For a Compassionate Dictatorship of the Proletariat

María Matienzo Puerto

Photo: Caridad
Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — Is there compassion in socialism? Apparently there is, or so claims Mayra Espina, currently working as a researcher at Cuba’s Center for Psychological and Sociological Studies, located in Vedado, Havana. The question is the title of yet another public conference held in Havana’s Dominican convent of San Juan de Letran.

I’ll come clean. I didn’t have the patience that one would need to stay till the end of the conference. I couldn’t sit through so many lectures filled with false modesty and evasive arguments, lectures which conclude with the insight that the reason Cuba was unable to create a more just society are the shortcomings of the proletariat.

The proletariat, a social class which, in Cuba, has no power to decide anything, regardless of what those who insist this is their “dictatorship” say.

In the first ten minutes of her lecture, Espina thanked the convent for hosting the conference and recalled her first lecture at the venue, when she was invited to speak of poverty. Twenty minutes into the conference, she had only just finished an overview of the secular, biblical and Buddhist notions of compassion and was beginning to expound on a thick tangle of concepts, through a winding argument in which socialism always came out victorious.

On this point, she made a clarification: she wasn’t speaking of a bipolar world, but of an issue that had become considerably more complex in the course of time.

Thirty minutes from the word go, she was already explaining how bad the forms of socialism that some countries in Europe have adopted are, to begin delving into how ideal Marxist socialism is.

She spoke of Latin America, where this philosophy has been materialized in different ways. Confessing she was not an expert on the subject, she invoked the case of Venezuela, which, according to her, is not undertaking any drastic privatizations, but rather creating a parallel economy.

She also made mention of Ecuador and Brazil, countries far less radical than Cuba in their domestic policies, whose economic growth suggests they have known how to establish a fruitful dialogue between the Left and market economies, private companies and the bourgeoisie.

Then, “proletarian internationalism”, “collectives”, “non-competitiveness”, “social property”, “State property”, “no exploitation”, “expropriation of goods” and similar phrases began to fill the slides of her Power Point presentation.

The evasive arguments were still unfolding forty minutes into her lecture, when I decided to get up and leave. She hadn’t yet reached the point where I’d find out what form of socialism we Cubans had gotten, and, judging by how slowly she was developing her arguments, I doubt she ever got to address that issue.

We know which one we got anyways.

The most messed up of all forms of socialism, where no one sees any progress and the economy doesn’t get back on its feet because far too much is invested in political propaganda.

We got the kind of socialism where the masses, the collective “we”, have become the pretext to stifle any attempt at individual development, where the alleged plurality of opinions is a farce (and we’ve seen more than one example of this recently), where no one feels any compassion towards anyone, where surviving is the order of the day and young people flee the country en masse.

Maria Matienzo

Maria Matienzo Puerto: I dreamed once that I was a butterfly who had come from Africa and discovered that I had been alive for thirty years. From that time on, I constructed my world while I was sleeping: I was born in a magic city like Havana; I dedicated myself to journalism; I wrote and edited books for children; I met to discuss art with wonderful people; I fell in love with a woman. Of course, there are certain points of coincidence with the reality of my waking life and it’s that I prefer the silence of reading and the pleasure of a good movie.

5 thoughts on “For a Compassionate Dictatorship of the Proletariat

  • May 6, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    “In Cuba, Afro-Cubans should insist on rightful and complete inclusion and
    participation in the leadership and institutions of the country as well
    as an end to impunity and arbitrariness from the government when patriotic
    Afro-Cubans express critical opinions.

  • May 6, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    The phrase “dictatorship of the proletariat,” Maria, is a mis-characterization of the socialist state. The socialist state, coming right out of capitalism, needs to have its coercive element, of course; but, this does not mean necessarily that its political superstructure has to be a “dictatorship”–either of one person or one class.

    Marx put the term “d. of the p.” into the mouths of socialists as a part of his covert operation, from within, to discredit the socialist movement.

    But his most potent poison was to threaten the peasantry and small bourgeoisie generally with expropriation of their property under any future socialist regime. This caused a hard political split between the highly-productive, highly-creative small entrepreneurial sector and the propertyless workers.

    Beginning in the 20th Century, it has discredited socialism by making revolutionary countries like Cuba into highly-visible examples of unworkability.

    Original, authentic socialism was mutualist and cooperative, led especially by P-J Proudhon. Marx and Engels came in and grossly maligned Proudhon. With the financial support of the monopoly bankers–who only wanted a bourgeois democratic republic in Germany–injected the Communist Manifesto, in elaborate, plentiful editions, into the revolutions of 1848.

    This seminal publication asserted that socialism means state ownership of all productive forces. It is this absurd, unscientific, bourgeois form of “socialism” that you got in your country, Maria; and world monopoly capitalism got its highly-visible example of dysfunction.

  • May 6, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    There is also a 3rd way – a pluralist economy
    within a pluralist democracy, where all forms of ownership (private, state,
    cooperative and communitarian) coexist, governance is achieved from both representative and participative deliberation, and decisions are arrived at from the bottom up, not top down. Long live Hugo Chavez Frias, Salvador Allende, Evo Morales, Rafael Correa… all of whom either tried or are trying, in spite of imperfections, errors, and imperialist interference, subversion and aggression.

    In Cuba, Afro-Cubans should insist on rightful and complete inclusion and participation in the leadership and institutions of the country as well as impunity and arbitrariness from the government when patriotic Afro-Cubans express critical opinions. Compassion is not what one seeks when excluded
    from what is yours by birthright. Afro-Cubans, who have suffered the most
    from the US blockade, should condemn the 50 years of exclusion from the
    leadership of Cuba and the arrogant arrangement of succession to the throne and continuation of the racial exclusionism in the appointment of Dias-Canel. The presidency of Cuba should be open to all citizens – black or white or mixed – and chosen freely by popular vote not through Gallego gene-pool appointments!

  • May 6, 2013 at 11:31 am

    In communism it never is the dictatorship of the proletariat but always the dictatorship of an elite that oppresses all, proletariat or not.

  • May 6, 2013 at 8:37 am

    Is there a single example in recorded history of a funcioning ‘true’ socialist economy on a national level? I don’t believe so. Socialism, with all respect to the high-minded humanistic ideals simply does not work within the nature of man. Humans are by nature selfish and self-serving. Cooperation between humans must serve this nature and not resist it. Capitalism can be cruel and savage at times but at its best as well as at its worst, it is a reflection of the humanity it serves. Socialism is intellectually appealing but impractical as an economic system. (here come the personal attacks!…one, two, three…)

Comments are closed.