[Marxism] CubaNews Notes from Havana, February 9, 2004

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Mon Feb 9 02:28:56 MST 2004

CubaNews Notes from Havana, February 8, 2004
by Walter Lippmann

The Havana Book Fair opened Friday with authors from the island
and around the world presenting books on a wide range of topics
The German government pulled out, but the festival is continuing
to honor German culture,(and not just or even mostly Marx <G>).

Walking around the city as I regularly do to try to keep fingers
on the pulse and rhythms of the city, I couldn't help thinking
yesterday. When I saw one of those large water trucks which are
often around when the dilapidated water systems in may Havana
apartments break down, as they occasionally do, out helping in
some Central Havana apartment. In all the times I've been here,
water in my house has never been off for more than two days.

And two days was the maximum. Normally the problem is the 
water pump in apartment buildings which break down. In Iraq,
now that it has been "liberated", running water has been gone
from Baghdad for the entire nine months since Washington and
its allies blitzed their way into the city. Neighbors here
tell me that the water problems here now are as nothing when
they remember that a dozen or so years ago they had to bring
their water up to their homes with buckets. There's a story
in today's WALL STREET JOURNAL which depicts how, coming up
on a year after Washington's invasion and occupation, there
still isn't running water in the Iraqi capital. Is it any
wonder then that Iraqis are unhappy and are resisting the
occupation of their country by foreign invaders? 

Walking around on foot, and driving by car (a great pleasure
not to have put my hands around a steering wheel now for over
three months) you can see that while the main streets are all
in decent shape, side streets are often in need of significant
repairs. The process of sprucing up large public buildings is
a constant ones, but many residential buildings are in great
need of paint jobs. But one also sees an almost complete lack
of people who are evidently homeless. Except for a very small
number in touristy areas, there's no begging here. Obviously,
it's a great deal less than I normally experience when I'm in
Los Angeles, my home city.

That WALL STREET JOURNAL hit piece last Monday has begun to
be circulated widely outside of the WSJ. It's been reprinted
in the Miami Herald, and now I've begun to see it being also
reprinted in other newspapers. Given the intensification of
the social and political struggle in Venezuela, and the very
cordial relationship between the two countries, these are
very important things to keep track of. We know that the US
supported the coup attempt in April 2002, and that the Bush
administration has obvious sympathies and support for the
rightist opposition elements in Venezuela. Stay tuned.

Cuban weather is always full of surprises, at least when it's
what is called winter here in Cuba. From day to day you never
know if it will be chilly-chilly or hot-hot, and sometimes it
rains, too. Today (Sunday) the weather is beyond perfect, at
least from my Southern Californian point of view. I find it's
just a touch chilly, the air is cool and dry, the sun is clear
and the day is bright and cheerful. So my Cuban friends all 
think it's freezing and are dressed heavily to avoid the cold.

Sunday I went to visit Lionel Martin and his wife Adrienne
Hunter. Lionel worked here many years ago as the correspondent
for the Washington Post, for Reuters and for the BBC. He wrote
one of the most important books explaining the political ideas
and strategy of the Cuban Revolution, THE EARLY FIDEL: THE
ROOTS OF CASTRO'S COMMUNISM, which came out in 1975, published
by Lyle Stewart. You can still find copies on the internet and
it's a book which helps explain how and why the Revolution and
Fidel deliberately left out any notion of the nationalization
of industry (beyond telephone and electricity) and why it did
NOT advance an explicitly socialist program. Lionel Martin had
a stroke three years ago and is recovering from that, under
the care of Cuban doctors. He has lived here in Cuba for over
40 years. His wife, Adrienne Hunter, has lived here for over
30 years. They met here.

Adrienne, who is Canadian, along with another writer also from
Canada, wrote a book some years ago called SEVEN WOMEN AND
THE CUBAN REVOLUTION. The two writers interviewed seven women
who had been members of the wealthy and privileged layers of
Cuban society prior to the triumph. Some had supported the
process. Others had lived privileged, but socially uninvolved
lives. The Revolution transformed them all. Adrienne's book
came out in 1997, when the subjects were no longer young.
Two are no longer with us, but the remaining five are going
to come out for the launching of the Cuban edition of the
book, which is just coming out. (It was first written and
most of the interviews taken in English.). I've been asked
to meet the women and take photos of them. There are photos
in the Cuban edition, but in the English edition, which isn't
available through used services that I've checked, doesn't 
include any images of them.

Adrienne has also been working on scanning the entire text,
which of the English edition, which we're hoping to put up
on the internet for a new and broader audience. You'll be
receiving reports on the book fair later on this week.

Despite all of Washington's efforts to isolate this country,
Cuba remains a center of intellectual and cultural interest
everywhere. Even one of the writers at the Miami Herald this
morning was forced to admit that the denial of visas to such
Cuban artists as 77-year-old Ibrahim Ferrer makes the US look
like the laughingstock of the planet. And people from all over
the world want to come here to display their works and to be
able to share and interchange ideas with Cubans. This week a
festival of New Zealand films is being presented here with at
least one famous director, Harry Sinclair, here to show his
movies and to discuss with the Cuban public. Read about that:

In recent weeks we've also had a festivals German cinema that
goes all the way back to THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI. Remember,
too, the prices for these films shown are two Cuban PESOS, or
in other words, the equivalent of FOUR U.S. CENTS. Keep that in
mind next time you're at the Arclight cinema in Los Angeles and
pay $14.00 US DOLLARS to attend a movie on a Saturday night.

Enough for the moment.

Walter Lippmann


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