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Dmitri Prieto-Samsonov: I define myself as being either Cuban-Russian or Russian-Cuban, indiscriminately. I was born in Moscow in 1972 of a Russian mother and a Cuban father. I lived in the USSR until I was 13, although I was already familiar with Cuba-- where we would take our vacation almost every year. I currently live on the fifth floor of an apartment building in Santa Cruz del Norte, near the sea. I’ve studied biochemistry and law in Havana and anthropology in London. I’ve written about molecular biology, philosophy and anarchism, although I enjoy reading more than writing. I am currently teaching in the Agrarian University of Havana. I believe in God and in the possibility of a free society. Together with other people, that’s what we’re into: breaking down walls and routines.

I Support Federalization (For Cuba As Well)

June 26, 2014 | Print Print |

Dmitri Prieto

Chess players. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — That whole business of “partisans of federalization” is a politically correct phrase used by Russia’s official media to refer to activists (some of whom have formed armed contingents) currently fighting the Kiev government in eastern Ukraine.

To tell the truth, I’m not sure to what extent the term is adequate, as I see that, in many cases, such “partisans” don’t appear to be too enthusiastic about the idea of continuing to be a part of the Ukraine – federal or not – and I see no connection between federalism and the express wish to become part of a different country.

The history of Latin America has known many civil conflicts in which one camp has held up the banner of the “federation” and the other the slogan of “unity.” I hope that, when all is said and done, the bloodshed spilt in those wars isn’t spilt in the Ukraine – any degree of bloodshed is always excessive.

I do, however, find the federalist model attractive, particularly for countries with a diverse ethnic and cultural makeup, like the Ukraine. The model can also be useful for political communities where diversity does not come into contradiction with the existence of a single nationality, as is the case of Cuba.

During a conference on the issue of human rights held in Cardenas, Cuba, Roberto Veiga (then editor of the Catholic journal Espacio Laical), spoke of the possibility of transforming Cuba into a “republic of republics,” that is to say, a federation of municipalities. Veiga considered this a desirable option for the future that was not very feasible today, since many Cuban municipalities would be unable to sustain themselves economically.

I think I have a solution for that problem. It would consist in transforming Cuba’s large public service companies (the electrical, transportation, oil, gas, telecommunications, Internet and even tourism companies) into inter-municipal properties.

They would operate as limited companies, but decisions would be made by assemblies made up of representatives of the country’s different municipalities instead of private shareholders. Every municipality would have a percentage of the vote proportional to its population. Profits would also be distributed on the basis of this system, generating opportunities for equitable sustainability.

This way, each of Cuba’s 168 municipalities would receive equitable profits that would go directly into their budgets, on the basis of common ownership over these companies, managed through local public institutions (which would be in touch with the immediate interests of the people).

If this were developed in conjunction with a robust system of cooperatives (in the production, distribution and consumption spheres), with local development, community economies and true micro-companies, we could then speak of a successful federalization with prospects for the future.

I believe the federalist model, born in Switzerland and the United States and radicalized by the anarchists, still has a lot to teach us, even in Cuba.


What's your opinion?

  • bonobo

    In that respect I don’t
    think we need to reinvent the wheel. There are established models of national company’s
    whit private and public ownership, strategic ones whit public control through
    nominal majority shares and seats in the board. Others sectors could be liberalize,
    and coops and locals trusts could play a dynamic role. I would advise, first, to
    foment endogenous wealth, like mutual credits and local investment with pension
    backing, again nothing new. Some would call this protectionism, but they
    developed their business nicely that way first, and are the worst offenders
    till these days.

    Export-Import and customs, there you have the
    tax free zones spearheaded by Raul, good luck wrestling that away from the army.
    Probably a bone that we need to throw to achieve a smooth transition. Develop a stoke exchange, and in the future we
    can be a financial hub in the Caribbean region. Who knows? We might even learn to play casino capitalism;
    after all we are descendents of smugglers and privateers.

    The crucial thing is to nurture and highly capable civil
    service, as independent as we can from political dependency, organically wrought
    to create a sense of professional pride paired whit a strong national/ civic
    commitment. The perpetual balance between the flexible, risky, and innovative sectors
    with ancillary, bread and butter ones, that is the name of the game.

  • John Goodrich

    The USA is the only heavily industrialized country without a single payer government run health care system and as a result some 40 million US citizens have no health care coverage and about half of them are children.
    There are far more functional illiterates in the USA than in Cuba.
    Your selective statistics are lies of omission.
    Your embargo, meant to immiserate the entire country is indeed working in that aspect but has failed to produce the will in the people of Cuba to overthrow their revolution. That’s why there are the shortages there are .
    Here again you have committed a lie of omission .
    You have no shame .

    • Griffin

      Why is there a shortage of meat in Cuba? The embargo does not prevent Cuba from buying meat from the USA. Indeed, they buy millions of dollars worth of chicken from the US every year. Therefore the shortages cannot be caused by an embargo which does not prevent the sale of these products to Cuba, whether from the US or other countries.

  • Grady Ross Daugherty

    Thanks, Dmitri, for an interesting article. I’m glad that someone contributing to HT is thinking along programmatic lines. (Indeed, the major reason I took leave of the HT website was that no one seemed interested or able in discussion along programmatic lines.)

    But I feel that you’ve missed the mark, with regard to the root problem of the Cuban semi-failure of socialist construction. In my view, the root is the grossly premature abolition of private property rights, via the state-monopoly concept of “real” socialism.

    If this is correct, then tinkering with political restructuring schemes will “get no respect,” and Cuba will continue to stumble into the brick wall of state-monopoly absurdity.

    It all comes back to “program.” Raul said in a speech that they had read that the state should own everything productive, and then had proceeded, to nationalize most productive property (1968). Regrettably, he did not follow the line of thought and conclude that private property rights should be reinstated, and the small bourgeoisie should be brought wholeheartedly into socialist construction.

    What continues to amaze me is that everyone seems perplexed as to how Cuba ought to be reformed. Cuba should institute the very same socialist system that is needed in the United States, a form of cooperative social-capitalism.

    I sincerely wish, my dear Dmitri, that you would submit an article to HT in which the concept of cooperative social-capitalism–as a way of understanding authentic, workable socialism–is examined. This might provoke a meaningful programmatic discussion! Cheers.

  • glen roberts

    My ideal is civilization, which, economically, must be communist, because nobody can live in a civilized world unless everybody lives in a civilized world. Cuba, due just to its movement so far through socialism toward communism, is the most civilized country I’ve seen. If I were a Cuban writing for HT, instead of entertaining misguided nightmares about political and economic concepts that have already failed in the rest of the world, I would be worried about the language Granma and Raul have been recently using in reference to new outside investment procedures – language that at least smacks of compromise with capitalism. Instead of foolishly turning against the revolution that most Cubans wisely voted to lock into the Cuban Constitution in 2002, I’d be urging the government to use Cuba’s newly discovered petroleum resources to make the island self sufficient and to pick up the pace of transition THROUGH socialism to a purer state of communism. -iammyownreporter.com

  • Griffin

    The Ukrainian Russian rebels are directed and commanded by Putin’s regime in Russia. They are being used to carve up Ukraine and expand the new Russian empire. The Putin controlled Russian media is referring to these areas as Nova-Russia, the New Russia.

    They use the term “federalization” as a cynical ruse to cover up what is nothing more than naked imperialism. It is indeed ironic to read your comments in support of Putin’s aggressive and expansionist foreign policy.