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SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE  September 2010

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE September 2010

Subject:

Re: Cuba: Crash Landing

From:

Stuart Newman <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 16 Sep 2010 23:01:44 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (157 lines)

If we were to orient this thread in a "scientific" direction, it is reasonable to 
ask if any mass reorganization of a society ever took place without coercion.  
Violence is an unacceptable means, but expropriation of property, 
imprisonment, curtailment of organized opposition?  I can't imagine any 
significant social change that would not step on the toes of the previously 
dominant group and thus engender resistance, which will often be violent in its 
own right.

Human nature can change, but it doesn't change instantly.  Bulgarians under 
Communism, illuminatingly described by Claudia, may have been on their way 
to having habits and expectations more suited to a sustainable existence than 
the denizens of consumption-based societies.  I know Russians of different 
generations who similarly miss aspects of Soviet society.  There were Cubans 
interviewed on the PBS Newshour this evening who also were reluctant to see 
things change too fast.  Of course there were others who aspire to an 
American way of life.  Some of this may revolve around freedom of expression, 
but most people seem more concerned with jobs and economic security.  

The consumerist model is very attractive to people who imagine that they will 
come out on top.  A lot of the organized opposition in countries like Cuba and 
Venezuela appeals to people who don't want to lead the drab existence 
Claudia's mother pointed to in Sofia and Plovdiv.  Many don't want their 
personal or national resources used to be used to help the undeserving poor.  
We in the U.S. will have an opportunity to see how that perspective plays out 
when our democracy (with some help from the Koch family, Rupert Murdoch, 
and Wall Street) puts its advocates in charge. 

Is there really any evidence that Cuba is headed to "the U.S. or Chinese
brutal-capitalism extreme"?  It seems to me that they are stirring things up, 
trying to create a mixed economy, but in the context of social(ist) habits that 
have become entrenched over the last half century.

Stuart


On Thu, 16 Sep 2010 18:52:47 -0700, Claudia Hemphill Pine 
<[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>Good points, Michael, especially as regards whether Cuba's literacy and
>health care resulted from socialism or paternalistic dictatorship. It's not
>hard to find many historical examples in the U.S. of outstanding health
>care, schooling and housing going to the workers whose lives were all but
>owned by certain paternalistic corporate 'dictators.'  Examples include
>Hershey, PA; the beneficiaries of Andrew Carnegie, and of Kaiser - of later
>HMO fame.  Many other company towns gave their workers the first decent
>standard of living they'd experienced in the U.S., particularly for some
>immigrants. None of these, however, were democracies.
>
>I agree with Chandler too, though, that it will be good if in the U.S. rush
>(no doubt) to cackle at Cuba's change (or collapse), some take care to
>remember what Cuba has done right. There's much about health care, housing
>and literacy that the U.S., for instance, could benefit from!
>
>I will never forget when I went over to Bulgaria in the early 90's, 4 yrs
>after the end there of Communism. My mom had been working there since 
1991.
>Staunch Republican that she is (or was, till Bush Jr. let so many outrages
>accumulate), she showed me around Sofia and Plovdiv with their Stalin-blocks
>and said "See? No one here has ever managed to become rich under 
Communism.
>That's why it's bad: it stifles people."
>
>And I looked at the glass from the opposite point of view and said, "What I
>notice is no one homeless in the street. No one unable to find a job, no one
>barred from school or health care because they aren't rich enough. That's
>what they've now lost that was good: a system in which few became rich, 
but
>at the same time, masses of people weren't condemned to hopeless lives of
>poverty."
>
>Most of our Bulgarian friends were unhappy quite soon with the loss of the
>social welfare they had under communism. Although many have enjoyed 
starting
>their own businesses, they've all expressed concern as well over how
>insecure life quickly became. Unemployment and underemployment are 
rampant;
>for many, the standard of living has declined, while basic nutrition under
>market capitalism hasn't become any better and is definitely distributed
>more unequally.  So some of my Mom's old friends there, even some of the
>most anti-old regime, have now reverted to supporting neo- or
>retro-communism (or rather, statism).
>
>Now Cuba goes from one extreme to another - the U.S. or Chinese
>brutal-capitalism extreme, it looks like.  What does the world have to do to
>find a safer, more socially and environmentally sustainable path down the
>middle???
>
>Claudia
>
>On Thu, Sep 16, 2010 at 6:26 PM, Michael Balter 
<[log in to unmask]>wrote:
>
>> A revolution against the Batista regime and US imperialism's stranglehold
>> on Cuba was absolutely necessary. The accomplishments of that revolution 
in
>> areas such as health care and literacy were significant. But many (including
>> many on the left) are now questioning whether those improvements were 
the
>> result of socialism, or the result of a paternalistic dictatorship. The
>> truth is probably somewhere in between, but where in between is a big
>> question. There is no true socialism without democracy and personal 
freedom;
>> no one on this list would be willing to live under the political and
>> economic conditions that the average Cuban lives under.
>>
>> MB
>>
>>
>> On Thu, Sep 16, 2010 at 5:40 PM, Chandler Davis 
<[log in to unmask]>wrote:
>>
>>> Thanks, MB, for circulating Marc Cooper's opinion piece on the
>>> proposed Cuban transition.  The title "Crash Landing" sounds
>>> appropriate for world capitalism, which on a slightly longer
>>> time scale is riding for a fall.  (I am working on an article
>>> to be entitled "Splashing Down Safely": must try to maintain
>>> some optimism.)  As Cooper says, the Cuban system has sort of
>>> flopped already, with its fission into a "domestic" and a
>>> dollar economy.  I don't know what advice to give the Cubans,
>>> aside from the earnest plea to try democratic decision-making
>>> (with the concomitant welcoming of dissent).  That plea has
>>> already been heard by the Cubans, to the extent that they read
>>> my posts to this list.  On the other hand, I have advice to
>>> give the rest of the world: pay attention to the things Cuba
>>> has done right and try to adapt them to our future system
>>> whatever it may be called.  Monthly Review and Stuart Newman
>>> and many others are able to think about this difficult task,
>>> but I wish I could hope Michael Balter & Marc Cooper could
>>> work on it too.
>>>                        Chandler
>>>
>>
>>
>>
>> --
>> ******************************************
>> Michael Balter
>> Contributing Correspondent, Science
>> Adjunct Professor of Journalism,
>> New York University
>>
>> Email:  [log in to unmask]
>> Web:    michaelbalter.com
>> NYU:    journalism.nyu.edu/faculty/balter.html
>> ******************************************
>>
>> "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the
>> poor have no food, they call me a Communist." -- H�lder Pessoa C�mara
>>
>
>
>
>-- 
>The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a
>revolution.  -- Paul Cezanne
>

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