[lbo-talk] Arab Spring: The Libyan Remix

Chuck Grimes c123grimes at att.net
Sun Aug 28 20:21:17 PDT 2011

> On 2011-08-28, at 1:06 PM, SA wrote:
>> On 8/28/2011 12:57 PM, Doug Henwood wrote:
>>> According to Tariq Ali, who claims to have gotten it from Chavez, Fidel
>>> told him many times not to make the same "mistake" he did - setting up
>>> an authoritarian repressive state. Fidel advised him that elections
>>> would make Chavez more secure, not less.
>> I remember reading a long time ago that he gave the same advice to the
>> Sandinistas.
> It goes back further than that, to shortly after the Cuban revolution and
> the failure of Che and other Latin America guerrilla leaders to replicate
> its success through the establishment and growth of "foci" in terrain
> similar to the Sierra Maestre. I think I recall rumours of disagreements
> between Fidel and Che concerning the latter's foray into Bolivia. Marv
> Gandall


(Mostly echoing MG.)

The early Cuban revolution was in the US news all the time, back when I was 15-18 and then beyond with the Cuban missile crisis when I was a beginning sophmore year at CSUN. I vaguely remember all the arguments back and forth over Fidel promising elections and the turning toward Soviet style political establishment, etc. It was one of my early lessons on Imperialism--that there was such a thing. The idea we would bomb Cuba over sugar seemed like a ridiculous idea---sure got that wrong, as Eisenhower started some military noise over the nationalization of US sugar holdings.

Since the details and sequence of events have gotten mixed up my ancient memory, I read the wiki on Fidel Castro. It's worth going over. It's long and reasonably free of propaganda. There were several reasons for Che to leave. Che writes about the boredom of working in goverment. Somewhere or another, Fidel argued that the real revolution begins after taking power, where the institutions have to be reformed and modelled for the people's service and not for capital. They have to be policed to control bribery and petty corruption.

The wiki has a lot of information about Castro's early career as a social democratic activist and early ties with the Bastista family and an exiled president, who lived in Mexico and helped him form a guerrilla army. (I've already forgotten his name.)

What I think was going on was many experiences with so-called democratic systems which in Fidel's case allowed political freedom to organize, but as soon as that threaten to be effected, they started hunting him down, and he turned to urban terrorism attacking police stations where he got caught and put in prison.

This trail plus hugh US pressure and its anti-commie propaganda formed together to evolve Fidel and the Cuban revolutionaries further and further away from democratic socialism. On the other hand Fidel strongly embraced Allende, and helped him with his government reforms. And, look how that turned out. Later, Fidel rushed to judgement on any place where anti-imperialism seemed likely. Everybody has to force themselves to wait and see or study and watch on the anti-imperial road.

Whatever anybody's opinion or analysis, US and Cuban history has many important lessons. The Egyptians and a lot of the Middle East should study it.

Here is the wiki on Fidel Castro:


Most of it is based on a book by Leycester Coltman, The Real Fidel Castro, 2003. Never read it, have no idea...

I have no idea what's going on in Cuba today. Some non-sectarian Spanish fluent left journalist or several should take a fact finding trip and write it up. What I am guessing is that Cuba is barely making it and probably struggling hard under the global IMFing.

I checked up today and internet use is restricted. A ban on cell phones was lifted in 2008 by Raul. The constant anti-Castro drone out of Florida and US official propaganda make it a pain in the ass to learn anything accurate. The Cuban government's wisely based paranoia also makes it difficult.

Whoever suggested that countries can not either attain or remain socialist democracies independent of global capitalism and its ruling elites was correct in the historical past. The prime example was Cuba and the Cuban revolution.

That's kind of the point to reading up on Cuba. But maybe today is different or at least I hope so.

There are a lot rebellions going on that could use realistic answers. I am thinking of Tunisia, Libya, Egypt where it's going to be difficult to consolidate reforms into public institutions that are at once fair, open, reasonably `democratic' and at the same time independent from gross manipulation by the US and EU.

The Egyptians are going to have a hugh struggle to gain power and control over their military. That general who is chief of the military council, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, sure looked like a thug for capital to me.

So here's the question as I see it. You are doomed to military dictatorship if you don't succeed in a revolution, and you may be doomed to the same if you do succeed. On the other hand a republic with elected government is doomed to be turned into a corporate oligarchy.

The people who call for strong left organizations face similar dilemmas, because at the end of the day such orgs are going to require some heavy handed party discipline in its cadres.

Che wrote about these problems in the field organizing a militia, teaching soldiering, practicing discipline, and controling petty crime like sealing food from peasants. It seemed obvious to me, you can't expect support when you steal their food, but evidently it wasn't obvious. Che controled the money and paid out a certain amount to buy food. Che was especially harsh on one guy he suspected of lying about where he was, stealing food, gambling with the money, and was probably an informant. Che had him shot, mostly as an example.

I am not suggesting this. I am describing what I remember reading in his manual which was very popular back in yore. Here's the wiki on Ernesto:


It quickly outlines much of his work written about in his manual. I am not sure this came from what I read or some other source. It's forgotten that Castro and Guevara were heros to a lot of us students. Those events from our teen years read in the paper, were still very fresh in our twenties a few years in the past.

The key issue was the tactic of beginning in rural areas. On the other hand the Algerian revolution was urban, and we read about that one too. But it involved a lot violence that we sure were not into. Even so the Panthers started to make a splash here and they figured out how to project a kind of psychological violence. It was pure genius.

On the other hand the Panthers didn't have the intellectual development and depth that say Malcome X had and was getting toward when he was killed. Both Che and Fidel did have that background. I suspect some of the Egyptians have that kind of background. I hope they've done all their homework on the US and EU, Russia, China, Vietnam, Algeria, Cuba. The Middle East has its own history, maybe that is enough.

Here is what I mean:

``Guevara learned chess from his father and began participating in local tournaments by age 12. During adolescence and throughout his life he was passionate about poetry, especially that of Pablo Neruda, John Keats, Antonio Machado, Federico García Lorca, Gabriela Mistral, César Vallejo, and Walt Whitman.[28] He could also recite Rudyard Kipling's "If-" and José Hernández's "Martín Fierro" from memory.[28] The Guevara home contained more than 3,000 books, which allowed Guevara to be an enthusiastic and eclectic reader, with interests including Karl Marx, William Faulkner, André Gide, Emilio Salgari and Jules Verne.[29] Additionally, he enjoyed the works of Jawaharlal Nehru, Franz Kafka, Albert Camus, Vladimir Lenin, and Jean-Paul Sartre; as well as Anatole France, Friedrich Engels, H. G. Wells, and Robert Frost.[30]

22-year-old Guevara in 1951 As he grew older, he developed an interest in the Latin American writers Horacio Quiroga, Ciro Alegría, Jorge Icaza, Rubén Darío, and Miguel Asturias.[30] Many of these authors' ideas he cataloged in his own handwritten notebooks of concepts, definitions, and philosophies of influential intellectuals. These included composing analytical sketches of Buddha and Aristotle, along with examining Bertrand Russell on love and patriotism, Jack London on society, and Nietzsche on the idea of death. Sigmund Freud's ideas fascinated him as he quoted him on a variety of topics from dreams and libido to narcissism and the oedipus complex.[30] His favorite subjects in school included philosophy, mathematics, engineering, political science, sociology, history and archaeology.''

[In the background, part of Octavio Paz intellectual geneology was Rubin Dario, considered in (I guess) Spanish, the father of moderism...which had a distinct revolutionary potential. There is a kind of literary sensibility to revolution...that at least I sense, even if I can't explain it. It involves the transition from literary romantic to avant guarde.]

In the passages on Guevara's role in the executions following the take over of power, it is amazing the arguments pro and con, almost directly echo the French Revolution example. These are very similar to the dilemma of the Egyptians, provided they gain more control over the military....

Nevermind, way too long.


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