Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy in Cuba’s Political Landscape

Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

Photo: Alan Friedlob

HAVANA TIMES — We are witnessing many examples of an absence and cracks or flaws in democracy, with a great deal of disappointment. The belief that you are enjoying the greatest dose of democracy there is very commonplace in capitalist societies as you are absorbed in economic freedom and have the right to vote. It is also commonplace to believe, albeit wrongly, that socialists are the irreconcilable enemies of this great human achievement.

However, the reality is that we are constantly learning and discovering new things within this phenomenon, awakening from utopian dreams or transforming old beliefs.

Firstly, capitalism is just an economic system, it isn’t a political system. There are capitalist countries (nearly all of them are) where democracy is their political system and the most successful with this idyllic formula are a kind of modern social paradigm (the United States, Costa Rica, EU member states and another few).

However, there are also monarchic dictatorships, like in the Arab world; or military dictatorships associated with the power of capital like Southern Cone countries were and Fulgencio Batista’s dictatorship in our long-suffering Cuba. It’s clear that capitalism isn’t a synonym for democracy.

Socialism (in my humble opinion) is just a social ideal of justice and equity that wants to influence both politics (democracy) and the economy (the capitalist mode of production among other different associated strands) to reach its objectives. The overspilling enthusiasm of many socialists in the past and present has led them to want to convert it into a political and economic system, which was undoubtedly a serious and very costly mistake.

Social democracy hit the nail on the head a little more, as it is the closest project there is to the real socialist ideal. That’s why its results have endured longer and are universally recognized as “achievements”. However, unfortunately, it didn’t manage to pave a path to follow and its success was reduced to an exclusive region at a certain historic point in time. In spite of nearly every country having equivalent parties, they haven’t been able to follow in the footsteps of privileged Nordic countries.

However, dreaming and longing for a better, more just and equal world is innate to the human condition. It’s a very human trait and it raises us above the animal kingdom that we evolved from. Violence, tyranny and tight-fisted individualism has dehumanized us and revealed the lowest instincts of “the law of the jungle”, which we had left behind a while back but that we now find ourselves trying to overcome today.

What is happening in Cuba, where tyrannical socialism is being imposed in the interest of attaining social justice and a wellbeing that will never be found down this mistaken path is a huge mistake. If it did attain this it wouldn’t be sustainable as a result of its incongruous parts.

Venezuela is going down the same road and it’s a shame that Chavism, which seemed to be a beacon of light, ended up becoming a tyrannical and totalitarian project through and through. It’s the lack of an ideological definition that is fitting with this time of profound change and moving from one civilization to another which blindfolds their eyes and leads them to the political guillotine.

In Honduras, it’s the Right who are trampling all over democracy, not the Left. Democracy suits them when it isn’t threatening its underhanded capitalist dictatorship. The current government is following Micheletti’s power formula. Being reelected isn’t important, it’s the obvious manipulation of the electoral process to put an undemocratic dam in the way of popular desire that’s important. The excuses, or justifications given are only believed by those who really don’t believe in democracy.

In Brazil and Argentina, after the Right returned to power, they are trying to govern by ignoring the other half of the electorate who still want to preserve what was gained by Leftist governments in the past. And in Brazil’s case, not even that. Temer came into power because of the PT (Workers Party), who are his political enemies today. Brazilian politics are disgusting. If only they are able to put a stop to the corruption that invades all movements and the immunity of the elite with the little dignity left in their institutions and ruling class.

And to finish off, there’s the sadly famous example of the United States. Trump is a showman, way before being a president. His passions are the center stage and he combines his official duties with his hunger for scandal. If he were the president of another less important country for the rest of the world, we wouldn’t even notice him. But, he is the president of the greatest and most influential worldpower there is.

His pig-headed duel and insults with Kim Jong-un is extremely dangerous; he is leaving important international agreements, he is taking action against Cuba which doesn’t even revert us back to our pre-Obama state, nor is he following up with the rapprochement process; and now he has lit a fire in the Middle East by ordering the US embassy in Israel to be moved to the ever-so-disputed city of Jerusalem.

He is only getting one thing out of all of this: Trump’s name is on everyone’s lips and on the TV everyday. It doesn’t matter whether people are saying good things or bad things, the important thing is that they are talking. It feeds his passion of being a showman and, in passing, it’s also good for his businesses. 

But, where does the country’s interests lie? Is Trump responding to the interests of the majority of the US population or its capitalist elite? Do these people have real and functional mechanisms to remove him from power if they retract their initial support for him? Clearly not.

It is clear though that democracy has a lot of problems, although many people don’t see them or want to accept them, as it is still young and needs to mature. The matter at hand can be dealt with from any ideological position, but there is only one democracy: the power of the majority without denying the minorities their vital space. Ruling for everyone, followers and adversaries. Voting and plurality are crucial. There isn’t a different version of democracy because refusing any of these foundations is quite simply, the lack of democracy.

As a result of their selfish or individualist nature, capitalists are always trying to prostitute democracy and convert it into an underhanded capitalist dictatorship, like it effectively is today. Both Rightest and Leftist dictatorships are always going to manipulate concepts and ideals to justify their undemocratic permanence in power.

We know: these are movements that we need to neutralize with new formulas and institutional ingredients that will finally ensure the much-needed “social balance”. Real democracy is “possible” and it’s the path toward the conquering “all of the (social) justice possible”, like Marti himself wanted.

And real socialism, this wrongly-used ideal, stained and stigmatized by enemies, mistaken altruists and all kinds of opportunists can effectively play an important role in achieving this. At least in Cuba is could contribute really well towards a better national outcome, where other agents haven’t been able to get a result in decades, the guarantor of peace, prosperity and reconciliation. That’s how some of us Cuban democratic socialists see it anyway.

9 thoughts on “Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy in Cuba’s Political Landscape

  • As that great Parliamentarian Winston Churchill said:
    “Parliamentary democracy has its faults, but it is better than any of the alternatives.”
    and:
    “The inherent vice of socialism is the equal sharing of misery,”
    Donald Trump(f) is best thought of as a temporary aberration. The US will with its strength undoubtedly recover, but it will take time. In the interim period, under Trump(f) the US will continue to lose respect.

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    • With life tenure judges, the continuing trickle (flow) up of wealth, withdrawal from the inadequate climate change efforts, the effort to privatize every last bit of the social commons we are truly effed.

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  • REAL socialism is always democratic. Without democracy there can be no REAL socialism.

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    • Tell that to your political heroes in the Castro regime. I am glad to see you CErmle express any personal view rather than the usual non-contributive carping. Define REAL socialism?

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      • You wouldn’t understand. You are so caught up in fake ideology and wouldn’t be able to comprehend anything beyond what your handlers tell you. Sorry, but true.

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  • Very thoughtful article.
    ‘It’s clear that capitalism isn’t a synonym for democracy.’
    Now ain’t that the truth !

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  • Democracy is fundamentally incompatible with capitalism, but it is compatible with socialism.

    Democracy is itself based on the more fundamental premise of human equality: one man, one vote. The rich don’t get extra votes. Money doesn’t count. Being human does.

    Yet capitalism allocates power on the basis of wealth. Thus the inherent contradiction within every capitalist society, nominally professing to be a democracy.

    In fact we do see in these countries that wealth does buy power, and the democratic system routinely subverted to suit the interests of the wealthy.

    Using propaganda, legal chicanery, and outright corruption, the inherent premise of democracy: one man, one vote, is easily circumvented.

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    • The fundamental error in your thinking francis is in the first sentence. Pray repeat the views of the Castro “Socialismo” regime regarding use of the word “democracy”!
      Democracy commences with Magna Carta and has developed and extended over some 800 years, would you deny it for people?

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  • Maybe the biggest problem with your argument about the USA with its “failure” as a democracy or a capitalist country… the US isn’t a democracy, it’s a Constitutional Republic. That’s why it hasn’t worked when the left has been in power (because they think it’s a democracy) & that’s why it will work with Trump in power. Long live the USA! ! !

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