Thursday, January 26, 2012

Miss the Cold War?

It is highly unlikely that anyone who lived through the "duck and cover" days of the Cuban Missile Crises, the building of the Berlin Wall, and the rest of the fear-mongering that went with our perpetual state of war post-1945 will ever have a detached and scholarly view of Marxism.  The enemy was communism and the god of communism was Marx.  I knew people who quite seriously believed he was a modern incarnation of the devil.

I know I was scared shitless.  I had nightmares.  I lived in a town settled by Mennonites who had been farming in Russia before being driven out in the 1870s by an evil new Tsar, Alexander II.  These people were predisposed to believe that Russians could be wicked—Russians led by atheists was their worst nightmare.  One neighbor built a stand-alone fallout shelter connected by a tunnel to his house.

But I got lucky—I got to know some Scandinavian Marxists who mostly demonstrated to me why practicing Marxists were a lot like any other devoutly religious person.  As a preacher's kid who was exposed to deeply religious people from earliest childhood, this made them seem pretty normal.  Their belief set was filled with noble sentiments and my friends had more than their share of idealistic altruism.

The problem with the Marxists wasn't that they lacked high moral purpose, the problem was that they couldn't run a modern economy.  Turns out Marxist thinking may well be suited to organizing education and medicine but screws up agriculture and manufacturing.  No Marxist would have dreamed up the iPad in any imaginable timeline.  Saddled with Ladas, long lines, and crop failures, the tide of Marxism would start to recede from its economic misconceptions, mistakes, and mismanagement.

Of course, the economists who informed me in the beginning didn't treat Marx as much of an economist anyway.  So I became one of those mixed-economy types who believed that Marxism was only useful when the project was large and public—but keep these people AWAY from agriculture and the manufacture of anything complicated.

Anyway, we recently had a demonstration of the preservation of archaic traits.  The Republicans had a debate in Florida and the candidates were asked to explain how they would react to the death of Fidel Castro—the last of the Cold War era official enemies.  The responses were predictably sub-reptilian.  But of course, Fidel is still with us.  And he had a response.  I must be getting old—this Cold War exchange no longer frightened me but rather inspired a sentimental nostalgia.

So here is a part of the Castro response as told by RT.  His description of the Republican candidates is, if anything, overly generous.
Castro calls the GOP race a "competition of idiocy"

Published: 26 January, 2012, 00:33

At Monday’s Republican debate, both Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich came to an agreement on something: they each wished Fidel Castro would just die already. Days later, the former Cuban president fired back and offered some words of his own for the GOP. 
According to Castro, the race on the right is full of idiots. 
The Republican frontrunners spent a few minutes on Monday debating how they would react to the hypothetical news that the 85-year-old revolutionary has passed away. Romney was first to answer, saying that his initial reaction would be to “thank heavens.” Next was Speaker Gingrich, who was a bit more harsh with his response, suggesting that the communist commando wouldn’t make the cut at the Pearly Gates and would instead be subjected to an eternity in hell. Never mind what they think, though. To Castro, their opinion is absolutely meaningless. 
In an op-ed column published Wednesday, Castro writes, “The selection of a Republican candidate for the presidency of this globalized and expansive empire is — and I mean this seriously — the greatest competition of idiocy and ignorance that has ever been.” 
A good rule of thumb is not to question a retired Cuban leader capable of overthrowing a political system and ruling a nation for nearly 50 years. But when Castro says he’s being serious, you best believe that he means business. 
Texas Congressman Ron Paul handled the query on Monday by saying, "We propped up Castro for 40-some years because we put up these sanctions and this only used us as the scapegoat, he could say anything wrong is the United States' fault,” adding, "I think it's time to quit this isolationist business of not talking to people." For Castro, that might not be the best idea, either. He adds in his write-up that he is too busy with other matters to get involved with the Republican race for the nomination, so it’s safe to assume that, if any of these “idiots” are elected, Castro will continue to cast his opinions elsewhere. 
That isn’t to say that Castro will be endorsing incumbent Barack Obama later this election year either, though. After the current president addressed the United Nations in September 2011, Castro asked in a separate op-ed, “Who understands this gibberish of the President of the United States in front of the General Assembly?” 
Earlier this month, Castro remarked that, faced with a choice between Obama, a top-tier Republican rival or a robot, “90 percent of voting Americans, especially Hispanics, blacks and the growing number of the impoverished middle class, would vote for the robot.” more


  1. For most of the western Europeans been a communist was never synonymous with been the devil incarnated, and although it might be strange for a European to like a republican candidate, I have to say that Ron Paul gave a very good answer (rational, progressive, practical, intelligent).

    I guess this type of answer wont serve Fidel because he also benefited with all this years of confrontation.

    In my humble perspective, (very humble because there's an entire ocean separating Portugal from the usa) its not honest to compare Ron Paul to the other 3 fascists.

    Strange days indeed (john Lennon) when a lefty European prefers a republican candidate for president of the good ol' usa...

    Anyway, thanks for a wonderful and enlightening blog!

  2. a slight correction, since Açores (Azores) is Portugal the distance is just half an ocean.

  3. Thanks for the comments. I DO worry a lot about countries like Portugal so I hope you are fine.

    Ron Paul is interesting in a lot of ways (and I LOVE his commercials on the air here in Minnesota in advance of the caucuses—VERY youth oriented.) But the fact he is a gold bug is a deal-breaker for me. I intend to write a post on why the gold bugs should be ignored but I am still working on it. But you are right, he is a LOT more enlightened that the other three (and the three who have already left.)