Thursday, July 27, 2006

Cuba in Marxist theory

It´s quite obvious from some of the comments on previous posts that wide sections of the British left are well disposed to Cuba. The friendly feelings seem to start on the Labour left and extend through to the Communist Party of Britain and the millieu influenced by the Morning Star.

As I understand it, some smaller groups such as the Communist League and the Revolutionary Communist Group pretty much regard this place as pretty much akin to what their idea of socialism would look like.

As a western Marxist, I stepped off the plane with some baggage. Not unfortunately baggage in the physical sense, as KLM managed to lose my suitcase. But political baggage, in the form of a preconceived analysis of what the country would be like.

It would be all too easy to come over all orthodox Trotskyist about this place. Indeed, I have been reading a copy of La Revolucion Traicionada I picked up in a flea market, and am struck by just how acute the Old Man´s general analysis of the economic problems of building socialism in one country remains to this day.

Yes, it is meaningful to talk about ´the gains of the revolution´. There is universal literacy, an absence of the shanty towns that scar most other third world capitals, and good healthcare too, if not up to the first world levels that AN seems to think they have reached. All of this strikes me as a pretty good way of organising things in a poor country.

But ... reality check. I have been using the time-honoured research methods of the journalistic profession to find out what the population think about this place. Yes, that has entailed extensive conversations with taxi drivers and the purchase of drinks for whichever pissheads are happy to give my street Spanish a work-out in exchange for a bevvy.

I think I deserve a pat on the back for all this. While the educated classes here speak a very pure form of the language, most locals have a strong, strong accent that only gets harder to understand once they start slurring their words.

What strikes me is that not one ordinary person has expressed support for the government. Sure, people aren´t stupid. You point out that they are better off than they would be in Haiti or Jamaica or Columbia, and yes, they know that.

But they are still ground down by the daily struggle to get by, the need to find some scam or other to earn the convertible currency required by the black market, where a small back of fish changes hands for more than a week´s wages. It is not really unreasonable to want to have toothpaste.

And where socialism doesn´t have mass popular support, it inevitably turns into its opposite.



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