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Re: the Communist Manifesto: critique
by Louis Proyect
18 March 2002 16:45 UTC
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At 11:25 AM 3/18/2002 -0500, Andre Gunder Frank wrote:
>Louis "refers to  ''the main cause of backwardness ..."'
>'- it is the POSITION/PLACE/''FUNCTION'' of the Cuban ''economy''  in the
>world political economy

This seems reductionist to me. Haiti has a "position" in the world
political economy, but this observation does not really tell us why Cuba
has made progress while Haiti remains a hellhole.

From a profile on physician Paul Farmer in the July 3rd, 2000 New Yorker

Leaving Haiti, Farmer didnít stare down through the airplane window at that
brown and barren third of an island. "It bothers me even to look at it," he
explained, glancing out. "It canít support eight million people, and there
they are. There they are, kidnapped from West Africa." 

But when we descended toward Havana he gazed out the window intently,
making exclamations: "Only ninety miles from Haiti, and look! Trees! Crops!
Itís all so verdant. At the height of the dry season! The same ecology as
Haitiís, and look!" 

An American who finds anything good to say about Cuba under Castro runs the
risk of being labelled a Communist stooge, and Farmer is fond of Cuba. But
not for ideological reasons. He says he distrusts all ideologies, including
his own. "Itís an Ďology,í after all," he wrote to me once, about
liberation theology. "And all ologies fail us at some point." Cuba was a
great relief to me. Paved roads and old American cars, instead of litters
on the 'gwo wout ia'. Cuba had food rationing and allotments of coffee
adulterated with ground peas, but no starvation, no enforced malnutrition.
I noticed groups of prostitutes on one main road, and housing projects in
need of repair and paint, like most buildings in the city. But I still had
in mind the howling slums of Port-au-Prince, and Cuba looked lovely to me.
What looked loveliest to Farmer was its public-health statistics. 

Many things affect a publicís health, of courseónutrition and
transportation, crime and housing, pest control and sanitation, as well as
medicine. In Cuba, life expectancies are among the highest in the world.
Diseases endemic to Haiti, such as malaria, dengue fever, T.B., and AIDS,
are rare. Cuba was training medical students gratis from all over Latin
America, and exporting doctors gratisó nearly a thousand to Haiti, two en
route just now to Zanmi Lasante. In the midst of the hard times that came
when the Soviet Union dissolved, the government actually increased its
spending on health care. By American standards, Cuban doctors lack
equipment, and are very poorly paid, but they are generally well trained.
At the moment, Cuba has more doctors per capita than any other country in
the worldómore than twice as many as the United States. "I can sleep here,"
Farmer said when we got to our hotel. "Everyone here has a doctor." 

Farmer gave two talks at the conference, one on Haiti, the other on "the
noxious synergy" between H.I.V. and T.B.óan active case of one often makes
a latent case of the other active, too. He worked on a grant proposal to
get anti-retroviral medicines for Cange, and at the conference met a woman
who could help. She was in charge of the United Nationsí project on AIDS in
the Caribbean. He lobbied her over several days. Finally, she said, "O.K.,
letís make it happen." ("Can I give you a kiss?" Farmer asked. "Can I give
you two?") And an old friend, Dr. Jorge Perez, arranged a private meeting
between Farmer and the Secretary of Cubaís Council of State, Dr. Josť Miyar
Barruecos. Farmer asked him if he could send two youths from Cange to Cuban
medical school. "Of course," the Secretary replied. 

Again and again during our stay, Farmer marvelled at the warmth with which
the Cubans received him. What did I think accounted for this? 

I said I imagined they liked his connection to Harvard, his published
attacks on American foreign policy in Latin America, his admiration of
Cuban medicine. 

I looked up and found his pale-blue eyes fixed on me. "I think itís because
of Haiti," he declared. "I think itís because I serve the poor." 

Louis Proyect
Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org

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