Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Cuba: Freedom of Expression & Socialism

By Ron Ridenour
Tuesday, 21 April 2009

How much freedom of expression and real (active) power the Cuban working class and the population as a whole, possess and exercise is a vital matter for the very survival of socialism and its development, a question that is being addressed by a few hundred university students, professors and professionals in Havana since November 2007.


“It is not a question of luxury, an alternative which one can choose or not: worker democracy is a condition sin qua non for the normal unfolding of a socialist economy.”

Over the last 50 years, the Communist party and government strategy for survival has focused on unity: unity in decision-making, unity around the top leaders, and unity in the media. This strategy has enabled the country to resist the United States and allied efforts to smash it.

However, this approach has prevented leaders and the bureaucracy from believing that it can afford the “luxury” of allowing any significant active participation on the part of the population to discuss and decide what the nation’s politics and economy ought to be. Nor do the media question decisions taken.

When questioned about the wisdom of this control, officials either ignore the question or respond with examples of how the US intelligence apparatuses intervene in other countries´ processes when they are not in what Washington perceives as its interests.

Suffice it here to note the successful interventions in media organs during the Allende government in Chile (1970-73), and in Nicaragua during the first Sandinista government from 1979-1990.

Hunger for More Information

Cuba’s leadership has maintained that broader freedom of expression can place the nation’s very sovereignty in peril. While there is some truth to this historically, strict government control of the media and other channels of information and debate cripple the ability of the common man and woman from acquiring adequate information and ideas necessary for them to become empowered.


The University of Havana (Photo by Maycgx)

This had led a sizeable segment of the population, and especially the younger generations, to be, disbelievers of what they are told by the media. They hunger for more and open information.

Cuban historian and professor of the University of Oriente, Frank Josue Solar, recently wrote:

“It is not a question of luxury, an alternative which one can choose or not: worker democracy is a condition sin qua non for the normal unfolding of a socialist economy. Without this it is deformed, and finally perishes.”

In the past two years or so some leftist voices have begun to hold indoor workshops to discuss these questions. There are also handfuls of students at the University of Havana and the Cujae University who meet to discuss socialism’s future.

This is the first time in decades that the government has allowed such open critique, albeit confined indoors until now.

A group of university students, professors and professionals formed the Bolshevik Workshop to pay homage to the Russian revolution, at the 90th year anniversary in November 2007, and to discuss its trajectory and collapse.

Some 500 people assembled at the University of Havana. One of the workshop organizers, Ariel Dacal Diaz, a professor of law, delivered a paper on the subject. The English translation is available at Cuba, October, Youth and the Future.

Revitalizing Revolutionary Marxism in Cuba

At this assembly, and at a subsequent workshop, participants viewed the need to revitalize revolutionary Marxism, also in Cuba. The dozen coordinators of the original workshop continued writing but did not organize other meetings in 2008 although they did create a lively Spanish language website, www.cuba-urss.cult.cu. They propose to “contribute to the empowerment of persons and groups in their practice as citizen-subjects within the Cuban revolution as a process and with socialism as its project.”


A sizeable segment of the population is hungry for more and open information (Photo by Caridad)

The website has hundreds of essays and articles by readers and past and current theoreticians and leading activists such as: Lenin, Trotsky, Gramsci, Luxemburg, and Che…

At the end of January this year, the coordinators organized another workshop by the name: “To live the revolution 50 years after the triumph.” They now meet monthly at the Ministry of Culture’s Juan Marinello Center, close to the Plaza of the Revolution.

The Ministry’s Antonio Gramsci Department and the Superior Art Institute (ISA) are cosponsors. The meeting hall allotted can hold just under 100 persons. It was full at the initial workshop where the theme was: Sentidos y significados de la revolucion en la vida de nosotros. (The significance and meaning of the revolution in our lives).

This lay the basis for the following workshop- “The political system of the revolution: participation, popular subject and citizenship”–which I attended.

In its announcement folder, the coordinators wrote: “This workshop seeks to contribute to the analysis on the place of citizen participation in the political system, its forms of expression concerning sovereignty, the necessity of a political and legal culture consistent with the social protagonism at the moment to create, control, limit and enjoy the political and the law.”

Specific topics were: how does socialism reformulate the concept of citizenship; mechanisms of actual popular participation; how to contribute to empowerment, all within the context of Hagamos nuestra la revolución (Making the revolution ours).

After a brief introduction and a short Cuban film, “The revolution we make,” the filled meeting hall broke into four groups to discuss what experiences we had with active participation and with forced participation, and how we felt as subject-citizens. (My participation was mainly as an observer since I do not currently live and work in Cuba, which I did from 1987 to 1996.)

Frustrations and Impotence

Diverse expressions surfaced regarding active and “obligatory” participation. When people had felt they could participate and, perhaps make a difference they felt positive. The reverse was the case when their experiences were not truly voluntary.


Paulo Freire: “If the structure does not permit dialogue the structure must be changed.” (photo by Distant Camera)

A student said that it was possible “to participate but `they´ make the decisions”. A young woman student spoke enthusiastically about this workshop initiative, which allowed her to feel as an active subject, “hoping it can lead to making a difference for the society.”

A Colombian studying here said he felt more as a subject in Cuba than in Colombia but hoped for greater active participation.

An older woman, who classified herself as an ordinary worker, said she felt isolated. “`They´ don’t give me a chance to participate in any real sense. `They´ don’t take our commentaries seriously, so I feel like a crazy old woman.”

During a break, she said she believed the revolution has stood still since the mid-60s. A couple of older professional men, remembering those activist days when peasants and militia still carried weapons to defend the nation-which they did at the Bay of Pigs invasion and against counter-revolutionary groups infiltrated and financed by the CIA (Operation Mongoose)-believed the revolution died after that.

The walls were covered with handwritten quotations by Bertolt Brecht, Roque Dalton, Silvio Rodriguez and others. On one wall were posted words by Paulo Freire: “If the structure does not permit dialogue the structure must be changed.”

Summaries of each group’s discussion were read during the last plenary session. The experiences and sentiments were similar. Bureaucratic mechanism’s of control were outlined and criticized during the discussion period.

There was ample self-critique as well. We must overcome self-censorship. We must not yield to the fear of losing what we may have or hope to obtain, such as a better position, and thereby remain silent in face of unfairness or wrong decisions.

One young man said each of us should find ways to improve our own behavior. For example, we must stop throwing trash anywhere we feel like it. We should intervene in all our surroundings with a positive spirit that we can make change.

He said we can make “them” listen to us, because we are the producers, the people for whom the political structure serves. An older professor suggested we invite bureaucrats to meet with us, “because they are Cubans too and we could learn from one another”.

A young professor of law, Julio Antonio Fernandez, gave a brief talk, first giving a brushstroke of revolutionary political and legal history. He then defended the constitution of 1976 as a revolutionary one, and one legalizing an active citizenry for socialism, one that establishes popular control of all mechanisms for sovereignty. The audience was so attentive a pin could be heard to drop.

“We do not seek to regress to before the revolution: we must be designers and controllers… What is most important now is a critique of current state organisms and not the possible creation of ideal institutions,” said Fernandez.

He continued by asking: If a dominating regime is necessary how can it act without alienating the people? How can we democratize power?

We have formal rights of control, Fernandez said, but need to actualize them. The law is not that of the state but that of and for the people. Citizenry duty must be restored. He also spoke against continuing discrimination both of race and gender. The individual and the collective must recognize and confront these ills.

“The danger of imperialism is real and we must find forms to act taking this reality into account,” he concluded.

Participation Leads to Solutions

Following his well received analysis, the body was asked for comments, especially concerning the question of how one can participate in a revolutionary manner. One-fourth of the audience-25 people-made comments and offered ideas to further the revolutionary process, and some called for action.

Several people young and old said that the workshop process and its ideas should go public. There must be ways of involving workers, vital producers. Some said that while laws protect the right to associate and to organize associations, and no law prohibits strikes, the reality is something different.

No one dare try to organize strikes, and many who petition for permission to organize associations are ignored or denied their right.

An older lawyer said he was still waiting, now ten years, for a reply from the Ministry of Justice to his several petitions to organize a harmless, social association of descendants of Slavic people in Cuba.

A sociology professor said that while some professions were allowed to form associations, those in sociology-a study prohibited in Cuba for three decades, which the government reinstated in the mid-90s-were not. Yet no reason was given.

A history professor said it was necessary to define what socialism really is and what it should be. Among other things, socialism must be personal as well as collective. One must feel that he/she is a decision-maker. Without that sense, what occurred in Russia and Eastern Europe could well occur in Cuba.

“Participation leads to solutions and that is liberating,” he concluded.

Another person said that Internet is a liberating tool. The Cuban Ministry of Telecommunications has repeatedly said that broader access will be technologically possible when the Venezuelan undersea cable reaches Cuba later this year or next.

One participant raised doubts about whether a dominating state power was any longer a necessity, especially one in which many leaders retain power positions for many years, even decades.

A young female student said she felt stimulated by these workshops and was optimistic that positive changes could be made. Several youths echoed her sentiment. The last speaker, a Brazilian student, said that it was most important that the group not degenerate into sectarianism as do so many left groups around the world.

The next workshop, open to all, will take place on March 27, at 9:30 a.m. at the Centro Juan Marinello. Its theme will be: state property, social property and the socialization of production.

Originally published in the Havana Times, March 12
Marxist.com


RENEGADE EYE

50 comments:

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

To be truthful, the content of the post is of no interest to me but I love the pictures, some great images there.

sonia said...

A history professor said it was necessary to define what socialism really is and what it should be. Among other things, socialism must be personal as well as collective. One must feel that he/she is a decision-maker. Without that sense, what occurred in Russia and Eastern Europe could well occur in Cuba.

Hilarious. Until now, Socialism has always been defined as VERY collective, and anti-individualist. To redefine socialism as "personal" where everybody "feels that he/she is a decision-maker" is a very revolutionary redefinition of the term.

Maybe instead of twisting the meaning of the words like pretzels, that history professor should just come out and say that Cuba should abandon socialism and adopt private property for all. People can only be decision-makers when they actually own something.

The Sentinel said...

I have not long returned from a business trip to Cuba and although I am certainly no fan of socialism I have to say that I found Cuba to be far removed from what the hell hole I was expecting it to be, and I travelled around a fair bit.

I saw no real poverty (though I was constantly told before I left that there was much poverty and so I took some toys to donate. I really don't think it was necessary now beyond maybe the orphanages) there is very little crime, even in Havana - a sizeable city - the people seemed happy enough and no-one seemed afraid to voice any opinions.

I'm sure there a quite a few restrictive polices but that is just the natural insecurity of a non-elected regime.

sonia said...

Sentinel,

I saw no real poverty

As compared to what ? Haiti ? Certainly. I think you confuse cleanliness with prosperity. Cuba's poverty is pleasant-looking (no broken Pepsi bottles lying around), but it's quite serious.

Have you been into a normal Cuban store (where Cuban pesos are accepted) ?

troutsky said...

Sonia, try some other comparisons,Detroit perhaps, and as an expert on all forms of socialism, maybe you could explain what Marx meant by socialism as "an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all?"

The Sentinel said...

sonia,

I saw no real poverty, as I would define it: malnourished, homeless, dirty and diseased people as I have seen in many places, most recently India.

Maybe not everyone in Cuba had haute cuisine, or the latest TV, or a TV in every room or a mobile phone but that was about it as far I could see, and as I say I did travel quite a bit.

But you're point about the local stores is salient; I went into a couple of local pharmacies looking for eye drops that seemed well stocked but I noticed even in Havana - but most especially in the smaller towns - the distinct lack of shops of any kind.

Even so, I still saw absolutely no signs of malnourishment anywhere.

Anonymous said...

The only thing is that with freedom of expression there's no place for a regime like the Cuban. It's the same difference between a zoo and a jungle. If you prefer the cage, ok, you're welcome, but if you want to be free (like ANY normal animal) try to learn more about the real Cuba. Just listen to the people who are trying to express freely...

The Pagan Temple said...

That's an interesting way to look at it. With freedom you get the jungle. With communism you get the zoo. I guess that makes what Obama and the Democrats are trying to accomplish tantamount to making us live on a nature preserve. You have what you need to get by, with the illusion of freedom thrown in for good measure.

roman said...

Professor Solar is very fortunate that Uncle Fidel only has minimal possession of his mental faculties otherwise the good professor would join all the other forgotten unfortunate political prisoners/opponents languishing in Cuba's tropical gulags. Freedom of speech in its full blossom was and will always be the end of a dictatorship whether leftist or rightist in nature. Kudos to the professor for his courage to give voice to the 800 pound gorilla which no one in Cuba seems to acknowledge.

Foxessa said...

In Cuba most Cubans buy most of their food at the outdoor morning markets. These are relatively new, forced in to feed the cities during the Special Period in the early and mid-90's. They are farmers' markets, which sell in Cuban currency. The commodities have a price set by the state, I believe, so gouging cannot go on, but the farmers keep much if not all of the money for their produce.

Most Cubans achieve their clothing via loosely organized groups of women who buy and sell and trade items with each. A family member goes to Spain and brings back as much as s/he can. The word goes out that if you need toddler clothes so-and-so has them. The women visit each other with things to show. Exchange happens.

When it comes to large items such as cars and so on -- you need permission from the state to buy one whether or not you have managed to accumulate the cash necessary. You also need documentation from your local CDR and from your neighbors that you are the sort of person who will not use your car only for yourself, but the sort of person if someone in your building or neighborhood needs a sudden trip to the hospital you will willing to do so.

In the last few years you can buy other things in Cuban stores with Cuban currency, like televisions and air conditioners, if you have the means.

The problem isn't so much that the state wants to deny the People (though Fidel definitely has a puritanical streak in him) as that the power grid cannot support that many personal air conditioner, big televisions, fans, computers (and there's no band width for most computers) and so on.

However, the decision that there be no popular press, was such bad one. This means there haven't been any magazines in Cuba since 1959 that published fashion and gossip and light fiction and all those things that I can personally vouch the average Cubana is starved for.

It also means there's been no development in certain areas of design and news and all the rest. It goes for books as well, though Cuba's publishers have long catalogs of excellent books -- but nothing -- or very little -- that is 'frivolous' or what I call fun, nothing comic -- but yes, satire. Cubans are so funny and witty and imaginative and creative, this is a terrible shame.

As for crime -- it's increased significantly in the last few years as there has been more prosperity. You really feel it in the solars, as in Guanabocoa -- where few tourists or business people go. But spiritual seekers and music people and historians go there; people like us. I have a friend from here who is living there right now again for 6 weeks, as she studies music with a musician who is based there. She goes for 4 - 6 weeks two or three times a year. She's been assaulted twice and robbed. She runs into tourists all the time now to whom that has happened.

Even so, it's nothing at all like what the lower east was like here back in the 70's, for instance. Guns aren't in everyone's hands, and that makes such a difference.

Love, C.

The Pagan Temple said...

Such a damn good comment overall, then she has to ruin it at the very end with a seeming recommendation for gun control. Never mind that all those seventies robbery victims in the "lower east" during the seventies were probably for the most part unarmed, in many cases probably due to state or local ordinance, while the perpetrators were undoubtedly armed despite such laws, let's just keep pushing the myth of the rabid gun owner and maybe eventually it will stick.

I do find it humorous that the lack of such goods as air conditioners and fans are excused as due to the lack of an adequate power grid. And what gives the fucking state the right to mandate what person is allowed to own an automobile. If anybody can afford one in that shitty economy, my advice to Fidel would be let him buy it and drive it as much or as little as he wants.

Maybe he'll take his neighbors to the store or the hospital. Maybe he won't, maybe because he has good reason not to care to help one or more of them, maybe just because he's a prick. It's really none of Fidel's business one way or another.

Nevin said...

This post is not about how poor Cuba is, but rather about 500 Cubans (young and old) coming together and discussing important issues that matter to them.

Let's not divert from the topic and go into the usual rhetoric which the US government and media wants us so desperate believe, that Cuba is poor and despotic!..

The Pagan Temple said...

I think you're misreading the media, Nevin, if your meaning by that is the "MSM". Sure, they portray Cuba as poor, though for the most part they minimize the despotic part. It seems to me to be a play for sympathy seemingly for the benefit of the Cuban people.

The "MSM" never tired of showing images of poor little Elian Gonzales being ripped from the arms of a loving family by the jack-booted thugs who shipped him back to a land of privation. It became a cause celebre of the 2000 elections. Their point, the way I saw it, was not so much to support Bush or Gore either one as it was to push both candidates to take a direct stand on the issue. They obviously wanted Gore to advocate for normalization of relations with the island, but he refused to take the bait. Bush took the expected "reactionary" route of maintaining the embargo, if I remember correctly, and criticizing the removal of Gonzales to Cuba.

It was all a play conducted by the media. The point was not to hate the Cuban government or shame the Cuban people. The point was to push for a change in the relationship. Actually, more than anything, it was a fairly typical ratings ploy.

It's good that 500 Cubans are getting together to discuss the issues that concern them, but don't think for one minute that the Cuban people matter to anybody. They don't, not to the politicians here, and certainly not there. They are political pawns, little more than hostages in their own homelands.

When the recommendations of those 500 Cubans are actually taken seriously, and actually at least to an extent acted on, then we can say their dialogue is important. Until such time, its just another show.

Renegade Eye said...

I think it's a good sign, that an article like this is printed in a Cuban mainstream paper.

Daniel H-G: It's your right to not be interested in the subject.

Sonia: I agree Cuba is a poor country. It manages to have higher literacy and life expectantcy than Brazil.

A history professor said it was necessary to define what socialism really is and what it should be. Among other things, socialism must be personal as well as collective. One must feel that he/she is a decision-maker. Without that sense, what occurred in Russia and Eastern Europe could well occur in Cuba. Democracy is the lifeblood of socialism.

The Sentinel: That is pretty accurate.

Troutsky: Again Cuba has higher literacy and life expectantcy than Brazil. Capitalism would dismantle the healthcare system.

anonymous: Express what?

Roman: This article was printed in a mainstream paper in Cuba. There is discussion about the future of Cuba occuring.

There is a lesson from this post. If the professor would go around saying , "Down with Castro," he wouldn't be listened to. He'd be accused of being tied to Florida.

Foxessa: Your report is accurate.

Nevin: You are exactly right.

Pagan: Time has shown the decision to bring back Elian Gonzalez was correct. Gore is spineless, as any Democratic Party leader.

I support suppressing agents of Florida. They have a history of terrorism.

Right now there is lively discussion occuring in Cuba. Fidel won't live forever. For some reason Raul is friendly to the Chinese model. He is naive if he thinks capitalism would allow the healthcare system to survive. There are several proposals.

I'm for other parties, provided they oppose capitalism and not tied to Florida.

The discussion of the 500, wouldn't have even taken place in Stalinist Russia or Mao's China. That's not saying Cuba has the freedom it should have, but it's better than the latter.

Fidel does care about the people. There is much wrong with Cuba, but there is no history of purposeful starvation as under Mao and Stalin. He did more than anybody to end apartheid in South Africa according to Nelson Mandela.

tony said...

Yes.The Fact That This Debate Is Happening Is Good.
The Older I get the less faith I have in the whole idea of a "Free Media".Free to do what exactly?Freedom of Expression is one thing.Power to do anything with that Expression is quite another thing.
I can blog until the Cows come home but that doesnt actually change anything for me personally,let alone the Society i live in.
The Media in ,say,Britain,is fairly aimed at the staus Quo.The Individual has little opportunity to express any real dissent from Political Norms.I dont think (in this sense) we have any greater personal voice than the average Cuban.
We all all have to live within the narrow parameters our society works within.Be it Cuba,Britain,or the USA. It is problematic for any culture to talk its way towards something New.Good For These Cubans for even trying.

K. said...

"don't think for one minute that the Cuban people matter to anybody. They don't, not to the politicians here, and certainly not there. They are political pawns, little more than hostages in their own homelands."

You write this like it's unique to Cuba. We just suffered through eight years of an administration that held public opinion in complete contempt. Every society everywhere -- regardless of its political system -- has to be on guard against this.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Off topic but thought you might like to know that I'm using the content of your blog to test the site-reading skills of my acting students.

Peace.

The Pagan Temple said...

K-

The "contempt" the last administration held public opinion in is, first of all, nothing more than your opinion, one which I only share to a point.

Second of all, we have remedies for that here, which the people exercised over the course of the last two election cycles by giving the party in power the boot.

Like I say though, you were right to a point. I seriously doubt you minded that much when Bush sided with liberal Democrats in the attempt to liberalize immigration laws, an action he took in utter contempt for the majority opinion within his own party-the rank-and-file Republican voters, at least.

Then, the Republican Party nominated a moderate for President who was with Bush in his "contempt" for Republican values in supporting the Immigration Reform law. You saw the result. A good many Republicans stayed home. Some even voted for Obama, though assuredly not many.

That is how it works here. Presidents and parties don't change their positions because a relative handful of nuts get out on the streets and throw rocks and molotov cocktails and burn the flag, or because half-wit morons like Keith Olbermann prematurely ejaculate their bilge on national television. They change their position because they know if they don't the majority of voters will vote their asses out of office. Too few Republicans listened to the warnings. They had their asses handed to them.

When that same situation becomes commonplace in Cuba, then you can moan about me picking on your beloved Fidel. Until then, it sort of sounds like you don't know what the shit you're talking about, doesn't it?

Renegade Eye said...

Tony: In Cuba there is some opening up. Once someone said there was no opposition blogs in Cuba. I found hundreds.

Your overall view is correct.

K: I have to agree.

Daniel H-G: Sounds good.

Pagan: Bush knew he was down in the polls for months, and he didn't change anything, except for an unannounced opening of relations with Iran. His support of a pathway for citizenship, did nothing to stop "guest worker" programs. The wall was built on his watch. Not that the Dems were better. They opposed guest worker programs, because they proposed "new worker," programs.

Nobody moaned about picking on beloved Fidel.

I'm for opposition parties being allowed in Cuba, provided they are not sponsored by Florida or support private property.

FJ said...

Glasnost...

Perestroika...

Glasnost...

Perestroika...

Se va caer! Se va caer! Este gobierno se va caer!

When the old man finally kicks the bucket, and the nurses wipe the last dribble of spittle from Raul's chin, Cubans will FINALLY get THEIR sovereignty BACK!

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Yes, I'll let you know how that goes sometime next week.

The View from Steeltown said...

I am impressed to read that you found hundreds of opposition blogs in Cuba. I am really pleased to see Cuba's revolution slowly shedding the mantle of the cold war as the entire region is starting to move towards a "Socialism for the 21st Century". Through a dialectical process evident in the meeting mentioned in the article the old is meeting the new and Cuba could, once again, be a beacon for developing nations. The island appears to be moving away from the old soviet style of governance needed during the cold war and towards a new pluralistic socialist society and if they succeed, the Cuban people on that small island will continue to radiate far beyond its size and good fortune. The best way we can help Cuba become the kind of socialist nation we want is to create that model here at home.

Foxessa said...

Somebody said "Cubans will FINALLY get THEIR sovereignty BACK!"Do you consider that the Cuban People possessed 'their sovereignty under the Spanish throne, during which a huge percentage of them were slaves, who made up such an important part of Maceo's army of Mambises (who were doing pretty well until Teddy R go the idea to highjack their Independence War? Under the control of the U.S. military, U.S. corporations, the mafia and the dictators like Batista who represented their interests?

Love, C.

FJ said...

Do you consider that the Cuban People possessed 'their sovereignty under the Spanish throne...as much then as they do now!

Larry Gambone said...

Interesting article. Glad to see things opening up in Cuba. Maybe this way they can avoid the disasters that happened to the USSR and the Eastern Bloc and move in the direction of genuine (worker democratic) socialism.

Renegade Eye said...

Daniel H-G: What does sight reading mean?

Steeltown: I agree. I think Venezuela has been a good influence on Cuba.

Foxessa: That is absolutely correct. It is shown by people who were alive and remember the Bay of Pigs invasion, didn't allow Cuba to break from a socialist model, even if the rest of the world did.

FJ: Florida is not part of Cuba.

Larry G: I agree. There still is a way to go.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Sight reading means reading off the page.

"FJ: Florida is not part of Cuba."

That made me laugh.

The Pagan Temple said...

"Sight reading means reading off the page."

Otherwise known, in uneducated vulgar street language, as-

"reading"

Renegade Eye said...

Reading works for me.

sonia said...

Foxtessa,

Maceo's army of Mambises (who were doing pretty well until Teddy R go the idea to highjack their Independence War

This seems to be a perennial excuse. "The heroic savior of the people" (Maceo, Trotsky, Rosa Luxemburg, etc.) struggles to fight for justice, but then "a villain" (Teddy, Stalin, Hitler) shows up and fucks it all up, "hijacks" the struggle, "betrays the trust of the people", etc...

I don't believe in those fairy tales. They are bullshit. The real villains are "the people" themselves. And at the end, they get exactly what they deserve.

There is a price to pay for revolutions. In Cuba, it means cleaning the rooms of Canadian tourists, getting paid in monopoly money that can only buy bags of rice and beans, and hoping for enough tips in "convertible pesos" to go to a real store and get "luxury products" like soap. And meanwhile, all you can do is wonder how come all those Canadians could get so rich and prosperous despite living in the shadow of the same "evil giant".

And the answer is: they NEVER HAD A REVOLUTION...

The Sentinel said...

I agree with most of that Sonia, and as much as I like to disagree even slightly with a woman who has such beautiful body - but I still have to say that considering not just Cuba's stunted political philosophies, but the years of embargoes , etc. and its lack of valuable natural resources beyond sugar as well as the current economic crisis effecting all - it is still doing a lot better then most would expect.

The Pagan Temple said...

Sonia-

We've been through all this before, and you were soundly spanked over this "no such thing as a good revolution" philosophy you seem to have. Are you saying it would be as wrong for the Cuban people to stage a revolution against the Castro communist government as it was for Castro's followers to stage theirs against Batista?

The reason the Canadians are doing as relatively well as they are has zero to do with their never having had a revolution and you know it.

It has everything to do with the fact that in Canada the people have at least some freedoms and civil liberties, and its a relatively good and safe place for capital and business investment.

If national leaders don't want to have to defend against a revolution, here's a thought. Don't pursue policies that encourage them. That goes equally for left and right wing governments.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Pagan:

Wrong. Twice. Ouch, Sight reading is readling out loud, not just reading, a different skill.

Second wrong is you have no chance of spanking Sonia.

Bye.

The Pagan Temple said...

Okay, thanks for the clarification on the sight reading, but as for my spanking Sonia, I've had my hands across that naked ass so many times I've lost count.

sonia said...

Pagan,

Are you saying it would be as wrong for the Cuban people to stage a revolution against the Castro communist government as it was for Castro's followers to stage theirs against Batista?

You got me. It's a classic "heart" vs "brain" dilemma. My heart wishes for a huge, bloody revolution against Castro, but my brain warns me that if overthrown by violent means, Castro would inevitably be replaced by another tyrant...

Sentinel,

considering not just Cuba's stunted political philosophies, but the years of embargoes , etc. and its lack of valuable natural resources beyond sugar as well as the current economic crisis effecting all - it is still doing a lot better then most would expect.

There are reasons Cuba is doing better than expected:

1. Since the early 1990's, the largest chunk of its economy (tourism) is no longer communist. There are private restaurants, private bed and breakfasts, and big hotels partially owned by Spanish and Mexican companies.

2. Global warming is very slow and Canada still has harsh winters.

3. A full WEEK in a five-star, all-inclusive resort in Cuba (unlimited alcohol and food), including airfare, costs less than a WEEKEND in a typical Canadian hotel (without food, drinks, transportation, and often without sunshine)...

4. The price difference is caused by the fact that if a Canadian hotel employee was paid his Cuban collegue's salary (in non-convertible Cuban pesos), he would quit immediately, because his salary would be a tiny fraction of his Canadian welfare cheque (if exchanged on a black market; legally he couldn't exchange it at all).

5. Despite that fact that this is probably the most outrageous case of the exploitation of human labor today, leftists everywhere applaud it.

The Pagan Temple said...

Ren-

OT and blatant shameless self-promotion time. Check out my post about Jacob Zuma, you might find it interesting, and I would be interested in your take on him. It's after my post about Obsessed. I won't be posting any more for probably about three days.

Sonia-

You are actually right to a degree. The point is, revolutions usually happen when there seems to be no other recourse, and a great lot if not most of the time, there is indeed no other recourse.

How it turns out in the aftermath is dependent on who takes power.

I do see your point. A bloody victory necessitates making sure there are none left to stage a counter revolt. It can get out of hand pretty quickly.

It still might be necessary at times, though I don't think that's necessarily the case with Cuba. After Fidel and Raoul have exited the world stage for good, I doubt there will be any with the requisite force of personality to keep things going at the same level as they have been even under Raoul's relatively relaxed standards.

That means they will either allow some degree of opposition views and parties, or they will try to stage some kind of violent crack down at the first signs of dissent. If they do that, they are finished. It won't take long for the island to descend into a violent hell hole. It will only take a few thousand people coming out in opposition. Others will follow.

Who knows, maybe Elian Gonzales will be the figurehead of a new democratic (real democratic) uprising. That would be ironic, wouldn't it?

Okay, yeah that's unlikely. But I'm [retty confidant that the days of the current communist government of Cuba are numbered, and its not a large number, regardless of who spearheads the changes that are certainly coming.

Renegade Eye said...

Sonia; Revolution is negation of the negation. Feudal society created a bourgeoise class, by having people who were free from mundane work, and could create capialism. The capitalist class went on to destroy feudalism. The modern working class is a creation of capitalism, also the seed of its destruction. Negation of negation is independent of your opinion of it.

Cuba last year made some reforms in their currency. The tourist hotel problem is a direct result of the rug cut from under Cuba by the Russians. It is hardly applauded. Every word in your comments are idealism, divorced from the real world.

No way can Cuba survive in isolation. It needs to expand revolution to other countries.

As for revolution in Cuba, the Castro government is popular. The gusanos even tried aerial attacks on Cuba to no avail.

Sentinel: I agree.

Daniel H-G: Now I know what sight reading is.

Sonia has been argued with on revolution, by even some to her right.

Pagan: I doubt if the Cubans will allow their medical or educational system to be tampered with. No way will capitalism allow free healthcare.

The people who took part in the forum, talked about in this article, show how to do things in Cuba. You make your point, without the "down with Castro" stuff. If you attack Castro directly, they think you are a Florida agent.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Pagan:

Ha ha, fair play to you but you're a brave man.

The Pagan Temple said...

Ren-

It's a good thing they have free health care, because they damn sure don't have jack shit to pay for it with if it wasn't. If the average Cuban made the equivalent of one thousand dollars a month, and they paid one hundred a month (or even two or three hundred a month) for health care, what have they lost?

The reason the health care system in the US is so screwed up is more complicated than its the fault of capitalism, or Republicans. It's as much the fault of liberal as conservative policies. All have a share of the blame for the mess they've all created.

Daniel-

Sonia's a pussycat, even if she does roar like a lion sometimes.

The Sentinel said...

Well Sonia, I gotta say I agree with pretty much everything you say there except the global warming bit.

I went to Varadero for a day to have a look at the beachs and it is miles and miles of all inclusive resorts; i did a holiday search when I got back in the UK and found 2 weeks all inclsuive with an upgraed flight was just £600 - remarkable.

Hopefully then the toys I took were of some help, and I alwasy leave tips for waiters, room maids etc and I suspect a lot do, that too will hopefully help.

But I think the main point in all this, is that, just as with China, it was the move away form communism that heralded any economic success.

Larry Gambone said...

Sonia, you are actually wrong about Canada never having a revolution. We had one in 1837-38, an armed insurrection of farmers, artisans and professionals. We lost. But the seriousness of the Canadian desire for representative government and self-government as evinced by our taking up arms, was the impetus for the colonial government to enact reforms. So we got representative government and eventuallu independence. Many of the people who were neither executed or deported to Australia later became significant figures in the new governments.

Larry Gambone said...

There were also two other revolutions. One was in Manitoba in 1870 where the Metis rose up against invaders from Ontario and established a provisional government. Thus the province of Manitoba was created. Fifteen years later, the Metis having been driven out of Manitoba, established themselves in Saskatchewan and rose up in arms again. They were crushed and the Metis Nation destroyed, the people living for generations in shacks on the road allowances.

sonia said...

Larry,

you are actually wrong about Canada never having a revolution.

Canada had revolts, but it never had a revolution. Countries that have SUCCESSFUL revolts (known as revolutions) become either imperialistic, trying to infect other countries with their revolutionary poison (United States, Soviet Union, Napoleon's France) or they simply destroy themselves (Haiti, Cambodia, etc.).

There is no problem with revolts. As long as those revolts are crushed, turning the "revolutionaries" into martyrs and prisoners, they can even inspire useful reforms (and sometimes, those prisoners might even become democratically elected presidents, like Mandela, Walesa or Havel).

The tragedy is when the revolutionaries win and INEVITABLY (every time!) become dictators and genocidal maniacs.

Larry Gambone said...

OK, I will buy that Sonia. I see what you mean. However, anarchists and Marxists use the term revolution differently than you do. Any mass-based rising of the population, whether violent or non-violent, which seeks to establish a new way of living is by us considered a revolution, whether it is successful or not. Thus the Spanish Revolution of 1936, the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, the Revolution of '68 in France, the Portuguese Revolution of 1974 etc.

Larry Gambone said...

"The tragedy is when the revolutionaries win and INEVITABLY (every time!) become dictators and genocidal maniacs."

You seem to have forgotten that I pointed out before that you were wrong about this.

1. The American Revolution, while it did turn own its supporters in the suppression of Shay's Rebellion, hardly deserves such classification.

2. The Costa Rican Revolution of 1948 involved 2000 fatalities and established an advanced social democracy in in Central America.

3. The Bolivian Revolution of 1952. Involved armed insurrection, nationalized the tin mines and engaged in land reform. Later gradually degenerated but hardly became genocidal. (That came later with the US-sponsored coups)

The Pagan Temple said...

Actually, Shay's Rebellion, which was more of an incident than a genuine widespread revolt, was contained to Massachusetts when Shays followers took over an armory. There were other, smaller revolts that occurred in other states, but they were all uncoordinated. They were encouraged by the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation.

To an extent, they were successful, as they were perhaps a pivotal reason the Articles were scrapped and the Constitution was adopted.

Sonia, can you point me to an example of how the US spread its "poison" to other lands after the Revolution? Unless you're talking about the westward expansion across the North American continent and repression of Indians, what you're saying doesn't make a lot of sense.

The Indian wars were very much two-sided affairs, with barbarism and brutality exhibited on both sides. We won, and in those days, when you won bloody conflict after bloody conflict, more often than not the consequences were not pleasant.

The Mexican War was started basically by Texas, which declared its independence from Mexico and became an independent nation. They later wanted to join the US, and the actions of their US supporters led to the war, but I see no evidence of the spread of this poison you're talking about.

A great lot of the land we acquired from Mexico in the years after the Mexican War was not taken by force, but was purchased, including a sizable portion of Arizona and New Mexico, called the Gadsden Purchase, which occurred some years after the war was settled.

What you're doing Sonia is engaging in a torturous twisting of logic and facts to support your flawed theory that no revolution is good or justified, and it just doesn't wash.

I have never yet read any of the harshest critics of the US Indian Wars or the Mexican War blame these events on the Revolution. If that's what you're basing this on, it's certainly a unique perspective, I grant you that, but its fatally flawed from jump street.

Larry Gambone said...

Pagan, I think it stretching things way beyond reason to make the Indian and Mexican Wars an example of revolutionary imperialism and tyranny.

As Ren pointed out, Sonia is a philosophical idealist. But material conditions make a revolution tyrannical or not. The 13 colonies had a long history of self-government, and direct democracy in the form of the New England town meetings. Power was decentralized and people had a horror of top-down centralized govt. France, Russia and Mexico had little or none of this democratic history.

In the 13 Colonies the counter-revolutionaries were only a minority, about one third of the population. But judging by the numbers who fled after the Revolution, ACTIVE counter-revolutionaries could not have been much more than a tenth of the population. In the revolutions that degenerated into tyranny, the people were much more divided.

The Pagan Temple said...

Gambone, there was indeed considerable pro-British sympathy amongst the colonists. I would say one-third of the population is a pretty good estimate. Benjamin Franklin's son is an example of one well-known (at the time) individual who supported the colonial status. He and Franklin fell out over the matter. His son was a governor, I think of New York, but of some place regardless. The point is, there were definitely those who did not support the revolutionaries.

While many who opposed the revolution did indeed flee to Canada and other places, a great many of those who supported the revolution lost their money, homes, and other properties and never recouped their losses. Some died in debt, and even poverty. That was a chance they were willing to take.

It could be that Sonia is referring to slavery, but even that would be torturing facts and logic to arrive at a conclusion, perhaps even more than the Mexican and Indian wars. For one thing, slavery was only allowed as a compromise, as at the time certain states would never have signed the constitution without that allowance. It was never under any circumstances intended to be viewed as a sacrosanct part of the revolutionary American culture and ideals. It was just something that was put up with due to the necessity of compromise.

It was also on-going for well before the Revolution, something which the institution of slavery had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Sorry to butt in but just been watching the episode of the West Wing where they meet with Castro and try and end the embargo and all that tosh.

Bye!

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