity.
That statement doesn't make any sense...at least on its face. Are you suggesting that Cuba was "building communism" prior to the "special period"?
Or are you playing a word-game: suggesting that any step taken in building socialism may also be metaphysically said to be a "step towards communism"?
Now, if, as I gather is the case, you DON'T think the gains being made are sufficient, what is?
There seems to be no public discussion in Cuba on the question of how to manage the transition from socialism to communism. It's simply "not on the agenda".
The emphasis seems to be entirely on "defending and preserving socialism" in the face of the challenge of its own internal capitalist enclave. And indeed, I detect a hint of desperation in this...as if distributing a large number of electric rice-cookers to ordinary Cubans will make the capitalist enclave look "less attractive".
The opposite is the case, and I would not like to answer the question "If a revolution takes place and an internet-critic isn't around to measure it, is it really a revolution?". You want to have a go?
Sure. The very core of Marxism is a critical outlook on all aspects of social reality. A "good Marxist" never accepts anything at "face value" but always tries to look deeper into social phenomena and discover "what's really going on".
For example, people can call themselves lots of things and appropriate labels that they perceive are attractive.
A Marxist asks: does the label accurately describe what's really in the package?
And before you go barking at me about my sarcasm- quote me some figures on the "deeper changes in the objective material conditions in Cuba" and how these affect the current trajectory of the revolution.
Why do you think a blizzard of numbers will be helpful? Whose numbers? Generated by what methodology and for what purposes? And verified by whom?
Do you share the common misconception that putting a number on something "makes it scientific"?
I can, in fact, think of only one number that might be useful in this discussion: a comparison of the economic growth of the capitalist enclave in Cuba with the economic growth of the "socialist sector" since 1992 -- both in absolute numbers and in percentages (and adjusted for inflation, of course).
Now tell me, who is in a position to gather such data and why should we trust them to give us honest numbers?
First posted at RevLeft on May 17, 2005
I suppose that it's "inevitable" that threads like this one degenerate into rhetorical invective...or at least that invective replaces argument.
Your revolution will essentially exclude 85% of the population. How democratic.
A preposterous assertion. It assumes that I am or want to be the "owner" of a revolution.
It further assumes that matters of truth and falsehood can be (or should be) decided by a planetary referendum.
The fact that only a minority of the world's population at this point in time knows that gods do not exist is not relevant to the truth of that observation...it would still be true even if the world was 100% believers.
And finally, it is absurdly a-historical...whatever people believe right now is what people will "always" believe.
How is all this relevant to Cuba?
If you assume that the leadership of the Cuban government is Marxist, then it would logically follow that they would engage in struggle against anti-Marxist ideologies...of which religion is obviously one.
And, for a while they did...and then they stopped. Now, they seem to favor religion -- cf. Castro's eulogy of the dead pope.
We know from history that ruling classes have a very favorable opinion of religion (Edward Gibbon knew it back in the late 18th century!). And we know why that is true.
Religion is indeed a useful tool for distracting the masses from their real class interests. From a ruling class point of view, it's much better that the masses concern themselves with "salvation" than with liberation.
Can you see where I'm going with this? The fact that the Cuban leadership has begun to encourage religious belief (even in small ways so far) means that they have begun to think "like" a ruling class.
What does it matter what religion someone is so long as they agree with the party line?
To "agree with the party line" is not what it means to be a Marxist or even a communist (except, perhaps, to Leninists).
You imagine that if someone says "I agree", then that's "the end of it". People have obvious careerist reasons for saying "I agree" when, in fact, they do not agree and are doing whatever they can to change the party's line in a direction that they would prefer.
What would be the obvious ideological change that a Catholic member of the "Communist" Party of Cuba would want to see?
Would it not be an end to all forms of "Marxist hostility" to the Church?
And then on to actual official support of the Church?
And an end to all forms of Marxism, period.
Religion is like a gun, it's a tool. It can be used for good, it can be used for evil.
Yes...that is a good ruling class summary. But, like all tools, it is useful for some tasks and useless for other tasks.
Historically, you know that religion has been used for "evil" about 99.999% of the time -- to provide "cosmological justification" for class society.
It is a "gun" that only shoots in one direction -- against the masses.
[Religion] is a personal choice.
No it isn't. People are indoctrinated with religious beliefs as children -- there's no "choice" involved there. When they reach adolescence, they are nominally "free to choose"...but the "social weight" is against them in any society where religion is publicly respected. The greater that respect, the more difficult it is for them to "choose" atheism.
Marxism is based on class. Religion has nothing to do with it.
Every social phenomenon "has to do" with class. It's not like class is "one category among many" and we can talk about it without talking about anything else.
It's all connected!
When you speak of class as a Marxist, you're speaking of a whole complex of matters -- beginning with the relationship to the means of production and extending to everything from tastes in food and drink to philosophy.
I wouldn't want to affiliate myself with any party that would openly exclude religion or religious people from their ranks.
I wouldn't want to affiliate myself to any group that wasn't openly and actively hostile to all forms of superstition as a matter of principle.
You can't possibly expect to learn how to be a world class swimmer when you're just barely keeping your head out of the water.
Perhaps. But if you don't, then you'll "sink like a stone".
For, as always, "the times they are a-changing".
In the sense that...it is composed of class-conscious workers. Mostly, anyway. And they're the element that normally wins out. There's certainly a bureaucratic element that is a bigger problem than workers who are religious believers.
No, the "class-conscious workers" have not "normally won out" anywhere.
And the bureaucrats are not "above" using the "tool" of religion...in fact, they rather naturally turn towards it as time passes and they become a new ruling class.
The cults of Lenin, Stalin and Mao certainly appealed to quasi-religious sentiments. And when those proved inadequate, there was always the "real thing" ready to hand.
Inspite of the squeals of the godsuckers, Leninism in its various incarnations was surprisingly tolerant of religion. Very few cathedrals were demolished in the USSR and, to the best of my knowledge, the temples in China remained intact. In Poland and East Germany, cathedrals were restored and even new ones built...a process that began under that "devil" Stalin.
I've even read that Gorbachev was known to be a devout Orthodox Christian at the time the politburo elevated him to the position of (last) General Secretary of the CPSU(B).
Yeah, see, first of all communists are supposed to be people who have no interests separate and apart from those of the whole working class.
Is religion "in the interests" of the "whole working class"?
Or of any workers at all?
They may imagine that it "is", but is it really?
The question is, whether Cuba is moving forward or back. The facts say, it's moving forward at present.
Some facts are positive...others are not.
For all your talk of materialism, your method doesn't ever seem to involve looking at the facts. Rather you pontificate and proclaim generalities.
I am a "bad boy". *laughs*
One can speak of a socialist revolution in Cuba only in the sense of direction.
Very well -- but note that others have spoken of Cuba as a "consolidated socialist state".
But even in terms of "moving towards socialism", what about that growing private sector in the hands of foreign capital?
Is that "materialist" enough for you?
From stuff you've said before, you've got some kind of "straight to communism without pausing" approach. History doesn't work that way. It works two steps forward, one step back. And, if you're lucky, two steps forward again.
And speaking of "proclaiming generalities"... *laughs*
A standard anti-materialist Redstar argument: the facts are, he claims, unknowable.
Therefore, he's free to form opinions based on pure prejudice and dogma.
Of course, the materialist thing to do, if the facts were indeed unknowable, would be to wait and see. But what's the point of paying for an internet connection if you can't issue infallible papal proclamations?
A crushing reply! *laughs*
First posted at RevLeft on May 18, 2005
In Cuba they have. Repeatedly. I could give examples of these conflicts, but there's something about arguing with someone who never bothers to produce a single fact in his support that doesn't exactly inspire me to do the work.
I would imagine that if you had such evidence, you would be all too eager to display it -- imagine how "bad" it would make me look.
Well, why don't you show us some that ain't rather than expecting us to believe you by divine revelation?
Divine revelation, is it? I guess "God told me" that international hotel corporations have invested heavily in Cuba since 1992. And "God added" that the tourist industry has become a prosperous capitalist enclave within Cuba. "God went on to say" that families with gusano relatives get lots of foreign currency and are able to live much closer to first-world standards than ordinary Cubans. In fact, "God said bluntly" that well-off Cubans look with favor on the restoration of capitalism in Cuba.
I could appreciate your skepticism if my source was indeed "divine".
But you know very well it is not.
No, materialism would involve producing facts on that sector.
In reality, foreign capital is not allowed to invest privately, but only in joint ventures with the state. The size and growth of this state capitalist (not "private") sector...I don't know, and if you do, you haven't given the material facts so far.
Quite so...for some inexplicable reason, the Cuban government has refused my request to audit their economic records. *laughs*
But the hotels are standing there in glass and concrete. The Canadian and European tourists are visible in flesh-and-blood. And there seems to be more of both with every passing year.
Would you like to argue that they "don't exist" until someone tags a number to them?
Your suggestion that a joint venture is "state-capitalist" is...disingenuous. The corporations that invest in such ventures do so in order to make a private profit. A Cuban who is employed by such a venture is hired/fired on the same basis as a worker in the U.S. The only role for the Cuban government is to deposit its quarterly share of the profits (51%, I believe).
The true size of the "private sector" in Cuba is probably unknown and perhaps unknowable -- since some of it is certainly in the "black market". The Cuban government makes it difficult to openly run a small private business in Cuba -- though it can be and is done. But covert businesses also exist, doing their part to generate opinion in favor of restoring capitalism.
At least, that's what "God told me". *laughs*
First posted at RevLeft on May 19, 2005
If movement to the left in Cuba is going to happen, it won't be because of Celia Hart or any who might associate themselves with her.
Because I think her approach to politics is essentially mystical -- even though, surprisingly, she has a scientific education (a ph.d. in physics).
Reading her material, I found it rich in "magical realism" and lyrical prose, but poor in rigorous Marxist analysis.
The one material factor that she mentions -- the "two-tier" Cuban economy -- is simply deplored and then she moves on.
For the most part, her approach to revolutionary politics has the strong smell of theology about it.
The grim-faced devils of U.S. imperialism and domestic Stalinism on one side vs. Marti, Fidel, Che, Chavez, Lenin, Trotsky, the Virgin Mary, and old JC himself on the other...a spiritual "fight to the finish".
The anarchist response to her cuts through all that crap and says bluntly what needs to be done to resume the revolutionary process in Cuba: all power to the working class!
I'm sure Celia Hart means well.
Lots of people mean well.
That's not the same thing as being right.
First posted at RevLeft on May 25, 2005
All those crying for 'all power to the workers', I would like, in this thread or a new thread, a detailed criticism of the People's Power system in Cuba. Explain how the Cuban Proletariat doesn't have power now. I would REALLY be interested in hearing a criticism of this sort coming from a Leninist.
I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you...Leninists usually consider the rule of a vanguard party to "be" people's power. *laughs*
As to a "detailed criticism", what would be the point? If there were genuine working class power in Cuba now, then it would show.
The Cuban media would be full of controversy over the future course of particular projects as well as the general future of the revolution itself. Many of the articles would be highly polemical in tone. The Cuban National Assembly would meet year around and rancorous debates would be commonplace.
Cuba would be fully connected to the internet and there would be Cubans on this board.
Probably dozens of them!
The fact that we see none of this suggests a political atmosphere that's "dead"...no one bothers to talk because, at present, talk has no meaning or purpose.
Exception: the people who do talk in Cuba are the ones discussing the best way to restore capitalism.
And, I guess, Celia Hart...who sort of writes prose-poems -- "to the left of Fidel is the abyss".
What other details do you need?
First posted at RevLeft on May 25, 2005
It's a third-world country. Look up the stats on how many people in different parts of the world have internet service. This kind of statement reflects real imperialist-country blindness.
Imperialist country blindness?
Come on, guy, you're not even trying to be serious here. The internet is not a big capital-intensive project...it's something that could easily be done in every school in Cuba that has telephone service. In fact, it would not surprise me if it were feasible for Cuba to import the parts from generic manufacturers in the Far East and make its own computers in whatever numbers required. Perhaps they'd be "obsolete" by North American standards...but they would be perfectly functional for the great majority of users.
In addition to which, your response is evasive. I wasn't speaking of the sheer numbers of available computers and internet connections; I was speaking of the fact that Cuban workers and students cannot even access this board.
They can't tell us what's really going on.
Probably nothing very interesting.
There is in fact debate and discussion in Cuba, in the party first of all. But of course if Redstar assumes something doesn't exist, then it doesn't. No need to actually observe or learn anything.
The old "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" routine, eh?
Well, if you wish to believe that something is taking place in the absence of any evidence to support that belief, who am I to "question your faith"?
You know that even under "Stalin the Terrible" (in the 1920s), there was a lot of heated controversy in the Soviet media. The "big shots" at least argued publicly with each other over the future course of the revolution.
Nothing like that appears in the Cuban media today...if it did, it would likely make world headlines! The Cuban leadership does not want ordinary Cubans to concern themselves with "big policy questions"...those things are for the leaders to decide amongst themselves -- safe from public criticism and possible loss of office and privilege.
Discussing the rotation list for who cleans the workplace bathroom is not sufficient to merit the designation "proletarian democracy".
First posted at RevLeft on May 26, 2005
It's true what Celia Hart says - there's nothing to the left of Fidel. That's because he's not only the head of state and party - and Bonapartist mediator between all their factions - he's also the leader of the more revolutionary, proletarian element of the Cuban Communist Party. There are those revolutionaries who disagree with him on various points, of course.
But there is simply no social basis for a left opposition to the course of action symbolized by Fidel. That's the reason for the reality bemoaned by Redstar and others, that they can find no left opposition in Cuba, only a right opposition, whose social basis is first of all in Miami and Washington.
That's a succinct summary of our differences, no question about it.
Unlike any other class society in recorded history, there's no class struggle in Cuba anymore -- except against a handful of stubborn reactionaries.
Because it's the working class which rules in Cuba.
Signed, sealed, and delivered!
But wait! There are "revolutionaries who disagree with [Castro] on various points".
How is that possible? What would you do if you were a revolutionary who "disagreed with Castro" on some point? How would you make your views known to the working class?
And what points? Be specific!
Is it your contention that revolutionaries who "disagree with Castro on some point" do so only from the right? Because, by your analysis, there's "no social basis to the left of Fidel"?
Now let's look at another curious phrase that you used: Bonapartist mediator.
It was one of Marx's hypotheses that in certain particular situations, there would arise occasions in which no class was prepared to rule in its own name or directly in its own interest...giving rise to a Bonapartist despotism that would mostly serve the interests of the most powerful existing class but would also make certain concessions to other classes in order to "preserve order" until such time as that most powerful class was ready to directly assume power.
Thus Napoleon III ruled France primarily in the interests of the rising capitalist class but was also willing to make concessions to the peasantry and even the working class. After 1870, the French capitalist class was ready to directly take power in its own name and on its own behalf and no longer "needed" a Bonapartist despotism.
So I take it that your position is that Fidel Castro is such a surrogate despot who, you would presumably maintain, rules primarily on behalf of the Cuban working class but also makes concessions to the peasantry and even the urban small bourgeoisie in order to "preserve order" until such time as the working class is ready to directly assume power on its own behalf.
There is nothing wildly implausible in such a proposition; you could very well be right.
It all turns on the question, really, of whether or not the working class (in Cuba or anywhere else) needs "its own despot" to prepare itself for the exercise of power.
Prior to the example of Cuba, historical experience reveals that while despots have enjoyed periods of usefulness to various rising capitalist classes, they have yet to accomplish anything useful for the working class in terms of transferring power.
That doesn't mean that "it won't happen" or, indeed, that it hasn't happened (to some unknown extent) in Cuba. It could happen that way in Venezuela.
But I remain skeptical. Working class power seems to me to be fundamentally different from the power of an ascendant capitalist class. It ought to "look" and "feel" different.
You (and the links you posted) seem to think that the "measure" of Cuban socialism is wide-spread "harmony", social cooperation, and unity.
If we look at Russia between the spring of 1917 and the spring of 1918 (before the beginning of the civil war), we see something very different: great controversies about the shape of the future society involving the direct participation of the masses in public life.
By comparison, Cuba appears to be as mired in bovine placidity as a 1950s small American town...and not much more interesting.
This seems to me to be the typical "atmosphere" of benevolent despotism. Changes take place "at a snail's pace"...and only on the initiative of the despot and his associates. Mostly, people just "go through the motions".
I do not see how this "prepares" the working class to assume power after the end of "proletarian Bonapartism"...on the contrary, it seems to me to teach proletarian passivity and disinterest in public life altogether.
Since you enjoy taking a few personal shots at me in your posts, I anticipate a response from you along the lines of "you just like the exciting parts of revolution; the daily drudgery of building socialism bores you".
Perhaps that's true.
But a revolution that simply recreates drudgery in a slightly different form is unlikely to ever appeal to a modern working class in an advanced capitalist country. We have been "spoiled", you might say.
If capitalist fantasies are interesting and entertaining, we expect proletarian reality to be even more so.
I recognize the flaws and imperfections of the Cuban revolution and understand the conditions that make it difficult to become an overnight communist utopia.
Whatever Fidel says comes from a vast experience in practical terms, of rebellion and struggle, and if not everything he says or does is "ok" - it's a lot more relevant in real terms than the spouting and pontificating of American schoolkids.
It's just as ignorant to dismiss offhand his policies as it is to unconditionally support them. Cuba and Cubans are more advanced in revolutionary theory and have more understanding of socialist programs in effect. They are living it [and] not dreaming of it.
Folks used to say the same things about Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Tito, etc. It's the "aura" of the "winner" effect: you're "not allowed" to criticize a winner unless you are also a winner.
After they lose, then it's ok to give them a hard time...losers also lose immunity from criticism.
I'm sorry but I don't find that acceptable from a Marxist perspective. Our task is always to critically examine every aspect of social reality "without fear or favor" of any country, ethnic/cultural group, political tendency, etc. We are not in the business of manufacturing "useful illusions" or "progressive myths".
We try to understand the truth as best we can...and then tell it!
First posted at RevLeft on May 27, 2005
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|Nowhere in Leninist practice has the "majority" ever been granted the right to say anything of substance...much less the right to dismantle the "workers" state".
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