The Pope’s Possible Future Role in Cuba

January 5, 2015, one day later, late at night postlude/preface: I probably in writing this post let my duty to socialism take too much of a backseat to my religious idiosyncrasies and natural tendency to be flippant and cynical. But I hope that I have at least been honest in my imperfections. The comments to this post at DailyKos have caused me to think a lot. As I more or less mentioned in an update to the post early this morning, I have been concerned about the immature and strident nature of the post, and especially at the possibility that it would be divisive to Catholic brothers and sisters on the left. I want to be an instrument of peace with respect to my world and do deeply appreciate all those on the left, including Catholic leftists, some of whom are dear friends or otherwise directly or indirectly have had a profoundly positive personal influence on me. And I do have hope for the first time in a long time that, because of Pope Francis, this amazing and highly imperfect institution of the Catholic Church, with its 1.2 billion members, might be made to be less of an instrument of oppression and reaction and more of an instrument of human solidarity, equality, and justice in the service of love for all of “God’s” humans and other creatures. Bottom line, though, is that I am, for now at least, going to leave this post just the way I originally published it, and trust that my brothers and sisters, be they Catholic or otherwise, will forgive me for where I have strayed (or, if you think it fits, sinned). Please do not hesitate to send me a pointed message, email, or comment. I think that our personal dialectics sometimes have to be played out publicly to get the best result, so I am leaving it all hanging out there and feel that I am by doing so testifying the best I can. Peace and justice dammit, Francisco aka Galtisalie

There can be no immaculate conception of socialism …
[Aneurin Bevan, 1945]

or of our posts about socialism.

I had hoped this post would be the fabulous coming out ceremony for a pamphlet I have been working on in my spare time for over a year on the need for a global social compact. I view Pope Francis as being a potential key Gramscian player in this prospect. I was going to highlight how Cuba may present a unique opportunity for the global social compact paradigm. But, as they sometimes do, real world events in my little world have taken precedence over the Holidays, and the pamphlet is not complete. Nonetheless, I feel I can still take an abbreviated stab at the post I mentioned week before last in a comment on MrJayTee’s excellent Cuba post:

a look at the Cuban constitution, Cuba’s survival of the fittest/meanest capitalist island neighbor immediately to its east, and the potential helpful role of Pope Francis

(My patient, kind but busy tovarishch MrJayTee prefers I keep my posts short anyway, so perhaps this is divine providence.)

Before I get into the meat of this post, I need to get some slights, and caveats, out of the way. Let me begin by “apologizing” to socialists who happen to be Catholic for the Immaculate Conception invocation, but it seemed to fit my situation, and, 55 years into both experiments, it seems to fit Cuba’s as well. That cultural reference got Aneurin Bevan, the founder of Britain’s National Health Service, in trouble with this important left subgroup seventy years ago. But what the hell, Bevan, and after him the Castro brothers, did more to help the working class have earth as it is in heaven than any pope or archbishop of Canterbury in my estimation. So, please accept my laurel and hardy handshake and nonpology.

As for caveats, for stinging critique by me of the Catholic Church’s anti-women, anti-GLBT, and in general anti-human policies, and its tendency to produce smarmy moralizing with little or no praxis to produce change, please see here and here, respectively, including ditty about:

the unelected Constantinian conservative RC majority of the SCOTUS, the Republican Party’s politburo, the vanguard in robes of U.S. political corruption and global neoliberalism, his humble flock, who put capital unction into the grotesque shunning of humanity that is institutionalized social repression

In a nutshell, while I have taken the gloves off with Pope Francis’s street cred, I believe in working with him too.

I do need to add one last preliminary sting:

No, Pope Francis, I do not buy that you did all you could to protect your own priests from right wing killers/torturers in Argentina’s Dirty War. I will not battle that history out in this post, but suffice it to say that you could have placed your prestige, and your body, on the line to protect them, but failed to do so.

To see how a real moral leader leads by example, please read Gramsci’s 1925 speech directly to the face of Mussolini and the Italian parliament.

Moving right along …

**************

Cuba’s Constitution

To Pedro Campos, perhaps the most outspoken member of Cuba’s critical left, Cuba urgently needs a new constitution. Perhaps, and perhaps also my country, the U.S., urgently needs a new constitution too. I do not live in Cuba. Nor am I a Cuban citizen. (My attenuated personal links to Cuba are discussed here.) My opinion on the matter is far less important than that of those who live there. Moreover, I am only a beginning student of the Cuban Constitution. Here are a few things I note:

In 2002, Cuba’s Constitution was amended to make its socialistic system permanent and irrevocable. In addition, it provides many economic rights I would like to have as a U.S. citizen:

Chapter I
Article 9:

The state: ….
b) as the power of the people and for the people, guarantees
– that every man or woman, who is able to work, have the opportunity to have a job with which to contribute to the good of society and to the satisfaction of individual needs;
– that no disabled person be left without adequate mean of subsistence;
– that no sick person be left without medical care;
– that no child be left without schooling, food and clothing;
– that no young person be left without the opportunity to study;
– that no one be left without access to studies, culture and sports;
c) works to achieve that no family be left without a comfortable place to live.

Article 14:

In the Republic of Cuba rules the socialist system of economy based on the people’s socialist ownership of the fundamental means of production and on the abolition of the exploitation of man by man.
In Cuba also rules the principle of socialist distribution of “from each according to his capacity, to each according to his work.” The law establishes the provisions which guarantee the effective fulfillment of this principle.

Chapter VII
Article 45:

Work in a socialist society is a right and duty and a source of pride for every citizen.
Work is remunerated according to its quality and quantity; when it is provided, the needs of the economy and of society, the choice of worker and his skills and ability are taken into account; this is guaranteed by the socialist economic system, that facilitates social and economic development, without crises, and has thus eliminated unemployment and the “dead season.”
Nonpaid, voluntary work carried out for the benefit of all society in industrial, agricultural, technical, artistic and service activities is recognized as playing an important role in the formation of our people’s communist awareness.
Every worker has the duty to faithfully carry tasks corresponding to him at his job.

Article 46:

All those who work have the right to rest, which is guaranteed by the eight-hour workday, a weekly rest period and annual paid vacations.
The state contributes to the development of vacation plans and facilities.

Article 47:

By means of the Social Security System the state assures adequate protection to every worker who is unable to work because of age, illness or disability.
If the worker dies this protection will be extended to his family.

Article 48:

The state protects, by means of social assistance, senior citizens lacking financial resources or anyone to take them in or care for them, and anyone who is unable to work and has no relatives who can help them.

Article 49:

The state guarantees the right to protection, safety and hygiene on the job by means of the adoption of adequate measures for the prevention of accidents at work and occupational diseases.
Anyone who suffers an accident on the job or is affected by an occupational disease has the right to medical care and to compensation or retirement in those cases in which temporary or permanent work disability ensues.

Article 50:

Everyone has the right to health protection and care. The state guarantees this right;
– by providing free medical and hospital care by means of the installations of the rural medical service network, polyclinics, hospitals, preventative and specialized treatment centers;
– by providing free dental care;
– by promoting the health publicity campaigns, health education, regular medical examinations, general vaccinations and other measures to prevent the outbreak of disease. All the population cooperates in these activities and plans through the social and mass organizations.

Article 51:

Everyone has the right to education. This right is guaranteed by the free and widespread system of schools, semi-boarding and boarding schools and scholarships of all kinds and at all levels of education and because of the fact that all educational material is provided free of charge, which gives all children and young people, regardless of their family’s economic position, the opportunity to study in keeping with their ability, social demands and the needs of socioeconomic development.
Adults are also guaranteed this right; education for them is free of charge and with the specific facilities regulated by law, by means of the adult education program, technical and vocational education, training courses in state agencies and enterprises and the advanced courses for workers.

Article 52:

Everyone has the right to physical education, sports and recreation.
Enjoyment of this right is assured by including the teaching and practice of physical education and sports in the curricula of the national educational system; and by the broad nature of the instruction and means placed at the service of the people, which makes possible the practice of sports and recreation on a mass basis.

Hispaniola

Belated additional caveat: I am not an expert on Cuba or Hispaniola. I have travelled extensively and performed some charity work in the DR, primarily focused on agricultural, environmental, and public health issues in sugar cane bateyes, which are essentially rural ghettoes for persons of Haitian descent who work the sugar cane fields and have no citizenship rights. In addition, I have studied these issues pertaining to Cuba and Haiti without actually visiting either country. Based on what I have seen with my own eyes and what I have learned, Cuba is a much better place to be for those who are at the bottom of the ladder, who are a subject of great concern to the Pope. In the words of one person with extensive direct exposure to Cuba:

My walks through the countryside have allowed me to meet Cubans who live without electricity, and I’ve visited more than one shantytown. But I must admit, in Cuba I’ve never seen the destitution and abject poverty of that in the slums of Uruguay, in the Mayan communities of Mexico, or in the streets of Rio.

Wages are lower than those proposed in the Millennium Development Goals, but these are compensated for with free and subsidized services, including health care, education, food allocations, transportation, telephone service, water and home repair goods and services.

They also created a system of Social Security that dedicates its resources to funding retiree diners and providing clothing, furniture and cleaning supplies to at-risk families and maintaining temporary shelters for orphans.

The protection policy for minors without parental protection is precisely one of the reasons why there are no street children here. In all my years in Cuba, I’ve never run into a youngster sleeping in a park or in a doorway.

A Continuing Role for Pope Francis in Cuba

Neither Cuba nor the U.S. has adopted the UN Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. The Pope should push for both to do so. This would provide a backstop for Cuban economic justice, were Cuba to start dabbling with the Chinese “communist” corporatist model, as is being threatened, and also hopefully embarrass the U.S. into providing economic justice guarantees for its own residents. In addition it would expose neoliberalism, which provides no economic justice guarantees, for the exercise in continuing unsustainable exploitation and hegemony by the powerful capitalists that it is.

Conclusion

On January 8, 1959, Fidel entered Havana. Later that month, two other personally important things happened, although I can’t be sure in what order and do not see any correlation anyway as to one of them. On January 25, 1959, Pope John XXIII first announced his intention of convoking an ecumenical council that would become known as Vatican II. I think that the bearded atheist with the funny glasses deserves some credit for that, as well as for the lovely doctrine of liberation theology, which can, if linked to meaningful socialist praxis, provide a robust amplification of “the good news.” My religion, if it is to mean anything, does not forget about those who are at the bottom. It does not worship the comforts of the middle (much less the upper) class and tell the person struggling to make it on his or her own, boots straps and such:

What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?
[Matthew 18:12, ESV]

Also, sometime that month, my very own parents overcame the stillborn sadness of what would have been my older sibling caused by the great abortionist in the sky, and lay together, which led, in the course of affairs, to my birth some nine months later. Presumably nothing immaculate but that’s just fine with me. Also fine with me if they enjoyed the procreative act. Dirty deeds are the kind that the now Pope Francis purposely averted his eyes from, not what two consenting adults do in the bedroom.

Mon Jan 05, 2015 at 4:05 AM PT: I am going to go back and tone down some of my rhetoric in this diary, hopefully later today, to be more thoughtful of the feelings of my Catholic left brothers and sisters. But meanwhile I have to go to work. I will let it sit for the day, and hopefully I will be able to find a tone of solidarity without losing the points I am trying to make.

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