Dmitri Prieto

Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — Dear Camila: First of all, please forgive me for having caused any annoyance with my article in Havana Times.

On the other hand, I think you’re mistaken in considering that I think “two people can influence decisions as significant as those related to creating opportunities for a new type of socio-economic organization in our country.”

Actually, I’m more extremist than you believe. I think one person can and must influence significant decisions concerning the socio-economic organization of the country. What I’m saying is that any citizen can play that role, whether they’re an academic or an activist, a deputy to parliament, a local delegate, a worker, a homemaker, self-employed, a cooperative member, retired, or ill with cancer or AIDS, etc.

This thinking is derived from “personalism”: the philosophical and theological doctrine that dignifies the human being. This was championed in the 20th century by Christian thinkers like Emmanuel Mounier in France and Nikolai Berdyaev in Russia.

I know there are other meanings of the term “personalism,” among which is the one used as a synonym for “personality cult.” However my intention is not to practice such hero worship, but to instead expose it – as any reader can confirm from my writings.

In human reality, there only exist specific people. The abstract human is a platonic idea, which is why I see nothing wrong in “actions and results” being “attributed to specific people,” as it’s precisely people — many or a few, it doesn’t matter — that constitute any society.

“Ordinary’ people, in a courageous democratic effort, are the only force that can pull out ‘more country (as Marti once said) of any initiative, whatever its source. Without courage, without creativity and without the people, proposals and laws are worth next to nothing. The vector of power must begin from below.”

I think it’s absolutely essential to once again dignify the specific person in emancipatory social thought (socializing, justice seeking and from the left). Otherwise we once again risk falling into the trap of the anonymous “masses-person.”

Moreover, we would surrender without a fight with respect to the issue of defending the existence of the personal human being (which is not the “individual”) who argue for democracy and the freeing up of the productive forces in terms of individualism, “private initiative” and the market economy (which they prefer to refer to “without adjectives”), of privatization and ultimately the rule of capital and the social atomization that Margaret Thatcher who once exclaimed as, “There is no society, only individuals”).

This is why I found the title of your response to my post in HT objectionable. I think that if we don’t learn to personalize (in the correct sense) there can be no true socialization, and the capitalists will end up eating the bulk of the pie (as has happened previously in other countries).

I think your fascinating research work (including the latest one on the three types of economic thought in Cuba) have important points of convergence with the criticism formulated here.

However, in reading your post, I think you have interpreted my article as having overly highlighted the work of only two people. Nothing is further from my intention. What has been accomplished is the result of long-standing collective efforts.

As I’ve said, I am a stubborn enemy of “hero worship,” which has done so much damage to the struggle for social justice. Therefore I repeat my apology for what appears to be a misunderstanding and for putting you in an uncomfortable position.

If you reread the article, you’ll realize that I’m explicitly affirming that the two individuals mentioned by name “are people who have never been alone.”

In human reality, there only exist specific people. The abstract human is a platonic idea, which is why I see nothing wrong in “actions and results” being “attributed to specific people,” as it’s precisely people — many or a few, it doesn’t matter — that constitute any society.

Likewise, I pointed out that: “Camila is the best known researcher in an entire specialized community of economists, sociologists and anthropologists who are deepening the study of cooperatives in Cuba.”

I then went on to emphasize: “There’s no doubt that it will be up to the citizenry to drive and promote new cooperatives, extending their scope and tearing down the paper barriers of poverty. Everything will depend on the creativity and critical capacity of the people.”

“‘Ordinary’ people, in a courageous democratic effort, are the only force that can pull out ‘more country (as Marti once said) of any initiative, whatever its source. Without courage, without creativity and without the people, proposals and laws are worth next to nothing. The vector of power must begin from below.”

I agree absolutely with your view that: “The proponents of socialism — and especially those advocating its democratic and self-management  version — are well aware of the importance of all people feeling themselves participants and leaders of the history they construct every day.”

That’s precisely what I wanted to express in my article, in which I also wanted to thank two people whose work I appreciate greatly.

I regret the misunderstanding, and with all my heart I thank you for your touching lesson in humility.

Above all, I’m very happy to once again (I never doubted it) encounter you in the trenches of those who see that we “desperately need” the “people’ to be the leaders of the changes we’re making today.”

With sincere respect and affection,
Dmitri


Dimitri Prieto-Samsonov

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.

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