Keep Shining, Cuba!
given at the Second International Conference for World Balance in Havana, Cuba,
January 29, 2008]
By Israel Shamir
1 Shamir with
Prof Maria Poumier, our friend,
colleague, writer, translator with vast connections in Cuban society
at the Conference in
This is a great honour to be in Cuba and to speak to you,
because for my generation Cuba is forever an important part of our romantic
youth. I was but a teenager forty five years ago, when young Fidel promised to
bring the revolution and freedom of man to the whole of the Americas, from
Tierra del Fuego via Washington to frozen Alaska, and his call still
reverberates in my ears. Those were glorious days, but they are over, and for a
long time people have felt that it’s not going to happen, but that we should
just be happy that this last refuge of liberty still survives. I’ve brought you
good news: Be not despondent -- you are not the last dugout of resistance to the
Imperial rule, soon to be swept away, anymore. The tide of world history now
turns, and we are ready for a counter-attack. People who oppose the Neo-Liberal
Empire feel that they are not the last bison on the prairie, we are rather the
victorious army of tomorrow.
The revolution is necessary, and whoever may have forgotten
that, was reminded of it a few days ago by the events in my beloved Palestine.
The people of Gaza made a revolution: they voted against the occupant’s will,
they expelled the collaborationist gang of Dahlan, they broke a siege, they went
out, risked their lives, rushed the army, overturned the fence, straddled the
barbed wire, wiped off the border between two states, committed so many heroic
acts and suffered casualties. Without this revolution, they were not even
allowed even to buy bread for their children. That is a good example for all of
us: nothing could have been done within the legal limits our enemies had
enforced. There is a need for the push that is called Revolution.
The subject of this conference is Balance, and in my view,
balance is the name of victory we shall obtain tomorrow, for balance is what our
world sorely lacks, balance between affluence and modesty, between rights and
duties, between the needs of the majority and desires of privileged minorities,
between masculine and feminine, between desire to change and need for stability,
between intervention and sovereignty, between superpowers and small states,
between secularity and the church. Every regime attempts to reach some balance,
but our balance should be harmony, that is, stable balance.
As a Russian-Israeli writer, I share my time between Tel Aviv
and Moscow, and speak from both a Russian and a Jewish perspective. I grew up in
the socialist Soviet Union, and as you may know, the word “Soviet” means
“counsel” and “advice”, so we can’t stop giving advice.
The Soviet Union had its problems, and post-Soviet Russia has its problems. I
agree with my friend, a wonderful Russian writer named Maxim Kantor: if fifty
years of communism proved that communism failed, the following twenty years of
capitalism have proven that capitalism has failed even more profoundly. The
Soviet Union did not collapse because of material problems, (Russians lived much
better than Cubans did), nor because of production hitches, but due to
ideological problems: the Soviet ideologists were beaten in the battle of ideas.
The battle of ideas does not take place in the mind of an
isolated hermit, but in the minds of millions of people connected by means of
discourse, from a conversation around the dinner table to a TV programme. The
discourse forms the battlefield, and this battlefield, like every battlefield,
is not flat ground without features of its own: imagine hills, mountain crags,
valleys and streams crossing it, and making it as complicated as every battle on
a real battleground.
This battle had changed its character since our enemies and
the enemies of liberty invented and constructed a unique machine; nothing like
that was ever known to mankind. This machine is a fully integrated
public-opinion-forming device; it consists of mass media, experts and
universities, it owns practically all TV stations and newspapers, it produces a
single narrative, and it succeeds in brainwashing the masses. The owners of this
machine are the Masters, or Proprietors, of Discourse. They decide what will be
known to people, what opinion will be acceptable and what banned. Because of
this machine, the imperialist rulers became so devoted to “democracy”: they know
that this device renders democracy an empty slogan.
For instance, a few days ago there were primaries in Nevada,
US. The second-place candidate in the elections was Ron Paul, an
anti-establishment, antiwar, libertarian man. We won’t discuss whether he is
good or bad for us; what is relevant is that the US media, integrated in one
machine, did not report his achievement at all. I checked dozens of reports; his
name was not even mentioned, though the third runner-up was mentioned at length.
In other words, the media now is able to undermine even the bourgeois democracy
it was supposed to protect and nourish.
This is not a new thing: Vladimir Lenin in his State and
Revolution written in 1916 said that democracy, even bourgeois democracy
can’t be realised while media belongs to private people who may limit access to
it. What is new that is the level of integration: The privately owned newspapers
of old could be good or bad, free or not, but today the media is concentrated in
the hands of a few owners and syndicates, and they decide what happens as far as
their viewers and readers are concerned.
The media machine is so well integrated that it caters to
both left and right. Surely there is difference between right wing and left wing
media, between, say, the Guardian and the Telegraph in the UK, or
the Nation and the NY Post in the US, or even Liberation
and Figaro in France. But this difference is not as big as it seems, for
this is after all bourgeois media. This is moderated difference. Once in
a blue moon, the left paper runs a radical piece, but usually the Left and the
Right papers in the US and Europe are deeply anti-Communist, forever denouncing
Stalin, rubbishing Muslims, supporting Israel, remembering the Holocaust and
But they want to leave you a feeling of freedom, of choice.
So they offer a few false alternatives to the public. For instance, regarding
Cuba, they offer some choices: the bourgeois right says Cuba should be conquered
or ostracised, while the bourgeois left says Cuba should be treated softly in
order to bring about regime change. The people automatically choose the golden
mean. The third choice, seeing in Cuba a laboratory for the future of society,
is never considered.
This is the new feature: until now, there was a real
difference of opinions expressed even in the bourgeois media, now – it is only a
show. While a socialist regime tries to create consensus, to form a single
correct opinion, modern techniques of indoctrination apply the principle of
balance and golden mean. They are based on a psychological fact: being offered
two ideas, every person seeks balance automatically, instinctively, and chooses
the golden mean.
Consider Iran; they offer a choice: should the US or Israel
bomb Iran, or should it be disarmed through sanctions? Germany demands more
sanctions, the US tends to bomb. A better choice -- let Iran do what it wills --
is never even considered. Even Russia stays within this frame of choice. The
Russian diplomats usually say that they agree that a nuclear-capable Iran is
unacceptable, though they think that there are soft ways of convincing Iranians,
instead of sanctions or bombs. Are they right? Leave aside for moment the
non-aggressive character of Iran. Even if an Iranian nuclear programme was to be
completed, Iran has no means of delivery. It has no missiles capable of
delivering a nuclear payload anywhere.
At the same time, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz
(Thursday 17.01.08) published a map
showing how the new Israeli missile, Jericho-3, can reach Moscow and Berlin, and
how they are perfectly capable of delivering some of the nuclear devices Israel
possesses to these cities. As opposed to Iran, Israel is an habitually
aggressive state. Leading Israeli editor Matti Golan dreams of wiping Germany
off the globe, while Jewish Neocons like Max Boot describe Russia as a major
threat. However, it is forbidden to discuss the danger this poses to Russia and
Germany, but the danger of Iran may be and has to be discussed forever. The
Russians could emphasise the Israeli threat; and provide Iran with some means of
missile defence, or with the nuclear know-how to create a new balance in the
Middle East. But the opinion-forming device of the West stops them.
At bottom, the problem is with the intellectuals. Once, the
western intellectuals had strong Communist sympathies, but not any more. So many
of us were seduced into supporting capitalism and accepting it, so many of us
became willing collaborators with imperialism. In the US, Europe and Russia,
Zionism played an important role in this weather change.
In the early sixties, Jewish youth – from San Francisco
hippies to Kibbutz in Israel - supported the Left. Some Jewish newspaper owners
and bankers were sympathetic to the Left’s course. But then, American Jews
improved their positions in the US society. In 1965, American Jews had slightly
less than average income, they were kept out of the top positions in the
society, and they were for revolution and change; in 2008, the US Jews have
three times more than the average American income, ten times more of the high
positions than average, and now they are aligned to the right. Yesterday’s
leftwing Jews became today’s Neocons; children of Trotskyites helped Ronald
Reagan to destroy the Soviet Union and now blockade Cuba. Organised Jewry went
rightwards, and carried along the media machine which became even more
pro-zionist and even more unified.
You can notice it on the key question of Palestine. It is in
interests of people of Israel and Palestine to eliminate apartheid in the same
way it was done in South Africa (thanks to Cuban effort), i.e. by creating a
single democratic state where Jews and non-Jews are equal in the eyes of law.
Instead of it, and the best one may wish for Palestine, is proposed a set of
Bantustans that was rightly rejected for South Africa. For this reason, the
dreadful crime of starving the entire people of Palestine has been taking place
without many protests, though Fidel condemned the siege of Gaza in clear terms.
The option of equality, the South African option, may not even be considered in
American and European newspapers. That is why the apartheid in South Africa was
universally condemned and eradicated, while apartheid in Israel/Palestine is
Zionism is an enemy of Cuba and of every free Latin American
state: Israel, the perpetrator of apartheid, always votes against Cuba in every
round of voting in the UN and elsewhere. The best friends of Israel in the US
are Bush and Giuliani, great enemies of Cuba. Israel supplied the Contras with
weapons to fight the Sandinistas. Israel and organised American Jewry actively
participate in the campaign against Hugo Chavez.
There are many men and women in Israel who love Cuba, who
listen to your music and wear Che t-shirts, but the power in apartheid Israel
belongs to somebody else, to enemies of Cuba and enemies of socialism. Likewise,
there are many American Jews who love Cuba, but the powerful Jewish
organisations are against Cuba and against Chavez.
The pro-Zionist Left had become a “good cop”, playing
together with the bad cop of the Right, but leading to the same goal. This good
leftist cop did much to undermine the Soviet Union. The British media lord
Robert Maxwell, who befriended the Soviet leaders and published their books
abroad, was an agent of the Mossad, the Israeli secret service. With such
friends, the Soviets did not need enemies.
Our enemies say that a state-controlled media is not free.
For them, ‘free media’ is only the media owned by rich media lords. I never
could understand why a newspaper that belongs to a Rothschild (like the French
Liberation) or an Asper (as all Canadian papers) is automatically freer
than a newspaper that belongs to people, even through the state.
The state-owned media is an important asset which should
be maintained in the interest of the people. Private-owned media will sooner or
later be taken over by a rich media lord and integrated in the same machine. But
the state-owned media must learn to offer choice. We know that there is
pro-Western opposition in Cuba. We hear their voices through Western media. But
there are also dissidents of the opposite persuasion, people who want more
communism. I understand, their views are considered somewhat dated. But it makes
sense to let them voice their views, so their voices will counter-balance those
of pro-Western intellectuals, and our views will then rightly be considered the
golden mean. In the Soviet Union, the collapse occurred BECAUSE the state-owned
media was taken over by pro-Western apparatchiki, and they effectively blocked
people’s access to other opinions.
The Internet should be eagerly embraced: first of all,
because our positions are strong on the Web. The Masters of Discourse do not
control the Web yet. There are thousands of sites friendly to Cuba and to the
ideas of equality, sites that unmask the neo-liberal lies. Secondly, the
Internet is very affordable. Nowadays, there is no need for cables, mobile
internet can reach every village, every student can have it. For Cuba, where
books are expensive and hard to get, the Internet offers the best solution.
Educated Cubans will become an important element in the world battle of ideas,
and they should be trained for this role. The Internet allows for that, as there
are thousands of discussions at the same time.
The collapse of the USSR was caused to a great extent by the
educated classes of Russia, the intelligentsia, which was very pro-Western in
the final days of the USSR. One of the reasons was that the Soviet style of
discourse did not allow for open discussion. They had never read Chomsky, they
never listened to Fidel, in those days there was no Internet. They did not know
of the strong anti-imperialist groups and voices in the West. They were
innocent: they thought they were going to live like Harvard professors, while
the whole of Russia would live like Switzerland, after the switch to capitalism.
As a result, Russia suffered a lot, its assets were robbed, and the country was
on the verge of total breakdown. The intelligentsia suffered a lot. Their fate
was summed up by Viktor Pelevin, whose books I warmly recommend to you. He
wrote: in the communist days, the Russian intelligentsia was supposed to kiss
the ass of the Red Dragon and they were poorly paid for doing it. They hated the
Dragon, and poisoned him with lipstick they received from the Green Toad. But
soon they learned that the Green Toad does not need millions of intelligentsia,
it needs only three intellectuals who can give oral sex to the Toad 24 hours a
day while smiling delightfully.
The majority of the Russian people are deeply dissatisfied
with capitalism – not only because their personal fate changed for the worse,
but because capitalism made Russia subservient to the West. Now president Putin,
who is a moderate nationalist, has taken a more patriotic course, and things
have improved a bit, but even today, if there were true and open democracy,
Russians would vote for an even stronger anti-Yankee and anti-neo-liberal
course. Now capitalism is going through its deepest crisis in a long time, when
much-sought dollars became valueless paper. The socialist view must be allowed
to be actively presented in the media. And not only socialist: non-liberal,
anti-bourgeois views in general should be let in.
While pretending that they are non-opinionated and
non-committed, the Masters of Discourse are devoted to a pseudo-liberal, or
neo-liberal paradigm. It calls for freedom of individual, for exclusion of the
church from active life, for human rights, for the rights of women. It sounds
good but these dogmas have to be balanced in order to be acceptable. Otherwise
the society will be unbalanced.
For instance, human rights. Is
not it a noble concept? But in the name of this concept, countries were
conquered and hundreds of thousands were slaughtered. Cuba is frequently
attacked for its “human rights’ abuses”, for it limits these rights when they
transgress the rights of the society. Our adversaries deny that society also has
rights; for them only individuals, and preferably those with a lot of money,
have rights. I was asked about the human rights in Cuba on a Russian TV
programme, and I said: Indeed, in Cuba, there are horrible abuses of human
rights, and we should speak against it. In Guantanamo, Cuba. But surprisingly,
they did not want to discuss it.
The concept of human rights has to be balanced by obligations to society, said
important Communist philosopher Simone Weil in her book called The Need for
Roots, or Prelude to a Declaration of Duties towards Mankind. Rights; in her
view, were 'subordinate and relative' to obligations. Simone Weil could give
this correct answer because she refused the trap of liberalism. She refused to
pay even lip service to liberal dogmas.
Rights of sexual minorities.
Gays’ right to adopt children should be balanced by the right of children to
have real father and mother. Their right to get “married” should be balanced by
right of men and women to enter a unique sacral union called marriage. Likewise,
a man’s right to eat pork should be limited by right of a collective of Jews or
Muslims to have a place that is not desecrated by pork. This is not an
unimportant issue: ordinary people, the vast majority everywhere, are against
giving priority to sexual minorities’ rights over their rights to family life.
In the US, this issue is used to create a schism between progressive activists
and the masses.
Right to worship. Animosity
between socialists, or communists and the church is not inherent; it happened
within a certain historical context and it may now be over. At the acme of
Revolution, in 1918, the great Russian poet Alexander Block envisioned the Red
soldiers being led by an invisible Jesus Christ. If Russian Communists would
create harmony with the Church, Communism would survive. It is good that in Cuba
churches are open, that you have positive relations with the Catholic Church
with its liberation theology wing, and care for your own colourful Santeria. But
peace with the church means more interaction both ways. In the 19th
century, the colonial government of Cuba deported Catholic priests en masse
because they supported revolution. The present government may reverse that
trend. In the Latin America, there are many pro-socialist priests and bishops,
and they could be brought to Cuba, while anti-socialist ones may be asked to
retire. Cuba may insist on its right to select the bishops in order to ensure
that more progressive priests will take these positions. If Revolution embraces
the Church, the Church may embrace Revolution.
And the last thing I want to tell you: be sure of your
righteousness. You are on the right path. Life in Cuba has improved steadily
since the 1990s. You still have the wise leader, Fidel Castro, who is akin to
Noam Chomsky for his radical thought; he has strong will and the support of the
masses, the dream of Plato’s philosopher-king. You still have people who fought
off the American aggression, who brought low the armoured corps of Apartheid in
the savannas of Angola; you have many people with the best education in the
world. You are the light of the world -- keep shining, Cuba!