The Benign State

Irina Echarry

Havana Photo: Caridad

When we’re little, they make us believe that somebody can pull candy out of our ears, or that the girl with braids who sat down in the desk up front didn’t come to the school because her daddy had traveled to heaven, or that your nose will grow if you lie. Those things you learn when you’re growing up.

What we don’t forgive is when our parents continue treating us like kids even after we reach a certain age and begin trying to live our own lives.  Neither de we accept that older people want to impose their laws, thoughts or bitterness on us or demonstrate the kindness they don’t possess.

Something similar is happening right now here in Cuba.

The benign State is expressing itself and it’s necessary to applaud its magnanimity.  It has had the kindness to listen to complaints from the Catholic Church (though it hasn’t wanted to pay attention to those from other Cubans); it paid attention to foreigners who served as mediators; and even recognized that someone was willing to die, did not want this, and also kept in mind his health conditions.

Has the State had its ears operated on?  Now it’s no longer so deaf?  Truly, I believe that it is listening to what suits it and uses that to its benefit.

Suddenly, the same State —that has imprisoned people for writing what they think, that doesn’t recognize its political prisoners, that shows itself irreversible in its policy against dissidents— has shown signs of extreme “kindness” and has left everyone speechless.

The wives of the prisoners recognized that change when they received the news of the release of 52 prisoners when they had thought only a handful would be freed.  Fariñas will quit his hunger strike (fortunately) while waiting for the promises to be satisfied.  Once free, the prisoners will be able to leave the country if they please, but beyond this, their property will be respected – something that is not done for other Cuban citizens who emigrate from the island.

Is this change because the State has turned “good” or because it recognizes its errors?  Whatever the reason, it’s difficult to believe that somebody becomes good overnight.  And if it believes that it made a mistake, why doesn’t it apologize openly?  Or could it be, like an authoritarian father, it is only interested in demonstrating its power?

8 thoughts on “The Benign State

  • Sam: Thanks for responding. In your first response, please look again at your sentence. The subject seems to change in mid-sentence and the sentence therefore is muddled. Let’s try to repair the sentence to express what you may be trying to say. It reads: “that the ‘ownership of the state’ is only a socialist interim state.’

    I think it should read: “that the ‘ownership of the state’ is only ownership [of all the instruments of production] by an interim [i.e. temporary] state.

    If this re-wording is correct, let’s discuss it. It’s important. What I’ve said over and over again is that Engels and Marx stipulate, in black and white, that a future–hopefully interim or temporary–socialist state would “concentrate all the means of production” in its hands. This to me seems undeniable. The problem is that you, and grok, and Pedro Campos will not look at the stipulation and take responsibility for it. You dodge and change subjects and do everything under the sun in order not to admit or deal with what is stipulated in black and white.

    How is it possible to have a theoretical discussion with persons who will not stick to the subject at hand? It is difficult in the extreme, as I’m finding out.

    What is the subject at hand? As I understand it, given that the Soviet-type experiment in socialist construction has destroyed the socialist state almost every time, it has to do with Cuban reform to save the Revolution. Cuba is perhaps the only Soviet-type experiment left–if we don’t open the can of worms of North Korea. The subject at hand has to do with the economic formula that the socialist Cuban state has applied, and that now threatens to send it to the same demise that was suffered by the Soviet state.

    What is this economic formula? It is “concentration of all the instruments of production in the hands of the state.” (Surely you will not deny that this is the formula applied in Cuba.)

    Where did this formula come from? It came from the last two pages of the second chapter of the Communist Manifesto. (Surely you will not deny this.)

    Why will not Sam–and grok, and Pedro Campos, and every other comrade who still thinks the sun is not setting on Marxism–why will he not deal with the question at hand. Why does he weave and dodge and muddle the subject? I don’t know, but he does, and he may not even realize that he does. (Sectarians, like all those cocooned by religious or secular cults, are lost in a fog.)

    It is simple. Every socialist has to confront this theoretical question: What is the economic formula for workable socialism? I will discuss this with you into the night, but I will not follow along with the kind of brain-scrambling, subject-jumping discourse that you are laying on HT readers and me. If we’re going to debate, let’s debate the subject at hand. This subject is worth discussion because it might help critically important, sincere comrades like Pedro Campos out of the diversionary fog of absolute faith in Engels and Marx.

    There isn’t time here to address the other things you’ve broached. But that’s okay. Let’s stay with the critically important subject at hand. What is the economic formula for workable socialism, Sam? All of Cuba and all the countries of the world are waiting to know. If you have this knowledge, please tell us in plain, straight-forward language.

  • specifically, for Marx, Proudhon doesn’t escape the bubbles and bursts created by the liberal market. Nor is Proudhon sufficiently critical of the notion of money and exchange, and where money and exchange come from.

    If you want to critique marx, you should read more than just the manifesto. The manifesto, at best, is a VERY broad outline for a Communist revolution, and can be interpreted in a number of ways.

  • Grady-you’ve never responded to my response that the “ownership of the state” is only a socialist interim state, and also you don’t recognize the possibility that there are different types of states or different modes in which the state can express its ownership.

    Anyways, Marx has a whole series of critiques of Proudhon, in Kapital and in other places.

  • grok: You persist with this calling the bureaucratic leaders of Cuba “Stalinist.” Did you not listen to what I’ve said regarding this error? Let me state it one more time for your reference:

    In 1848 Engels & Marx, in the last pages of the 2nd chapter of the Communist Manifesto, stipulated that future socialism would “concentrate all the instruments of production in the hands of the state.” Didn’t you hear? Didn’t you go back to the text and see if what I said is true?

    No honest socialist would continue to lay the blame for full state ownership of everything, and the massive bureau management this formula brings, on Stalin and Stalinism. The Stalinism of which you speak is the direct product of Engels & Marx, and their very words prove it.

    Why don’t you come right out and say it, that you don’t have a political program, an economic formula to replace the core program and formula of Engels & Marx? All you seem able to do is shout:
    Workers’ control! Workers’ control! to the four winds without pause. This is not a program. It is a loud, acrimonious gripe by those who haven’t yet realized that they don’t have a program.

    This lack of program is like that of the Trotskyists. First they criticized the 1928 Comintern Program section of Strategy & Tactics as watery and thin from beginning to end because it was submitted by Bukharin and Stalin. Ten years later, when the Comintern changed its program for an alliance with the capitalist West against Germany, they went to the tactical section of the discarded Program, excerpted the “transitional” part, claimed it as the product of the genius of Trotsky, and blew that tiny section of the minimum program into the whole program of their “party.”

    This raising of the minimum program into the whole party program is the exact definition of Opportunism. What you, grok, and others are doing right now is thrashing about without a maximum program with which to define workable socialism and thereby win the masses. What you are doing is what sectarians always do: attract radicalizing individuals with militant rhetoric, cocoon them until they burn out, and have them pay dues and sell newspapers in the meantime.

  • Irina: Excellent article. Thanks.

    P-J Proudhon concluded in the mid 1800s that there is only one power in society strong enough to counter-balance the raw power of the future socialist state and keep it from becoming tyrannical: private property. The Marxist revision of the core idea of socialism envisioned the future socialist state, but a state without the institution of private property. What you have in Cuba is the fruit of the take-over of the socialist movement of the Marxian shifting of socialism from the cooperative vision to the state monopoly socialist formula.

    What is necessary in Cuba is what is necessary in the U.S. and other countries: recognition of the fact that authentic, workable socialism is cooperative and democratic, where the institution of private property rights counter-balances the raw power of the state, and where economic and social control flows naturally to those who do society’s work.

    Julio: You seem a bit confused. You have left Cuba and have expressed that you are happy with “your” capitalism in the United States. Is it really legitimate for you to continue to call yourself Cuban, and to say “We Cubans want . . .”? Shouldn’t you say “The Cubans want . . .”?

  • The crimes of the cuban stalinists may be many, but keep it in perspective, eh? Political dissidents are brutalized, imprisoned and outright simply murdered here in the imperialist West to the extent that the rulers of any particular capitalist country feel threatened by them. So in the really rich metropole countries, most dissidents can simply be publicly ignored (until now, that is) — with the secret police doing their dirtywork on them full-time behind the scenes. And the bourgeois mass-propaganda media does its job of relentless misdirection admirably.

    And so it’s good that the cuban state finally has the moxy to live up to the rules which must direct a truly socialist state — even one under a 50-odd year totalitarian siege. But don’t make these useful idiots out to be heroes. Please. This insults the memory of all those who have died and suffered for socialism everywhere.

  • Thank you for this article. It really give me a better understanding of the political situation in Cuba. Glad to know that Fariñas is quiting his hunger strike.

  • Irina

    I could not stop smiling when I read this part
    “Has the State had its ears operated on? Now it’s no longer so deaf? Truly, I believe that it is listening to what suits it and uses that to its benefit.”

    Well if they are no so deaf now and are really really listening.

    We Cubans want freedom.

    We like to be able to choose who we want to lead we want to be able to choose how to solve the problems of Cuba. We want to be Cubans.

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