Addressing Alienation in Cuba

Erasmo Calzadilla

Photo: Caridad

The social dynamics of today’s world is quite confused.  We often feel disoriented and alienated, even when in the midst of our own culture.

The threads that relate people become so tangled that we lose sight of how we connect with each other.

The social super cords get entangled even more because the means of production almost always belong to those who are not the direct producers.

We Cubans, for example, fail to recognize our contribution to the wages paid to doctors who perform ultrasound tests at the Aballi Children’s Hospital and vice versa.  We taxpayers are barely aware that the pay going to those professionals comes from our pockets.

The social contract in which this relationship was established and is renewed is too indirect, too abstract.  This is why all those who provide some service in treating patients and dealing with cases tend to — if not justifiably then at least understandably — view these as bothersome chores that must be gotten out of the way as soon as possible.

Therefore, we should ask ourselves how we can combat this alienation that we feel…that of the total “socialization” of the means of production in hands of the state.  What can we do so that they attend to us and that we treat each other not only in a quality manner but also with respect and affection?

Is it necessary to get paid more or to pay more for each visit to the doctor or for each service provided?  Do we need to add a course in human sensitivity at school?  I don’t believe that any of these measures are solutions.

I would venture to suggest that the solution — at least in part — is decentralization, but a form of decentralization that doesn’t lead us all the way to the complete fragmentation of the “productive forces,” like what we see happening currently in Cuba with the mushrooming of small private businesses.

Fragmentation, as anyone who has studied history knows, is often the step that precedes even more terrible forms of centralization.

Decentralization cannot be imposed (as we saw in the “Family Doctor program” and the “Municipalization of University Education” programs).  Rather, it must be desired and fought for by the community itself.

I believe that healthy decentralization (not forced, not fragmented) would bring about the establishment of closer ethical, emotional and economic ties between people.

2 thoughts on “Addressing Alienation in Cuba

  • Grady, if someone doesn’t like the color white does that me they like black?

  • I think you’ve put your finger on the source of modern alienation. The sense of alienation, as you suggest, germinates “because the means of production almost always belong to those who are not the direct producers.”

    This is true of course in capitalist society where virtually everything belongs to corporate and landlord capitalists, and to the banks through which these capitalists function. It is also true apparently in a the state monopoly form of socialism dished up theoretically by Engels and Marx in 1848 and afterward.

    To overcome the sense of alienation, whether in a individual or the mass of society, what is needed is just what you’ve inferred. The means of production should belong to who are the direct producers.

    I marvel somewhat Erasmo at the fact that you understand the source of alienation, yet you cannot embrace the concept of true socialism as a cooperative republic. It is true that such a form of socialism would be based on retention and use of private property rights and the market for socialist construction, but the free, entrepreneurial enterprise that would function under it would be cooperative. That is, the direct producers, not the state, would be the primary owners of the means of production.

    You intellectuals down there in Cuba should consider what intellectuals in the US and other capitalist countries should consider: a redefinition of socialism as cooperative, not state ownership; a redefinition of socialism as a pluralistic cooperative republic, not a one-party dictatorship of the proletariat.

    May I invite you to begin thinking of yourself as a cooperative socialist republican?

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