From: Diego Guerrero (diego.guerrero@CPS.UCM.ES)
Date: Tue May 20 2003 - 05:23:38 EDT
<<Yes, the unexpected (but hoped-for) participant showed up also the following day (after Patrick's report), too. [.] I'll be interested in what others there have to say---- and, definitely, Diego can tell about a very unexpected development in relation to the unexpected participant! cheers, mike>> In fact, I agree with Fred in that this unexpected presence told us more bad things than good things, I'm afraid. I'll try to explain myself. Let me tell you first that I flew from Havana to Mexico and just got Madrid yesterday. In my almost 20 days out I haven't had a good access to the net, so that I've been unable to follow the ope-l Cuba debate on time. I was thinking to put my ideas in order, but I feel I have to contribute to the debate before I can get the former. I'll do the latter by enumerating some still disorderly ideas. 1. Cuba is not a socialist country or economy even though many people there aim at socialism. Due to the well known problems of the Cuban economy in the early nineties, the Cuban government had to recur to a kind of dollarization which not only extended the inequality connected to all monetary systems but is producing in this case a strong and growing social dualism. In my opinion, the Cuban dollar dependence now is as great as is the Argentinian one (if not worse), and the compulsory move towards competitiveness that the Cuban economy is experiencing forces it to look for absolute competitive advantages. One of the biggest might be the organization of this kind of conferences on Marxist topics for socialist-sympathetic people around the world, able to bring into Cuba a lot of dollars to spend in and around the dollar hotels of The Havana. Of course, an important factor contributing to the success of this segment of the market might be Fidel's presence at these events. 2. When one sees Fidel and several of his ministers (and around them a lot of "unproductive" people, unproductive not only in the sense of the LTV) attending such a conference for hours and hours, one cannot help asking himself: "But don't they have anything better to do that this?". At the same time, one can see that his room at the (priced) four stars hotel has not been cleaned or has even lost the remains of the small single piece of (unpapered) soap left in the morning (and which was by the way almost the overall decoration of the bathroom). And at the same time one can hear a lot of young people (a physical education teacher, an odontologist, etc.) telling you that young people in Cuba prefers not to work (and do not work if they can) since they get probably more for an hour of conversation with you (if they get a normal tip for it) than in one or two weeks of labor. 3. Fidel seemed very proud of the cheapness of the books printed in Cuba, and he showed us the content of a cartoon box called the "Biblioteca Popular". He showed us the attendants of the conference every piece of the 25 booklets and read their titles and commented on them (and showed them specially for me, since I had mentioned in my question-talk to the conference the possible "idealism" of Fidel's education policy). Afterwards he gave me the entire thing, and since I have it now in front of me in my Madrid apartment I can tell you that the box contains also a sheet with two "instructions to bind": a. "Ud puede cortar los pliegos por el borde superior con unas tijeras o cuchillas, para separarlos" [You can cut the folders by the upper border with scissors or blades in order to separate them] b. "Ahora ponemos a su disposición tres maneras muy sencillas para encuadernar el libro y conservarlo durante mayor tiempo" [We make now available to you three very simple ways to bind the book and sep it longer]: using a "sewing machine", an "office stapler" or a "ponchadora" (how do you call the small machine used to punch holes in a sheet?). This is not a book, but raw materials to make a book with additional labor. Of course, I am for this policy because it is a way to assure cheap and extended education. I am also for the Cuban health policy -the young odontologist also agreed in that all Cubans had access to free dental care, and I believe him; but: do they meet the economic requirements to have a good dental care service? Can they afford, due to their high cost in dollars, the fillings, orthodontia and other materials necessary for this care? They make their best, and do so for food as well, but the fact is that many Cubans are a bit hungry and have difficulties to feed themselves well. It is true that in other countries most people feed themselves better, but at the same time many people in those countries don't have access to any food and even die (see Mexico DF, Madrid or even New York). 4. In my opinion, the LTV allows us to understand not only prices in capitalism but also other things. For example, Cuba. The main problem they have with what we can call "canonical capitalism" (call it imperialism if you wish) is that they made a revolution and took from the traditional expropriators of unpaid labor a lot of means of production which were precisely made of this unpaid labor. Of course, from an individualistic and liberal point of view, you can say that those 'USA re-expropriated owners' have the (human, of course) right to get their real estates and other ownerships back to them. But since this revolution aimed at this re-expropriation, and it was and still is a step forward towards the universal fight for communism, we communists support it and keep it doing so. We try to help the country where the remains of that revolution still exist as it helps us in our fight for communism, even if we know well how far the Cubans are up to now and now from communism. Of course, personalisms, cult to personality (we commented that at least they don't have statues and other signs of the leader, etc.), low productivity, internal blockade (possibly much developed due to the external one) and many other bad things dislike us all, but when we are forced to choose among two evils we should choose the least. 5. I recommend you to read Victor Serge's memories. He was an anarchist living in Russia under Lenin and Stalin. I was very impressed with this book, very sincerely written, and cannot help thinking that in case oneself were compelled to make the kind of choices Serge himself had to make, one would be more sympathetic with the kind of decisions Fidel and his government had and have to make. 6. That's why I am for Milosevic when I am forced to choose among his regime and USA's, or for Saddam's (for the same reasons), or for the present governments of Venezuela, Ecuador, Palestina, China, etc., and against USA's or Spain's. I know quite well that all the countries I mentioned are nor socialist, communist or anarchist. They are capitalist countries, but they are marching forward in a sense, against the opposition that those who are marching backward mercilessly oppose to them. In fact, the LTV shows us, for society, what the law gravity shows for nature: the rain will go down as a rule, even if there are some exceptions due to winds and other phenomena in nature (countertendencies). 7. This is why I am not a pacifist. I prefer peace to war: anyone doubt it? But when you are IN a war, the problem is not: either peace or war; but: are you going to defend yourself or instead act as a Jesus Christ follower? 8. I would like to be against the death penalty as I was in the past. In fact I believed I was, but perhaps the recent events in Afghanistan, Iraq, Cuba. have changed my mind. I thought of the Serge's book before coming to Cuba. In fact, I thought of it for years since I read it. And I thought and still think: if it is true that I believe in the "present-ness" (how do you say "actualidad" in English?) of the revolution, and revolution is not a boys' game, HOW CAN ANYBODY BE AGAINST DEATH PENALTIES FOR EVER AND EVERYWHERE? Aren't we decided to defend our revolutions? Do we have to use just pacifist methods? Doesn't it (to be against the death penalty as a kind of universal principle) amount to pay our tribute to individualism and liberalism? Don't forget Marx's cautions against the "modern mythology of the human rights" and other intellectual products of the French (bourgeois) Revolution. 9. I met Jose Saramago yesterday at the Madrid-Barajas airport's baggage room, but had not enough time to ask him. I flew from Mexico in the same flight he took, since last Saturday he was presenting a book at the Fondo de Cultura Economica bookshop (M. A. Quevedo subway in Mexico city). Since the Italian communist Pietro Ingrao has mentioned the Portuguese communist Saramago and in my country (Saramago is living in Spain for years) so many intellectuals and members of the Communist Party has joined the latter in criticizing Cuba now, it might be worthy thinking in the meaning of his small article in El Pais entitled "Cuba: Hasta aqui he llegado" (or something like this). I think Saramago is a honest person. I don't agree with other Spaniards present at the Havana Conference who spoke now of him as "el viejo" in a very derogatory way. I'm sure these fellow countrymen and women treated him otherwise when Saramago went to visit the 500 Sintel workers who were camped for six month in La Castellana, near to the Industry Ministry in Madrid, to show his support to them and their fight against Telefonica and the Spanish government. But I think it is quite possible that it is Saramago, and not Fidel, that have made the biggest mistake here. 10. I am sure that Saramago is a honest person. But I doubt that his publisher (this fraction of capital called El Pais; this fraction of the empire if you wish) or all his followers are honest. Some of the latter were originally artists or intellectuals, but have become also a part of general capital, and not only in a metaphoric sense. A very illustrative example of what I mean occurred to me last Sunday (the 11th) in Mexico City, as I already commented in Mexico to Alejandro Valle and Abelardo Mariña. 11. There was a theatre play called "La sirvienta de Karl Marx", written by Isaac Slomianski, and performed by Sofia Salomon. It was a 45 minutes monolog where the actress represented Lenchen's character, the Marx family's maid in London to whom Karl made a son, as is well known. In the doorway of the Juan Jose Arriola Theatre, close to Casa del Lago in Chapultepec Park, there were a lot of press clippings telling what everyone could have suspected they would say. Kind of: "Class liberator but sex oppressor", "double (moral) standard", "the tyrant exploiter"., and so on. The press owners (who own the space in the newspapers as if it were free land space to occupy) did not need to check in this case whether what Lenchen is saying in the play is really true or false. In fact, it was pure invention (as Slomianski to whom I spoke after the play confirmed to me later): Lenchen told us how Marx arrived home drunk one night, and filthily forced her and disgustingly raped her in the midst of her own fear that her boss (Jenny)'s coming back home suddenly. The author ignored -but this was of no importance to the media capitalists- that the latter was simply not possible, since Jenny Marx was at the time traveling for months in Germany (in particular, she had gone to her parents' to show them her new baby: see the 2001 Francis Wheen biography of Marx) when Lenchen conceived Karl's son. 12. In total. It might be that Fidel and his regime have made a mistake. It might be that Saramago and those who have raised their voices against those executions have made a mistake. It might be that I am wrong. I am sure, however, tan once escaped from the Stockholm syndrome (which affected all us for a while, I think) at the Marx Conference in Havana, a feeling will remain inside me. The Cubans in Cuba are for the most part (not all) fighting for the same things I am, so that I keep giving them all my support. All of us do it in the midst of many errors, mistakes, ignorance, and compelled by the vertigo of the real world happenings. What a pity that the real world is not as simple as our beautiful models!!
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