Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Final Cuba Jeopardy Answer — “The Emergence of Marxist Holism” by Galtisalie
Sven. Who is Chris Farley?
No, I am sorry that is not correct. Your wager, your guaranteed minimum Celebrity Jeopardy $1,000, takes you down to 0.
Pendejo. I’m a gay pirate from Cuba. I’m sorry, you once again failed to put your response in the form of a question, such as where do you come up with this stuff? With your wager of $1,000, you are also at 0.
Richard. Why to the capitalist overlords Cuba must fail and for the rest of us Cuba “must” succeed? Yes, you placed it in the form of question, with the correct question word at that. You succinctly hit themes of your obscure 2008 India-published book, Talking About Trees: Science, Ecology and Agriculture in Cuba . You even subtly changed prepositions to connote the not fully recognized nature of Cuba’s importance to humanity’s future and added appropriate quotation mark qualifiers recognizing the pivotal role that Cuba could play but implying the stubborn persistence of socialism even if Cuba goes the way of the Soviet Union or China. But don’t get fatheaded elitist. A portion of your winnings is being expropriated for Obamacare! And you’ll be coming back tomorrow to battle the SuperTeachers, beginning with “The Embargo” for $100 on an original reason for the embargo was when Castro declared Cuba a _________ state. If all this musical, graphical, and intellectual stimulation makes you nauseous, go back to Hahvard professor.
Nananana nanana, nananana Na nanananana, nananananananana, Na nanana, na, na, na, pum pum.
I hope I did not give you a flashback. I was more of a “Let’s Make a Deal” kid growing up and always got nervous watching Jeopardy. I never could get my reptilian brain around receiving information first and then finding questions that make sense of the information. Later, as a high school student forced to be a Wheel Watcher every weeknight, I reached an unhappy medium in the limbic region around the same time Pendejo was first bearing his chest to a national audience. Good times. I know, I should not joke about such things. Game shows, blockades, and Spandex are serious matters.
I particularly should not tease Sven up there. He dun gooo-ad by standing up to Pendejo. It passes for bravery these days for someone in the corporate media to stand up to a conservative gun nut who uses Nazi imagery (“subhuman mongrel”) for rhetorical purposes when referring to the nation’s first African-American president. He cannot help it that when Alan Gross called him on May 4, 2012 with his weekly phone call that he did not have time to prepare much less to consider notions like the possibility that laying off over 10 percent of a country’s work force might actually contribute to problems that the private sector in the U.S. and around the world is already quite expert at causing not curing:
BLITZER: If you could speak directly to the top leaders in Cuba, what would you say?
GROSS: I would say to Raul Castro that I think he’s trying to do some very courageous things. I think that he himself has been on national television before the national assembly. And he said that a major problem with the economy here is the low productivity. And that can’t be blamed on the United States. It cannot be blamed on the United States.
And I think it took a lot of courage to say that.
And I think that, you know, the – the – the million-and-a-half or so people who are being retrenched from government jobs have to find employment somewhere. And I think he’s a very pragmatic individual who recognizes the need for private sector growth and development here. And he has said that he’s hoping that the – the – the growth of the private sector will offset those newly unemployed.
I don’t know how – I don’t know what the employment j the unemployment rate is in Cuba. But if a million-and-a-half people are – are retrenched from their jobs and there’s only 11 million people in the country, that’s got to say something about a very high unemployment level.
And so I would say – I would say to President Castro that I think he’s – he’s – he’s – he’s courageous and I applaud his – his pragmatic approach to beginning to – to try to create a – a more positive business environment. …
BLITZER: And, Alan, what’s your message to the highest officials here in Washington, including the president and the secretary of State?
What a daunting follow-up question! It also might have been appropriate for Sven to query Mr. Gross about his connections to the U.S. government, including possibly the CIA, which had already been reported on by AP. As noted by The Jewish Daily Forward:
[O]fficial trip reports he filed for an American government agency, revealed by The Associated Press on February 12, paint a picture of a man who knew the risks he was taking. “Detection of satellite signals will be catastrophic,” Gross warned in a report that filtered back to the U.S. Agency for International Development, according to AP.
When he was arrested, Gross, a resident of suburban Washington, was carrying a high-tech cell phone chip more commonly used by the CIA or the Defense Department. …
In addition to using Jewish missions to Cuba as a cover, Gross even asked fellow American Jewish travelers to smuggle electronic equipment into Cuba and then give it back to him at his hotel, the AP said.
The cell phone chip found on Gross when he was arrested would have allowed a user to make satellite phone calls without being detected.
Such activity seems to go beyond the picture painted by Gross’s supporters of a man interested in only helping Cuba’s Jews.
So, I’m confused. Cuba poses an existential threat to my country? Let me try to enter the mind of Pendejo up there, to be followed up later with a strong digital germicidal spraying–
Infiltrators came up illegal from Mexico. Cubans mostly. They managed to infiltrate SAC bases in the Midwest, several down in Texas and wreaked a helluva lot of havoc, I’m here to tell you. They opened up the door down here, and the whole Cuban & Nicaraguan armies come walking right through, rolled right up here through the Great Plains.
An excerpt from IMDb’s 15th most popular feature film in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four of all years.
What more do we need to know????!!!!!????
Get the heck off this computer, duck, and cover yur Dynasty, and I don’t mean Ducky Dynasty, but the time when we had real serious teevee shows about wealthy oil tycoons.
But wait, are not all male Amurricans after all strangely compelled by “Cuba.” Is Cuba the kitty next door?
Well, I don’t know where they come from but they sure do come
I hope they comin’ for me
And I don’t know how they do it but they sure do it good
I hope they’re doin’ it for free
And do not all Cuban women secretly desire at least the younger version of a “gay pirate from Cuba”-joking, guitar hero capable of nimbly purring out a 3-tone minor-key melody harmonized in parallel fourths? Can’t we all be friends? Serious online places like the Hahvard Political Review assure us that Cuba is not after all an existential threat, at least “anymore”: “Does the Republic of Cuba pose a threat to U.S. national security and American interests around the world?” Heck no. It is that truly virulent oil state kitty further to the south:
Venezuela is more of a threat to U.S. interests than Cuba. Venezuela continues to challenge the United States in international relations through OPEC and most recently in the Edward Snowden asylum negotiations.
Ah yes. That is the enemy. Meanwhile in Cuba, a Hahvard “economics concentrator living in Grays” assures us they just need capitalism in Cuba, or maybe Putinism, because, after all, “The embargo is blamed for economic woes when in reality the communist model is likely responsible.”
Have the highly educated people who write this crap ever thought about living conditions on the island next door to the east, which the Spanish named Hispaniola, and which now contains the racist, exploiting of persons of Haitian descent, big sugar lands of the Cuban ex-patriot Fanjul brothers? Hispaniola is not such a nice “Tropical Retreat” for the masses. The DR (and in particular the transnational Fanjul brothers) knows quite a bit about dependency on the U.S. for sugar exports, just like it knows quite a bit about dependency upon the U.S. for grain imports, or as they call it down there, Harina Blanquita. I have seen with my own eyes that neocolonialism in the DR is a continuation of the colonialism of yore, which is to say, about “Conquista y explotación.”
I hate to tell you Grays livin’ man, but when Cuba lost most of its ability to export its primary crop to its largest trading partner, who now, over half a century later, will not allow a Jefferson nickel’s worth of the world’s third largest nickel reserves to be put in a nickel or even a third party country’s components, that might have a bit more to do with Cuban economic woes than Cuban national health care, free university education, the disbanding of the latifundia, the expropriating of corporate property, ecology, sustainable agriculture, public control of science, and other egalitarian “abuses” of its people. But breathe a sigh of relief Hahvard concentrator and “USAID,” “American style” love and austerity is coming to Cuba. Cuba’s austerity will no longer be imposed by the US from the outside but through some measure of coopting of the socialist project! Uu-um gooo-ad. More and more women can adopt capitalist coping strategies involving pleasuring gooo-ad ole’ Uncle Sam, just like women everywhere from the Deep South to the DR.
I am not going to turn this diary into a laundry listing of the amazingly broad and deep extent of the U.S. blockade of Cuba, which, by operation of U.S. law in violation of international law, effectively sabotages Cuba’s ability to have normal trade relations with any nation on the face of the earth, much less the U.S., not to mention directly results in the death of Cuban people unable to access patented U.S. medicines. (For a recent full account of the extent and impact of the Cuban blockade on Cuba, please see Salim Lamrani’s The Economic War Against Cuba (Monthly Review Press 2013).)
The question remains, why the heck does the U.S. go to so much trouble against Cuba? In a word, as the SuperTeachers recognize, “socialism.” It is not just about the preference of expats but about the coinciding of the preference of powerful expats with overall capitalist preferences. As I discussed in a comment in a Cuban-blockade-related diary I wrote last year on the occasion of the annual U.N. condemnation of U.S. treatment of Cuba:
Helms-Burton is replete with references to the requirement for a “market economy” to satisfy the U.S. After all this was among the great crimes of the Cuban government, in the eyes of Senator Helms at least. As per SEC. 2 “Findings”:
(3) The Castro regime has made it abundantly clear that it will not engage in any substantive political reforms that would lead to democracy, a market economy, or an economic recovery.
For Senator Helms types, and perhaps you, democracy is synonymous with a market economy:
SEC. 206. REQUIREMENTS FOR DETERMINING A DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED GOVERNMENT.
For purposes of this Act, a democratically elected government in Cuba, in addition to meeting the requirements of section 205(a), is a government which–
(3) is substantially moving toward a market-oriented economic system based on the right to own and enjoy property;
There is nothing mysterious about this. It is part of the modus operandi of U.S. trade relations with former socialist countries. Interestingly, even proponents of this market-based outcome are against the blockade: See the Washington University School of Law journal article entitled, “THE HELMS-BURTON ACT: A STEP IN THE WRONG DIRECTION FOR UNITED STATES POLICY TOWARD CUBA.” The reason the U.S. government, and the business interests that run it, promote “democracy”-lite, like we have in the U.S., is so that it can obtain investment treaties that accomplish the following:
The [Poland] BIT “established two foreign policy strategies: (1) to encourage the development of pro-investor international legal norms; and (2) to promote free-market economic reforms.”
(Id. at n. 120, p. 234.)
Yes, for my entire lifetime, the most powerful country in the history of the world has tried to crush “socialism” in a small island nation off its southern coast. The socialism of Cuba has not always been pretty or even socialism, which needs to be deeply democratic to be deserving of the name, but its flops often have eventually flipped, sometimes in part because of the very oppression of the U.S. However, Professor Levins demonstrates that patterns of positive living that need to be implemented around the world which first emerged in Cuba through its Marxist holism did not actually have its roots in the added pain imposed upon Cuba through the collapse of the Soviet Union, which led to the Special Period. For instance, while responsive to the continuing economic duress of the blockade, “[I]n 1987 Raul Castro called for the widespread introduction of organopónicos, raised beds of enriched and composted soils where crops could be grown in small areas with no dependence on outside resources.” (p. 150)
Looking even more closely, Cuba’s enormous contribution to demonstrating patterns of ecologically-sensitive, sustainable living developed, and hopefully will persist going forward, because of an evolving Cuban revolutionary commitment to a way of thinking, Marxist holism. (I find it to be completely consistent with my personal intuitive commitment to begin by “accepting life’s complexity,” so I guess that makes me a Marxist, although I have never consciously sought to be one.) The U.S. and by extension the world is stuck in the second corner of a “three-cornered struggle,” with considerable elements of its population, particularly in the rapture-fixated Deep South, keeping a toe or two in the first corner.
The struggles around the nature and value of science can be understood as a three-cornered struggle in which the contenders are (1) a pre-capitalist holism which is hierarchical, static or ahistoric, reactionary and mystical; (2) a capitalist-era liberal, rationalist, secular, reductionist, instrumental scientism; and (3) a post-capitalist, dynamic, anti-hierarchical materialist dialectical holism.
This tri-partite classification is, of course, an abstraction from a more complex reality. Individuals form their own belief system in the context of their society and location in that society but also from more idiosyncratic experiences. Schools of thought borrow and are influenced by each other. Post-colonial societies often combine modern globalized capitalist relations with pre-capitalist modes of power and join their willing subordination to the global corporate system with a petulant cultural nationalism.
Scientists free to follow principles of Marxist holism sometimes can do “better” scientific work because not only are they not directly or indirectly working for capitalists and subservient to profit but also because they look at problems “better”:
Marxist holism starts from Hegel’s dictum that the truth is the whole. It is a warning that if problems are posed too narrowly they end up attributing explanation to external events. We further claim that many of the major failings of contemporary science have come about because problems have been posed too narrowly. …
A common theme to these failings is a systematic reductionism that posed problems too narrowly, bounded by unstated constraints, and as static. Hegel’s dictum is a warning that there is more out there. We must always ask in studying a particular problem “where is the rest of the world?” it is a further warning that what we have not taken into account can, and eventually will, overturn our theories.
Marxist holism does emphasize connection among phenomena. … Our emphasis on connections among phenomena does not mean that we can cast spells to get justice but that we must trace the connections even among phenomena that are not obviously related.
“As historical materialists we do claim that knowledge is a social product”:
But we do not stop with the naïve claim that received knowledge is false or that some knowledge is wiser than other because it comes from nicer people. Rather the claim of social embeddedness is a demand to study how that knowledge is produced. We claim that all knowledge comes from experience and reflection on that experience in the light of previous knowledge. Therefore we have to examine the domain of experience that gives rise to knowledge. Learning from the people does not mean that the less educated person wiser, or that “what the ancients say” is a proof of validity. We ask which ancients, why was what they said recorded and why millions of other ancients left no trace in the records. …
[I]n the end nature intrudes. …
“Epistemic charity” is not a blank cheque to the past but the acknowledgement that sometimes, old knowledge is profound where modern instrumentalism sacrifices the long run to immediate gain, and that the wholesale dismissal of traditional knowledge remains a part of colonialist arrogance.
Professor Levins is a cradle Marxist, key ecologist, and the John Rock Professor of Population Sciences at the Harvard School of Public Health. He is, in my estimation, a really good species-being. We come from totally different immediate backgrounds, but I believe that he is sensitive to understand mine–and yours, whatever it is, and I appreciate that on multiple levels:
Philosophers have sought to understand the world. The point, however, is to change it.
Karl Marx (Theses on Feuerbach, 11th Thesis)
When I was a boy I always assumed that I would grow up to be both a scientist and a Red. Rather than face a problem of combining activism and scholarship, I would have had a very difficult time trying to separate them.
Before I could read, my grandfather read to me from Bad Bishop Brown’s Science and History for Girls and Boys. He believed that as a minimum every socialist worker should be familiar with cosmology, evolution, and history. I never separated history, in which we are active participants, from science, the finding out how things are. My family had broken with organized religion five generations back, but my father sat me down for Bible study every Friday evening because it was an important part of the surrounding culture and important to many people, a fascinating account of how ideas develop in changing conditions, and because every atheist should know it as well as believers do.
On my first day of primary school, my grandmother urged me to learn everything they could teach me–but not to believe it all.
Society is made up of individuals ideally connected by solidarity. Solidarity can be born in the hearts and minds of individuals who were not always committed to the cause. Seeds of Red and Pink may have been planted decades prior to emergence. Secret unknowing agents for Marxism, like my dear hard core Republican dad, may wear capitalism on their sleeves. You and I don’t have to have been born Red or Pink to die Red or Pink and to bring others into the great cause. And when our journeys become our journey, the converging and converting power of Marxist holism also can emerge if we dedicate our hearts and minds to wise questioning and wise acting.
Leaving aside overarching issues of family and necessity, many of us are compelled to dedicate our hearts and minds to something other than capitalism, for capitalism, even if sufficiently profitable personally, leaves us unsatisfied in one way or another. Not everyone is seduced by the opportunity to sell something, including their souls. We may for a time fixate on one “mysterious” tradition or another, and we may for a time self-medicate with Wheel Watching or chemical remedies to suppress the urge. Friendship sometimes is prescient of getting stoned together watching ball games or aging rock stars strut their stuff and fire their guns, but it also can take off in unpredictable directions. Malcolm Little became Malcolm X who continued to grow and shake off dead skin until he was murdered.
If we are fortunate to be exposed to a humane and tolerant socialist consciousness, we may one day deeply challenge ourselves to be loving, thinking, acting species-beings. Or, in my case, we may find a convert zone with some traditional elements and a whole lot of Marxist holism which embraces literally getting my hands dirty in the gardens and compost piles of life. I do not know what works for you.
Levins believes that, whether it is rolling cigars, growing vegetables, or cutting sugar cane, the drudgeries of working and especially rural life can be at least somewhat alleviated through liberation and empowerment of the workers to be not only in creative control of their own environments but also as much as possible scientists themselves. Although Cuba, at least pre-layoffs, has led Latin America and much of the world in per capita dedicated “scientists,” it has also insisted that they be dedicated to the people and not in league with capital. Marxist holistic science does not support the commodification of anything, much less science itself. This has its genesis in principles of the founder of Cuba’s original liberation movement which merged naturally with socialist notions of science:
José Martí’s modernist value of learning was joined with the traditional socialist appreciation of science to encourage the young revolutionaries to give a high priority to science from the earliest days of the revolution. The traditional socialist view was that scientific knowledge had been produced out of the wealth created by working people but was monopolized by the rich to be used for profit and to build the instruments of power. Therefore the recapture of scientific knowledge for the people was a common goal of radicals throughout the world, and any scientific learning was considered a victory. Further, scientific literacy was seen as liberation from religious obscurantism and bigotry. Scientific news or controversies frequently appeared in the socialist and communist publications. Public lectures in England, the United States, and Russia contributed to this goal. My own grandfather, who had a third grade education, believed that every socialist worker should at least know cosmology, history and evolution. In pre-revolutionary Cuba the lectores (readers) in the tobacco factories were hired by the workers to read from world classics and scientific literature while they worked. [Shout out to my own great great uncle Francisco (whose photo and partial story is in this diary), who while a lector in West Tampa also read “Marxist and other anti-capitalist viewpoints” to the cigar workers”! He was a bad ass who would have recognized Pendejo from the model citizens in pointy hoods who kidnapped him at gun point, stripped and beat him.]
Thus it was natural for Cuban revolutionaries to look toward science for economic development and as part of the necessary culture for a free people.
Primarily sticking with the words of “Hahvard men” (and Sven, Pendejo, and Alan Gross), it is noted that on March 7, 2014, the Harvard Business Review published an admirably revealing on-line column written by its executive editor entitled America’s Long and Productive History of Class Warfare. Despite the fact that the term is in one of my groups at Daily Kos, I do not like the term “class warfare,” and prefer the term “class struggle.” But I am not here to quibble. In any event, as Warren Buffett has acknowledged for almost a decade in a favorite talking point, the class waging the warfare in recent decades has been his class, through the tax code, not the poor. In fact, its been “a rout.”
Although I disagree with Justin Fox’s underlying assumptions and capitalist economic views (including the part about “our economic system has … largely thrived”), most of what the Executive Director of the Harvard Business Review Group wrote was accurate and keenly perceptive:
Fourteen years ago, with the dot-com bubble fizzling but the rest of corporate America seemingly still going like gangbusters, the great management journalist Geoff Colvin wrote a column in Fortune titled “Capitalists: Savor This Moment.” An excerpt:
The business culture is triumphant. Not just for those in authority but for most of society, business is at the center, and that’s pretty much okay with everybody. It doesn’t feel remarkable to us for the same reason fish don’t notice water; we live in it. But step outside the moment and look at commerce’s role in the culture. It’s unprecedented.
Colvin’s conclusion was that this just couldn’t last. He wasn’t sure what would replace it, and even now it’s not obvious what will. By the numbers it’s still a pretty awesome time to be a plutocrat, but clearly the mood has changed. It’s important to remember, though, that the anomaly is not the current mood of skepticism of business and the rich. It’s what preceded it.
And that to me is the continuing relevance of Cuba. Cuba helps to demonstrate what would replace capitalism. Cuba may fail, it may abandon socialism, which would be terribly sad. But socialism will always come back because Marxist holism will continue to liberate and empower each of us who chooses to be liberated and empowered by encouraging us to think deeply and freely, and to fight not just to understand the world but to change it.
Socialism for Cuba has made, and for all of us can make, “ecological choices more likely”:
In spite of the incentives and commitments to an ecological pathway, Cubans could have decided otherwise. In fact, they did so at the beginning when in the absence of ecological consciousness, the urgency to meet the needs of the people led to harmful decisions. But when the first, Green Revolution developmentalist approach turned out to be destructive of productive capacity and poisoned people and nature, this was sufficient reason to reexamine the strategy. There were no greedy institutions committed to defending the harmful course with lobbyists, public relations firms, lawyers and hired witnesses. [Cf. NYT 3/16/14, Billionaires With Big Ideas Are Privatizing American Science.] It meant that Cuban scientific and political leadership, which is strongly committed to a broad, dynamic and integral approach, was able to recognize the origins of the different developmental strategies in the world political economy and the implications of alternative choices. It meant that there were scientists prepared to argue the case for ecological development, receptive ears in the leadership and public to receive the arguments sympathetically, and a logic of decision-making that made an ecological pathway of development along with equity and collectivity an essential part of Cuban socialism. That’s how they are doing it.
I very much appreciate Professor Levins’ humility combined with a conscious lifelong extending of the hand of solidarity:
We do not know what roles self-conscious Marxists or the religious left will play in the new movement, how much it will remember from the past or have to learn anew. …
We have to examine and invent new forms of struggle, all aimed basically a changing consciousness and building solidarity even when we are small and seemingly helpless. Revolutionary politics are not limited to storming the winter palaces. Any action that pushes back the boundaries of the permissible, that legitimizes thinking and questions the unquestionable, that strengthens our own capacity to analyze and organize and that tightens the ties that unite us for the long haul, that invents ways of broadening participation and that undermines the crippling burdens of racism and sexism and homophobia and hierarchical posturing within our own movements, is revolutionary practice. …
From the bottom of the trough we need to see the present moment in perspective, to know that it isn’t over, that even when exuberant capitalism wins big victories these do not solve its problems. The problems return even more sharply. Therefore the struggle will surge again, and we will add new pages to our songbook. I expect to see you there.
(pp. 160, 65). How interesting that he wrote this before Occupy Wall Street. And how apt for such groups as Anti-Capitalist Meetup: “Nor do I put down what is derisively called ‘preaching to the converted.’ We, the ‘converted,’ needs lot of ‘preaching,’ lots of analysis, education, encouragement.” (Id.)
Thank you Richard Levins for appearing on Cuba Jeopardy.
And thank you Fidel and Raúl for your dedication to our world. In the blogosphere, little ole’ I, an anti-totalitarian democratic socialist, have been both an active defender and an occasional critic. Free expression is not only a human right but also a good thing even under war conditions, as Debs stood for in WWI and Orwell demonstrated in WWII. If you go to my website’s blogroll you will find publications with “pro-Castro” points of view as well as a link to the critical Cuban left. I do not think any one anti-capitalist individual, party, or organization has all of the answers. International solidarity must be improved and that requires dialogue among all potential allies on the left and openness to the complicated issues relating to both economic and political democracy, particularly in an aggressively capitalist neoliberal world. With a commitment to the Socratic method, I have learned a lot even from engagement with some of your most ardent opponents in the Cuban American community (please see this example of an ongoing effort of mine resulting from dialogue at a popular Cuban dissident blog where the left and the right regularly meet to lash out at each other).
The ultimate goal should be an international social compact that brings together all people of good will. Some people, including the capitalist overlords, will not like this. The citizens of the world must through a creative sacrificial combination of direct actions build from below a deep international democracy while at the same time seizing control of power and property from the capitalist overlords. Democracy must include both civil freedoms and basic economic justice for all. Indirect, i.e., political, action at the nation state level is necessary but not adequate. We each are responsible for system change through cultural change of hearts and minds. I do not know if this can be done. I do know that we have to try. All of our voices count. (From time to time, out of the blue a person searching for ideas on the other side of our world takes notice of my small contribution to the effort.)
We realize the path to the future will not be easy or dogmatic. That is why we need and hopefully increasingly will appreciate the Cuban experiment. For the foreseeable future, Cuba is much more likely to become truly democratic than the US, which is as stuck as Pendejo’s arteries in a democracy-lite, aka capitalist democracy, and with Citizens United just keeps getting worse. (“Funny” how US corporations are people now, free to give money to US politicians but not free to ship junk food and misleading financial instruments to Cuba.) I am for equal human, not corporate, rights and against profiling and police oppression, whether under US, Russian, Chinese, Saudi, Israeli, Cuban or any other jurisdiction. You have acknowledged many “errors” and, under generations of enormous unethical pressure from the US, probably committed some “crimes” (using Levins’ definition, p. 163, which includes the use of force “to settle disagreements within the revolution,” whereas I expressly emphasize that even counter-revolutionaries should be able to participate fully in Cuban political processes–but not Cuban Americans who gave up their rights as Cuban citizens–just like in the US convicted felons who have served their time automatically should be restored their voting rights).
Your country will continue to change, just as mine will and our world will. I hope one day the world, including Cuba, will be far less militarized. The US should remove the plank from its own eye before picking at your country’s military speck, but the speck is not a good permanent state of affairs even if it does not disproportionately take economic resources from the non-militarized people. Guns are, as evidenced by Pendejo’s love for them, not the answer. The correct Jeopardy Question on point is “Why do humans allow the defense and gun industries to lead them around by the nose?” I am not a utopian. Hence, I am not focused on the impossible of ridding our planet of guns and bombs, but as a species we have to admit that guns and bombs are merely one more capitalist commodity seeking buyers, and a deadly one at that. Even if individuals are going to be able to keep and bear some arms useful in hunting and theoretically turning back the hordes, nation states should demilitarize as much as possible. Militarization and international trade in arms promotes death, land and resource grabs (see, e.g., Western Sahara), conflicts which interfere with farming and other peaceful pursuits, and steal from the mouths of hungry people.
Removing the blockade, giving up the notion that democracy is synonymous with capitalism, giving back stolen Guantanamo Bay, and disbanding the CIA, which, with all the self-control of Pendejo just cannot help itself from being capitalism’s evil enforcer, would help to achieve demilitarization of our world, which needs to come into balance, ecologically and economically, and reduce transnational corporate hegemony. Meanwhile, the best global demilitarization plan would be to eliminate corporations themselves, which are a legal experiment conducted on humanity and run amuck and the reason for a great deal of the violence inherent in both the national and international systems. Over time, all nation states should wither and global unity ascend, just like Simón Bolívar dreamed, but that is not going to occur with capitalism, for which the world must be kept “safe” through conflict-accentuating militarization.
I am concerned about authoritarianism in the future of Cuba even more than in the present because at least for now Cuba, unlike the US, is a country built on equity, collectivity, and ecology. Please do not abandon the quest for a true and humane “socialism” worthy of the name. Socialism should always be iterative, fight alienation, maintain “fierce honesty,” and never “debase Marxism to apologetics [or cover up] corruption.” (p. 163) Please make it deeply democratic so that long after you are gone citizens of the world will want to be part of a liberating global alternative to capitalism. Please defy history, and possibly your own desperate inclinations, and do the opposite of “most favored nation” China, which abandoned “equity and collectivity,” is a major factor in the global ecological crisis, and preserved authoritarianism. Please when and if the blockade is lifted continue to fight the revolution of “an ecological pathway of development,” (p. 155) which Cuba has pioneered.
You are welcome by me any time in my country, just like “we” welcomed those greedy exploiters. Although I do not so much believe in heaven anymore, I like to imagine tio Pancho, mi abuela, and countless other Hillsborough County cigar workers are smiling down on you, still glad that you prevailed and that they paid from their meager earnings to buy José Martí’s bullets and then yours. Nowadays in my country, by capitalist design it is Pendejo who is armed and dangerous, standing his ground against all manner of human beings with the wrong skin tone or political doctrine. He awaits you and your kind, which is to say my kind too and any other kind that is not his kind. If the cholesterol or Viagra-induced fever does not get him first, he will die serenading a Republican convention or red state county fair opening for Mannheim Steamroller with the world’s longest gray soul patch, so there’s that. But the planet will be boiling while most of the workers and lumpenproletariat are raging for more than kickass rock-n-roll.
Whichever “side” will “win” is a complex question. All we can do is try to ask the right underlying questions as well as possible, hope they are large enough, and act accordingly. There will be no camo outfits, assault rifles, or 24-hour pablum that can prepare us for what awaits. The Road Warrior was just another good times Reagan era movie. More than Cuba is in jeopardy. Which side are you on Sven and Hahvard men with your big sexy brains? Win the race to build the next widget or join the sluts and homos in Cuba to try to save the world?
My comrades and I know which side we are on. Levins’ Postface identifies “some of our tasks.”
1. Assist in the revival and growing clarity of popular struggles, helping the new movements to broaden their vision, to understand the context of their immediate situations and the lessons of past struggles that they can draw on. The long view is vital in sustaining the short term and local struggles in the face of countless disappointment and frustrations, anticipating the pressures of our adversaries to divide and co-opt, and in discovering the common ground between different struggles for justice when they seem to conflict because each asks too little.
2. Combat despair. As against the retreat into nationalism we reaffirm our internationalism, maintain ties among revolutionaries across borders, pool our experiences and ideas, and work for joint strategies. We uphold special solidarities with Cuba and Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico because as one of the last of the old colonies it may spearhead the resistance to the recolonizing of the Third World. Cuba because it is the one society which has retained a revolutionary commitment although having to make concessions to global capitalism. Even as it retreats in some spheres of life it leads the world in others, in the vision of an ecological society and the development of socialist democracy.
As against individualism we learn from left feminism to examine the much ignored areas of the personal in society, explaining how our individual miseries are not ours alone, how the commonly marketed solutions to personal fulfillment fail to address the root of the prevailing miseries and wasted talents. …
3. Faced with the dismissal of Marxism as obsolete even by some progressives, we reaffirm a militant Marxism. Rather than shrinking it down to merely a humane economics in order to gain respectability we broaden the scope of its engagement to confront all the ideologies of aggressive capital in all aspects of our existence. Only an honest, creative, and self-critical Marxism can survive to play a vital role in the coming struggles.
a) As a matter of theoretical coherence, practical necessity, and intellectual integrity we have to examine the history of our movement and understand the defeat it suffered. …
b) Openness to new ideas. Just as Marxism acknowledges its debts to English political economy, German philosophy, and French socialism so it must also welcome the insights of feminism, national liberation and anti-racist struggles, and ecology. …
c) Openness to new phenomena, to changes in our society and in the ways people confront that society, to new patterns of consciousness. …
US occupants did not always treat Cuban revolutionaries with contempt. One of the “new phenomena” we should be open to is actually an old one: the natural neighborliness among all oppressed people searching for answers, the right questions, and the right actions, regardless of nationality. Martí spoke in Spanish (translated here by Pablo Medina in A Century of Cuban Writers in Florida, p. 59 (Pineapple Press 1996).) on November 27, 1891 in Tampa, likely with some of my cigar worker ancestors in attendance, commemorating the deaths of eight martyred medical students summarily executed twenty years before in Havana on trumped up charges of scratching the tombstone of a Spanish newspaperman. The students were not granted weekly telegrams to the US but rather executed two days after their arrest.
Good thinkers who are also effective leaders, be they a founder of a world-changing socio-economic theory and movement, an oft-ostracized leftist Hahvard professor and path breaking ecologist, or a poet and future hero of anti-colonialism, have a way of making other folks sense their own potential significance to “changes in our society,” their own potential significance as species-beings. Sometimes they use emotional messages with holistic symbols from the earth that touch our hearts as well as our minds:
Today let us sing the hymn of life before the memorial of their graves. Yesterday I heard it coming from the earth itself, when we came to this gracious town. The landscape was damp and shadowy; the streams ran turbulent and muddy; the sugarcane, sparse and withered, did not move sorrowfully like the one far away that seeks redemption for those who nourished it with their death. Rather, its blades entered, rough and sharp, like daggers through the heart. In defiance of the storm and clouds, one pine stood with its top raised. Suddenly the sun broke through a clearing in the forest, and there in the midst of the shimmering light, I saw growing over the yellowed grass, next to the blackened trunks of fallen pines, bunches of new pines. That is what we are: The new pines!
Then it is up to each of us to ask the right questions AND to take appropriate action.
It is not just Cuba’s children who have skin in this game. Viva Cuba.