The Capitalist Infesto


THE UNREPENTANT BATHER (90 MILES FROM FLORIDA)

My love swims alone

in an ocean of sharks

circling to starboard

circling to bow

waiting their moment

off guard, stroke falters

gnashing their teeth

flexing their jaws

wearing the defenses down

 

Swim for your life, sweetheart,

Swim for your life!

Don’t give up an inch,

Don’t fall for the trap!

The sharks are all circling

’Round History’s bones

You swim there alone

Under attack

 

My love swims alone

paradoxically dreams

of lush old-growth forests

& crystalline streams

but industry dangles

“development’s” lures

gnashing their teeth

flexing their jaws

baiting the bloodlash

of “Progress”

 

Swim for your life, sweetheart

Swim for your life!

Don’t give up an inch,

Don’t fall for the trap!

The sharks are all circling

’Round History’s bones

You swim there alone

Under attack

 

Swim faster

Keep swimming

Keep swimming

 

————————–

I dedicate this talk to our comrade and teacher John “Tito” Gerassi, who died last year, and who remained to the end a true friend of the Cuban revolution.

 

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outh African freedom fighter Steve Biko observed: “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” Nowhere do those sentiments apply more than they do to Cuba during the special period of the 1990s and 2000s – a time that was extremely harrowing for all Cubans. But the people of Cuba refused to consider themselves victims. They responded creatively. They formed new and ecologically innovative projects that might otherwise have never gotten the chance, for unless it is disrupted, the hegemony of the capitalist industrial model for development plagues even countries aspiring to socialism.

Who would have thought 40 years ago that Fidel Castro, in his old-age, would become a stirring spokesperson for the global environmental movement, of all things? Yet, here’s Fidel: “Should we expect that densely populated countries such as China, India, Indonesia, will have as many automobiles in proportion to their population as North Am­erica and Western Europe?” He answers his own question: “Well, it’s necessary: The expansion of capital requires it. It’s also impossible; the earth cannot sustain it.”

Here’s Fidel again, this time in 1990 evaluating the effects in Cuba of the imported Eastern European machinery:

“Let’s speak clearly once and for all … We Cubans don’t export garbage. But often what we get back in trade is junk! No one else in the world buys Bulgarian forklifts. They are such garbage, only we bought them. How many hundreds, thousands of them stand idle in our warehouses? The Hungarian buses … pollute the city with fumes and poison everyone around. Who knows how many people have died from the fumes of those buses just because they put in a defective fuel pump? On top of it all, those buses have a two-speed Czech transmission that alone wastes 30 percent of the fuel! Oh, how happy I am to speak with such openness!” Fidel said. It’s been difficult to talk about these things in the past, but thanks to these new circumstances we have been relieved of our previous compromises.”

Much of that honest evaluation and many of the ecological advances emerging from it entailed what at first were experienced as enormous sacrifices by the Cuban people. Over time, however, they became NOT sacrifices but a badge of national pride, a striving by an entire people for something greater, and a rejecting of the notion that the “good life” must be based on the mass production and accumulation of commodities and the consequent massive consumption of Nature. This was an ideological advance. It was no small feat achieved by the Cuban revolution, even if in the beginning of the Special Period it was the result of making a virtue of necessity. Cuba’s example provided, and continues to provide, a revolutionary eco-socialist impulse inspiring many throughout the world to think about what we’d like to see in a new and humane society, how we should treat each other, animals and Nature, and how we can organize our lives so that we deepen our consciousness and commitment to each other so that we can take action for social justice and for saving this god-forsaken planet.

Let me state my conclusions here, just so these points don’t get lost.

mso-fareast-font-family:Verdana;mso-bidi-font-family:Verdana”>1)                              We, friends of the Cuban Revolution, need to oppose genetic engineering of agriculture, which is fundamentally a mechanism of colonization of the living cell, and through which capitalist relations re-emerge, even in an aspiring socialist country like Cuba.

mso-fareast-font-family:Verdana;mso-bidi-font-family:Verdana”>2)                            We need to refuse to accept, and to reframe, what is promulgated as “The Good Life.”

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Verdana;mso-bidi-font-family:Verdana”>3)               We need to train ourselves in how to think and plan holistically.

mso-fareast-font-family:Verdana;mso-bidi-font-family:Verdana”>4)                             We need to stop fetishizing science and technology. They are not neutral. They do not stand apart from the class struggle. They are not our saviors. They are dripping with the ideology of the dominant capitalist framework of the societies in which they develop. To say that they are “ideology free” is itself part of that dominant ideology!

mso-fareast-font-family:Verdana;mso-bidi-font-family:Verdana”>5)                   We need to reframe THE WAY we raise and fight for issues, so that we can create institutions that begin to implement solutions through our own direct action, even as we make appeals to the system to do “this or that” for us. We then fight to defend those liberated zones, and we strive to expand them until they become the new society in embryo.

mso-fareast-font-family:Verdana;mso-bidi-font-family:Verdana”>6)                   To do all that, we need to practice how to bring out the ecological dimension that is buried in every issue. We may need to actively search for it, but it is there. Make it visible. Take action.

 

In the U.S., this colonization is legitimized by new Enclosure Acts similar to those of centuries ago, a legal fiction codifying the shameless orgy of capitalist profit and conquest. Here’s Fidel, once again, sharply criticizing the use of the world’s available land for monocropping plants for biofuels and the resulting elimination of the world’s forests, which Fidel termed “The internationalization of genocide.”

Indeed! In the last 50 years, fully 80 percent of the world’s forests have been chopped down. One Cuban scientist told me that “trees are nice to have, but they are a secondary concern when we are talking about the needs of people, which come first” – a surprisingly un-dialectical view. Forests prevent floods; they maintain healthy soil; they defuse hurricanes and detoxify drinking water. They oxygenate the air; they serve as habitats for thousands of species. In the U.S., less than 5 percent of the old-growth forests remain. In Argentina and Brazil, huge swaths of primeval rainforest are being cut down and the land monocropped with genetically engineered soy for animal feed and biofuels exported to the United States, Japan, China and Europe. In Indonesia, millions of acres of forest have been burned for palm oil production, mining and cattle grazing. In Mexico the Lacandona forest – the home of the ancient Mayan people and the Zapatista rebellion – is under siege by international paper companies as much as by federal troops. Under Clinton and Gore more trees were clearcut in the U.S. than by any of their predecessors in recent history – COMBINED!

The destruction of forests is one of the most notorious contributors to global climate change and the pending ecocide of this planet. The NY Times cuts down 60,000 trees per week to publish its Sunday paper. Don’t expect the Times to stray too far from its mantra of corporate “rights”.

We Leftists must reject the “factory form” of production altogether. The Cuban revolution had begun to envision new ways for producing the things humans need and desire, but that could only be made possible when we stop measuring “progress” through a striving for “efficiency” — at least an “efficiency” as measured through capitalist criteria. Where, for example, are all of those supposedly “inefficient” bicycles that had daily flooded the streets of Havana in the ’90s, streets that are choking, once again, on the lead-exhaust of GM and Ford dinosaurs of the 1950s? The charms of the old cars fade quickly when we consider that they exacerbate asthma, cause lung cancer, and increase infant mortality and  health costs to society as a whole – costs that the capitalist model excludes from its measure of “efficiency”. Regardless of which class owns and controls the means of production, capitalism’s shaping of “progress” and “the good life” will inevitably end up undermining the forces of socialism and ravaging the planet.

Cuba could become the world leader in global ecology, organic agriculture, and alternative and sustainable solar energy. Even in the far more impoverished and chaotic Haitian countryside Solar Energy powers whole communities. Why not in Cuba? With planning, Cuba could become the exemplar of what socialist revolution could mean in practice. It could present not only “health care for all” but, in addition, an expansive view of complementary or holistic medicine freed from the biases of Western technological and pharmaceutical models. Imagine thousands of visitors flocking to Cuba to learn ecologically sound planning, farming, diet and health!

But for that to happen, the Revolution must reach deeply into that well of its most precious waters – the creativity, high political consciousness and humor of its people – that is, its Socialism! Cubans would take pride in being the first western country to reject the industrial model of science & ecology, and in leading the charge to saving the planet. That is what socialism must become. Socialists must reject that bloodlash of ‘progress’ that whips all who stray back into the neoliberal model, with its technological quick-fix “solutions” like the so-called “Green Revolution” and Genetic Engineering. We must create a new Internationale of those who exert their self-determination as a people, as anti-imperialists, and as Eco-Warriors in defense of this planet. More than ever, the choice comes down to this: The Capitalist System vs. the Immune System – for the entire planet!

Cuba has begun experimenting with the genetic engineering of agriculture. We’ve heard mixed reports about how far along that is and what the process will be in determining Cuba’s future in that regard. Socialists should not have to ask – but I guess we still need to do so — whether manufacturing living plants to withstand huge amounts of pesticides and herbicides, or turning every cell in a stalk of corn into a mini-pesticide factory that sterilizes the soil of nutrients and life and that won’t wash off, is something that socialists should applaud, regardless of whether it would increase yield – and it doesn’t even do that when all factors are considered. Please remember, we are no longer talking about the customary technologies that at least in theory could be re-called, like a car, if a flaw is discovered. Once a genetically modified organism is released into the wild it cannot be taken back. It’s too late. It’s out there reproducing on its own. And, through drift, it pollutes the land and colonizes the local plants and natural environment.

Agro-Ecologists Fernando Funes Aguilar, Miguel Altieri, and Fernando R. Funes-Monzote convincingly show that newly available financial and material resources … “are for the most part being used to implement specialized conventional, large-scale monoculture” in Cuba. “Such industrial agriculture for export is dependent on genetically engineered corn and soy, heavy use of pesticides and herbicides, and centralized monocropping requiring the use of large machinery, non-organic fertilizer, and heavy use of water,” they write.

In fact, in 2011 the pesticide manufacturer “Juan Rodriguez Gomez” IN HAVANA, produced around 100,000 liters of the herbicide Glyphosate, according to Funes. Glyphosate is the main ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUp, a toxic herbicide suspected by Greenpeace of causing cancer and nerve disorders, and is especially dangerous for children.

Will the drive for much-needed investments let the devil out of Pandora’s box and overrun the more socialistic aspects of Cuba’s economy and ecologically sound policies? We need to follow Fidel’s lead here and think more carefully about our acceptance of such capitalist technologies as genetic engineering, and nuclear power.

I invite our comrades in the Cuban government and the Cuban people to put an end to this deadly experiment with genetic engineering and a return to chemical agriculture before it goes any further, and before it becomes too late to reverse course, and to publicize that position at the U.N. and throughout Latin America. Imagine the powerful shot-in-the-arm to the global movement against GMOs, should Cuba join it and provide it with socialist leadership!

Cuba, POR FAVOR, stop the experimentation with genetically engineered crops and seeds now!

I close with two excerpts from poems, the first by the great Nicaraguan poet Ernesto Cardenal:

And the second by Percy Bysshe Shelley:

In Unvanquishable number

Shake your chains to earth like dew

Which in Sleep have fallen on you

Ye are many, they are few.”

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