Re: (OPE-L) dreams and nightmares

From: Riccardo Bellofiore (riccardo.bellofiore@UNIBG.IT)
Date: Sat May 17 2003 - 05:34:02 EDT


thanks Nicky for this wonderful post.

of course, when I spoke of "Cuba" I had in mind the "people of Cuba":
and you are right to stress that.

I think that all that happened in  the experencies of real socialism
should have not come as a surprise: it was known already since
1917-8, with Rosa Luxemburg's The Russian Revolution.

of course, she supported bolshevisks, she was not forgetting the hard
reality of aggressione against revolution, the need to fight against
the reaction of the bourgeuisie, imperialism, etc. but she stressed
not only that this should not become a model (and it became a model,
justifying *whatever* decisions). she also reminded that liberty is
always of those who thinks differently, that communist liberty is
nott less but more than bourgeouis & parlamentary democracy, and that
even within USSR, or any country, if there should be transitory hard
measures these must go hand in hand with more councils' democracy.

of course there was Kronstadt in a couple of years.

may be others know Cuba better than me, but it seems that repression
is going on since decades against all the spectrum of political
positions, and that there is not much democracy from below. may be
that even Rosa L. was too optimistic. that very soon limitations of
bourgeouis ,democracy kills workers' democracy, and then communism
altogether.

r


At 14:33 +1000 17-05-2003, Nicola Taylor wrote:
>Hi Jerry, I agree with Michael's response to you (below).  Especially, I
>appreciate his reference to Naipaul (who is on my best-loved author's list).
>
>Another great book on the debate of means and ends (vis a vis human being)
>is Arthur Koestler's 'Darkness at Noon' (1940; Penguin 1947) which came out
>of Koestler's own bitter experiences as a communist operative in Spain
>during the civil war (probably you will have read this).  The book
>centers on the interrogation of an old Bolshevik awaiting execution in a
>G.P.U. prison:
>
>"For forty years he had fought against economic fatality.  It was the
>central ill of humanity, the cancer which was eating into its entrails.  It
>was there that one must operate; the rest of the healing process would
>follow.  All else was dilettantism, romanticism, charlatanism.  One cannot
>heal a person mortally ill by pious exhortations.  The only solution was the
>surgeon's knife and his cool calculation. But wherever the knife had been
>applied, a new sore had appeared in place of the old.  And again the
>equation did not work out" (p.204).
>
>In contemplating why 'the equation did not work out' Rubashov arrives
>(albeit in different words) at Michael's question which was:
>
>>  The question is rather why
>>  these kinds of society have never been (and never will be) in a position
>>  to allow dissenters, never strong enough to bear the freedom of
>>  individual civil rights.
>
>To which Rubashov answers:
>
>"It was a mistake in the system; perhaps it lay in the precept which until
>now he had held to be uncontestable, in whose name he had sacrificed others
>and was himself being sacrificed: in the precept that the end justifies the
>means [the end being precisely the survival of the revolution against
>imperialist aggressors, such that 'opposition is a crime and the leaders of
>the opposition are criminals' p. 190].  It was this sentence shich had
>killed the great fraternity of the Revolution and made them all run amuck.
>What had he once written in his diary?  'We have thrown overboard all
>conventions, our sole guiding principle is that of consequent logica; we are
>sailing without ethical balast'.
>     Perhaps the heart of the evil lay there.  Perhaps it did not suit
>mankind to sail without balast.  And perhaps reason alone was a defective
>compass, which led one on such a winding, twisted course that the goal
>finally disappeared in the mist" (p.206).
>
>Rubashov, in defeat, does of course cling to a new dream: a different
>society where 'only purity of means can justify the ends' and where 'the
>tenet is wrong which says that a man is the product of one million divided
>by one million...'
>
>If the choice were between dreams, I guess I would opt for Rubashov's
>final version.  But, since dreams are inherently unattainable (with a
>tendency to take a turn towards nightmare) one surely does better to think
>through what it means to conceive of a better world.  Here one can do
>something: one
>can practically and theoretically argue AGAINST capital punishment and
>torture and, more than that, one can ask openly what possible ends these
>means are supposed to serve.  Whatever Castro's own justifications, I
>suspect that his attempts to *suppress* opposition and drive debate
>underground have had the (unintended) consequence of *fuelling* it, both
>internally and without.  That this opposition includes the voices of
>socialists and communists (not only liberals and imperialists) should surely
>raise alarm bells for anyone who wants to support the *people of Cuba*
>against state aggression (be this internal or external).
>
>Nicky
>
>
>>  Jerry,
>>
>>  I don't think that helps (excusing the regime because of threat from
>>  US). It smacks of the hedging of an ideology. The question is rather why
>>  these kinds of society have never been (and never will be) in a position
>>  to allow dissenters, never strong enough to bear the freedom of
>>  individual civil rights. It is not a question of historical
>>  circumstances. It is a question of the essence of socialism, i.e. what
>>  it _is_.
>>
>>  You say, "we have to ask *who* these "dissenters" are".
>>
>>  I find that this comment has the flavour of bitter irony. I've been
>>  reading V.S. Naipaul's "Among the Believers -- An Islamic Journey"
>>  (1981). He starts off in the Iran of the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and
>>  is being guided around by a young communist who claims:
>>
>>  "True freedom had existed only once in the world, in Russia, between
>>  1917 and 1953. I [Naipaul] said, 'But there was a lot of suffering. A
>>  lot of people were jailed and killed.' He pounced on that. 'What _sort_
>>  of people?' " (p.59)
>>
>>  There's something to be said for abstract-universal individual human
>>  rights. Why is socialism always caught in apologetics, always in a
>>  process of deferment?


--

Riccardo Bellofiore
Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche
"Hyman P. Minsky"
UniversitÓ di Bergamo
Via dei Caniana 2
I-24127 Bergamo, Italy
e-mail:   riccardo.bellofiore@unibg.it
direct    +39-035-2052545
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Al signor K chiesero cosa stesse facendo.
Il signor K rispose: "Sto lavorando duro
per preparare il mio prossimo errore"

What are you working on, Herr K was asked.
Herr K replied: "I am working hard,
I am carefully preparing my next error"

Bertolt Brecht


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