Dream come true – holidaying in Cuba. Staying in local people’s homes and talking with those who speak some English I started to think abo
ut the nature of benign dictatorial rule and what makes those doing the ruling, tick. Castro came to power in1959 after, usurping a very malign dictator General Batista. This was undertaken with immense hardship and considerable support from the majority poor community. Castro’ forces were very much smaller than Batista’s. The Revolution swept in transformative change, including land reform, nationalisation and a free health and education service. Sanctions were imposed in 1961 because Western powers didn’t want Cuba being set up as an exemplar to there own disenfranchised. Keeping them poor and isolated would inoculate non Cubans against the socialist disease.
In newly minted revolutionary regimes a common mindset kicks in where rulers genuinely believe that the social and economic gains would all dissipate unless they keep an iron grip on their population. They are often seen as the father of the Revolution whereas the populous are viewed as easily influenced adolescents. As time goes by and memories of the initial struggle fade the revolutionary solutions bring up their own problems. The old revolutionary guard have only their old vision to guide them and are often too paranoid to allow others, maybe young or unrelated to comrades who have made sacrifices that ushered in the new social and economic paradigm. As problems increase so do the numbers of those who resent their political leaders and feel decreasing loyalty to those who still bear the scars of revolution. The solution is either ( depending on the resistance of the old order) violent or non violent. Either within the military or political elite, or as a generalised civil war.
What I’ve described above can, in a different form, be seen being played out in Britain with two parties who, apart from different rhetorical stances, in practice produce very similar political and social solutions when in government. The equivalent revolutionary catalyst that produced Tory Tweedle dee and Labour Tweedle dum was WW2. This traumatic event heightened demands from a strengthening industrial working class demanding ‘homes fit for heroes’ and that of the industrial and emerging service sector rather than landowning ruling class. This changed Establishment controlled the new economic realm through ownership rights and held sway over the political one by subtly limiting public political discourse. This control limited the range of acceptable solutions to those that didn’t undermine the semi submerged agenda of maximising profits for the new ruling class. For working people their leverage in the political economy would be subtly or sometimes brutally – witness the miners strike – undermined.
As has been said above in Cuba the ruling elite who came to power on a popular progressive mandate are not able to adapt and continue the revolutionary momentum in dealing with problems thrown up by the new political/economic paradigm. In the UK that increasing growth of the public sector as an overall proportion of the economy increasingly needed affordable means to finance it especially given our low productivity and ageing population. Today’s ruling class are no longer prepared to pay the price for the ‘one nation’ politics that had given us relative cohesive politics for four decades. Thatcherite neo conservatism that has dominated British politic since the 80’s is predicted to shrink the State to a point smaller than virtually any other country in the developed world and lead this country to be one of the most unequal in the world. This has produced new social groups such as the Precariate (those living economically precariously such as zero hour workers) and the new self employed (not entrepreneurs or artisans but out-sourced care workers agency workers etc) who will begin to demand political expression. Indeed we can already feel the anger and rejectionism of the new social forces in the election of Jeremy Corbyn to lead ‘New Labour’. Whether Corbyn is successful in enabling these new forces or not they will be a major force in revolutionising our present political and economic models.