Cuba’s Left Must Roll Up its Sleeves

April 26, 2012 |

Pedro Campos

HAVANA TIMES, April 26 — Cuba is going through critical moments in its history that are marked by the physical decline of Fidel Castro, the open recognition of the general failure of the “state socialist” model (which is really nothing more than concealed state monopoly capitalism), and the struggle for either the restoration of private capitalism or the advance toward to a new truly democratic socialist society.

An additional factor is the complex situation facing our sister nation of Venezuela and its possible impact on the Cuban economy.

The government-Communist Party — pursuing its politics of “updating the model” — favors the continuation of wage-labor exploitation by the state and by private domestic and foreign entities over self-managed cooperative forms of production, which would epitomize socialism.

In the meantime, they are seeking to maintain absolute state control, particularly over the economic activity of society.

At the same time, we can see contradictions in the official statements concerning their willingness to carry out democratic transformations in the political system: Raul Castro speaks of greater democracy within the party and society, just like the party billboards express the idea that these changes on the island are for more socialism; nevertheless economic reform czar Marino Murillo bluntly says there will be no political change in Cuba.

It’s not possible to fully develop socialism without real freedom and democracy, just as it’s virtually impossible develop full freedom and democracy without genuine socialism.

An emerging right alliance

However, facilitated by the democratic and libertarian deficits in the current statist model of society, we see a realignment of the pro-capitalist forces, some from within the state and others that are outside of it. They are changing their approach from one of confrontation to more peaceful means and to dialogue; while from the diaspora, well-known capitalist figures are showing themselves willing to join in the “updating” with their investments.

Some argue that these movements may reflect the existence of a tacit sort of agreement between the pro-capitalist wing of the party-government, part of the hierarchy of the Cuban Catholic Church, major émigré investment groups and the reigning US Democratic Party, as they seek a peaceful transition towards the restoration of private capitalism – but like in China, maintaining strict communist party control over society.

The recent visits to Cuba by the Pope and prominent Cuban-American businessman Carlos Saladrigas could be contributing to this framework.

The US government maintains many of their laws to keep the blockade/embargo in place, though they have loosened some of its strings (remittances, the sales of food and medicine, Cuban-Americans, and travel and cultural exchanges) while demanding “democratic changes” that the Cuban government seems unwilling to undertake.

The possible re-election of Democrat Barack Obama is creating expectations around the continued loosening of other strings of the blockade.

The recent Summit of the Americas showed the isolation of the blockade policy, something which the US government must take into account. Though absent, Cuba was the real star of the event.

The inflamed and brutish north is ready to even intervene either militarily (if Cuba were to apply massive repression) or with the investment of “generous” amounts of its capital to “develop” the country (like in China) and exploit (in collusion with the state) the huge “human capital” created over the past 50 years of the revolution.

Continued Disarray on the Left

In the broad democratic Cuban left — critical of traditional statism but also anti-capitalist — there abound concerns and warnings about the future of the country and the outcome of the “updating.” However, though there are some programs and many individual statements, what is not appearing is the necessary synthesis, harmonization or articulation of our positions. There’s considerable confusion.

Parenthetically, we recently heard about an official policy on cooperatives around which experimentation is being conducted, but then there appeared a local official on TV here in Havana arguing for greater state control of the cooperatives.

He suggested that cooperatives of parking attendants for multi-unit buildings – perhaps the most authentic of all existing forms of cooperatives today in Cuba — should be returned to the State fold in order to reach a higher level.  Such occurrences indicate how all socialists must  be on alert!

It’s time for the left — all those individuals and collective defenders of anti-capitalist, socialist, and revolutionary democratic ideas, ranging from intellectuals to certain officials within the party and the government, and especially the many rank-and-file communists — to consider regrouping our own forces to defend the popular gains previously achieved (particularly free health care and education), and for all of us to form a common front against private capitalist restoration – whatever its source.

If we fail to realize the historical moment in which we’re living, if we’re incapable of leaving behind sectarianism and one-upmanship, if we do not form a broad front capable of upholding the revolutionary road, we could be approaching the painful end of this socialist experience.

We will see ourselves overwhelmed by the full restoration of private capitalism that is rapidly advancing with government compliance, or by the possibility of imperial intervention (Cuba isn’t China) to the extent that the Cuban government continues to refuse to carry out the democratic reforms that increasingly more people are demanding.

Time for rolling up our sleeves

Supporters of a more participatory and democratic socialism have always expressed our readiness for national dialogue without exclusion, for reconciliation among all Cubans in the search for a common path accepted by all and for the good of all.

What is done must be based on the agreement of everyone and not just those holding political or economic power. But in the meantime, the broad left should come to an agreement on and harmonize our positions.

Democracy yes, but for everyone – where everyone as a whole decides on the fundamental laws that affect us all, meaning there must be agreement concerning what investment projects to pursue using the people’s money, consensus on the structuring of the national and municipality budgets and the adoption of all public positions through referenda by direct vote using secret ballots. This would mean direct, participatory democracy, where the people themselves decide their own fate.

Everyone on the left must “roll up their sleeves,” think about this situation and try to take the position that they deem appropriate, beyond the continued acceptance everything that is imposed on us in the guise of participation.

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  • Moses

    Excellent analysis. I would like to comment on one point: imperial intervention. It is extremely unlikely that the United States (that IS what you mean when you say “imperial’) would ever intervene militarily in Cuba again.I simply can not imagine a scenario where US Marines are in Cuba. There are too many grandmothers in Cuba whose grandchildren live in Miami who would never accept “no fly zones” or night bombings or predator drones over the Cuban homeland. Nope, that ain’t gonna happen. What is highly likely, however. is a US-supplied, US-televised Cuban insurgence. I remind you of what happened on August 5, 1994 when Cuban locals took to the Malecon in Havana in protest of the restrictions imposed during the Special Period in Cuba. To end that uprising, it took Fidel himself, over loudspeakers, to quiet the unruly crowd. Fidel can no longer command that measure of awe amongst the disaffected. And there is no one else to who can do it either. Moreover, Cuba having survived that difficult time based upon the promises that Fidel, himself, made to the Cuban people, will no longer accept the same worn-out and unmet promises. Ponder a scenario where Chavez dies, either before the October election or if elected, soon thereafter. None of his successors, Maduro included, have the personal charisma to continue the level of economic support to Cuba that only Chavez is able to maintain. Or, even if Capriles is elected instead. Either way, Cuba is left without its 100,000 barrels of Venzuelan oil a day. Economists agree that this would harken a new Special Period in the Cuban economy. The intransient Left in Cuba commited to Fidel and his legacy triggers an insurgent movement. Cuba’s version of China’s Tiannemen Square. This indeed would be the ideal environment the Miami mafia has been waiting for for 53 years. There would be no lack of exile money and weapons available to feed the insurgent movement. This is the most likely scenario should your sage advice go unheeded.

    • Luis

      Please Moses, not futurology.

    • diabla4ever

      How many times have the mafia/imperialists come up with a similar scenario, only it has never happened. When the Soviet Union collapsed the bully/imperialists tightened the embargo (cruel and stupid move) hoping that would squeeze Castro into submission. I just hope they keep America’s vapid and greedy corporate thugs out.

  • Comrade Pedro Campos continues to characterize the statist model–its mode of production–as something dished up by Joseph Stalin. This is unfortunate, even tragic, for in clinging to this demonstrably incorrect assertion, he is degrading the ability of the Cuban “left” to roll up its sleeves and help guide the statist PCC toward a truly functional, socialist mode of production.

    Pedro, although he has been told repeatedly in the pages of HT that Engels and Marx brought the statist formula for socialist economy into the socialist movement in 1848, and reaffirmed it in 1872, simply cannot grasp the truth about the origin of the state monopoly ownership principle.

    By clinging to this religious-like faith in Marx, as though Marx were some sort of god or infallible Pope, he can never understand that real socialism must have private property rights for workers to have cooperative property and workplace democracy, and can never bring the small bourgeoisie into the socialist project.

    Pedro, at least, is now tending to write shorter articles, and this is a welcome advance!

  • Okasis

    Pedro mentions Venezuela in passing, as does Gloom and Doom Moses who can only foresee an end to Chavezmo and disaster for Cuba as a result. But, ever optimistic, I would suggest that the Left in Cuba [and elsewhere] should examine some of the democratic reforms that Venezuela has implemented that have energized and empowered the local communities.

    These neighborhood communes are anything but ‘Capitalist’, nor are they directly controlled by the state. Of course, ultimately the money and approval of local projects come from the State, so they do not exist in some Anarchist Paradise. Because they are definitely Socialist Organizations, they are condemned by the Grand Capitalistic Empire to the North – as is Chavez himself, as a dictator, no less. But, the accomplishments during the past ten years deserve serious study.

    The corruption scandal in Cuba involving the arrest of the British Developer of the planned golf course and housing development to increase tourism, is a prime example of the difficulties Cuban will face if it tries to compromise the ideals of the Revolution with get rich quick schemes to fix the economy, Tourists seeking .glitzy golf resorts have a surfeit of tropical paradises to choose from, btw. Those who travel to Cuba want the tropical beeches, but I think they are also looking for something different than what they can find on any other Caribbean Island, otherwise it becomes simple an economic choice: The lowest prices, and the best deals; even the Secret Service expects unique experiences when traveling to foreign locations.

    I have no new ideas about how to motivate Cubans to take control of their own destiny before it gets sold to Walmart. I cannot even figure out how to get people in my own community to write a Letter to the Editor concerning the Militarization of the Island of Hawaii in the name of ‘job creation’. I do know it takes a catalyst to get people involved. Without that, people become so centered on their own everyday lives and problems and refuse to even look out the window, much less read a serious article.

    But, that is the big difference between your Island and mine. You are facing big changes whether you welcome them or not. A gigantic generational change in leadership. New opportunities fin Latin America And perhaps even more importantly, the US has so many problems of its own that it’s not paying much attention to our Southern Neighbors. As the climate changes, wars expand and continue in the Mid-East, and Asia, and Africa, Cuba may have the opportunity to define its own future.

    Think about it…

  • Any intelligent, thinking person, including Pedro Campos, can easily see the contradiction in the Marxian, full state monopoly (statist) formula for socialist economy. It says today, as it has said for over a century and a half, that the abolition of private productive property rights is a feature of that far-in-the-future stage of society called “communism.” This means that it is a far-away goal.

    It is supposed to exist after several generations have crossed over the socialist bridge. At the same time, Marxism stipulates that this abolition is supposed to be forced onto society during the socialist bridge by having the state “concentrate all the instruments of production” in its hands.

    Well, if the abolition of private property rights is only supposed to exist after a long period called socialism, then how can it be a feature of the here-and-now socialism? Answer: it cannot!

    Pedro is so utterly confused about what constitutes “private capitalism” and what does not. He equates private productive property rights only with the restoration of capitalism in Cuba. This is absurd.

    The restoration of private productive property in Cuba, rights that would allow the small bourgeoisie to flourish and joint the socialist project, rights that would allow the workers to form all sorts of worker-owned enterprise and shift administration of industry and commerce away from the state and at the same time abolish wage and salary labor for most workers, is one prime requisite for workable socialism. The other prime requisite is state power in the hands of a sincere socialist vanguard party.

    Bottom line: Pedro is wedded to the Utopian/Marxian notion that private productive property rights equal capitalism. This is a notion that only benefits world monopoly capitalism, because it confuses the socialist vanguard and keeps us from conceptualizing workable, democratic, dynamic socialism.