Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Self reliance, hard work and determination.....

The Tories chose Jay Jethwa, one of our two Stockwood councillors, to speak up in the budget debate against spending on the Legacy Commission.

Anyone but Jay would probably not have got that disgraceful racist response (well documented on James Barlow's blog) from Shirley Brown, the Ashley ward councillor who now lives in Florida and very occasionally jets back over for the odd meeting. I hope this was the last time she gets the chance. Shirley called Jay a 'coconut' - an insult intended to suggest that she was betraying her Indian roots by taking a 'white' view of the world. Racist, or what?

In fact, Jay was simply coming up with a fairly predictable populist Tory line, aimed at an easy target. Textbook Norman Tebbit stuff about the virtues of self-reliance, hard work and determination, with a sideswipe at 'socialist style handouts'.

Question is, why should Jay think that these virtues and socialism are mutually exclusive? I seem to remember something about 'from each according to his ability, to each according to his need' in the socialist creed, though perhaps it went the same way as Clause Four. And I don't see that many handouts coming from the present Labour Party (well, not to the poor, anyway).

But the question was brought home to me later, watching a showing of 'The Power of Community' put on by the Green Party and the Cuba Solidarity Campaign. The film is the inspirational story of how Cuba (the state and the people) responded when faced with their own enforced pre-run of 'Peak Oil', after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the continuing US blockade left them without those modern 'essentials', fuel and fertilisers. This socialist state had to draw on all its resources of self reliance, hard work and determination to pull through. Instead of just talking about sustainability, Cuba had to do it, for real.

And they did. They still managed to enjoy those 'socialist' benefits of universal free education and health care, in spite of all the bullying by the White House; land remained in common ownership, though its stewardship and its produce was shared out more widely; and people managed to live pretty well within the natural limits of the island's resources.

Next, it's our turn. Peak Oil Britain. Peak Oil Bristol. Peak Oil Stockwood. Coming soon. Somehow I don't think traditional left wing or right wing party dogma, much less the present distortions of them, is going to provide easy answers.


James Barlow said...

Cuba's socialist paradise is not quite as pleasant as advertised.

For example: NCPPPR Report

"In Cuba there exists TWO health care systems,"21 explains U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who fled Cuba with her family to the United States when she was seven years old.22 "[O]ne [care system is] for tourists, as well as Communist Party officials, and another for Cubans, who are forced to take with them even the most basic necessities when visiting a Cuban hospital; even aspirins are scarce."

A few photos (unsourced): The Real Cuba

Pete Goodwin said...

I don't think anyone's claiming it's a socialist paradise, James. But it's not doing badly, considering what the US is still doing to it. I mean, even extending sanctions to other countries and companies that dare to trade with Cuba.

I'm told that life expectancy in 'poor' Cuba is much the same as in the 'rich' USA. That must say something.

Still, the point is about Peak Oil and sustainability. Jay provided a convenient hook to hang it on!

John Self said...