Monday, May 07, 2007

What Do We Do When We Are Wrong?

Over on the blog Left in East Dakota, two sworn opponents of the left, Beakerkin and Sonia, have made a mess of understanding the Spanish Revolution--among other things. But, likewise, it is all too common to observe their opponents (a group to which I belong) failing to admit faults and mistakes made within the historical trajectory of our ideologies. I do not imagine that Beak and Sonia simply lack the ability to read a book (both seem to be very sharp), but rather I believe their misconceptions are blindly driven by ideology. So what if they had read the same books as I did about the Spanish Revolution? Or if I had read their books (assuming they've read about the Spanish Revolution before commenting on it)? How much different would our understandings be? Would either of us be willing to be intellectually honest and cede ground to the other if evidence and reason mounted up against our ideologies?

In the aforementioned post (and many, many others throughout the blogosphere), a discussion ensues in the comments, and one cannot help but notice the hesitation by either side of the argument to give ground, even at the expense of intellectual honesty and rational discourse. Both sides are seemingly guilty of not admitting when they are wrong--historically or about politics today.

SPANISH REVOLUTION

George Orwell had to flee Spain in late 1937 thanks to the treachery of communists of the "right-wing" Leninist/Stalinist variety, socialists and moderate republicans who, like the Western democracies, had no interest in seeing the anarchist revolution succeed. Once again, we observe the threat of a good example. Orwell discusses this in his own words in Homage to Catalonia. I would prefer to take George's own word for it over that of an ideologue like Beakerkin.

In fact, as the historical record reveals, the anarchists (numbering over one million in 1936) were completely isolated by right-wing fascists, Western "democracies" and the whole slew of supposedly leftist groups. The Spanish "communists" (authoritarian version) were no more interested in the success of the social revolution than were the fascist for an obvious reason: power!

ABSOLUTE POWER CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY

There is a tendency for corrupt, illegitimate and oppressive power consistent throughout history with all governments. It has been especially egregious wherever right-wing communism, and of course fascism, has emerged. But let's concentrate our criticism on the communist variety that far too many leftists attempt to defend. Let's look at Cuba, one of my favorite studies and a place I have experienced firsthand. While Cuba, like no other "communist" nation, has accomplished an unprecedented level of social and economic justice (bearing in mind that the stagnant economy cannot be discussed separate from the devastating toll of the U.S. Embargo), they have done little to distribute the political power of their nation and are guilty of all variety of human rights violations. But so are we here in the U.S. We allow millions to starve and live without homes in the wealthiest nation the earth has ever known. We make money off of other people's misery. We are as selfish and greedy a nation as the world has ever seen.

However, since many of us hate to admit it, let me say for my part that Cuba is not a democracy! A student asked me last week if I want to go live in Cuba, to which I responded, "hell no!" I love many of my rights here in the U.S., but I am appalled by--and want to change--the heinous inequality and social injustice we experience across this country. Not too mention most of what we enjoy materially, politically, and economically is as a result of imperial plunder. I hate what my country represents running roughshod over the world, stuffing its face with cake, committing war crimes, violating human rights on innumerable fronts, and on and on. I, like the Cubans I visited with on the streets of Havana, am displeased with all manner of sins committed in the bullshit name of my country. We must believe more can be done here and in Cuba and everywhere else. But rather than punishing good examples because it threatens our fragile little ideologies, have the stones and honesty to admit it when something is working to serve the common good.

Castro, like most all world leaders (ESPECIALLY U.S. PRESIDENTS), has committed many crimes and should be held accountable. Especially by those of us that claim to be struggling for social and economic justice.

INTELLECTUAL HONESTY

Beak and Sonia seem incapable of intellectual honesty or perhaps a nuanced answer when discussing politics and economics. At the same time, giving ground and admitting the horrific tolls of human lives destroyed under the name (AND NAME ONLY!) of "communism," or "socialism" is imperative. We do a tremendous disservice to the merits and value, not too mention those killed struggling for these ideals, by associating them with Soviet, Chinese, and other examples. Besides, we have plenty of ideologues to try to make blanket statements about socialism. We would be smart to never defend that which is obviously beyond defense.

Perhaps we all need to ask ourselves the question my student asked me: "Would you live there?" Would any of us on the left have wanted to live in the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, etc.? Would those on the right have wanted to live under Pinochet, Videla, Franco, etc.?

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

You're an idiot of titanic proportions. Go live in Cuba's equal society douchebag.

Ché Bob said...

Good one anonymous!

At first, I thought I should delete your banal comment, but why should I rob the world of the perfect opportunity to observe all that you have to offer.

Graeme said...

I respect Sonia's opinions (even if I don't agree with them), I like having my opinions challenged. Beak, however, rarely makes any sense.

I agree with your post. It is most important to hold those that you may be more inclined to agree with to the same standard as those that you don't agree with at all.

beakerkin said...

Wrong

Try reading Radosh's book on the subject.

G

If I do not make sense it is that you have not spent the effort to educate yourself. Start with history and the notion that a movement is governed by the actions of its adherents, not flowery rhetoric.

gregra&gar said...

It has been especially egregious wherever right-wing communism, and of course fascism, has emerged.

Okay,now. I may be a total green horn at discussing politics, but it would seem from your statement that you believe all political stripes are leftist, from the individual anarchist who doesn't count on government to dispense the charity that is integral to his own lifestyle to the jack booted looter of individuals for the glory of the state. Does this make democracy a form of socialism? Sometimes I get the impression from you and Troutsky and Graeme, with all the ists and isms being thrown about, that you have become educated beyond your capacity see the world without such predigested classifications. I sympathize with your sentiments but balk at your talk sometimes.

beakerkin said...

Anon is correct in that your rationalizations and appolies for a failed Cuban police state are insane. Then again you live with the deluded myth that trips to Potemkin Villages are slightly more than lefty versions of the Theriesenstadt shows perpetuated by Nazis.

Come to Union City NJ and talk to Cubans without block patrols. How many decades are we going to blame Batista for the mess of Marx.

If you want a good meal in Cuba join the party or if you have more morals become a prostitute or demand assylum in GITMO. The prisoners in GITMO have air conditioned cells and eat Baklava.

Anon is 100% correct.

Ché Bob said...

Greg,

I'm sorry, but I don't know how to answer your questions about anarchism and socialism and democracy without using the words since you put them in your comment. So please bare with me and allow me to use them to attempt an answer. This answer is also not short!

First of all, I do not believe all political stripes are leftist. Individual anarchists can be left and right-wing! The individual anarchist in and of itself can be hard to nail down, not to mention the diverse types of collectivist and syndicalist types of anarchists there are.

As for individual anarchists, one can imagine an individual anarchist of the Ayn Rand/Montana Militia type all the way to the Max Weber/Proudhon type. Ayn Rand, and other anarcho-capitalists, believing that governments should not exist to decide how a society is governed nor how an economy should be structured. Free markets and free individuals.

So, anarchists (libertarian socialists all the way to libertarian capitalists) share an aversion to authoritarian structures in the governance of the society. On the other hand, they are at opposite ends economically: one right and one left with all variety and shades in between. But according to Chomsky, a "consistent" anarchist is socialist.

I definitely do not think democracy is a form of--or that it should be equated--to socialism as you asked. Democracy in my mind looks at and measures political governance. Socialism is on an entirely different axis measuring the economic structure of a society. It shares this axis along a continuum with capitalism occupying the opposite end.

Socialism is manifest in a variety of political states from authoritarian (Cuba) to more democratic governments such as Sweden and Venezuela. But no examples of libertarian socialism exist. In all cases, with a very brief exception in 1936-37 in Spain, socialism has been governed by a state, and most of these states have been dictatorial.

Capitalism is manifest in a variety of political environments from somewhat democratic to increasingly dictatorial. Some cases have been made that a more apt description for the Soviet Union is that it was State Capitalism since the private capitalist produced for a guaranteed market. Either way, capitalism has also never seen a libertarian version. And, in my opinion, thankfully considering the way capitalism rewards greed and self-interest. At least today we have political system that pretends to prevent uber-individualism, survival of the fittest, etc.

I cannot speak for Troutsky and Graeme, but I would prefer a society that did away with the state and learned how to create free associations. No bosses, no politicians, no managers, etc. One reason I would not want to live in Cuba. But I also believe working collectively in unity with others will--counter-intuitively--free the individual.

Ché Bob said...

Beak,

I am going straight to the library to find Radosh's book. Is there one in particular?

Please answer the following question Beak: Is Cuba's economic state their fault alone or does the U.S. Embargo play a role in the amount of food, air-conditioning, etc. that Cubans have access to?

beakerkin said...

Spain Betrayed by Radosh. Radosh had a family member that fought there.

People who lived under Franco, Pinochet and those you mention are freer than those who live under Castro. Moreover, Pinochet, Franco and the others transitioned to democracy.

I would rather live under Pinochet or Franco than Castro.

Ché Bob said...

Beak,

Be careful, you are on the verge of calm discourse minus the insults.

I have already begun my search for Spain Betrayed.

To say one was "freer" under Pinochet than under Castro sounds pretty silly. Pinochet was responsible for the brutal murder of over 3,000 people and the kidnapping and torture of thousands! He also embezzled millions from the Chilean people.

I think the difference is that--bearing in mind your ideology--you would likely not have been a victim of Pinochet's repression so you would obviously choose living under him than Castro. The same principle applies to me except the reverse.

I think it would be wise to dispense with the playground banter of "my dictator is better than yours." No one should have to live under either.

No more illegitimate authority!

beakerkin said...

Che

3,000 May be the figure executed by the real Che alone. The number of deaths in Cuba is much higher. Nor is this atributable to the size of the country.

At any time a tourist could go as he especially on business. As far as Pinochet plundering his country
Fidel wins on that count. Moreover, Pinochet left his country in great shape going into the future.

In any same comparison people in Cuba are less free. Feel free to come to Union City and ask the locals. There are no block patrols in Union City. There are plenty of Chileans in Queens who see things differently. We can talk to Chinese, Poles, Hungarians, Chechs, Venezuelans, Eithiopians all telling the same story. How do so many people tell the same story.

Wrong Che and not even close.

Graeme here is a question to test your honesty? Are Castros political prisoners treated better than the people in GITMO? Sorry but appologies for a brutal police state that has spread subversion beyond its borders is a bit much.

Ché Bob said...

Beak,

I'm going keep asking this question until you give an answer:

1.) What role does the U.S. Embargo play in the economic situation of Cuba?

I have many more questions I'd like to ask you, but I don't want you to get distracted. So please answer this question.

beakerkin said...

Che

The US embargo has zero role as the rest of the world has ignored it. Moreover, they have had forty years to adjust. The boycott is an excuse for failure.

It is time for Communism and the cult of excuses to end.

Ché Bob said...

Beak-hole,

WTF does this incoherent sentence you wrote say: "The US embargo has zero role as the rest of the world has ignored it"? At the least the second part anyway.

I'm glad you said the first part ("The US embargo has zero role"), because it says a lot about you.

If what you mean by the second part is that the rest of the world has ignored the US Embargo or ignored the effects it has had on Cuba, well then I know I'm likely wasting my time engaging you at all.

Every single year for the last sixteen years, the UN General Assembly has voted unanimously (on average 183-4) to condemn the US Embargo against Cuba. That is hardly the rest of the world ignoring anything!

But back to the first part of your utterance: "The US embargo has zero role." WTF are you talking about? How is this possible? How is it possible for a country's economy not to be devastated when the world's prize consuming hog is not economically engaging it? How can the effects of a third-party embargo not be damaging Cuba by forbidding third parties in humane nations from trading with Cuba?

Now Beaky, I know that I've broken my own rule for dealing with you and that I asked more than one question in a single post, so I will neatly tidy up the questions so they are in an easy-not-miss format and you can cut and paste each question back into a new post and answer them one by one. Ready?

1.) WTF does this incoherent sentence you wrote say: "The US embargo has zero role as the rest of the world has ignored it"? At the least the second part anyway.

2.) "The US embargo has zero role." WTF are you talking about?, and the follow-up: How is this possible? (I know this may constitute two questions and therefore should have been separated and numbered, but I thought I'd see if you were up for the challenge).

3.) How is it possible for a country's economy not to be devastated when the world's prize consuming hog is not economically engaging it?

4.) How can the effects of a third-party embargo not be damaging Cuba by forbidding third parties in humane nations from trading with Cuba?

Liberal White Boy said...

You can hardly talk about Pinochet with out talking about his enabler, Henry K. Just posted this song let me know what you think.

Henry K.

They’re calling from East Timor
They call from Vietnam
They’re calling from Cambodia
They call for Henry K

The murder of Allende
Good friend of Pinochet
Who do those dead souls call for?
They call for Henry K

beakerkin said...

Che

Cuba has had the entire rest of the world to trade with. Moreover, they have had how many decades to develop alternative markets. Blaming the mess caused by Marxism on the boycott is absurd.

Moreover, Cuba was not a third world nation when Castro came to power. It was a country people desired to live in am emigrated to.
It had thriving factories and plenty of productive small farmers.
The small farmers resisted for many years as would anyone whose land is being stolen via Marx.

Blaming Batista and the boycott for four decades of a rigid police state is absurd. Moreover, the real Che was an executioner of disarmed men. Who were all those people he executed including 14 year olds.

The Radosh book Spain Betrayed is available. Moreover Radosh is quite familiar with the standard excuses and rhetoric. He was an open Communist for forty years.

Liberal Cliche

Pinochet did not need Kissingers help. Moreover, there were plenty of foreign personel on the ground.
But as the good old boys of class Genocide were preparing to commit another Katyn massacre Pinochet defended himself.

Werner said...

The basic reason for the boycott was to raise hysteria against the Cuban dictatorship ... which seems a bit strange considering the general fondness of western powers for tyranny "out in the provinces". China is a good example. We used to hear diatribes against the Red Menace back in the fifties and sixties and then suddenly Nixon does his thing ... and all the neo-con apparatchiks start shooting off about how trading with China will somehow liberalize the regime. For who, Walmart? Why don't these great of lovers of liberty say the same things about Cuba?

Renegade Eye said...

On troutsky's blog Beak linked me with groups like the Weathermen. I think the community knows that is not the type of politics I practice. In the same post he called Troutsky a simpleton. I think linking me with groups that mess with bombs, is a threat. I'm going to delete anything he writes on my blog. I hope the community follows.


The first day he visited my blog, he threatened to spam it. That's the kind of person you're dealing with. If he'd spam me, he'd spam you just as easily.

beakerkin said...

Ren

All of you are linked to the Weathermen and those groups. You merely share the same identical philosophy. I am sure we will now hear a diatribe how Dorn, the Red Army Groups, the Shinning Path are all now "rightists".

For people who frequently call people fascists this is small potatoes. Lets see on the post below the one Ren is crying about
a poster claims " I masturbate to pictures of Daniel Pipes". I have also been accused of using "wife beater arguments" on the same blog.

It would seems Commies can dish out abuse, but cry as soon as it is return.

Lets here how all of you are different from the terorists who share your philosophy verbatim. What are we to make of people who knowingly want to send a person to a show trial accompanied by genuine torture. Moreover, Cuba has several wanted Americans including Cop Killer Joanne Chessimard of the BLA, sometimes confused with the Black Panthers.

Ban away simpletons.

Renegade Eye said...

Except for what you admitted to yourself, being a Posada supporter, I haven't called you names. Why am I supposed to know anything about whether you beat or have a wife?

All the years Sonia came to my blog, I never was attacked personally. That is what having class is about. Her blog is a good read. I wouldn't put Sonia ever in the same sentence as Beak.

Redwine said...

"How much different would our understandings be? Would either of us be willing to be intellectually honest and cede ground to the other if evidence and reason mounted up against our ideologies?" - all schisms can be traced back to the same book(s). There is the rub.

beakerkin said...

Ren

Where do you see me supporting Posada? You may see a post on Sonia's site.

My points were the following

1 Cuba is an illegal police state without an independent judicairy.

2 Sending someone to face almost certain torture is inhuman.

3 Communist abuse the term terrorist to describe anyone who resists theft. The term was used to describe anyone who resists Marxist theft.

4 Cuba has been providing sanctuary to a Convicted cop killer who is part of the Black Liberation Army. It also refuses to
take back prisoners it knowingly mixed in with the Marielitos.

5 Commies have provided cushy jobs for terrorist such as Ayers and Dorn on American Universities.

6 Red Brigade vermin and Arabs have created similar situations in Israel, Europe and elswhere.

sonia said...

Che Bob,

Surprisingly, I agree with everything you wrote in your post. Even the phrase 'Cuba, like no other "communist" nation, has accomplished an unprecedented level of social and economic justice' is actually correct. I would never fault Cuba for lack of 'social justice'. I would fault 'social justice' for destroying the Cuban economy, however...

1.) What role does the U.S. Embargo play in the economic situation of Cuba?

I disagree with Beak that it plays zero role. It plays a very crucial role. Without the embargo, Cuba would be far richer.

However, you seem to forget how that embargo started. US capitalists invested BILLIONS of dollars in Cuba in the 1950's. They built all those magnificent hotels in Havana (see the 1964's film I Am Cuba, you'll notice that nothing has really been built in Havana under Castro). But in 1960, Castro threw all of them out. They lost a lot of money and lobbied the US government for sanctions. US government HAD TO DO IT, otherwise any government could just invite capitalists to invest millions, and then kick them out and face no consequences. There have to be consequences for theft.

Right now, Chavez is doing exactly the same thing to foreign oil companies in Venezuela. Sooner or later, US will impose sanctions for that highway robbery and Venezuela will suffer the same consequences as Cuba.

Btw, I am linking to your blog.

Ché Bob said...

Sonia,

Thanks for your response. I would still have to argue that what you offer still falls very short of explaining the Cuban economy. You started out by admitting (unlike a dishonest ideologue like Beakerkin) that the Embargo has played a role and affected the Cuban economy. But how do you reach your conclusions that it was Castro and Communism that made it possible for no improvements to be made to Havana? In fact, you admitted that "without the embargo, Cuba would be far richer." Well, what would be possible were Cuba "far richer."

Thanks, at least, for admitting that Cuba has been unequaled as far as social justice is concerned.

beakerkin said...

Sonia

The reality is that the rest of the planet has ignored the boycott. While you are correct about the roots of the boycott you are incorrect about the results.

Cuba has had four decades to find alternative markets. A coherently run economy adjusts to such situations.

What is your definition of Social Justice? This sounds like property theft and a repressive police state. How many decades are we going to blame Batista for a police state with a failed economy?

People never took to boats to flee Pinochet. Funny but as soon as a workers paradise is created those left alive vote with their feet.

Ché Bob said...

Beak,

You've gone and done it. Please insert foot into mouth!!!

Countless Chileans fled Pinochet! However, you're partially accurate because many more Chileans didn't have time to flee Pinochet before they were rounded up, tortured and murdered!!!

Beak, it seems to me that Renegade and others may be right about you...saying that you are incapable of coherent, honest, rational discourse. YOU MUST STILL BE ON THE TURNIP TRUCK!

sonia said...

Che Bob,

how do you reach your conclusions that it was Castro and Communism that made it possible for no improvements to be made to Havana? In fact, you admitted that "without the embargo, Cuba would be far richer." Well, what would be possible were Cuba "far richer."

Embargo is the chief reason Cuba is poor. Castro's policies in 1960 was the chief reason the embargo was imposed. Cuba is poor because of what Castro did in 1960.

Since 1980's, Castro tried to become more capitalist. He invited capitalists from Spain and Mexico to build great tourist resorts in Varadero, Cayo Largo, Cayo Coco, Holguin etc. Cuba lives from those profits. Otherwise Cubans would starve to death.

Embargo is maintained because of the pressure from 2 millions Cubans in Miami who want Castro's head for what he did to them in 1960. This prevents Cuban economy from being rebuilt beyond the tourism industry.

Castro policies (in 1960, not recent ones) are the reason Cuba is poor.

Ché Bob said...

Sonia,

This seems very deterministic and wishful.

Did the U.S. have to impose an embargo? The rest of the world continually condemns this act. Is the U.S. the only nation on to something? Or is this personal, vindictive, and ideological? In other words, did Castro's decision alone condemn the Cuban economy, or did the U.S. have other choices?

Most of the world sees the U.S. foreign and economic policy as a violation of international law and extremely brutal towards the Cuban people. What could Cuba and its economy look like were there no embargo?

How many Cubans are there that support the revolution, but at the same time do not support Castro? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 or even 11 million? If one were Cuban and trying to construct a communist society do you forfeit your rights?

sonia said...

Che Bob,

Did the U.S. have to impose an embargo?

YES. If they didn't, other countries would follow Cuba and kick US companies out. US firms could afford to loose their Cuban investments. But to loose ALL their foreign investments would have been too costly.

did Castro's decision alone condemn the Cuban economy, or did the U.S. have other choices?

In 1960, Castro's decision was actually quite lucid. The Soviet Union looked like a rising power. Castro could easily survive the embargo, because the Soviets were willing to trade with Cuba. Cuba became a socialist showcase, more prosperous than most of its neighbors. Castro couldn't have predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union 30 years later.

Of course, US had other choices: invasion, support for anti-Castro guerrillas, assassination of Castro. US did the worst thing possible - they did it half-heartedly, enough to look like horrible bullies, but not enough to be successful. My suspicuion is that deep down, they wanted Cuba under a dictator like Castro. Bay of Pigs, CIA's unsuccessful assassination attempts were simply ways of warning Castro not to go too far... And Castro never went too far - American soldiers have always been on Cuba all that time, in Guantanamo...

What could Cuba and its economy look like were there no embargo?

And everything else remained the same ? Impossible. Any US president who would allow US companies to be kicked out like that, without any compensation (first from Cuba and then inevitably from all the other countries - why wouldn't they all follow Castro if there were no consequences for them), would probably be assassiated. Wait... he actually was assassinated, even though he imposed an embargo...

There is an old Chinese proverb: when you kick a tiger's ass, be prepared to deal with his teeth...

Ché Bob said...

Sonia,

I have new questions for you:

Did US corporations operating in Cuba prior to 1959 have to exploit and denigrate Cuban civilians to such a degree as to warrant and precipitate their removal?

Do they today? Do they have to make the profits they do at the expense of human rights?

Does the U.S. only have obligations to American investors and their capital or do they have obligations to human rights, self-determination and the international rule of law?

sonia said...

Excellent questions, Che Bob.

Did US corporations operating in Cuba prior to 1959 have to exploit and denigrate Cuban civilians to such a degree as to warrant and precipitate their removal?

Do you really believe that Castro won his revolution because US companies were exploiting Cuban civilians ? If you believe that, ask yourself this: why Cuba ? Why not Bangladesh ? And if exploitation leads to revolution, why there was never a revolution (not even a strike) in North Korea in over 50 years.

I am not saying US companies weren't exploiting people. I know they were. But I know that THIS had nothing to do with people like Castro coming to power. Nothing at all.

The reality is that revolution occur not when oppressors are strong, but when the oppressors are weak. And they don't occur to replace oppressors by humanitarians. They occur to replace weak and indecisive oppressors by better oppressors - more ruthless and more cunning.

This applies to so-called 'leftist' revolutions (Russia in 1917, China in 1949, Cuba in 1960), but also (SURPRISINGLY) to so-called 'right-wing' revolutions - Romania in 1989 for example - there too, the ineffective Communist bureaucracy, unable to control the people anymore, was replaced by the latest, most ruthless version of capitalism.

If you really want to improve people's lives, evolution is the only ticket. Spain, South Korea, Taiwan and Chile - those are the most remarkable examples of positive changes in recent years.