[Marxism] The two souls of socialism (was:RE:JohnHolloway-AlexCallinicos debate)

Ian Pace ian at ianpace.com
Sat Aug 20 17:34:42 MDT 2005

From: "Joaquín Bustelo" <jbustelo at bellsouth.net>

>Ian Pace says: "Well, Cuba still isn't of great strategic or economic
importance to the USA
any longer, now that it's no longer aligned with the USSR. That's why I
believe the antagonism from the USA is largely symbolic."

> I think the evidence could well be read to support the opposite
hypothesis, i.e., that Russia's centrality as an antagonist has receded
now that it is no longer aligned with Cuba. As long as the USSR retained
even the most tenuous links to what made it like Cuba, to its past, as a
tradition and its counterpart in property forms and social conquests,
the size, resources and strategic importance of the Soviet State made it
imperialist enemy #1.

This is an almost farcical way of asserting the centrality of Cuba. 
Certainly Cuba's proximity to the US, combined with alliance with the USSR, 
made it seem a powerful threat. But to reduce the rest of the vast amount of 
Cold War antagonism between the US and USSR to this factor beggars belief.

> Ian Pace says, about Cuba-U.S. relations, "my suggestion [is] that the
antagonism is symbolic rather than being rooted in the geopolitical
interests of global capital."

> I agree in a certain sense, except that instead of "symbolic," I would
call it political. The problem with Cuba isn't that it messes up some
vital oil pipeline or denies the U.S. some ultra-important market or
military base. The problem with Cuba is that it shows that the
revolution is possible, that the people can make it, and that there is
no power on this earth greater than that of a people determined to win
its liberation.

Certainly, which for a long time was only possible through the support of 
the USSR. That Cuba in its current state has been able to survive a 
post-Cold War era betokens a lot about the fact that its importance to the 
US is perhaps less significant than previously assumed.

> "Symbolic" in the sense of "unimportant" or of "little practical
significance" is not coherent with American actions. Because U.S.
antagonism towards Cuba isn't limited to "symbolic" gestures, but is
quite material and quite extraordinary. The U.S. spends no small amount
of political and economic capital trying to keep Cuba isolated. It pays
a significant political, diplomatic and economic price for its

> Ian doesn't see this because he doesn't see the importance of revolution
in the colonial and semicolonial world. Basically he assumes what he is
trying to prove: the unimportance of the revolutions in the Third World.

That's nonsense. The US has found a way to 'contain' the Cuban revolution in 
the post-Cold War era. And if you read what I say, you'll see I really want 
to believe in the importance and vitality of Third World revolutions. 
However, I believe that if such things advance too far, the US and the rest 
of the forces of global capitalism will step in to stop them.

Do I believe the Third World can stand up to Western military and economic 
might? Perhaps if there were a large number of countries united, yes, but at 
the moment the possibility of that seems very utopian. When it comes to 
countries with real economic power, as in the Middle East of Venezuela, we 
can see for ourselves how doggedly the US works to crush them.

> "What I'm suggesting, in line with Callinicos, is not so much
prescriptive as fatalistic. I would LOVE to think that it were possible
for the underdeveloped countries to achieve their own brand of socialism
irrespective of the first world, but I simply find it hard to believe
this will be able to happen, with all the forces of global capital
stacked in opposition."

> Ian in his various posts gives sharp and clear expression to what I
noted was a clear danger of the way Callinicos absolutizes the global
power of capitalism: a perspective that reduces the masses of the third
world, the big majority of humanity, to passive impotence awaiting the
revolution in the white countries, Western Europe and the United States.

This is not a view that many of us would wish to be the case if an 
alternative were possible. And it is possible to support social democratic 
movements in the Third World and maintain some hope that such movements will 
be succcessful. However, look at what happened with the Sandinistas (who are 
basically social democrats, anyhow).

> I know this attitude well because it is the attitude of much of the
Latin American petty-bourgeoisie and intelligentsia. Sure, they
recognize that the U.S. in insufferably arrogant, petty, self-absorbed
and imperialistic, but who is going to stop it from being that way?

A very good question.

> This was the explanation I heard --privately, of course, and on at least
one occasion after alcoholic lubrication-- from representatives of
several of the countries that decided to "play along" with the United
States and support the invasion of Iraq, some even sending their own
troops. "The United States can do anything it wants," the argument goes.
"Our choice isn't whether to approve or disapprove, but simply whether
we're going to get a better deal for ourselves by playing along."

To realise the immense difficulty in realising revolutionary change in the 
third world whilst US military power remains supreme does not in any sense 
imply the necessity of acquiesence in the US's imperialist ventures. On the 
contrary, vehement opposition to such things is one way of weakening US 

> But despite the blindness of petty-bourgeois democrats, experience shows
not just that the imperialists are powerful, but that there are very
real limits to that power. The limits are being shown every day in Iraq,
Afghanistan, Palestine, Cuba and Venezuela, among other places.

Hmmmm. Castro is still in place in Cuba, sure. Chavez is just about 
surviving in Venezuela despite efforts to remove him. The resistance in Iraq 
and Afghanistan are managing to kill plenty of people, mostly their own 
citizens, but how much are they really succeeding in landing serious blows 
against the US? And in Palestine, despite a few cosmetic actions (removal of 
settlers of Gaza), the Zionists and their US backers undoubtedly continue to 
reign supreme.

Now, if the Middle Eastern situation escalates towards a war between allied 
Iran and Iraq, and Israel, then things indeed could change. But the 
situation is likely to become unspeakably bloody if that occurs.

> These
limits are the result of the capacity of the oppressed and exploited for
heroism, for courage, for sacrifice: for struggle.

That's romantic socialism of a type I find very hollow.

> This is something that is hard to comprehend from the perspectives of
the imperialist world, and above all the United States, where people are
socialized that the greatest good is individual self-satisfaction
achieved through consumption of commodities.

I think you know that neither I or any other subscriber to this list adhere 
to that ideology.

> If you look at the five Cuban heroes in prison in the United States,
there is absolutely nothing exceptional about them or what they did.
They are ordinary working people who had agreed to help Cuba's
revolutionary intelligence service in preventing terrorist attacks, as
many have done before them, and as many continue to do, we can be sure.

> Why is it that Cuba has never had any difficulty finding workers willing
to penetrate terrorist groups, and even draws to it people from other
countries willing to help, even in the highest reaches of the Pentagon,
for absolutely no reward save jail or assassination if exposed?

Because there are sincere believers in the revolution's aims, as you know. 
That doesn't alter my position on the geopolitical significance of the 

> And the
United States, the most powerful and richest nation the world has ever
known, capable of offering a 7, 8 or even 10-digit reward, is unable to
penetrate a band of crazed fanatics that its own CIA helped to create,
al Qaeda?

There are plenty of reasons for that which even the bourgeois press know - 
not least logistics when dealing with a group that is in many sense 
decentralised, more akin to a cult than a top-down organised movement.

And, by the way, the US have been able to capture a number of top Al Qaeda 

> Iraq is showing that the essential lesson of Vietnam is still valid,
perhaps even more valid today than then. And that lesson is that the
power of the people is greater than the man's technology. It is the
power of ideas and ideals.

> This, I would say, is the most essential "soul" of socialism in our
epoch. Not from above. Not from below. But struggle.

More crazy romantic stuff. Iraq is not like Vietnam. Vietnam was fought to 
prevent the North taking over the South, Iraq to overthrow the current 
regime. The US has succeeded in the latter end whereas it failed in the 
former. And there seems little chance of a restoration of the Ba'ath party 
in Iraq at present.

> This is what has allowed Cuba to survive all these years and to play the
role it does. That its children are raised from the youngest age with no
greater aspiration than the one embodied in the slogan of the José Martí
Pioneer Organization: "We will be like Che."

Yet more romantic stuff.

Solidarity, notwithstanding all the above,

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