I am only a very occasional Guardian reader, of things like classical CD reviews and cricket stories, but thanks to Mick Hartley, of whose blog I am a regular reader, I found my way to this classic of the grovelling courtier genre, perpetrated by a ridiculous creep named Stephen Wilkinson.
Wilkinson’s piece concerns the content of a two and half hour speech recently given by Fidel Castro’s younger brother. Although, Raul Castro is young only in the Young Mr Grace sense. Which is what I think we should now call this junior monster: Young Mr Castro. If a full-on comedy TV show about the Castro brothers happens, let it be called: Are You Being Shafted? But I digress.
The only people who will be unreservedly admiring of this piece by Stephen Wilkinson will be the geriatric despots on whose behalf and in pursuit of whose money it was presumably written, although if they realise how little anyone else will be impressed by it, other than for its comic appeal, even they may grumble. What Stephen Wilkinson feels about having written such a thing, one can only imagine. The one honourable excuse for it that I can think of is that Wilkinson is a spook, keeping an eye on Cuba on behalf of the civilised world, and sucking up to its current rulers by recycling their interminable speeches and futile policy spasms into English. Alas, Occam’s Razor says it’s for the money. Mick Hartley draws our attention to commenters, here and here, who note that Wilkinson has an academic fiefdom to keep fed and watered, which is falling on hard times. He needs cash and cannot afford to be choosy. Come to think of it, he probably is a spook, part time, also for the money.
Meanwhile, few Guardian readers will warm to paragraphs like this, with its talk of “large landowners”:
Among the economic changes he mentioned, two stand out – new laws being drafted to permit the sale of houses and cars and another to allow the transfer of more state land to farmers who are successful. The first will be a huge fillip for the internal market and the latter will create the conditions for large landowners to emerge for the first time since 1959. When taken with the new proposals to allow people to employ workers, it does not take a vivid imagination to see how substantial the economic transformation could be. In Cuba, 90% of the workforce is currently employed by the state – the target is to reduce that to 65% in five years.
Those of us who favour freedom and oppose despotism will be pleased about this further clear admission of utter ideological defeat. But we won’t be that happy about such proclamations either.
What took these stupid old brutes so long to get with it about how economic life actually works? And are these brutes, who took so long to see sense, likely to preside over reforms like this with any success? It seems most improbable. And following the recent experiences of Russia, we will surely now fear an outburst of kleptocracy rather than of anything seriously resembling a free market. State assets, we must surely fear, will now be looted by the old Bolshevik nomenklatura, and the idea of a free market economy will then be as much discredited in Cuban eyes, as welcomed. The best thing about the next version of Cuba is that it may at least become somewhat easier to escape from, although not even that may be so, because leaving includes finding somewhere else to go. Might that soon become harder?
Many commenters at the Guardian focus particular derision on this particularly over-the-top claim from Wilkinson:
What we are witnessing here then is possibly something unique in history: a nation in a process of massive change and adaption.
What sort of ridiculous state of mind to you have to be in to write nonsense as totally and completely nonsensical as that?
In order to be sporting to the Guardian, Mick Hartley also links to another Guardian piece about Young Mr Castro’s speech, entitled Cuba’s theatre of the absurd, in which Carlos Eire writes that the present situation in Cuba is: absurd. Reform? Been there, seen that fail. According to this profile of him, Carlos Eire has written a book which just might be worth a look:
His memoir of the Cuban Revolution, Waiting for Snow in Havana (Free Press, 2003), won the National Book Award in nonfiction for 2003, but is banned in Cuba, where he is considered an enemy of the state.
Good for him. Although I personally fear that his complaints about Cuba are that it has betrayed socialism, failed to do enough of it, etc., instead of him pointing out that the problem is Cuba having done socialism.
Besides which, as Hartley surely realises, it is not much of a defence of something that presumably still wants to be thought of as a serious newspaper that only half of its recent commentary on some stupid speech by a stupid old Bolshevik was grovelling bilge, as opposed to all of it.
As for Cuba itself, there is, I would say, now some hope at least, not because of these “reforms”, but because of who is proposing them, and the weakness and abject bewilderment and self-contradiction they reveal. Cuba is now presided over by men so old that they are palpably losing all grip. That’s new. And cause for at least some optimism.