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The End of Ideology in Cuba?
By Arnold August.
In 1960, the American sociologist and academic Daniel Bell (1919–2011)
published /The End of Ideology/. It became a classic book in official
political science. The publication was listed by /Times Literary
Supplement/ as one of the 100 most influential non-fiction books in the
second half of the 20th century. While there were other “end of
ideologies” in the 1950s and early 1960s, Bell’s is considered the most
authoritative. The many varieties that emerged from this school of
thought have a common denominator. While not oversimplifying this
important trend, for the purposes of this article one can say that it
surfaced out of the perceived failures of both socialism in the former
U.S.S.R. and capitalism in the West. It was born out of opposition to
In November 1968, along with other political science students at McGill
University in Montreal, I founded the Political Science Students
Association. It organized a strike around two basic demands. The first
was student participation on faculty hiring committees; the second,
linked to this potential student empowerment, demanded a more inclusive
faculty and curriculum. This would include writings other than by Daniel
Bell (who, of course, was considered mandatory reading and enjoyed
uncontested reference in political science), progressive social
scientists and the works of Marx and Lenin. These were all excluded at
the time. After a 10-day occupation and strike, the students’ demands
were finally met by the university.
Bell was blind to the inevitable uprisings that were about to take place
in the U.S. among African-Americans shortly after his best-seller rolled
off the press. These progressive struggles, like those of the Native
peoples, who also revolted, have their origins in the Thirteen Colonies.
In the 1960s, American students were also attracted to alternative
ideologies and politics. In fact, the youth movement was omnipresent
throughout North America and much of Europe. While this inclination in
the 1960s was characterized by different left-wing political and
ideological features, and experienced its ups and downs, it was the
death knell for the End of Ideology hypothesis. However, Bell’s heritage
keeps coming back to haunt us.
In Cuba, in the last year or so, there has been a steady increase in the
End of Ideology code words and buzz phrases emitted by some marginal
Cuban bloggers and intellectuals. They were timid at first but became
increasingly bold. To mention just a few: complaining of what they see
as a “sterile dichotomy between socialism and capitalism”; advising
Cuban revolutionaries to be “balanced and more profound in offering
their criticism” of U.S. imperialism; opposing what they consider the
extremist “Fidelista” and “anti-Castro” positions, placing both on the
same footing; labelling those who are Marxist-Leninist or Fidelista as
“extremists” or “fanatics”; writing about “two major fallacies of what
it means to be a revolutionary in Cuba, from the left and right,” both
being based on “exclusive dogma”; and, finally, asserting that “life is
much more profound than even ideology.”
Reading these pieces, my university days back in 1968 kept piercing
through my thought process. How was it possible that we opposed the End
of Ideology in the heart of capitalism yet now it rears its head in
Cuba, of all places? One can argue that the opposition in Cuba is coming
from the “left,” that is, from those who claim that they support the
Revolution. Well, where else can it emerge if not from the so-called
left? This is Cuba. Let us not forget that Bell had identified as a
leftist. His opposition to ideology was ostensibly from the leftist
outlook and not the right. This, after all, was how he won his
credibility and credentials. Bell became disillusioned with socialism.
He could not see an alternative so he decided to wage a struggle against
both capitalism and socialism. His work is a reflection of his own
personal/political predicament. Objectively, however, this so-called
neutrality against extremes consists in throwing a life jacket in
support of capitalism. It is no accident that he is so appreciated by
the ruling elites of the West.
I have always maintained that the most dangerous opposition to the Cuban
Revolution comes from the so-called left, and not from the openly right
Plattists, or annexationists. It is a cancer in Cuban society that, if
left to grow without sharp ideological resistance, can influence the
most naive, especially among youth, intellectuals and artists.
When Bell wrote his essays in the late 1950s, which were eventually
compiled in his 1960 volume, Cuba was the scene of the most glaring
refutation in the world of his theory: the 1953 Moncada attack, its
ensuing program and the Triumph of the Revolution on January 1, 1959.
Fidel Castro and the July 26 Movement initiated in embryonic form the
road toward a new Marxist-Leninist revolutionary ideology for Cuba. Far
from being a period characterized by the end of ideology, Cuba provided
the world with a resurgence of – and confidence in – the need for
ideology. It represented the /end /of the End of Ideology. The Cuban
Revolution erupted at the height of the Cold War yet it dug in its heels
against any intimidation from the left or from imperialism. It did not
represent the politically correct action and thinking at the time, not
of the left and even less so of the right. Thus, in the initial period,
Fidel had the acumen to not reveal the entire scenario. However,
ideology was at the centre of the action and spirit.
Since 1953, Cuba has been and continues to be the quintessence of
cultivating ideological principles. Every written and spoken word of
Fidel is impregnated with ideology. It is not stagnant; on the contrary,
it is continuously evolving according to the context. Otherwise, Cuba
would not have been able to outlast its enemies all this time.
I am convinced that one of the main implicit objectives of the
international corporate media campaign against the persona of Fidel
right after his passing was imperialism’s revenge against him for not
capitulating on ideology. Why, they may ask in frustration, did the
Cuban Revolution never buy into the End of Ideology? It should have,
according to official political science. Yet, after all these years,
from July 26, 1953 to November 25, 2016, Fidel lived and died as he
asked of others: a humble revolutionary.
In this historical context today, to try to impregnate Cuban political
culture with “neutrality” on ideology, opposition to “extremes,”
“equidistance” between socialism and capitalism, and so forth does not
constitute a challenge to dogmatism of the left as it tries to portray
itself. The real defiance is against socialism and Marxist-Leninist
ideology. In the 1960s, Bell’s theory appealed to the ruling circles,
who wanted to preserve the status quo. The elites were in power. They
were not in any danger of being dislodged by their own capitalism! The
End of Ideology critique of capitalism was then just a convenient cover
for the critique of socialism. At McGill, in 1968, that was the main
argument of the conservative faculty and administration. They were
supposedly not in favour or against any ideology. All political options
were welcome, but Bell was more welcome. He was supposedly against
capitalism and socialism. However, those who favoured the capitalist
status quo relied on the End of Ideology. Those who opposed the
“extreme” ideology of the left were fully merged with the capitalist
ideology, serving to propagate and elaborate it. The purpose of the End
of Ideology, in the 1960s and now in Cuba, is to put an end to
Marxist-Leninist and socialist ideology.
Source: Prensa Latina
*/Arnold August/*/, a Canadian journalist and lecturer, is the author of
/Democracy in Cuba and the 1997–98 Elections/and, more recently, /Cuba
and Its Neighbours: Democracy in Motion
<http://www.democracycuba.com/>/. Cuba’s neighbours under consideration
are, on the one hand the U.S. and on the other hand, Venezuela, Bolivia
and Ecuador. Arnold can be followed on Twitter //@Arnold_August/
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