January 1st, Roman New Year, was at least in two occasions much more than a mere holiday of hangovers and good wishes.
55 years ago, before dawn, dictator Flugencio Batista cowardly fled Cuba after a last hypocritical harangue to his forces to resist to the last man (not him, of course). The Communist forces led by Castro, Cienfuegos and Che, among others, had managed to win a relatively quick guerrilla war an establish a provisional government in Santiago.
The Freedom Caravan, led by Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos reached Havana almost unopposed on January 8th. Since then Red Cuba has been a key reference and support for the revolutionaries of America, Africa and even Europe. It is almost certain that the Apartheid regime of South Africa would have never yielded would not have been for the determined Cuban support for the armed resistance in the region, which had inflicted the racist regime key defeats that did not allow its continuity.
Whatever criticisms we may have for some aspects of the Cuban regime (too deeply rooted in Leninism, with Stalinist undertones, to be a perfect model) it is clear that it is fresh and genuine enough to persist in spite of the imperialist blockade and rather futile agitation. Not just its citizens know well that they are much better off in Havana than in the heartless capitalism of Miami or New York but its international network has been growing rapidly in the last decades, as more and more American countries decide that the only logical way to go is to develop some sort of socialism and join forces against the Empire of Evil.
I am too young, even if I'm getting already quite old, to remember that glorious epic of 1959, but I'm old enough to remember that other epic uprising of January 1st 1994, when a bunch of Mayas with poor armament managed to effectively hit by surprise the Mexican Army and create an standoff that forced D.F. to negotiate, which was all they could hope for.
Most importantly the Zapatista uprising, still alive and well, induced a deep reconsideration of the potential forms of Communism in a time when the old Stalinist regimes of the Fordist disciplinary era had collapsed. On one side the classical communitarian, grassroots democratic, essence of original Communism was rescued within the renewed traditions of a People still largely uncorrupted by the godform Money, on another, the issue of Native peoples, of people-nations as opposed to the self-proclaimed nation-states (enemy of the nation-peoples) was brought to the forefront with such an uprising that in essence demanded total democracy, free from the oppressor neocolonial state and free from the exploiter dictatorship of private property. They also had to reconsider some of their own traditions (revolutions always affect society) and accept equal standing for men and women for example, something they did without second thoughts, very bravely.
Sadly Mexico overall has not yet been able to ride the Zapatista wave and has instead declined in a spiral of Capitalist corruption, mafioso violence and robbed elections. These of course lead nowhere and eventually the North American republic will have to go through the unavoidable process of a true revolution. Social conflict, sometimes armed but mostly in terms of massive demonstrations, has been growing exponentially in Mexico the last year. The decision by the second illegitimate President in a row to privatize the oil and energy sectors against the overwhelming popular will is the last atrocity of a regime that seems as corrupt and weak as that of Batista six decades ago.
It seems clear to me that something big will happen in Mexico soon. There are no alternatives, unless one considers a Mad Max style scenario not just desirable but sustainable.
There are other hot spots however. Many of them. Last year we saw the popular uprisings in Turkey and Brazil, as well as a popular tide in Egypt that ended up with dubious results (the return of Mubarakism) which are almost certainly untenable. Other hot spots coming from further back are Greece, Spain (notably Andalusia), Tunisia, etc.
I don't realistically expect (but who can be "realistic" in the midst of this decadent Chaos?) many revolutions to happen this very year but I would expect some of them to take place in the upcoming years indeed, certainly within a decade. Consciousness and organization is not yet mature enough in most places, but both are clearly growing everywhere.
Also entropy is increasing very fast as this late decadent Capitalism becomes financier and therefore empty of any substance, eroding fast its own foundations, which are nothing but the ability to create some social stability and well being, building a social consensus on that.
I must mention, of course, the unprecedented massive uncontrollable environmental catastrophe of Fukushima, which is poisoning Earth and especially the North Pacific Ocean with growing amounts of radioactive pollution. This is just part of the generalized environmental catastrophe that the irrational "growth" doctrine is causing all around and that threatens our very continuity as species, as well as that of many other innocent species caught in our destructive dynamics.
"Growth" can only happen at the expense of something, Thermodynamics dictates, and these hidden costs are every day more obvious and threatening. We must change radically if we are to survive our own madness.
I must mention also the growing disbelief of the peoples. Yesterday I read that more than 50% of Canadians think that the 9-11 attacks were self-inflicted, the figure is only slightly smaller in the USA. You can't deceive everyone forever, Uncle Sam. Worse: you have critically eroded with such blatant lies the much needed trust required to rule. You have shot yourself on the foot and now you can barely stand on crutches.
There are other reasons for such distrust: the bourgeois regimes rely on the existence of a wide cushion of "middle classes", most of them workers with a decent pay and decent labor conditions. These "middle classes" have been demolished. It's not just downward mobility but actually collapse into outright poverty, being unable to pay their survival costs. In Britain tens of thousands have to choose between heating or food, what puts their very lives at risk, in the USA they struggle badly to reach the end of the month. This does not affect a few anymore but it is becoming generalized.
I have also to consider the untenable situation of Europe, or more precisely the European Union. It will collapse. There's no way forward and everybody is looking outright desperate, withing the Eurozone and outside of it. However there is a serious danger of fascist manipulation of the popular anger and despair and it is clear that the Capitalist elites are trying to elicit this new fascism in order to defend their ill-gotten gains.
But there are two key differences between the present crisis and that of the 1930s:
On one side, we are not anymore in the Fordist disciplinary paradigm, which created classical fascism as well as Stalinism, but in the much more chaotic Toyotist one in which leadership and vertical hierarchies are weak and not really respected. Capitalism, like Midas, corrupts all it touches and the corpse of Absolutism and Catholic Propaganda, on which fascism was built has long been buried so stinky it had become. The paradigm of today's fascism is Honduras and it is a mere mafioso catastrophe, not the Mussolinian vertical "New Deal", which is impossible now because Capitalism declared long ago social welfare obsolete and undesirable. So today's fascism has nothing to offer but mafioso violence and arbitrariness, something clearly insufficient to rule a society.
On the other side, this crisis is in almost everything much more comparable to the crisis of the Ancien Régime in the late 18th century. It was a persistent, seemingly unsolvable, crisis with a strong financial slant caused by the extreme privileges of the ruling classes (or castes), who accumulated nearly all the wealth but paid almost no taxes. That is exactly what happens nowadays. Like then, the privileged elites control the state apparatuses blocking any reforms that may even slightly threaten their wealth and power and promoting even more suicidal "reforms" that only increase the wealth gap and impose most of the taxes (often feudal-like tariffs like electricity prices of private de-facto monopolies) on a growingly impoverished populace.
Such extreme situation can't but explode. And it will no doubt. The question is when and how. We are all part of this unstable equation, ruled only now by the unpredictable laws of Chaos. We can all therefore impel, if Fortune smiles upon us, a butterfly effect of radical consequences, or be part of it.
Contrary to Fukuyama's fallacy, History is happening now and it is at least to some extent in our humble hands. Let's not lose hope, let's get ready for the great changes we have to be part of.
Best wishes in this new year. Be strong, be smart, be radical!