Lair Of A Squirrel Red

Fidel hints of retirement from power by korakious
December 21, 2007, 3:25 pm
Filed under: Cuba, Fidel, Socialism, Theory

Sovietological conventional wisdom in the academic Anglosphere revolved, and to a lesser extent still does, around the paradigm of “Totalitarianism”. With the exception of scholars like Lewin and Cohen, academics believed that in the USSR, and by extension, in all Actually Existing Socialist states that followed more or less the same organisational principles, power rested on a single centre of authority with a stranglehold over all levels of society, the Party led by a supreme leader. In “Totalitarian” states, all initiatives came from the top and made their way to the bottom through successive layers of privileged bureaucrats. Change at the top was impossible as long as the leader was alive, because of his absolute power, while there was also no chance of oppositional political initiative coming from the bureaucratic middle class (which bourgeois social scientists tend to regard as a force for change by some bizarre logic) because it had a vested interest in preserving the system. Apart from its inherent methodological ineptitude – lumping together the special case of the USSR, the Eastern European states that were established after the war and those that were built after successful national liberation movements as if they were all one and the same – the Totalitarian paradigm came to be empirically discredited as well for as we all know, or should know, the fall of the USSR was the – immediate – result of an initiative from the very top and the power struggle that followed it at mid level. This brought to the fore the various bizarre ideologies held by the nomenklatura, a product of the bizarre nature of the Soviet system, from gang-ho pro-Western neoliberalism to corporatist nationalism, all of which are represented at different degrees in present day Russia’s political spectrum. It was certainly a far cry from the uniform, religious adherence to “Marxism-Leninism” which Totalitarianism analysts would have us believe.

On Monday, Totalitarianism was dealt a further blow when in a letter to Cuban national television, Fidel Castro hinted that he may soon be leaving the President’s office;. Fidel wrote that:

My elemental duty is not to cling to positions, or even less to obstruct the path of younger people, but to share experiences and ideas whose modest worth comes from the exceptional era in which I lived

This could very well mean that Fidel does not intend to stand for the Council of State, which the National Assembly will have to elect some time before the 5th of March. The most likely successors are Raul Castro and Cuba’s 42 year old Foreign Minister, Felipe Perez Roque. I do not favour any of the two, but I do admit to having a preference for younger leaders. Indeed, a young President would go a long way to fixing State Socialism’s gerontocratic image. In any case however, it is certain that both Fidel and Raul, as well as the rest of the Revolutionary generation will retain strong influence over politics, as do all well respected and popular leaders. And long may they live for their experience is an invaluable asset to the whole of the anti-imperialist wave that is currently sweeping Latin America.

The importance of this is that it is the latest in a series of developments that have included Raul’s encouragement to public debate on various issues, indicating a move towards grassroots democratic developments in Cuba. This is not the result of evil Castro’s withdrawal as various outlets seem to think, but rather the result of Cuba managing to survive the Special Period against all odds, a powerful demonstration of the resilient spirit of the Revolution. The Bolivarian process in Venezuela has also provided vital breathing space for the formerly isolated island, providing Cuba with cheap oil in return for doctors and teachers.

I personally welcome the coming to power of a new revolutionary leadership. I hope that Cuban communists have learned from history that there are many snakes amongst well meaning reformers and that any structural/institutional changes that may be implemented in the future do not in anyway harm the socialist character of the economy. It is very likely that a struggle for power will break out between the reforming elements of the bureaucracy, the Ligachev like conservatives and the Yeltsinites. The latter are the prime enemies of peasants and workers alike. As for the Cuban people – fully behind the revolution in their vast majority – it is necessary that they involve themselves in Cuba’s popular power organs to infuse any reforms with a true grassroots element and prevent those who wish to see capitalism restored from gaining even the slightest influence.

It is certain that the beacon of anti-imperialist resistance that is Cuba will soon be going through interesting times. Of course, there has hardly been an uninteresting time in Cuba following the revolution. The difference here is that in the not too distant future we will soon see the withdrawal of the revolutionary generation from the political stage.The power of the revolutionary spirit will be judged by the actions of those who did not live through the revolution itself, who do not remember the Batista years and the Bay of Pigs invasion. The nature of the revolution itself will also be reflected by the extent to which people who are not emotionally attached to it by personal experience are willing to defend it and deepen it. In short, what will be shown in the following years is the extent to which the revolution was successful in becoming a long term process, an everyday part of people’s lives, a true revolution, rather than merely an institutional change. I am quite confident that this is the case.

Castro smites Bush over biofuel by korakious
March 30, 2007, 7:37 pm
Filed under: Cuba, energy, environment, Fidel, Imperialism

I was very happy to see today that Fidel Castro wrote an article for Granma lambasting Dubya for his newly found love for bio fuel. I was excited because this is Castro’s first comment on international politics in quite some time, meaning that the old man is indeed getting better, and because it is always good to have such respected socialists commenting on environmental issues (the old left thinks environmental concerns are petty bourgeois).

On to the article itself now. The title of Guardian’s report , “Castro warns poor will starve for greener fuel” is quite misleading, whether or not deliberately. By the title alone, it would seem that Castro is against green energy per se. Anyone who has been keeping an eye on developments in Cuba will of course know that this is couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Castro correctly argues that the cost for producing biofuel from food will be paid by the poor people of the world as the third world countries that form the majority of agricultural producers will sell their food crops as fuel. What this implies is, in simple terms, a competition for food between the people of the third world and… cars:

Other countries in the rich world are planning to use not only corn but also wheat, sunflower seeds, rapeseed and other foods for fuel production. For the Europeans, for example, it would become a business to import all of the world–Ęs soybeans with the aim of reducing the fuel costs for their automobiles and feeding their animals with the chaff from that legume, particularly rich in all types of essential amino acids.

Further, he made the point that funding bio fuel production could lead to many poor countries to turn forests into farmland, thus exacerbating the problem of climate change. George Monbiot has been arguing along similar lines for some time now. The argument is supported by evidence of ever accelerating deforestation in the third world. The liberal sycophant will of course rush to tell you that this is because of “bad” and “irresponsible” governments – how strange that they only exist in the third world! – and that things would be far better if there was internal reform. Not once will it cross their mind that government corruption and deforestation is the product of the global North’s imperialist exploitation.

But enough with bashing imperialism. None but the most empty headed liberal or crypto first world chauvinistic Trot would assert that the third world is responsible for its own problems. Let’s take a look at what Cuba is doing to prevent climate chaos.

For one, Cuba has replaced all incandescent light bulbs and their ~90% energy loss with fluorescent bulbs that produce light of equal intensity at only 20% of the energy normal bulbs use. Cuba made this move 2 years before Australia enacted similar legislation. Of course, no major news source picked it up back then.

More importantly, Cuba and Venezuela have embarked on a joint effort to produce biofuel from sugar cane alcohol, thus sparing food crops. Forest protection and tree planting schemes will also ensure that Cuba’s woodlands will not become the victim of her energy needs.

That’s just a couple of the efforts that have earned Cuba the honour of being the only country with fully sustainable development. Meanwhile, in Britain, carbon emissions continue to rise while Brown and Cameron fight over whose policies are greener. The truth of course is that none of them is. There’s really nothing green about spending an obscene amount of money on renewing Trident, when it could be spent on providing Free Public Transport.

You’ve got to be red to be green.