Saturday, August 04, 2007

Castro, the State and the Market: Refining the New Political Anti-Globalization

Fidel Castro has spent the greater part of the last year meditating on a life's efforts as one of the principal opponants of American global ambitions. First as a factor in Soviet alignment and now playinga similar, though more reduced role within a Chinese sphere of influence, Cuba has exerted an influence on letters and intellectual development far greater that its population size and geo-political position might have suggested. But proximity to a giant often does that. Over the last several months Castro has been refining and restating the fundamental character of his opposition of the current hegemonic system of global harmonization. It is by now well known that this harmonization Castro opposes is based on the ascendancy of the private transaction over public relations, of contract over private law, of the enterprise over the state, of international law beyond international organization (effectively the rise of transnational law regimes) over municipal law and intergovernmental regulation of global affairs.

In a recent address posted on line, Fidel Castro Ruz, A Reflection on Hard and Obvious Realities, Aug. 3, 2007, Castro lays out his fundamental difference with the current form of globalization:
The concern which the Cuban Revolution has always had about the education of the people is obvious. Judging by my own experience, I soon came across the idea that only conscience could prevail over the instincts that govern us. Technological advances today speak of the possibility of manipulating the functions of the cells in the human brain. What good would all this do in a world ruled by the commercial value of goods and services? Who will have the final say in this regard? By this means and through the shameless brain drain, a phenomenon we should adamantly continue to discuss, the most valuable part of the human being could be destroyed: a human being's education via its conscience. Fidel Castro Ruz, A Reflection on Hard and Obvious Realities, supra.
Thus the evil underlying modern global realities--the commercial values of goods and services. What is unacceptable to Castro is a world whose foundational values are grounded in the private consumption choices of individuals which are served by private entities which, in their relation with the consumers of goods and services, appear to have little need for the state.

And Castro should be opposed to this form of globalization, for it is inimical to his own universalist political philosophy. Marxist Leninist thought tend to posit a hierarchy of power based on the requisites of a dictatorship of a national proletariat whose purpose is to pave the way for the eventual succession of a mature communist community (the state withering away). But for this to happen, there must be a state to wither, and that state must be powerful enough for its national proletariat to effect the sort of education necessary for the withering. Thus, for example, Castro's focus on education in the material quoted above, a concern that has marked the Cuban Revolution from its inception. For Castro, then, globalization, to be legitimate, must proceed from and by states. People must act on the basis of a singular allegiance to a singular supreme community--the political state--through which all aspects of organized life, including economics, social welfare, morals, culture, etc., may be ordered.

But the American system of globalization threatened that very order by positing a different rule of law basis--one grounded in a privileging of individuals and private law, and tolerating a more horizontal relationship between private and public power. But this is incomprehensible to the master of a system that necessarily posits a hierarchy of power in which the people (collectively) can owe undivided allegiance to but one juridical personality, and that juridical entity must be the political state. And thus the threat of market globalization is not merely a threat of American "imperialism", the usual way n which Castro's writings on this point tend to be brushed aside in the West. Instead, Castro is at pains to suggest a deeper theoretical difference, one based on a wholly incompatible understanding of politics and law systems.

Castro thus suggests that "Commercial advertising and consumerism are incompatible with the survival of the species. After all possible calculations, you will realize that natural resources, space, climate, weather, and the system cannot yield any other outcome, given their pace and the direction in which they are moving." Fidel Castro Ruz, A Reflection on Hard and Obvious Realities, supra. But what he is really suggesting is that his euphemism for private, contractually oriented transnational law systems are incompatible with the traditional state system for ordering all aspects of an individual's life--economic, social, cultural and political. T this extent, Castro is right. And it suggests a difficulty that Cuba will have to face as it slowly moves from traditionally isolationist and strictly state dependent Stalinism, to a more ambiguous Chinese style system.

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