Sunday, May 06, 2007

"Cuba Has Millions of Fidels"

May Day, the traditional time for leaders of Marxist-Leninist states to display themselves, has come and gone. One of the last "Big Men" of Stalinist bureaucratist statism (not a criticism, merely an observation), Fidel Castro Ruz, did not attend the festivities in Cuba this year. As expected, Western media outlets used the opportunity to indulge themselves in the meaning of the absence and the future of Cuba.

One story, I think, got much more of it right than they might have understood. Steven Gibbs, reporting for BBC, wrote:

Certainly Cuban government officials appear to be getting bored of being asked how President Castro is, and whether, and when, and in what capacity he might return to power.

"I haven't the least idea," said a slightly cross Ricardo Alarcon when he was last asked whether Fidel would make a public appearance.

The government's view is that the president should be left in peace to recover as quickly as possible and that the Cuban revolution is about more than one man.

"Cuba has millions of Fidels," is a stock response to the question of what happens here after he is gone.

Steven Gibbs, Waiting for Castro, BBC News, BBC, May 5, 2007.

Fidel has moved quickly, within Cuban socio-political culture, from human to "something else." Like Mao Zedong in China (and the Chinese parallel is not chosen without care), Fidel Castro is quickly being transformed from a person into a set of ideas. Those ideas will someday (and quickly) serve as the foundation of a Marxist Leninist rule of law constitutionalism, in the same way that Mao Zedong serves in China. See Larry Catá Backer, The Rule of Law, the Chinese Communist Party, and Ideological Campaigns: Sange Daibiao (the 'Three Represents'), Socialist Rule of Law, and Modern Chinese Constitutionalism, Journal of Transnational Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 16, No. 1, 2006.

It was in this guise, of course, that Fidel Castro remained quite present at the May Day festivities. The official Cuban websites were quick to post the Commander in Chief's Reflections . This was a curious reflection--focusing on the willingness of Brazil to engage with the United States in the use of agricultural products for fuel, a project that Castro has repeatedly denounced (though in light of his friendship with Hugo Chavez, his motives are hardly what he purports them to be). Yet the discussion is not without some logic--to the extent that smaller states are urged to divert agricultural production to the satisfaction of the energy needs of the United States, they run the risk of market dependency of the sort that Cuba sustained as the sugar producer for North America before the 1960s. For smaller states, then, a caution, though the focus is on the influence of a great state--Brazil--on the move that that sort of future dependency. Castro and Chavez have raised this issue before, about which I have written.

But the "Reflections" suggest more than the usual sometimes clever sniping at "the Empire." These "Reflections" suggest some of the normative principles on which much of Castro's writings (whatever one thinks of them and however badly they have been implemented in fact in Cuba) are grounded: anti-subordination, territorial integrity, privileging of the political over the economic (reflected in the power of the political will over that of the market), and a distrust of private power. Now is the time to begin parsing the ideological constructs of Fidel Castro. In the same ways that Madison, Hamilton and Jay served as the authoritative founders of American federal constitutionalism, as Mao Zedong and Deng serve the same function in China, Fidel Castro will serve as the normative base point for what will emerge, eventually, as Cuban post Castro constitutionalism. For those who want to start doing business with the new, and much more globally centered regime, it is time to start an acquaintance with the writings of the founder (for good or ill) of the modern Cuban state. It is in that sense, perhaps, that one might best understand the idea behind the statement--"Cuba has millions of Fidels."

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