Words that Reveal Intentions

Erasmo Calzadilla

Without Faces. photo: Caridad

A dichotomy can solve many problems, but it can also create other terrible ones.  A few millennia ago, human beings discovered that within themselves coexisted two absolutely distinct entities: the soul and the body.  Back then this was grandiose, but now too much time has been spent stuck on the same thing

In physics something similar happened when the universe began to be thought of as a matrix of masses and forces.  On the one hand was mass, entities that were unable to change the direction of their movement without being acted upon by others; on the other hand was the opposite: an abstract vector full of direction and ready to accelerate toward whatever it found in its path, but itself devoid of corporality.

But how can an incorporeal force act on mass?  This has been difficult to swallow, however it takes more effort to get rid of this category than to invent something more dialectical.

Dichotomies are unsafe in socio-political thought.  Certain thinkers, for example, have considered it appropriate to distinguish between the elite and the masses in society.

In an analogy with what occurred in physics and metaphysics, active and passive elements remain radically separate.  The problem then is to conceive of the bond between beings so different.

Thinking with dichotomous categories constitutes a danger not only in the hard sciences and epistemology, but in the social environment as well.

Good teachers of philosophy once had loathing for the term “the masses” because this was inevitably loaded with classist prejudices against those people against whom these teachers struggled.

Does that surprise me?  No.  Not when I read one of Fidel Castro’s “Reflections” titled “The Real Revolutionary Method Is to Be Linked to the Masses.”

Line by line, we can deconstruct the sense of Fidel’s statement that appeared in Granma newspaper on June 29, 2010.

As the former president believed that a revolutionary is an isolated entity with their own life beyond that of the masses, he noted that it’s necessary to remind him/her that a true revolutionary should be linked with the masses, because apparently they sometimes forget this.

And how does Fidel suggest that a revolutionary bond with the masses?  In a sudden change of subject in the same paragraph (moving from speaking about a revolutionary to an official), one can find that he conceives of the revolutionary as a leader of the masses.  This revolutionary leader must “avoid the bureaucratic method,” which “signifies governing from above” and “means the absence of contact between those who administer… and the masses.”

But more concretely: How does Fidel suppose that this contact should be in order to avoid the bureaucratic method?  Let’s listen to him:

“The revolution has trained all of us (who is us?) that they (the masses) might be willing to do much more when they are consulted and when they are convinced that it is necessary to make an effort”… “There is no better method of work than to speak with the people… to know their opinions, to know their problems.”

In Fidel Castro’s model, it doesn’t seem that the decisions come from the masses.  The masses are consulted and they are convinced.  What more could be expected from masses? And who is the person consulting and convincing? – The revolutionary official, of course.

This type of person to which Fidel directs himself is not representative of the people, but the puppy of a populist.  The collection of opinions of “the masses” and then their interpretation behind closed doors by an elite circle of “revolutionary” rulers is the infertile method of leadership that has been continued in this country for much too long.

The sense of Fidel’s article is to struggle against bureaucracy, but instead it seems to rest on the basis for the emergence of one.

Note:  When I got to the end of the article, I realized that it was not —as I had imagined— a current “Reflection,” but an extract from something Fidel had said or written in October 1961.  At least in this sense, he doesn’t seem to have changed a great deal in 50 years.

2 thoughts on “Words that Reveal Intentions

  • It’s a paradox, Fidel sounded like a Trotskyist but his government largely adopted Stalinist methods and international alliances.

  • Very good analysis Erasmo.
    This post reminds me Animal Farm dictum
    “All animals are equal but some are more equal than others”
    Why do they need to create this elite class ? in total divergence with the mass. Those that are not allow to contribute any idea to the process and whose mere suggestions will be considered counter revolutionary or criminal while the same suggestions coming from the elite will be the avant-garde of the Party!

    For many many years was illegal to have US dollars in Cuba for any Cuban citizen. If you were found with dollars you would have been punish with a harsh prison sentence.
    Overnight the vanguard of the party thought of the great idea of Legalizing the holding and the use of dollars so that people will be able to expend the dollars on the government dollars stores.

    That’s exactly a case where the masses of people that end up in prison where really ahead of the elite thinking. The elite convince themselves that they actually needed to squeeze any dollar people may have so make it legal was the right move for them.

    Some how the Cuban system seems to be a great collection of prohibitions that the elite class put in place and this prohibitions have become attributes of power.
    So for them is Ok to have dollars but not for the rest when this was illegal. For them is Ok to travel on vacation to other countries but not for the rest. and so on. For one of the mass to be able to simply stay at a hotel was a huge privilege. Eating lobster was something unthinkable and just simple killing a cow will be punish more harshly than if one had murder another fellow human being something probably never seen on any constitution of any Country!

    How come we never saw Fidel Castro or any of the elite making the line for bread or milk or the line for chicken?

    What makes this elite class of people above the rest that they are always exempt of fault of any of the errors incurred during the long 50 years?
    Any errors was and is always someone else’s fault.
    The major culprit that ended up guilty of most errors was and is the US blockade, It is hard to believe they still used that as an excuse for why something does not work.
    The food scarcity was blame on the US blockade, but then again you could see this dollar stores totally populated with products. Including american made products, like Coca-Cola and Colgate tooth paste while the Cuban peso store everything was rationed with bad quality and no variety!
    So was the problem the US blockade? Or was the problem that the regime could not afford to pay for those items to satisfy the needs of everyone?

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