Cuba’s Political Dilemma and HT Commenters

January 13, 2013 | Print Print |

Vincent Morin Aguado

HAVANA TIMES — One central issue characterizes the comments added to the articles published in Havana Times. Some of them (actually most of the comments, in my opinion) express the desire to do away with socialism in Cuba (though, paradoxically, some of them even claim that such a system never existed in our country, they consider that what we have is a version of state monopoly capitalism).

The details of this are revealed day after day and occupy much space below the publication’s posts. This is the background of the issue being treated here.

Cubans debate two basic ideas: to continue trying what an advanced thinker named Aurelio Alonso describes as a “socialist experiment,” or to simply return to capitalism. I don’t know of any third option to this historical dilemma.

One key element identifies the latter pro-capitalist trend: any current government action is considered, de facto, as negative. Its actions are severely attacked with various epithets; and when they cannot be argued against, they’re at least looked down upon with mistrust, suspicion or by minimizing any positive impact.

This is a philosophy that aspires for disaster in Cuba. There’s no possibility of correcting the country’s path, these critics of socialism say – it’s too late. The worst thing is they want to see the situation in the country get worse, which would justify their hopes of returning to the past.

Incidentally, they extol whatever wrong that happens on any given day, taking advantage of the resulting catharsis, which is the equivalent of relief for the impotent.

If we read these types of comments carefully, we can appreciate the lack of arguments in most of them. They don’t discuss the essential points written about in the articles on which they commenting. They simply go in to their tireless repetitions of the evils of the past, the present and of the times ahead.

One example of this involves the government headed by Raul Castro eliminating some absurd prohibitions that applied to nationals, ones that were inexplicably present for many years. Such welcomed changes included allowing Cubans to rent rooms in tourist hotels, permitting them to buy and sell cars and houses, and most recently their right to freely travel abroad.

Obviously there’s no need to “thank” the government for these measures; it simply restored rights that should never have been taken away. In any case, the measures taken clearly indicate a positive path and show both the desire for change and the recognition of past mistakes. We have consensus in Cuba around what’s really important.

The commenters that I’m referring to — those who criticize the current changes being made in Cuba — immediately ignored this issue. Instead, they started talking about how there are two currencies in the country, how wages are insufficient, and how the measures taken are worthless.

We’re searching for the path, we’re continue to look for it. But we’re having a hard time finding it from within a failed form of socialism, a failed socialist model, as we seek to move towards a viable model of socialism.

This approach is expressed almost as a rule, though with many variations, when it comes to Havana Times comments. The cause of this form of opinion-giving is simple: those commenters vehemently wish to return to capitalism.

Therefore, if any current reform is successful, this would distance them for such an aim since it would help to gain popular consensus around the real possibility of continuing the socialist experiment.

The idea of this post is linked to the “blank slate theory,” an issue I dealt with in a previous post. I can sum it up as the notion that nothing of importance has happened in Cuba over the past fifty years and now everything positive that the current government can do is too late, hypocritical and ineffective.

I fully agree with an idea expressed a few weeks ago by Alonso when he said: “Technically, the abandonment of the socialist project represents the easy way out – it doesn’t even involve the complexity of design. It’s enough to simply put the entire society at the mercy of privatization.”

Much remains to be changed in Cuba in order to realize the ubiquitous imperative expressed by Fidel Castro and repeated so often in my country: “Change whatever needs to be changed.” I recognize that fortunately there’s a place for this comment: It’s called Havana Times. Here it’s possible for it to be posted, something that’s still missing in my country (to which we could add the issue of Internet access for everyone).

When speaking with a group of young artist members of the Asociacion Hermanos Saiz, Aurelio Alonso outlined an idea that I’ve fully shared over the years: “Our political challenge is democracy. One lesson we should not forget is that our project is socialism — not capitalism — and that socialism cannot exist without democracy.”

We’re searching for the path, we’re continue to look for it. But we’re having a hard time finding it from within a failed form of socialism, a failed socialist model, as we seek to move towards a viable model of socialism.
—–
To contact Vincent Morin Aguado, write: morfamily@correodecuba.cu

 


What's your opinion?

  • Walter Teague

    Now let’s see if this challenging question can get any serious and productive responses. The issue of democracy and social(ism) politics is a worldwide challenge. At least in Cuba the “experiment” was tried and is still in play. Consider Cuba via Castro was the first to warn the world of the moral imperative for political leadership to prevent catastrophic climate change. All the capitalism systems are way behind and now even desperate in their efforts to figure out what to do, much less play catch up. Viva the “experiment” cause we all need some success.

    • Moses Patterson

      Walter, socialism and democracy should not be mutually exclusive. Yet, historically, where there has been the attempt to establish a society or nation of a socialist character, the leadership began by eschewing democratic principals. Should Cuba through and open, transparent, multiparty democratic process ultimately choose to continue along the path of “perfecting socialism”, I would be first in line to support the cause.

      • Luis

        Suffering from a sudden ‘metamorphosis’ to escape the authors’ target, which are people like yourself? Supporting ‘perfecting socialism’ in any way, after all the talk that ‘socialism is an utter failure’ and all? Who do you think you’re fooling?

        • Moses Patterson

          I will use smaller words to make this simple for you. I do not have to agree with socialism (which I don’t) to support my Cuban brothers’ right to establish a socialist economy. If, through a legitimate democratic process, Cuban chooses for itself to remain socialist, I repeat, I will be first in line to support the cause. I do not support dictatorships nor despots who would deny the rights of others simply because they disagree. Simple enough for you?

          • Luis

            Do not make insult my intelligence again. Here lies the problem: you’d only ‘accept’ what’s democratic or not according to Washington’s views. You talked about ‘real democracies and their reasonable facsimiles’ ignoring who says what ‘reasonable facsimiles’ are. Let’s remember what you said about Chávez – elected and re-elected following the liberal book – that without him Venezuela ‘would experience real democracy for a change’. When he lost a referendum he accepted the results. Talking about it, in a referendum made back in 1991 in the USSR the vast majority of the people (over 77%) voted for the preservation of it but it was completely ignored nonetheless. If you are not a hypocrite, you’d agree that Soviet Russia should still be around.

      • Luis

        Alas, Walter said that ‘the issue of democracy and social(ims) politics is a worldwide challenge’. And they truly are. He never even remotely suggested that these things are ‘mutually exclusive’. It takes a long way inventing things he never said to come up with such a response.

    • Grady R. Daugherty

      Right on, Walter!

      • http://www.facebook.com/walter.teague3 Walter Teague

        Thank you for your support Grady. I come back to this page several months later and notice that the usual anti-socialist (by his own admission) commentator totally ignores my question about the inability of the capitalist countries or governments to deal effectively with the threat of Catastrophic Climate Change. Note my logo, which says “Prevent Catastrophic Climate Change, C3″ I woke up one morning in 2006 and realized there was no real effort of consequence to “prevent” or Stop C3. I read Fidel’s many remarks in this regard, but of course the primary polluters have ignored his warning. Prevention in 2006 would have been an easier goal than today and today would be more obtainable than in years to come. Lately the world’s scientists are “surprised” at how quickly the environment is unfolding – and they can hardly predict accurately the tipping point when the ice and snow cover melting and the release of huge amounts of methane can geometrically escalate the climate disaster. Will we humans come up with a solution in time? Not if we continue to procrastinate and live in denial. It is like we are looking for a gas leak with a lit match. So I thank Fidel for his many intelligent gifts and I mourn the loss of so many brave and caring people.Who? Chavez, Ho, Che, Zinn, and my love who died two years ago. It is disease of growing old, you get to see many good people gone.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Goodrich/100003362238330 John Goodrich

    In my opinion, Cuba has an excellent electoral system in Poder Popular and the correct morality in using a socialist distribution model BUT the pressures from the U.S. war on Cuba over 50m+ years has corrupted these processes by making some forms of repression necessary to survive.

    All that is missing is the worker’s democracy promised under socialism and communism that Cuba now lacks in its top-down, undemocratic economy and its corresponding undemocratic government form that seems to be dominated by the PCC.

    Democracy in all facets of the Cuban society is what is the cure for most of the problems that now exist in Cuba ONCE the U.S. war is lifted.
    .

  • Griffin

    “Cubans debate two basic ideas: … a “socialist experiment,” or to simply return to capitalism. I don’t know of any third option to this historical dilemma.”

    That is the false dichotomy that limits real discussion in Cuba. The choice is presented as Socialism or Capitalism, or sometimes as, “Fidel or Batista”. Nobody wants to go back to Batista, so your only choice is Fidel!

    In fact, Cubans talk, in cautious whispers, about the desire for freedom, human rights and democracy. Meanwhile, the system is changing but not towards greater freedom. The State controlled monopolies are expanding while political repression increases. This new direction is toward neither socialism nor capitalism.

  • Moses Patterson

    The Cuban “socialist experiment”, which by most observers, was begun as an authentic reaction to a brutal dictatorship. Unfortunately, it was co-opted by the battle between the ego-maniacal failings of Fidel Castro and the narrow-minded paranoia of the Cuban exile community in Miami. Through a unique set of political circumstances, this stalemate has endured 54 years. Going forward must include greater democratic inclusion and less top-down totalitarian decision-making. The ultimate solution for Cuba will likely be somewhere between the rigid Marxist-style socialism that has imprisoned Cuban society for half of a century and the wild west-style capitalism that has served to concentrate the majority of wealth in the pockets of a limited few Americans. In all cases, Cuba must incorporate a greater capacity to hear and discuss all ideas, including those which disagree with the status quo. Cuba, like the frequent commenter, Luis from Brazil, should resist using labels of good or bad based simply based upon their own personal world views. On the contrary, Voltaire’s oft-quoted “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” must become the new mantra. I appreciate HT for being an example of this.

    Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/v/voltaire109645.html#fMW8RB7KW0J2X5lU.99

    • Luis

      Me, using ‘labels of good and bad’? Ladies and Gentleman, look at the terminology used before in this very own comment – ‘ego-maniacal failings’, ‘stalemate’, ‘imprisoned’, et caterva. Moses seems to be suffering from split-personality, for he would never – never – say such a thing as ‘wild west-style capitalism that has served to concentrate the majority of wealth in the pockets of a limited few Americans’ in a sincere way. Just search what’s he’s said about the Occupy Movement for instance.

  • Grady R. Daugherty

    Good article. It gives voice to the “bottom line” of Cuban social evolution, which is the question of moving toward “a viable model of socialism.”

    But, Vincent, you have left out of your exposition the fact that a new form of socialism has been proposed for both Cuba and the United States, and which has been advocated in the pages of HT over the past several years, in both articles and almost daily comments.

    It is a “third way” that hopes to retain the positive features of both Marxian state monopoly socialism and modern capitalism, and at the same time avoid the negative features of both. It is the idea that the socialist state does not have to own “all” the instruments of production, in order to have a socialist dynamic.

    This new form is called modern cooperative, state co-ownership. It would retain socialist state power and democratic leadership of society by the socialist vanguard.

    Yet, it would restore basic private productive property legal rights and the free trading market–with certain socialist controls and regulations–and achieve a pluralistic mix of individual and/or working associate-owned cooperatives, with partial, silent state co-ownership in lieu of most taxes.

    I hope you will find a way to examine this new proposal for workable socialism in print, so that the stark choice between the old models of capitalism and socialism does not remain the only alternatives within the social discourse.

    • Griffin

      I believe he was referring to your comments when he wrote, “they consider that what we have is a version of state monopoly capitalism”.

      But you are correct to point out that he does not address the content of your proposal. Instead he lumps it in with any and all other critiques of the Cuban system, the old attitude that crushes all dissent and silences discussion.

      There are indeed other voices in Cuba, including a new project from Dr. Oscar Biscet: Emilia Project

      “…we propose to make this project whose main objectives are: the conquest of fundamental human rights, democracy and freedom of the Cuban people.”

      http://lawtonfoundation.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=98:emilia-project&catid=1:latest-news&Itemid=50

      • Grady R. Daugherty

        Griffin, thanks for clarifying the fact that Vincent lumps the cooperative republican critique of Cuban Marxian socialism in with the ultra-Left, Trotskyist and Maoist view of Cuba as “state monopoly capitalism.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

        Cuba, in our view, has a “state monopoly ownership” form of socialism, but it is a form of socialism, nonetheless. As long as a conscious socialist vanguard party (or parties) holds state power, socialism–albeit dysfunctional–will remain.

        But I do agree that the parts of the Cuban constitution establishing Marxism-Leninism as the official Cuban ideology, and the PCC as the only party, are incorrect and should be changed. They force a de facto, ersatz religion upon the people, which is contrary to the democratic principles of freedom of religion and of spiritual conscience.

  • Moses Patterson

    I find it ego-maniacal to believe that only one person possesses the vision and the talent to lead the Cuban people for nearly 50 years. And, once that one person is no longer able to lead because of health reasons, then only his brother can assume the mantle of leadership. Pleeeease!

  • Mark G

    Regarding the wide ranging reader comments, it’s called free speech. Free speech is an essential pre-requisite for democratic governance.

    There are many intermediate options between socialism and capitalism combining democratic governance with a market economy and a strong social safety net. Cuba will need to define its own path but the most important thing is to do so democratically including safeguarding everyone’s rights to free opinion, expression and association.

  • Alberto Jones

    Contrary to some concepts expressed in this article, I welcome comments of all colors and contents. Facts, should be the only guiding light in our expressions.

    I fear no mal-intended article, distortions or lies. Time will take care of them, as we are now seeing with the latest migratory rules, which have left hate-mongers, professional diversionists and those wishing ill to Cuba speechless and searching for possible arguments to explain the loss of their most useful anti-Cuba tool.

    Cuba’s reaction to the Embargo, Invasions, Bio terrorism,Peter Pan, Family reunion, Dry Foot/Wet Foot, Guantanamo (Gitmo) turned into a safe haven and many more aggressive actions by the US, explains in part efforts to control personal movement in and out of the country.

    Conversely, the lack of an aggressive, critical, investigative journalism in Cuba, is a major enabler of the rampant corruption pervading all areas of society. Real friends and supporters are those, who are willing to advise or denounce what is wrong, not hide or cover it up what is wrong.

    Like all transmissible diseases, the only cure is to identify, isolate and treat!

    • Griffin

      We are glad to hear that you welcome a diversity of opinion. Yet you seem to lump all criticism into one pile, and to see the challenges facing Cuba as a question to be considered only in the context of a false dichotomy: forward to (corrected) Socialism or back corrupt capitalism.

      Who is to blame for the “lack of an aggressive, critical, investigative journalism in Cuba” …? The regime routinely harasses and jails any journalist who dares to step out of line from the Party dictates on what must and what must not be reported. For instance, Calixto Martinez is still in jail four months after reporting on the cholera outbreak in Santiago, which the government preferred to keep secret.

    • Moses Patterson

      Walter, you wrote,”Real friends and supporters are those, who are willing to advise or denounce what is wrong, not hide or cover it up what is wrong.” Yet, you seem to oppose commenters such as Griffin and me who will point out or “denounce” what we to believe is wrong with the Castro regime. So which is it? Are we real friends or professional diversionists? How do you determine who is which?

      • Griffin

        Moses,

        It’s clear the only criticisms some will accept is:

        a) Everything wrong is the fault of the USA & the Blockade
        b) Cuba needs even more socialism

        Walter wrote:

        “The issue of democracy and social(ism) politics is a worldwide challenge. At least in Cuba the “experiment” was tried and is still in play.”

        Well that is precisely the core of the problem, isn’t it? The Cuban “experiment” never did include democracy. Castro excluded democracy when he banned all parties other than the CCP, cancelled promised elections and suppressed all human rights and freedoms.

        The Cuban “experiment” subsisted on expropriated wealth and then on Soviet subsidies. The “Special Period” wasn’t special: it was normal. The recent subsidy of Venezuelan oil is keeping the experiment on life support for a while yet.

        The only thing the world can learn from the Cuban experiment is, “Don’t do it!” The experiment has ruined the country.

  • Alberto Jones

    I disagree with destructive comments, opinions and suggestions in Cuba, the US or anywhere else. I think, we hold a social responsibility towards creating a better environment for all, regardless of our personal views and interest.
    The ability for each of us to express their views openly, is a unique opportunity that HT affords all of us, to contribute something to the future and mankind.
    I have never blamed everthing wrong on the US, where I live. Disastrous government decisions have earned this country an unenviable and unmanagable amount of undeniable distrust and ill feelings around the world, with which, no country can live or survive.
    If Calixto Martinez was jailed for doing what he believe is right and for standing up for truth, while not being a salaried foreign agent, we should all commend him and be willing follow his courage and principles.
    Neither do I accept the false concept of Cuba’s failed management procedures on Griffin’s argument of “Cuba experiment subsisted on expropriated wealth and Soviet subsidies.
    Did the United States economy not evolve from billions of dollars confiscated from those citizens who fled from New England to Canada after independence and unquantifiable worldwide subsidies extracted with sweat, tears and blood by each of its transnationals enterprises from the poorest countries around the world?
    Why is if for some of us, that what is good for certain countries is a crime for others?

  • Grady R. Daugherty

    Drawing a parallel between Cuba and Fascism shows how far you are from reality. The most relevant “short window of opportunity” is what humankind has in which to get rid of world monopoly capitalism and reverse environmental and military self-destruction.

    • Griffin

      I say that is the direction they are headed, not that they have arrived …yet. Ignore the Party rhetoric. Look at the evidence, in policy and style. See how political and economic power works in Cuba. Consider the models which inspired Raul’s reforms. Rember they have ruled out any political change.

      • Grady R. Daugherty

        They’ve “ruled out political change,” as you put it, because they are victims of the secular religion of Marxism. Like the victims of any cult, their minds are locked into an absurd idea–state monopoly ownership of all the instruments of production–which is unnatural and needs both massive bureaucracy and political absolutism in order to limp along for a few decades before the clock runs out.

        You’ve ridiculed me in the past, Griffin, for my beliefs regarding Marx and Marxism, but the obvious truth is that Marxism is the best friend and ally that capitalism could ever have.

        And, yes, the bourgeois agents of capitalism did “trick” the socialist movement into a false concept of socialism, on the lie that it is “scientific.” This non-scientific, self-defeating concept has undercut and discredited socialism ever since. Examples: Soviet Union, Cuba.

  • Unwelcome_Truth

    The oddity, as I see it, is the imaginary antithesis that Vincent Morin Aguado presents between the pseudo-left anti-socialist discourse that typifies the site’s official contributors, on one hand, and the crudely reactionary anti-socialist discourse of the imperialist trolls infesting the comment section, on the other.

    He overdraws this distinction because he is focused on the pious intentions of the infantile pseudo-left and therefore neglects the pseudo-leftists’ effective unity with their fellow “anti-totalitarians” of the right, the unity that flows from their common reliance on the bourgeois liberal conceptual apparatus.

    So we shouldn’t really reproach the trolls for trolling away happily here. US imperialist trolls like Moses or Griffin have every right to feel at home in these pages. They naturally find the pseudo-progressive Havana Times as congenial a part of the anti-Cuban blogosphere as the more rantingly right wing and more avowedly imperialist sites such trolls more usually inhabit.

    If the official contributors and editors haven’t grasped that Havana Times is an anti-socialist site then the mistake is all theirs.