[Marxism] Cuba: the litmus test?

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Mon Nov 26 06:44:40 MST 2007

Joaquin's discussion of Cuba as litmus test is appreciated. Though 
I don't agree, I appreciate its tone and spirit. Here it is:

A response:

Nothing which is ever written or stated on the Internet is real. NOIHING.
The world of he Internet is called "virtual reality" to distinguish what
happens in it from REAL REALITY. It is always important to keep that in
mind when understanding the possibilities, the capacities, and the limits
of discussion on a vehicle such as the Internet. 

Making history? My principal goals here in Cuba are to UNDERSTAND HISTORY
as it's unfolding in this country, and to try to make what I try myself 
to understand, available to others who want normalized relations with 
the island. In only one sense do I think what I'm doing is historic.

I am the only correspondent from the United States who works openly from
Cuba as a supporter of the Cuban Revolution, and who isn't employed by
the Cuban government. I collect and send all sorts of materials which 
the Cuban government does not send because the audience looking for 
information on Cuba in the United States and the English-speaking world
needs to know not only what I think, and what the Cuban government says,
but broadly what's being discussed and debated about Cuba in the English-
language media in the U.S. and elsewhere. 
In 1962, Joseph Hansen, former secretary to Leon Trotsky and at that time
Editor of THE MILITANT, wrote a formidable internal discussion bulletin 
called CUBA: THE ACID TEST; A Reply to the Ultra-Left Sectarians. 

It's a model of positive polemics. I took the trouble of scanning it and
posting it because it does such a find job of answering the criticism
by those Trotskyist forces who refused to acknowledge that a socialist
revolution had taken place in Cuba. Though the polemics were written at
another time and place in history, they might just as well have been
written yesterday, because they refute whatever criticisms of Cuba have
come down the pike from Farber, the ISO, the UK-SWP, the WSWS, and etc.

That's my personal and political opinion. I'd venture a guess that Louis
and Joaquin hold the same political opinion. For the life of me, I have
no idea where Joaquin, Louis and others get this idea of a "litmus test"
because all some of us are doing is expressing our personal opinions on
matters which really matter to us. Those who hold some other viewpoints
are welcome to hold their other viewpoints. What's going on with these
points is nothing less, but nothing more, than a simple battle of ideas.

     As Bob Marley put it about Reggae music: 
     "One good thing about the music
     is when it hits you, you feel no pain." 

I've really no idea why it seems to cause so much pain to some individuals
when someone discusses political matters in terms of Cuba. That is simply
a choice which I make, and those who don't agree are free to express a
different viewpoint, argue with it, or simply ignore it if it's really
not that important.

Thanks to Joaquin for posing these questions which I'll endeavor to answer
here. What is Marxmail? Basically, it's an e-mail list, a place where the
subscribers who choose to post can post or publish their opinions. Once in
awhile people can engage in speculation, or just thinking out loud. It's 
not the publication of an organization. It can't have a "line" on specific
matters. It's like an electronic blackboard, more or less. Since folks like
Joaquin, Louis and I are unaffiliated with any political party groupings,
or even anti-party groupings (e.g., "Solidarity"), what we express here are
our opinions. They have no more weight or significance in the span of time
or human history than that: individual expressions of opinion, given at the
moment the "send" button is hit. Some people even change their opinions over
time. I do that, some others to, too. Only the dead don't change their minds

For some time I've seen this term "litmus test" bandied about on this list,
mostly by one individual, and occasionally by others, but mostly by one, as
if the person accused of making an issue a "litmus test" is, by doing that,
somehow excluding someone from radical or Marxist politics, or denying some
person or group their membership in an organization, or the proletariat, or
whatever. That notion is far-fetched, since, basically Marxmail is nothing
more than a brainstorming session, thinking out loud, or whatever. It isn't
and cannot be more than that, by its very nature.

Yes, I choose to focus my individual work on Cuba, but that's my personal
decision. Dave Zirin focuses his work on sports. He does great work on 
athletics and politics. It would never occur to me to fault him for his
position on Cuba - assuming he holds the ISO position - since Cuba isn't
an area he writes about. This is but one example. One could cite others.

The ISO does good work in many areas in U.S. politics, as I've said, such
as organizing Galloway's tour, such as support work for Camilo Mejia, 
Augustin Aguayo, and many others. As to the British SWP I have a good deal
less knowledge, so to me their hostility toward Cuba carries more weight.
Galloway represents a good deal less organizationally than they do, but
he's pro-Cuba, which is why my instinctive preference is for him over the
anti-Cuba tendency represented by the SWP of the United Kingdom. Arundhati
Roy, Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky are published in the ISO's magazine, and
that's all to the credit of the ISO and their magazine. I don't fault any
of them for publishing in a magazine which is relentlessly hostile to the
Cuban Revolution. 

In the final analysis, when the deal goes down, it's possible that Trotsky
was right that all the problems facing humanity will ultimately be solved
on U.S. soil. Why? at least as things stand at this point in time, if
the predatory capitalist system isn't eliminated in the United States and
replaced by a more sustainable, human-centered socialist system of social
organization, it's possible that Washington's aggressive policies will be
the death of humanity. 

(My formulation is more elastic and less categorical than Trotsky's was.
There've been a few changes in the world in the 67 years since the death
of the Old Man, among them, the fall of the USSR, the rise of the PRC,
the advent of the computer, and so on. Maybe someday Russia will become
a predatory imperialist power. Maybe someday China will also become one.
Trotsky would not have considered that as a reasonably-foreseeable option
when he was writing, but he hasn't written for sixty-seven years and we
really need to look at things as they are today, not simply through the
lens of how they were prior to August 1940...)

On this U.S.-centered scale, the Cuban Revolution may ultimately prove to
be less important than bringing about a socialist society in the United
States. Time will tell. But for the moment, with all its weaknesses and
problems, Cuba provides a great deal with socialists and Marxist can
study and learn a good deal from, though with no need to emulate it.

Let's look at China. It's individuals like Louis Proyect and organized
political tendencies like Australia's Democratic Socialist Perspective 
who seem to be obsessed with claiming China is a capitalist country.

I've said before and I'll say it again: I could not care less if China
is capitalist, socialist, bureaucratic-collectivist, state capitalist 
or (my preference) a bureaucratically-deformed workers state. I don't
get bent out of shape over this because it's something on the order of
"how many angels can fit on the head of a pin". It's a question which
can only have a faith-based answer in the real material world. Nothing
I have said can convince those who've determined that China today is a
capitalist country, because theirs is a FAITH-BASED conviction. China
today is the biggest country in the history of the human race, when we
look at the size of its population. It's got the hottest and fastest-
growing economy in the world. I really have no idea what it exactly is,
but then, I'm in no hurry to squeeze the PRC into a category as some
are so committed to doing.

Joaquin's approach is much better. He's uncertain. He think that maybe
China might be capitalist, or it might not. It could go that way, and
he seems to think that it might or probably is, but he seems to be on
the uncertain side of that probability. I can live with that. Anway,
it's just his individual opinion, it's not the political line of an
organized body of people acting together in politics, as it is with
Australia's Democratic Socialist Perspective. (I could be wrong on
this, but I think this is one area where they agree with their old
antagonist Bob Gould who also thinks China is capitalist. (I hope he
will clarify his stand on this.)

It should be noted, however, that this has a more than terminological
character, and there generally seem to be political consequences which
flow from those who characterize China as capitalist. They also tend 
to most strongly oppose China's international political posture, on 
a wide range of topics. China's challenge to Washington's posture of
unilateral domination makes life easier for every other country in
the world which feels Washington's pressure. That's why, whatever is
done inside of China, from the point of view of the ability of other
countries to resist, it's basically all good. I continue to suggest
that readers who want to understand this read Mike Erisman's books
on Cuban foreign policy in the Post-Soviet World.

Does my linkage of Cuba to many things - by no means all of my posts
mention Cuba in any way, though Cuba is on my mind constantly, in no
small part because that's where I'm living and working at present -
cause my posts to be "noise"? Well, I hope that's not the case and
since I haven't not received any message from the moderator about 
violating the posting rules in quite some time, I hope and trust
I'll continue to be able to participate in this often useful forum.

Walter Lippmann
Havana, Cuba

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