Conference Presentation 2012 Ken cole
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A PRESENTATION TO THE CONFERENCE:
CUBA IN THE 21ST CENTURY KEN COLE
April 17 2012
“We all have our convictions … [and we] can all influence each other. In the long run we shall all reach similar conclusions. My deepest convictions [are]: the incredible and unprecedented globalization … is a product of historical evolution … Is it a reversible process? … No … Is it sustainable? No. Will it subsist for long? Absolutely not … Will it last decades? Yes, only decades… How will such a transition take place? We do not know … Will it be through deep and catastrophic crises? Unfortunately, this is most likely, almost inevitable and it will happen through many different ways and forms of struggle… Who will be the builders of the new world? The men and women that inhabit our planet. What will be their basic weapon? Ideas will be, and consciousness. Who will sow them, cultivate them and make them invincible? You will. Is it a utopia, just one more dream among so many others? … As the most visionary of the sons and daughters of this island [José Martí] said: ‘Today’s dreams are tomorrow’s realities.” Fidel Castro 1999: 63.
Human beings, historically have progressed as they have deepened and extended the social division of labour
“[W]e must begin by stating the first premise of all human existence and, therefore, of all history, the premise, namely, that men must be in a position to live in order to be able to “make history”. But life involves before everything else eating and drinking, a habitation, clothing and many other things. The first historical act is thus the production of the means to satisfy these needs, the production of material life itself … [is the] fundamental condition of all history.”
In the 21st century human existence has progressed to a global division of labour―globalization―which, oxymoronically has been experienced as underdevelopment
Marx 1977: 480.
The social relations of production are the conditioning circumstances of social existence in general
Social intelligence, individual reasoning and human motivation, empathetically adapt to the cooperative exigencies of a deepening division of labour. “We are what we are because of enculturation, plain and simple. This is not true of any other species.”
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Donald 2001: 151
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Advancing the ‘…capacity to connect to and understand each other…’ (De Wall 2009: 225, emphasis added) towards the ideal of all people, empathetically interacting with each other.
“[I]n communist society … nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes … [O]nly with the universal development of the productive force [division of labour] is [such] a universal intercourse [relations] between men established … [C]ommunism can only have a “world-historical” existence.” Marx & Engels 1977: 54, and 56, emphasis in original.
However, “The history of all hitherto society is the history of class struggles … Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guildmaster and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now in open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.” Marx and Engels 1985: 79.
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In contemporary, capitalist, times… “…callous cash payment … has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has … set up that single unconscionable freedom – Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.” Marx and Engels 1985: 82, emphasis added.
By the 21st century, the division of labour (the conditioning circumstance of human life) developed into global relations of “callous cash payment”, and “that single unconscionable freedom – Free Trade” had evolved into the “naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation” of unregulated, international, financial capitalism
The class struggle is global (albeit that the struggle is based upon everyday, local, experiences of exploitation and injustice)
With competitive exchange, there is an emergent… “…incompatibility between the productive development of society and its hitherto existing relations of production…” which is expressed “… in bitter contradictions, crises, spasms … [and] these regularly returning catastrophes lead to their repetition on a higher scale…’ Marx 1977: 749 and 750, emphasis added.
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In the 21st century the “contradictions, crises and spasms” of globalized capitalism have assumed the guise of global economic crises, financial speculation, national debt, unemployment, impoverishment and widening inequality, fiscal austerity and limited social provision of services, etc…
The contradictions of globalized capitalism came to a head in Latin America in 1982
The “debt crisis” ensued when Mexico's Finance Minister, Jesus Silva-Herzog, declared that foreign debt obligations could no longer be honored
In response, commercial banks reduced or halted new lending in Latin America and refused to refinance billions of dollars of short-term loans. And in the last two decades of the twentieth century, every Latin American economy, with the exception of Cuba, has been “structurally adjusted” by the World Bank and the IMF to preserve the financial integrity of global finance (euphemistically justified as “debt relief”)
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“…[plunging] Latin America [in the 1980s] into its deepest crisis this [twentieth] century … Deregulated economies … synonymous with unprecedented social polarization, … plummeting living standards … and multi-billion dollar fortunes … [led to the] massive pillage of the economy (by foreign and local investors and bankers) and the state (by elected politicians and non-elected officials).” Petras and Morely 1992: 7.
The 1980s became a “lost decade”: average per capita income in Latin America declined by 0.9% per annum in the 1980s and by 1.5% in the 1990s (Robinson 2008): and between 1983 and 1992 the overall number of people living in poverty increased from 78 to 150 million (Korzeniewicz and Smith 2000)
Denied any semblance of democratic control over their lives by the machinations of political institutions adapting national economic activity and local enterprise to accommodate the rapacious needs of international capital, people organized themselves into social movements to defend against the (local) effects of (global) economic exploitation
“From the early 1990s … social movements of very different backgrounds have been at the forefront of social protest, at the local as well as at the national and supranational level ... there have been impressive mobilizations and campaigns that cannot be considered as isolated activities.”
Social movements structure political dissent around opposition to freetrade agreements, privatization of public services, political corruption, and struggle to protect indigenous rights, land entitlements, employment, and the like
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From page 6 However, social change necessitates institutional organization orientated to the emergence of an alternative social environment
In this regard, since the final years of the twentieth century, there has been an ideological sea change: there is an evolving social consciousness amongst los humildes [the disadvantaged masses] (See Dominguez 2009) There has been a Pink Tide in Latin American politics
December 1998 Hugo Chávez was elected President of Venezuela: August 1999 Bharrat Jagdeo, of the People's Progressive Party, was elected President of Guyana: October 2002, Luiz Ignácio Lula da Silva, of the Workers' Party, was elected President of Brazil, reelected in October 2006, to be succeeded on January 1 2011 by Dilma Rousseff (also of the Workers Party): in May 2003 Néstor Carlos Kirchner, of the Frente para la Victoria [FPV ] (Front for Victory), was sworn in as President of Argentina and in October 2007, Cristina Fernández Kirchner succeeded him, and was reelected on October 23 2011: October 2004 in Uruguay, Tabaré Ramón Vázquez Rosas, of the Frente Amplio (Broad Front) coalition, was elected President and in elections of 29th November 2009 he was succeeded by José Mujica, exTupamaro National Liberation Front guerrilla and activist of the 1970s and 80s: January 2006, Evo Morales of the Movimiento al Socialismo [MAS] (Movement for Socialism), was elected President of Bolivia, and was re-elected on December 7 2009 for the period 2010-2015: March 2006, Verónica Michelle Bachelet Jeria, of the Socialist Party, was elected the first female President of Chile; in April 2006, Ollanta Humala, of the Peruvian Nationalist Party, came within 5% of being elected President, although he subsequently gained an undisputed victory in the Presidential elections of June 6 2011; in July 2006, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, of the Party of Democratic Revolution, lost the election for President of Mexico by less than 1% in a disputed contest; in November 2006 José Daniel Ortega Savedra, of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, regained the Presidency of Nicaragua; in November 2006, in Ecuador, Rafael Vicente Correa Delgado who founded the Alianza PAIS-Patria Altiva i Soberana (Proud and Sovereign Fatherland Alliance) was elected President and reelected in April 2009: in September 2007 Alvaró Colom, leader of the Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza [UNE] (National Union of Hope) became Guatemala’s first left-leaning president in fifty three years: April 2008 Fernando Lugo, a Roman Catholic bishop, of the Christian Democratic Party, a party integrated into a coalition of more than a dozen opposition parties and social movements, known as the Patriotic Alliance for Change, was elected President of Paraguay: March 2009, Mauricio Funes of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, a movement which fought a 12 year guerrilla war up until the early 1990s, won the presidential elections in El Salvador.
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In all of these instances, debates about the role of the state in development―which hitherto had been marginalized in the dominant neo-liberal discourse of “structural adjustment”―moved to centre stage.
This political “Pink Tide”, albeit with different emphases and in distinct contexts, addressed development strategies and social policies which were intended to advance workers' rights, and there was a commitment to poverty alleviation and social reforms
“The Latins are defying the American Empire” Perkins 2007: 79
Historically to try to contain the power of the “American Empire” Latin American elites have organized themselves within institutions of “regional economic integration”
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In Latin America for instance: La Organización de Estados Centroamericanos [ODECA] (Organisation of Central American States) (1951), becoming La Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana [SICA] (Central American Integration System) (1991); the Latin American Free Trade Association [LAFTA] (1960); Central American Common Market [CACM] (1961); Caribbean Free Trade Zone (1968), which later evolved into the Caribbean Community and Common Market [CARICOM] (1973); the Cartagena Agreement launched the Andean Group (1969), becoming the Comunidad Andina de Naciones [CAN] (Community of Andean Nations) (1996); La Asociación Latinoamericana de Integración [ALADI] (Latin American Integration Association) (1980); Mercado Común del Sur [MERCOSUR] (Southern Common Market) (1985); Grupo de Rio (Rio Group) (1986); El Sistema de Integración Central Americana [SICA] (Central American Integration System) (1991); Plan Puebla Panamá [PPP] (Puebla-Panama Plan) (2001); La Unión de Naciones Suramericanas [UNASUR] (Union of South American Nations) (2007); and most recently, (2011) La Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y del Caribe (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) [CELAC].
In the globalized world of the 21st century there are three comprehensive regional initiatives to advance and protect Latin American interests (albeit that these hemispheric, elemental, concerns are variously defined)
La Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y del Caribe [CELAC] (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), established February 23 2011
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La Unión de Naciones Suramericanas [UNASUR ] (Union of South American Nations);
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La Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América [ALBA] (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America). To page 12
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CELAC is inclusive of every state in the Americas except: USA, Canada; Caicos, Turks, Montserrat, Virgin Islands, Leeward Islands; Puerto Rico, St. Croix; Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guyana (the last three groups of nations, still colonial territories, are respectively administered by the British, United States and French governments).
The concern is to preserve national sovereignty and domestic political and legal, institutions, in the light of continued, regional, deprecation of the rule of international law by successive US governments.
In spite of US President Barrack Obama’s promise to set a new tone of respect and work towards a “…peaceful, prosperous, and democratic hemisphere…” (FPF 2009), with the US being a “…friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity…” (NYT 2009)
US inexpiable, political actions under Barrak Obama’s presidency, in Nicaragua, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Haiti and Honduras, and a renewed capacity to “execute expedient warfare” (from military bases in Colombia) throughout the Americas, suggests that United States’, regional, imperialist ambitions, remain unabated
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UNASUR combines two trading blocs: the MERCOSUR  (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Colombia); and the Andean Community  (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru); additionally including Chile, Guyana, Surinam and Venezuela
UNASUR is a pact modeled on the European Union and is an initiative in economic integration (the Constitutive Treaty being signed in Brasilia, May 23 2008)
The intention is to adapt existing institutions of regional integration, to the remorseless, implacable, inclusivity, of international competitive markets in the age of globalization.
The problem is perceived to be the management of globalization to expiate United States “unfair” economic exploitation, and is not as issue of capitalist globalization per se
Optimistically, the institution of UNASUR may temporarily assuage the “contradictions, crises, spasms which regularly return to capitalist economies, each time repeated on a higher scale”, although, at the cost of invoking “many different ways and forms of struggle”, of which Fidel Castro warned in the opening quote to this presentation
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The institution of ALBA focuses on regionally addressing domestic, communal needs and social opportunities as the dawning of an alternative future for Latin America ALBA is an initiative in political unity not simply an institution for economic integration
The primary areas of activity are the…
The word “alba” translates as “dawn of the day” (Velázquez Spanish and English Dictionary)
“…promotion and development of a peaceful democratic culture focusing on integration in Latin America and the Caribbean, through exchanges of ideas and implementation of social, economic, and cultural development projects; eradication of extreme poverty; education; combating corruption; employment generation; and elimination of discrimination for reasons of gender or race.” Carmen Jacqueline Giménez Tellería, President of the ALBA Governing Council. Tellería, 2006, emphasis added.
ALBA, originally conceived as La Alternativa Bolivariana para las Americas y el Caribeño (the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean), was first voiced after the first meeting between (the soon to become President of Venezuela) Hugo Chávez, and Fidel Castro, in December 1994, in Havana (see, Elizalde and Báez 2005)
On December 14 2004, in Havana, the first declaration and agreement made under the framework of ALBA was signed between Cuba and Venezuela
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From page 12 Subsequently: Bolivia joined April 29 2006; Nicaragua January 11 2007; Dominica January 26 2008; Honduras August 26 2008 (although after the coup of June 28 2009 which deposed democratically elected President Manual Zelaya, the United States backed right-wing regime of Roberto Micheletti withdrew from ALBA); and St Vincent and the Grenadines, Ecuador, and Antigua and Barbuda June 24 2009.
At the IVth Extraordinary Summit in June 2009, convened to receive St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Ecuador, and Antigua and Barbuda, into the ALBA fold, the name was altered to the Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America
Reflecting that this process of unification was no longer a political ambition but “…a geopolitical, regional, platform of economic power … embracing eighty million people, with an annual product of six hundred million dollars and reserves of gas, petroleum, water and fertile land…’ (Chávez 2009).
In 8 years there have been: 10 Presidential Summits; the establishment of an ALBA Bank; a regional trading currency (the SUCRE); the founding of TELESUR; an ALBA Health Ministry in Havana; 3 Olympic style Games in Havana; many cultural and tourism initiatives; etc…; but most importantly, there is a bond of mutual solidarity and support to regionally progress “21st Century Socialism” (see Cole: 2008; 2010a; 2010b; 2011; forthcoming)
In Latin America, development initiatives within CELAC and UNASUR, will, as the “crises, spasms which regularly return to capitalist economies”, become economically critical, socially exclusive, politically exhausted, and ultimately morally bankrupt
The humildes of the Americas, at first as individuals, and later organized within social movements, will struggle to oppose the local injustice of global exploitation
As disaffected people search for meaning to their (globalized) existence, and, find a political voice, at first locally, then nationally, and later regionally by uniting within something like ALBA, an era of revolution will be in train
“That humanity has no alternative but to change direction cannot be doubted. How will it change? What new forms of political, economic and social life will be adopted? This is the most difficult question to answer … In this the subjective factor will play the most important role…’ Fidel Castro, 2003: 52, emphasis added, author’s translation.
An understanding which (importantly) is distinct to that of (the current President of the Councils of State and Ministers) Raul Castro: “…everything … depends on the success we have economically … Fundamental to ALBA’s success … is the economic question.” (Raul Castro 2012).
Fidel’s emphasis is on human progress: human beings evolving to become more Raul’s emphasis is social development: people politically struggling to have more
While progress will lead to development, development (per se) will not lead to progress, and the periodic “crises and spasms” of the capitalist world economy will return on a “higher scale”, and regional class struggles will deepen: progress is based on “ideas and consciousness”. As José Martí advised, "It is knowledge that counts”
References Biekart, K. 2005. “Seven Theses of Latin American Social Movements and political change: a tribute to André Gunder Frank (1929-2005)”.The European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, October. At Castro, F. 1999. A Revolution can Only be Born from Culture and Ideas. London: The Cuban Embassy. Castro, F. 2003. “Discurso en la Sesión de Clausura del Congreso Pedagogía 2003, 7 de febrero.” In, Las ideas son el arma esencial en la lucha de la humanidad por su propia salvación. La Habana: Oficina de Publicaciones del Consejo de Estado. Castro, R. 2012. “Everything depends on the success we have economically”. In Granma International, February 12th. Chávez H. 2009. “Press conference at the IVth Extraordinary Summit of ALBA”. At . Cole, K. 2008. “Alba: A Process of Concientization”. In International Journal of Cuban Studies 2. Cole, K. 2010a. “Jazz in the Time of Globalization: The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America. In Third World Quarterly 31(2) March Cole, K. 2010b. “The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America Part 1: Knowledge is what Counts”. In International Journal of Cuban Studies 2(3 and 4) Autumn/Winter. Cole, K. 2011. “The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America Part 2: The Imperative of Endogenous Development”. In International Journal of Cuban Studies 3(1) Spring. Cole, K. Forthcoming. Progress and Development in Latin America: Towards a Communion of Kindred Spirits. De Wall, F. 2009. The Age of Empathy: nature’s lessons for a kinder society. New York: Harmony Books. Dominguez, F. 2009. “The Latin Americanization of the Politics of Emancipation”. In G.Lievesley and S.Ludlam (eds.), Reclaiming Latin America: experiments in radical social democracy, London, Zed. Donald, M. 2001. A Mind So Rare: the evolution of human consciousness. New York: Norton. Elizalde, R.M. and Báez. L. 2005. EL Encuentro. La Habana: Oficinia de Publicaciones del Consejo de Estado. FPF. 2009. “Obama: Improve Relations with Latin America”. In Foreign Policy in Focus, February 11. At Korzeniewicz, R.P. and Smith, W. 2000. “Poverty, Inequality, and Growth in Latin America: searching for the high road to globalization”. Latin American Research Review, 35(3). Marx, K. 1977. The Grundisse. London: Penguin. Marx, K. & Engels, F. 1977. The German Ideology: Part 1. London: Lawrence and Wishart. Marx, K. and Engels, F. 1985. The Communist Manifesto. London: Penguin. NYT. 2009. “Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address”. In New York Times, January 20. At, Perkins, J. 2007. Secret History of the American Empire, New York, Duton. Petras, J. and Morley, M. 1992. Latin America in the Time of Cholera. London: Routledge. Robinson, W. 2008. “Transformative Possibilities in Latin America”. In, L. Panitch, and C. Leys (eds.). Socialist Register 2008. London: Merlin. Tellería, C.J.G. 2006. SUMMARY OF INFORMATION CONCERNING ALTERNATIVA BOLIVARIANA PARA LAS AMERICAS. Document prepared for the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States. At