Saturday, November 14, 2015

Forward into the Past!

I don't have anything to say yet about the terrorist attacks in Paris; I haven't seen much information, and it does't seem that there is much information yet -- just the usual speculation masquerading as news that one usually sees.  Maybe later.  Meanwhile:

I confess that although I find the 1960s movie versions unwatchable now, I feel a certain nostalgia (or is it encroaching senility?) for Ian Fleming's James Bond books, especially the final three.  It has been a long time since I read any of them, though, so when I happened on the e-book of The Man with the Golden Gun, I decided to see how it looks to me now.  So far it doesn't look very good, though I see from the Wikipedia entry that Fleming had only completed and submitted the first draft when he died suddenly, so it didn't receive the second-draft enhancement that he expected to give to it.  The Man with the Golden Gun was published posthumously in 1965.

This bit tickled my funny bone, though.  In the book, James Bond has been sent to the Caribbean to take out a bad man, a very bad man.  In the Kingston, Jamaica spy office he encounters Mary Goodnight, who had previously been his secretary in London.  She helps get his mission in gear, and when they have dinner she fills him in on the local situation, which she claims to have learned from the Kingston newspaper, The Gleaner.  The bad guy is in cahoots with Castro, who'd only been in power in Cuba for a few years at that time.  Goodnight says that Castro is trying to sabotage his neighbor countries' sugar crops to raise prices, because of that year's poor harvest, caused by Hurricane Flora.
" ... So it's worth Castro's trouble to try and keep the world price up by doing as much damage as he can to rival crops so that he's in a better position to bargain with Russia.  He's only got his sugar to sell and he wants food badly.  This wheat the Americans are selling to Russia.  A lot of that will find its way back to Cuba, in exchange for sugar, to feed the Cuban sugar croppers." She smiled again. "Pretty daft business, isn't it?  I don't think Castro can hang on much longer.  The missile business in Cuba must have cost Russia about a billion pounds.  And now they're having to pour money into Cuba, money and goods, to keep the place on its feet.  I can't help thinking they'll pull out soon and leave Castro to go the way Batista went... "
In the next paragraph Goodnight continues:
"Washington's trying to keep the price down, to upset Cuba's economy, but there's increased world consumption and a shortage largely due to Flora and the tremendous rains we've been having here after Flora which have delayed the Jamaican crop.  I don't understand it all, but it's in Cuba's interest to do as much damage as possible to the Jamaican crop ..."
I don't know how much of this has any basis in fact, and I'm not sure it's worthwhile to look it up.  But the prediction of Castro's imminent downfall is probably indicative.  I also like the casual remark that the US was trying to keep the price down, to upset Cuba's economy.  At this time the US was engaged in a protracted campaign against Cuba, to sabotage its food supply, and a typical propaganda move in those Cold War days was to accuse Communist countries of doing what the US was doing.  One example was the "Manchurian Candidate" fantasy that the ChiComs were brainwashing US prisoners of war into robotic assassins, which actually was a US project of the period.  Another was the accusation that the Communists were engaged in the drug trade to destroy the moral fiber of America's youth, when in fact the US and its allies were more likely to be doing so.  I don't know how much Fleming knew, but it's interesting that he should admit, however faintly, that the US was trying to sabotage the Cuban economy to punish Cubans for getting rid of Batista: it was in the US interest to do as much damage as possible to the Jamaican crop.  If for no other reason, I'm going to reread the late Bond books for such glimpses into the Cold War paranoia and mainstream conspiracy theories of the period.