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