Friday, July 27, 2007

On the Anniversary of the Attack on the Moncada Barracks: Cuba Moves Forward towards its Chinese Future

July 26 marks the Día de la Rebeldía in Cuba, commemorating the failed attack on an outpost barracks by Fidel Castro and his band of rebels against soldiers of the Batista regime. That failed attack marks now the beginning of the Cuban Revolution whose victors continue to administer the Cuban state.

This year Raul Castro, the First Vice President of the Cuban Republic, delivered the official address to mark the anniversary. See Discurso pronunciado por el Primer Vicepresidente de los Consejos de Estado y de Ministros, General de Ejército Raúl Castro Ruz, en el acto central con motivo del aniversario 54 del asalto a los cuarteles Moncada y Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, en la Plaza de la Revolución Mayor General Ignacio Agramonte Loynaz de la ciudad de Camagüey, el 26 de julio del 2007, "Año 49 de la Revolución" (in English here). The speech is worth analysis for emerging themes of Cuban engagement in the world and the evolution of its own internal governance structure.

The speech is short (as one tends to measure those things in Cuba) and can be divided into four broad themes:

1. The United States as the greatest exporter of terrorism in the Americas. The rhetoric of the American administration's war on terrorism has had one perhaps unintended consequence. The rhetoric itself has been inbcreasingly directed back to the United States by the enemies of its government. This is, of course, the nature f rhetoric. It's context, its ideology, is eminently contextual. In the hands of the United States, the great intellectual campaign against terrorism is directed mostly at Islamist fundamentalism. In the hands of Marxist Leninist Cuba, the same rhetorical devices are deployed against the United States itself.
Before the mortal remains of each of the 3,478 victims of terrorist acts directly organized, supported or allowed to happen by the United States authorities; before the fallen in defense of the Homeland or in the fulfillment of their internationalist duty, our people confirmed their commitment to their heroes and martyrs. . . . In essence, this has been the last half century of our history. There has been not one minute of truce in the face of the policies of the United States government, aimed at destroying the Revolution.
Discurso pronunciado por el Primer Vicepresidente de los Consejos de Estado y de Ministros (English version). Raul Castro has inverted the usual course of analysis. In a war in which the United States has dedicated itself to the overthrow of the Marxist Leninist revolutionary government of Cuba, the Cuban hierarchy means to deploy the imagery and rhetoric of anti terrorism against the United States. The object, of course, is to invoke rule of law notions against the United States. Cuba seeks to de-legitimate American actions against Cuba on the basis of a suggestion that such actions are criminal and violate international law norms. Thus, Raul Castro describes the current United States administration in terms that the Americans have used to describe the regimes it overthrew in Afghanistan and Iraq. For Raul Castro, the Buh Administration is described as a "erratic and dangerous administration, characterized by such a reactionary and fundamentalist philosophy that it leaves no room for a rational analysis of any matter." Discurso pronunciado por el Primer Vicepresidente de los Consejos de Estado y de Ministros (English version). Indeed, Raul continues to embellish the usual description of the American economic embargo (el bloqueo) as constituting "a relentless war against our people, as the current administration of that country is especially bent on finding even the slightest of ways to harm us." Discurso pronunciado por el Primer Vicepresidente de los Consejos de Estado y de Ministros (English version). While the rhetoric of the embargo and American hostility as as old as the Revolution, the increased emphasis of a conflation of anti--terrorism, American activity, and lawlessness is new. The usual American response, focusing on the anti-democratic structure of the Cuban state apparatus, will be less effective in countering the refocused Cuban charges. Americans will have to begin to device arguments that its own actions may be measured against the rule of law standard it has asserted in its action sin other places. Failure to do so (and it will not be enough to say that it is right because the United States is doing it) could continue to limit the effectiveness of American intellectual global campaigns.

2. The transition of leadership in Cuba proceeds smoothly without abandoning the fundamental ideas of Fidel Castro. Raul Castro devotes a substantial portion of his address to an elaboration of the idea that nothing has changed since his brother was forced by illness to transfer power. Indeed, the transition has proven to be no transition at all. "The past twelve months have constituted a remarkable example of our people’s maturity, steadfast principles, unity, trust in Fidel, in the Party and above all in themselves. Despite our deep sorrow, no task was left undone. There is order in the country and a lot of work. The Party and the Government bodies are functioning on a daily basis in the collective search for the most effective response possible for every problem." Discurso pronunciado por el Primer Vicepresidente de los Consejos de Estado y de Ministros (English version).

3. The growth of Cuba's military capabilities. With Raul Castro and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias (FAR) in control, the state has begun augmenting its military capabilities. Raul Castro appears to be warning those who would use the transition as a period to prepare for the violent overthrow of the regime, that it might be more costly than anticipated. "Hundreds of thousands of militiamen and reservists of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, together with officers, sergeants and soldiers in the regular army have carried out Operation Caguairán, allowing for a substantial increase in the country’s defense capability, attaining levels of combat readiness that are superior to those of any other period." Discurso pronunciado por el Primer Vicepresidente de los Consejos de Estado y de Ministros (English version).

Like China, Cuba is focusing on its military to provide the institutional skeletal structure on which it can develop. "We cannot fool around with defense! The Commander in Chief directed and reaffirmed it yet once again just a few days ago. For us, as I have said so many times, avoiding a war is tantamount to winning it, but to win it by avoiding it, we must sweat a lot and invest quite a few resources." Discurso pronunciado por el Primer Vicepresidente de los Consejos de Estado y de Ministros (English version). Borrowing from the Chinese, the Cubans plan to enlist its population in the defense of a total war against a potential invasion likely (in their planning) to be sponsored by the United States. "Operation Caguairán will carry on in the next months. It will allow us to train about a million compatriots and will have as its crowning glory the Bastion 2008 Strategic Exercise which will take place at the end of the year." Discurso pronunciado por el Primer Vicepresidente de los Consejos de Estado y de Ministros (English version).

4. On the nature of Cuba's planned engagement with globalization. In an important segment of the speech, Raul Castro outlined the plans of the state apparatus for engagement with globalization. The foundation for this segment of the address was a long and detailed discourse on internal economic reorganization. The focus was on the bureaucracies of central planning for the production and delivery of milk on the Island. As Raul Castro describes it, central planning might become more focused on frameworks and less on the minutiae of regulating the production of goods. The emphasis is on the state, the centrality of the socialist principle of public benefit, and the subordination of private efforts to this conception of public benefit.

That is the template that Raul then uses to describe the plans for Cuba's outward engagement.
In this connection, we are currently studying the possibility of securing more foreign investment, of the kind that can provide us with capital, technology or markets, to avail ourselves of its contribution to the country's development, careful not to repeat the mistakes of the past, owed to naivety or our ignorance about these partnerships, of using the positive experiences we've had to work with serious entrepreneurs, upon well-defined legal bases which preserve the role of the State and the predominance of socialist property.
Discurso pronunciado por el Primer Vicepresidente de los Consejos de Estado y de Ministros (English version). The state remains the foundational object of economic activity. The state, and the political community it represents, also defines the extent of such economic activity. "Wherever it is rational to do so, we must also recover domestic industrial production and begin producing new products that eliminate the need for imports or create new possibilities for export." Discurso pronunciado por el Primer Vicepresidente de los Consejos de Estado y de Ministros (English version).

For this purpose, Raul suggests opening up to globalization through the newly created socialist alternative to regional trade associations--ALBA. Greater reliance, perhaps, will be placed on the other socialist nations engaged in globalization. Raul Castro is envisioning the creation of a grand socialist league of states, united in their intervention, as states, within the otherwise private systems of global economic activity. "Proof of this are the steps we are taking forward next to our brothers in Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua, and our solid ties to China and Vietnam, to mention but a few noteworthy examples of the growing number of countries in all continents with which relations of all kinds are being re-established and extended." Discurso pronunciado por el Primer Vicepresidente de los Consejos de Estado y de Ministros (English version).

Internationalism, it appears, may soon acquire another voice--one with socialist characteristics, in which the state, rather than the individual, in which the public, rather then the private sphere, will seek dominance and control of human activity. Cuba, with China, appears to remain at the forefront of these movements. Both, together with states like Vietnam (and increasingly Russia) suggest the reemergence of what is in this century referred to authoritarian capitalism. See Azar Gat, The Return of Authoritarian Great Powers, Foreign Affairs (July/August 2007) at 59-69. Perhaps in the future Cuba, like "China and Russia represent a return of economically successful authoritarian capitalist powers, which have been absent since the defeat of Germany and Japan in 1945." Id., at 66.

Its success, at any level, ought to be a cause for concern in Washington. If Cuba can demonstrate that state (national) socialism is compatible with market economies, it can provide an alternative model for state organization than that advocated by Washington. Both China and Cuba have, in their own ways, been working hard to make that a reality. Yet it is likely that the American elite will continue to hear Cuban rhetoric like it hears Chinese rhetoric--as little more than ideological posturing not worth much effort to either understand or counter through the development of strong positions and stronger actions. The U.S. may regret its inattention as Cuba continues to build an alternative system, and China continues to add its encouragement and expertise.

No comments: