The Individual amid Socialism

Erasmo Calzadilla
Erasmo Calzadilla

One of the most difficult conflicts that plays out in the heart of the real socialist system is the divergence between individual freedom on the one hand and the power of the State and its institutions on the other. The social system is so determined to distance itself from bourgeois democracy that they end up throwing out the baby with the bathwater, i.e. renouncing important achievements of that society.

Those of us born in a socialist society know we should be very careful when we question our government officials, because the enemy that constantly lies in wait could take advantage of this confrontation, of this lack of faith in the leadership. While this is true, such a pretext always ends by generating unchecked power which ultimately alienates the individual, similar to the way that capitalism alienates workers according to Marx.

Fishing on the Havana Malecon seawall, photo by Caridad
Fishing on the Havana Malecon seawall, photo by Caridad

This “process” has its defense mechanisms: any criticisms of the system are almost always interpreted as an attempt to return to a government of the rich, and anyone who humbly proposes any type of reform, or a rethinking of an existing dogma, runs the risk of being categorized as a worm, a dissident, a counterrevolutionary or other stigmas that are carried for life.

Individual and personal rights, on the other hand, are considered mechanisms used by the bourgeois to maintain power and they become too dangerous to even mention. In this way, those who govern use fear to guarantee that people not stick their noses into matters concerning the distribution of power.

To me this is one of the ways that Socialism digs its own grave. The recognition of this phenomenon is not exactly a recent discovery of the Social Sciences but a story that has been often told, insistently, but appears condemned to fall on deaf ears among those who have the ability to make change.

Isn’t it time that socialists begin to think about and pay attention to this terrible situation? Isn’t this one of the weakest points of a social system that prides itself on being so just and human? Isn’t it true that this is one of the phenomenon that keeps men and women of good will, people of the left and progressive people distanced from supporting today’s socialism? Is a trusteeship of the vanguard -enlightened in the best of cases- an irreplaceable part of socialism? Isn’t it already public knowledge that it was precisely that type of socialism that Marx so repudiated in, for example, “The Critique of the Gotha program?”

I believe that such socialism is simply unsustainable. In the best of cases it leads towards a system where the social consciousness and values become progressively more infantile. The result is a much stronger extreme individualism that rejects all social control, and its antithesis: the collectivism of the masses, where any characteristic of individuality constitutes a threat.

I am a living example. I am so unaccustomed to confronting institutional power and have so little practice in such activities, that when I do so, I almost feel shame over how ridiculous I seem. But my embarrassment would be greater if I didn’t immediately remember that I’m not the one guilty of why things have reached this regrettable state.



2 thoughts on “The Individual amid Socialism

  • I feel for you my brother, I am a Cuban born in exile in the United States, My parents were studying in the US at the time of the revolution, They married and settled in the United States, I was born soon after. I know of the situation in Cuba because I visit the Island often, my wife also a Cuban who immigrated to the US when she was 3 years old has many Uncles and Aunts and cousins. We love to visit and bring what we can to help them out. I have made many friends while there and understand the conditions you exist under in Daily life. I look at the conditions both economical and social freedoms that you live under and realize that I would be in your shoes had my parents not left Cuba when they did.

    The biggest hindrance that exists within the system is The Lack of freedom of information, only through the open and free flow of Ideas can a free educated man have at his disposal the information to fully develope an informed opinion.

    And second is freedom of speech without the fear of prosecution, free men must be able to have thier voices heard and be able to voice thier opinions be them right or wrong in an open forum without fear of reprisals.

    My Hope for Cuba is that with this new president in the US travel restrictions will be lifted and eventually the embargo lifted. I believe that when the Goverment does not have the US to blame any more for its failed social and economic policies that eventually change will come.

    Reply
  • One of the first problems with “actually-existing socialism” as it has come down to us from the historical past is that stalinist praxis and history has become wholly conflated with the very idea of socialism itself — and nowhere moreso than in the imperialist countries: where even the working class (up to today, anyway) has largely bought-into (been bribed in large part, actually) this capitalist Party Line — hook, line and sinker. This false identity of stalinism with socialism simply must change, no matter what — and the sooner the better — if the World is to avoid descending into the hellhole of a third world war c/o the capitalists. So this is a rather urgent task, actually — which I suppose awaits the death of Fidel Castro: since bureaucracies — and other lumps — generally don’t move unless they are strongly pushed.
    <8-/

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End of the Trip, Santa Cruz del Norte, Cuba.  By Diurbys Ledsma Paulet (Mayabeque, Cuba).  Camera: Samsung J7

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