Blogs > Liberty and Power > A Reply to Montaner Regarding My "Mistakes"

Oct 29, 2005 2:39 am

A Reply to Montaner Regarding My "Mistakes"

Thank you Alvaro for contacting Montaner in order to correct my "mistakes."

1) It all depends on what you mean by"regime change." If taking land from one country such as Cuba from Spain is an example, then taking land from Mexico occurred much earlier and was condemned by a number of Americans ranging from Thoreau to Lincoln. In Iraq, the situation is quite different in the sense of a regime change within one country, so that it is"mistake" to equate the two. Are you denying that the US was attempting to aid regime change in Haiti in 1792?

2) Your considerable elaboration of the history about the Cuban Const. is an improvement on your view that it was"forced" on the Cubans. While this modifies your earlier statement, I do not see where it corrects any supposed"mistake" on what I said.

3) There is considerable information about both Gomez and Maceo that can be easily Googled. Briefly, Gomez refusal to step down led to Maceo's death in 1896.

4) The formal name of the 1st revolt in 1868-78 was the Ten Years War. I referred to it with respect to Tobacco, because it was led by the white planters as contrasted to the later revolt involving the Blacks who were more heavily in the sugar industry. See the great, classic work of the anthropologist and founder of Afro-Cuban Studies, Fernando Ortiz, esp. Cuban Counterpoint: Tobacco and Sugar.

5) I never said the filibusters were entirely the work of Americans. Empires, including the ancient ones in China and Rome, always sought compradors from among the elites. The Brits, whom you so admire, thrived on that.

6) I cannot read anyone's mind as to motives, but throughout history one does not have to be a Marxist to see how ideals blend with economic interests. Isn't it fascinating how George W. Bush seems more interested in bringing Neocon notions of Democracy to those nations that have oil, rather than to the many that do not. Senator John Shafroth of Colorado also opposed Empire, as did a number of agricultural states that felt threatened by products from both Hawaii and The Philippines. From 1893-98, Dole and his agents were busy preparing the way for the Expansionists of 1898 by selling Hawaii bonds to many in Congress which would later be redeemed at 4 times their purchase price. Money was even loaned with which to purchase same.

7) While I admire the rhetoric of Latin American Liberalism, it seldom has dealt very adequately with the race question with respect to both Indians and Blacks. As is well known, Spain at least defined slaves as human beings, not property in the sense of the Anglo-American experience. I can congratulate the British for taking the lead in abolishing slavery, and at the same time recognize that this coincided nicely with the increase in contract laborers from India, China, etc., which were cheaper to pay wages to, than to maintain slaves.

8) We agree, Señor Montaner, that I do not have a high opinion, I would not call it"terrible," about the vote of ignorant masses manipulated by the corporate media in our corrupt electoral system, none of which has much to do with Democracy, however that might be defined. I do lean toward a Republic based upon Law. The US system was best defined, although the book could be updated, by Walter Karp in 1973, in Indispensable Enemies: The Politics of Misrule in America. But as Bush's minions have repeatedly put it over the last several years,"We are an Empire now."

9) Thank you for correcting all of my mistakes.

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Zeferis Herrera - 10/31/2005

Dear Mr. Marina

I was born and raised in Havana, Cuba. To be more exact, born in 1972, therefore a son of the Revolution.

I would suggest that you remove the quotation marks from the word mistake in the title of your response.

The "10 years war" was lead by white sugar plantation owners. The first spark of the revolt was on "La Demajagua" sugar mill. Believe me, the only tobacco involve in this war were the huge cigars smoked by Francisco Vicente Aguilera. There were also cattle owners from Camaguey province participating in the war. Its highly probable that they also smoked big cigars.

All this happened in the Oriente and Camaguey provinces. Camaguey was mostly cattle, therefore the black slave population was insignificant. In Oriente province, sugar plantations were poor and small with just a few slaves. The big concentration of black slave populations was in Matanzas and Havana provinces and none of them participated in the 10 years war.

The 1895 war had more tobacco involve since the cuban cigar rollers that lived in Key West and Tampa contributed to the financing of the war. Notice that these cigar rollers were mostly poor white.

Maximo Gomez, "El Generalisimo" has nothing to do with the death of Maceo. Maximo Gomez son, Panchito Gomez died together with Maceo in the San Pedro battlefield and both bodies are buried together in El Cacahual memorial. Blaming Gomez of Maceo's death is not only offensive is a blatant lie.

Yankee hand off Cuban History!

Zeferis Herrera

PS: In 2002 I finally moved to United States after year of trying very hard of scaping from the communist paradise. I'm so proud to live in this country! United States is the most democratic and free contry on earth and the most progressive nation of the last 150 years. God bless America!

Sudha Shenoy - 10/30/2005

1. In the _specialist_ literature on the sugar colonies, indentured servants are only a small part of the total, even in the 17th century. Slaves are the bulk of the labour supply. Certainly the plantations also grew foodstuffs, etc, -- they would have to; & certainly there was considerable small-scale activity outside the plantations -- there would have to be: the West Indian colonies started as small-holdings whose chief export was tobacco. But the larger part of the whole -- from the 1630s onwards -- was sugar (& rum) production on the plantations. The mid-17th century saw a transformation from smaller to larger scale, & concentration on sugar. The return flow consisted of handicraft & manufactured goods of all sorts, grain, & the like. The sugar colonies were always part of the 'international' production process which developed from the earlier 17th century onwards. Plantation production entailed considerable investment, esp. in equipment.
2. By the early 18th century, the West Indies was taking on the characteristics outlined above: free 'coloureds' were only a small part of the population (around 8%) even at its end. Some 60% of all slaves were on sugar plantations; 20% produced other commodities; 10% were engaged in other rural activities & 10% were urban. On the larger sugar islands, slaves had their own farm plots & owned livestock. Many slaves were craftsmen. So they were certainly not confined to gang labour.
3. After emancipation, the ex-slaves refused to work at the wages the planters were offering. Hence the need to import cheaper indentured labour from India. -- Your god-daughter's Indian & Chinese forebears would've been amongst these indentured labourers; her Scots ancestor was probably a plantation employee, or a doctor.-- Thus there is a clear sequence in the sugar colonies: (white) indentured labour in the arly 17th century; (black) slave labour from the mid-17th century to emancipation; (Indian) indentured labour thereafter. Of course this is specific to these colonies; -- the overlap you describe is the norm for the _American_ colonies from the early 17th to the later 18th century. But the latter's experience is _not_ universal.
4. Of course smuggling of slaves continued after the official ban on the trade; & British traders operated through the flags of those govts that still tolerated the trade. But the numbers involved were already dropping by the late 18th century. And in Africa itself, the decline & then disappearance of the Atlantic slave trade had major political, social & economic consequences. There were considerable political realignments, & also upheavals. Had smuggling been significant, then these consequences would have been mitigated. But there is nothing to show that smuggling was at all impt. British West Africa eventually recovered only through 'legitimate' commerce -- palm oil, groundnuts, cocoa. -- Again, this comes from the _specialist_ literature.

William Marina - 10/30/2005

Dear Sudha,

We have had parts of this discussion before.

I think you under-estimate the diversity of socio-economic development in the West Indies, the mainland colonies and even in Hispanic ones.

When I last took a group of students to Jamaica we had a long discussion with Hazel Bennet about Jamiacan entrepreneurship, quite outside the plantation system. See, Sir Philip Sherlock & Hazel Bennett, Story of the Jamaican People. My God-daughter, Alika, lives in Kingston, and is Indian, Chinese, African and Scot; quite a beautiful, young lady, and her family is a great example of this entrepreneurial diversity.

See also, Marcus Rediker & Peter Linebaugh, Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic. A brief description of the book:

“This history examines the rich circulation of ideas of freedom among the multiracial, multinational mix of workers in the maritime world of the pre-Revolutionary period. The authors find a complex and robust subculture whose mobility and independence--and many small rebellions--fostered ideas that were later to find coherent expression in the writings of the Founding Fathers.” [and a great deal of info that some of the conservative, upper class Founders would have hated1]

Further, that laws were passed doesn’t mean the slave trade stopped, any more than laws against drugs today have stopped that trade. There were long time-frame overlaps regarding indentured servitude, slavery and contract/wage situations.

I always find your comments quite stimulating.

With warm regards, Bill Marina

Sudha Shenoy - 10/30/2005

Supplement: I should say explicitly that the West Indian sugar colonies were always _plantation_ colonies: the overwhelming bulk of the population consisted of black slaves. The whites were planters/sugar manufacturers, overseers, & some professionals: doctors, lawyers, etc. I do not know if there is any parallel in the American universe.

Sudha Shenoy - 10/30/2005

1. The American colonies got their independence in 1776. The West Indian sugar planters found that freedmen refused to work on the plantations around 1839 or so (after the post-slavery period of so-called apprenticeship.) Some _63_ years or so separate the two.

2. After 1776, no one thought of the erstwhile American colonies as 'colonies'; they were seen as independent states. So by 1839, people had been thinking in terms of a separate country -- the US -- for some 63 years. **So the planters in 1839 certainly did _not_ hark back to the period, from nearly 200 years previous, to around 75 years or so previous, when indentured servants were being taken to what were _then_ the American colonies.

3. The planters were driven by _their own_ here-&-now: the need for plantation labour -- **because the ex-slaves would not** work on the plantations. This outcome was _not_ expected. Hence the search for alternative sources of labour. At the time, the only such labour available was in India (very few Chinese came to the West Indian colonies as indentured servants.)

4. Certainly from the early 17th to the mid-18th century or so, there were both indentured servants _&_ slaves in what were then the American colonies. But the American colonies, c. 1630-c. 1765 are _not_ a perfect substitute for the West Indian sugar colonies after emancipation, i.e., after 1839 or so. The need in the latter for indentured labour was completely _un_expected: the freedmen were _supposed_ to continue working in the plantations. But they didn't. Only _then_ did planters think of indentured labourers.

William Marina - 10/30/2005

Dear Sudha,
There was indentured servitude in the American colonies in the 17th century long before slavery came in as the preferred labor system, but the former never really ceased althogether. From the beginning wages in America were perhaps 50% higher than in Europe.
The shift to slavery was due to the fact that the contracts under IS were becoming more expensive as the "servants" were able to gain better and better contracts, with shorter time frames, more and and implements with which to farm, etc.
It was never either, or, nor was it totally racial.
Neither was the return to contracts, either/or, although straight wages in the contracts in the US became the norm even before the Civil War, with Irish, Chinese, etc.

Sudha Shenoy - 10/29/2005

1. The slave _trade_ in the British Empire was abolished in 1807. Then came the long struggle to abolish slavery itself. This happened in 1833 -- when the various West Indian colonial legislatures (composed overwhelmingly of planters) freed all slaves in their territories. They did this because they were bribed by the British Parliament, out of taxes raised in Britain.

2. It was thought that the ex-slaves would _continue to work on the plantations_. But they refused. _Hence_ indentured labour was brought into the sugar colonies, mainly _after_ 1845.

3. Before emancipation, everyone thought that the ex-slaves would continue as free labourers on the plantations. Their refusal was _not_ foreseen. Only when this became clear, was indentured labour recruited, mainly from India. There were _no_ indentured labourers before emancipation, nor any thought that they would be needed. There is no evidence that indentured labour was considered _until_ the ex-slaves refused plantation employment.

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