Re: (OPE-L) Reports on the Marx conference in Havana

From: Michael Eldred (artefact@T-ONLINE.DE)
Date: Fri May 16 2003 - 09:56:08 EDT

Cologne 16-May-2003

"Fred B. Moseley" schrieb  Fri, 16 May 2003 00:12:01 -0400:

> On Tue, 13 May 2003, gerald_a_levy wrote:
> > It seems that there was an unexpected participant at the Marx
> > conference in Havana.  Patrick Bond gave the following report to
> > the "debate" list:
> >
> >
> > Is there anything that the listmembers who attended the conference
> > (Samir,  Paul Burkett,  Allin,  Diego, Claudio, Mike L,  Stavros, Terry,
> > Fred, and Alejandro V.) can add -- or take issue with?  Any other
> > unexpected  and/or encouraging developments? Did  any of you have an
> > opportunity to talk to the unexpected participant?
> This is a few comments about Fidel's participation in the Marx conference
> in Cuba, in response to Jerry's question.  He attended all of one day - a
> very long day, 11 hours in all I think - and half of another day - another
> 5 hours or so.  And he talked for about 6 hours altogether, in four long
> (very long) monologues.
> It was of course an extraordinary experience to spend so much time
> listening to such a world historical figure as Castro.  There were many
> fascinating stories and antidotes about the revolutionary movement in the
> 1950s, about trying to run the economy for the last 40 years (including
> purchases of everything from buses to chickens to toilets), about Chavez
> (very positive) and other heads of state (mostly negative), etc.  He is
> passionately proud of the educational accomplishments of the Cuban
> revolution, and also the health care accomplishments.  He seemed at times
> to be almost reminiscing about the past and recording his memoirs.  He is
> still plenty sharp at 76, but his stream of consciousness monologues
> seemed to wander at times.
> He said he read Marx as a student and it had a profound effect on him ("I
> learned about society from Marx, about the state from Lenin, and about
> ethics from Marti").  He also said that he was a communist from early on,
> contrary to the widespread belief that he "converted" to communism only
> after the revolution.
> However, by the end, it was almost too much.  He completely dominated the
> conference and changed its nature.  It became "Fidel's show", rather than
> a conference of interchange and discussion of international scholars.  The
> former is probably more important and interesting than the latter, but it
> seemed out of proportion.  Because Fidel took so much time, the conference
> lasted 4 hours longer than scheduled his first day and 2 hours longer his
> second day, and one session had to be canceled altogether.
> I guess what worries me about this is that, if he is so dominant at a
> scholarly conference, he would probably be even more dominant in policy
> discussions, when it really mattered.   Fidel is obviously a great man and
> a great socialist.  Learning more about the Cuban revolutionary movement
> in the 1950s and the accomplishments since then made me realize even more
> how extraordinary he is.  But I think he may have too much power to
> himself, and he appears reluctant to let go of that power.
> Almost everyone I met in Cuba seems to genuinely admire Fidel - even a
> reactionary, racist taxi driver who drove us from the airport the first
> night.  "Fidel loves Cuba," he said, "he has done a lot for Cuba."  Some
> may disagree with his policies, or be tired of his long speeches, but they
> all know and appreciate how much he has done for Cuba.  But I think many
> are also hoping that he will retire soon, and let others assume more
> decision-making power, including the general population.  However, this is
> obviously a dangerous time for Cuba, and that makes it more difficult and
> less likely that Fidel would give up the reins anytime soon.
> I am trying to find the time to write down what I learned about Cuba -
> and my further questions - and will send these to the list when I am
> finished.
> Comradely,
> Fred

Thanks for that, Fred.

Hans Magnus Enzensberger writes in an essay on Cuba ('Bildnis einer Partei:
Vorgeschichte, Struktur und Ideologie der PCC' in _Palaver: Politische
Ueberlegungen 1967-1973_ Frankfurt 1974 S. 86), " 'Away with the theorists of
the revolution! Away with these Marxist theorists! The Marxist-Leninist who's
always developing theories is just sponging off society!' (Fidel Castro,
Speech of 30 October 1963). Such outbursts abound in Fidel's speeches. They
reappear, of course, often in a more attractive form, for instance, in an
anecdote from the years 1954/55 which Raul Castro (Fidel's brother) told to an
American guest. 'We read three chapters of _Capital_', reported Raul,
laughing, 'and then we threw it away. I'm certain that since then Fidel hasn't
once looked at it again.' That has a certain charm; there may be scarcely one
communist politician who has gone further than the third chapter; there is
however quite certainly no one besides Fidel who is proud of it."

And I commented back in 1981 ('Material Dialectics and Socialist Politics' in
_Thesis Eleven_ No. 2 1981 p.61) on this, "The grounds which Enzensberger
ascribes to this anti-intellectualism, however, do not amount simply to a
defence mechanism against intellectuals' criticism of his leadership, for,
such a layer of intellectuals, who could develop a well-founded critique of
the Cuban revolution, is entirely lacking in that country. Cf. S.87ff on this

_-_-_-_-_-_-_-  artefact text and translation _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_
_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_- made by art  _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ _-_
_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ Dr Michael Eldred -_-_-

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