[Marxism] A "fair and balanced" book on Cuba?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Dec 7 13:37:39 MST 2012

I can understand why Sam Farber’s new book on Cuba would carry a blurb 
from Carmelo Mesa-Lago since he is a professional Cubanologist like 
Farber (but who thankfully doesn’t frame his attacks in terms of the 
Marxist worldview.)

What I don’t get is those from Mike Davis and Jeffrey Webber who have 
leftist credentials, especially Mike Davis whose name is as connected to 
“environmental crisis” as Jerry Seinfeld’s is with stand-up comedy.

I just picked up Farber’s book from the Columbia University library and 
spent about an hour trying to find some reference to “ecology” or 
“environmental”. There was nada (Spanish for nothing.) That’s really 
something. You write a 368 page book on Cuba purporting to be a balance 
sheet and you say nothing about Cuban farming, wildlife preservation, 
protection against hurricanes, or Fidel Castro’s numerous speeches and 
articles on climate change and species extinction. Here’s a reminder of 
the sort of thing he has been saying (from May 2012):

“This Reflection could be written today, tomorrow or any other day 
without the risk of being mistaken. Our species faces new problems. When 
20 years ago I stated at the United Nations Conference on the 
Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro that a species was in 
danger of extinction, I had fewer reasons than today for warning about a 
danger that I was seeing perhaps 100 years away. At that time, a handful 
of leaders of the most powerful countries were in charge of the world. 
They applauded my words as a matter of mere courtesy and placidly 
continued to dig for the burial of our species.”

But it doesn’t matter to Sam Farber. It doesn’t matter in the same way 
that FOX-TV presents its “fair and balanced” coverage every night. It 
cherry-picks its facts in order to make its enemies look bad.

What I will never understand is why smart people like Mike Davis, Jeff 
Webber and the good people in the “state capitalist” current can give 
Sam Farber a free ride. Although my days of submitting articles to 
academic print journals is long gone, I am familiar enough with peer 
process to know that Farber must be aware of it. If I was writing a book 
on Cuba, I would include a whole chapter on ecosocialist initiatives 
there. I guess they don't do peer review at Haymarket books even though 
there are a lot of graduate students and professors in its ranks. 
Dereliction of duty, I would say.

I am quite sure that Mike Davis is familiar with the writings of Richard 
Levins since he has been around as long as I have. Maybe the young 
people in the ISO and the British SWP are too clueless or too biased to 
read something that differs from their preset ideas but for people who 
are serious about presenting a balanced picture of Cuba, his writings 
and those on a similar wave-length are indispensable. Here’s Levins from 
the 2008 Monthly Review 

	I first went to Cuba in 1964 to help develop their population genetics 
and get a look at the Cuban Revolution. Over the years I became involved 
in the ongoing Cuban struggle for ecological agriculture and an 
ecological pathway of economic development that was just, egalitarian, 
and sustainable. Progressivist thinking, so powerful in the socialist 
tradition, expected that developing countries had to catch up with 
advanced countries along the single pathway of modernization. It 
dismissed critics of the high-tech pathway of industrial agriculture as 
“idealists,” urban sentimentalists nostalgic for a bucolic rural golden 
age that never really existed. But there was another view, that each 
society creates its own ways of relating to the rest of nature, its own 
pattern of land use, its own appropriate technology, and its own 
criteria of efficiency. This discussion raged in Cuba in the 1970s and 
by the 1980s the ecological model had basically won although 
implementation was still a long process. The Special Period, that time 
of economic crisis after the collapse of the Soviet Union when the 
materials for high-tech became unavailable, allowed ecologists by 
conviction to recruit the ecologists by necessity. This was possible 
only because the ecologists by conviction had prepared the way.

I will of course have much more to say about this book.

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