The Termite Strategy to End Totalitarianism

Erasmo Calzadilla

Termite Nest. photo by Tim-Gage,

For this post I’m going to take two premises as givens:

1. A totalitarian political regime exists in Cuba.

2. It’s better not to live under a totalitarian political regime.

From that I ask myself: What can we do to banish totalitarianism without leading to the establishment of another more terrible system? To answer this we would first have to understand the existing political system.

I don’t know about North Korea, but here in the tropical Caribbean, the chain of command descending down from Big Brother to the little brothers and sisters, to the little cousins and all of us little pichoncitos (dependent nestlings) is not a linear one. Rather, it has a fractal dimension.

“Fractal” was derived from the Latin “fractus,” meaning “broken” or “fractured.” Relatedly, the chain of command in Cuba seems broken and even wide open in many places. The farther away you are from the centers of power, the more that local leaders behave like regular people; they obey, going through the motions, but they don’t carry out what they’re ordered. This attitude is so pervasive that one wonders how the ship manages to stay afloat. It shakes and shudders yet it doesn’t sink.

The answer to this too is found in the wonderful world of fractals. A typical feature of fractal systems is that the basic pattern (of totalitarianism in this case) is spontaneously reproduced at the micro level.

Descending from the central bodies to the groups of local activists of the party, the CDRs, workplaces, companies, etc., we always find the same paradigm of human relationships. This consists of an authoritarian boss who legitimizes themselves behind a dogma with moral implications, and who’s hardly interested in feedback from their subordinates.

At the other end of the relationship are some subordinates who — though trapped in the same dogma — are eager for the proverbial cat to go away so they can play and do what they feel like. What’s curious is that this doesn’t occur only in government agencies; it also happens in churches, private businesses and in almost all families, even among anti-Castro dissidents.

Moreover, wherever there are asymmetrical relations of domination between people, as well as between people and spiritual entities (gods, ideologies, concepts), or between people and animals, and even between spiritual entities themselves, this relationship fine tunes itself, thriving on and indirectly contributing to the totalitarian system.

Seen as such, this fractal-like quality is not a problem but rather the essential condition of the system.

How do you combat this type of system?

Under conditions like those described above, it doesn’t help to bring down the central figure (at whatever level) because it will be reproduced with even greater strength.

If we want a truly profound change, I think there’s another way to begin gradually eroding the bludgeon from within – like termites. This requires establishing harmony and mutually beneficial horizontal relations between our fellow citizens.

Symmetrical power relations between free beings are more pleasant. They create happiness, peace, work efficiency and strength against adversity.

We must put these into practice. And if it everything turns out alright, if people note the positive results, we’ll be promoting these ideas even among those who are watching us. I think that only in this way will we make headway in exterminating totalitarianism without triggering something worse.

6 thoughts on “The Termite Strategy to End Totalitarianism

  • Now “Grady” knows more than Chomsky? This guy is the biggest joke on this whole site, I wish he would stop posting.

  • Please Grady, give us a break. The least thing we need is an “I am the Revolution” type of guy here.

  • John Goodrich, actually, I do think I know more about what socialism truly is than either Noam Chomsky or you. The issue worth considering however is the nature of socialism, itself, rather than some personal knowledge question.

    You are misinforming yourself and others, John, with your idea about worker control being “central to socialism.” What you are doing is obscuring the essence of real socialism. You train the spotlight on “worker control,” and leave out the whole question of “worker ownership.”

    You believe, you see, that the socialist state should be the legal owner of all productive enterprise. This idea comes directly from Marx and Engels, and has been the core principle of every Marxist-led socialist revolution since 1917.

    Now that this full state ownership of everything productive has proved itself dysfunctional however, you do not call instead for direct worker ownership of the instruments of production. You cover up the essential question of workplace ownership–direct or by the state–by a great load of rhetoric about worker control as a righteous gift to the worker by the statist bureaucracy. You are for state ownership with worker control–which means you are still for the old formula of full state monopoly with democratic trimmings.

    Yes, John, I do know more about what socialism truly is than either you or Noam Chomsky. It is a democratic society in which private productive property rights and the socialist-conditioned trading market are retained and utilized for building the socialist bridge to a future classless society. It is a socialist cooperative republic in which non-controlling, partial state “co-ownership” allows the socialist state to do its work but not have taxes and tax bureaucracies.

    You, on the other hand, are a common state monopoly socialist in disguise who thinks he knows what socialism is, yet really doesn’t have a clue.

  • Grady,

    Try reading Noam Chomsky and others on what socialism is and isn’t unless of course you think he doesn’t know more than you about the subject.

    Socialism without worker control is not socialism since worker control (from the bottom, true democracy) is central to socialism. You cannot have a human being without a heart or a brain and you can’t/don’t have socialism without worker control.

    The Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, DRK, Cuba were/are all STATE controlled economies and therefore NOT socialist.

    Yes, they had/have the redistributive aspects of a socialist economy but they are no more socialist than the oligopolies of today are capitalist.

  • I’m glad you seek an end to the totalitarian regime but without allowing “something worse” in its place. That something worse of course would be the monopoly capitalist reconquest of Cuba, which is what the enemies of the Cuban nation hope to achieve in the near term.

    It disturbs me however that you do not seem to have the slightest idea as to why the form of socialism in Cuba is totalitarian. It is totalitarian because the original stipulation of Engels and Marx is that the socialist state much own all the land and all the instruments of production.

    This full state ownership of everything productive, which was forced on the Cuban nation in 1968 at the insistence of the hard-line sectarians in the PCC, required the imposition of two things: 1) massive bureaucracy, and 2) political and social totalitarianism. That is, the totalitarianism you so justly react against flows from its necessity under an unnatural economic mode of production, i.e., original, traditional Marxism.

    If you wish to have an end to the totalitarianism of Marxism, you have to get rid of two things: 1) Marxism as the official ideology of your nation, and 2) the incorrect stipulation of full state ownership of the productive forces as the guiding principle of socialism. With these two things removed, and socialist ownership of the productive forces re-defined as cooperative and democratic, totalitarianism will be gone and something worse will not take its place.

  • Erasmo,
    Thanks for an excellent analysis of the situation in Cuba.

    I do not know how the leadership and the PCC can claim that Cuba is socialist without the requisite democracy which means worker’s control ; rule from the bottom up.

    The system is broken and exactly as you say it is.

    We cannot both condemn the totalitarianism of the old Stalinist state socialism and follow it at the same time without being affected by the cognitive dissonance/ logical contradiction it creates.

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