Socialism or Death (Part II)

Yusimi Rodriguez

Abraham Ortiz

HAVANA TIMES — Abraham Ortiz is a Cuban who has lived the last year and a half in Spain. In his first visit back to the island he shares with us his perceptions of life across the Atlantic and here in Cuba. Today we bring you part two of his interview with HT.

See Part One of the interview.

HT: Yesterday you said that you are helping the director of a documentary about censorship and he asked for “images of other dictators.” Do you mean there’s a dictatorship in Cuba?

Abraham: Yes, when a president holds power for so long there’s a dictatorship. I once heard Fidel say he didn’t believe that talent was exceptional, that there could be many Nicolas Guillens or many, many Beethovens. I wondered if there could be many Fidels. His hold on power contradicts his words.

HT: But Fidel is no longer in power.

Abraham: How is it that a president can fall sick and tell his brother “hold onto to this for me for a second” and “keep on pitching,” as if our country were a ball? Why not let the people choose?

HT: What do you think of the measures taken by Raul Castro so that Cubans can buy and sell their homes and cars? And what about his immigration reforms?

Abraham: I think they were a long time in coming. This is what happens when one person thinks for the whole country.

HT: If your wife stays outside of Spain for two years, will the government consider her as having emigrated?

Abraham: No. But here the policy was based on the perception that those who left the country were traitors. That perception hasn’t changed in the roots of the thought of those who run this country. They feel that they educated you, clothed you and fed you, and therefore you owe them.

HT: Isn’t it true that we don’t have to pay for education or medical care? Isn’t it fair to expect repayment?

Abraham: Yes, but the state has to pay you when you work, but it doesn’t. That’s why we have the saying, “They act like they pay you, and we act like we work.” You can invent an earthshaking device and you’ll go unnoticed. What doesn’t go unnoticed is that the government educated you, although it really didn’t invest that much in you anyway.

By keeping everyone poor, they can hoard the wealth of the country and then give people trinkets one day to placate them. Under socialism people are treated like children. It’s like the parent that takes care of a child all their life and then says: “If you walk out that door, don’t come back” or “if you go, I’ll disown you.”

That’s what they did to people who left here. It was a position of: “If you go, I’m going to take your house.” They had to change because the economy isn’t holding up. At customs, they just charged me 440 CUCs (about $500 USD), and my wife 50 CUCs. Do you know how many monthly salaries they can pay people here with that?

This is how they can continue justifying their illusory expenses. They can manage the country’s wealth as they please. At one point they decided that it was fashionable to have social workers, so they created an army of them. It’s not profitable, yet Cuba has more social workers than anyone. And since the “government,” “revolution” and “Fidel” are synonymous, he gets the credit. Do you know of any institution in Cuba that wasn’t created by him? It’s not possible for one person to think for a whole country for 50 years.

HT: How do you see the future of Cuba?

Abraham: I think it’s going to have to hurry up. I think the generation between 35 and their 40’s is the better prepared, but they’re wearing down. They’re underutilized. They’re not evolving. I always have optimistic thoughts and I think the country can do well in the future, but we need to hurry. We have to get rid of a lot of the old guys who are running things.

HT: And maintain a single political party?

Abraham:  No. I think the situation should evolve to where there exist more political parties, but we shouldn’t delude ourselves with the multiparty system. A country with twenty-four parties that are stealing and lying doesn’t develop. There should be two or three, maybe four. I think we should get rid of Raul or Fidel.

HT: But Fidel longer counts.

Abraham: Many people say that investment in Cuba won’t take place until he disappears. It’s a psychological question. He’s like a father figure. Socialism is based on the manufacturing of icons to manipulate reality.

When I thanked Abraham, thinking we had ended the interview, he reminded me that we hadn’t talked about culture.


Abraham and his wife Camelia.

Abraham: There’s no culture. We’ve reduced the concept to music and dance to entertain people. Those who think the design of a cellphone or a computer or a city isn’t culture, are being left holding the bag. Culture is to learn and to put what you’ve learned to the service of others.

HT: You’re saying there’s no culture in a country where the admission to a movie costs four cents (USD) and a ticket to the ballet costs a dime. Right now the international ballet festival is underway and that only cost 90 cents (USD). Everyone here has access to culture.

Abraham: Here people have access to part of the culture, to what the government wants you to have access to. But do you have all your needs met and are also able to go to the movies and the ballet? Can you buy a computer, a television? How’s the furniture in your house?

HT: How often do you go to the movies, the ballet or the theater in Spain?

Abraham: Those are very expensive. But here in Cuba you do those things at the expense of not being able to buy a computer, having broken furniture and not having any shoes.

HT: In any case, I can’t address those problems with the money it costs to go to the ballet or see a movie, which is very little.

Abraham: That’s what I told you earlier: they keep you poor and manipulate the wealth that you get.

HT: Which is to say I’m poor but educated.

Abraham: It’s like the noni fruit. They overestimate it to you and then tell you, “I’m not going to give you any meat, but I’ll give noni.” It’s another trinket for people’s diversion. When you have enough money to go on a Caribbean cruise, I’ll see if you prefer the film festival. Those guaranteed benefits you have come at the cost of everything you sacrifice.

HT: Do you feel you have guaranteed benefits in Spain?

Abraham: Yes, people live perfectly fine. The society is designed to make the individual mindless.

HT: Isn’t that a contradiction?

Abraham: For us, dumbing down is bad because we have a certain cultural level, but 80 percent of the population feels good that way. We can’t impose our assumptions on others. There are people who aren’t interested in Swan Lake. It’s all the same to these people if that bird drowns or the lake dry up.

HT: Someone who has been dumbed down is easier to exploit and dehumanize?

Abraham: From my perspective, yes. But most people feel good and have the right to choose.

HT: Here I choose to go to the theater and ballet.

Abraham: You think that you chose within the universe of options but they have chosen for you. They take away your access to a lot of things, but they leave you with those trinkets: the cinema, ballet, Tropicana. It’s not so bad. Moreover, it’s easy to charge a dime to go to the cinema when they don’t pay for the films.

HT: What’s left of your dream of becoming a writer?

Abraham: I wrote a lot when I arrived in Spain, stories and even a book of poems. But there it’s not like here. If you’re not working in Cuba, you start writing, and literature serves as therapy. There, you have to pay the bills or they’ll take the house. If you have to give up writing, you give it up. But I do want to get back into writing when I return to Spain.


31 thoughts on “Socialism or Death (Part II)

  • “Seriously Luis, you’re defending North Korea now? Really?!!!”

    Contempt Griffin, the Straw-man Master!

  • Luis, I am aware of the history of South Korea. Which facts did I get wrong? South Korea was ruled by a fascist dictatorship for years. But they have transitioned to a liberal democracy and have since then built a dynamic & prosperous society. If they had been conquered by North Korea, who were encouraged and supported in that imperial endeavor by Mao & Stalin, the southern half of the peninsula would suffering under the brutal Kim dynasty as the North does today. You think that would have been better.

    Seriously Luis, you’re defending North Korea now? Really?!!!
    Is there no limit to your self-abasement at the alter of Anti-Americanism in your cult of Marxism?

  • Well, comrade, I must make a “more humble than thou” response. I haven’t read most of what you have listed above; but I have read a few things, and have learned a thing or two, here and there.

    All of this making-first-reference to mostly-dead writers gets us nowhere. We need to begin with simple common sense. Otherwise, we will be knee-deep in sectarian muck and never again see the light of day.

    The socialist program divides itself naturally into two major sections, strategic and tactical. For convenience we often refer to these sections as the maximum and minimum programs. The minimum program is all those things we do or try to do over the months and years, in order to achieve socialist state power.

    But through it all we have to build the vanguard party through our minimum program reform work, and constantly expound the vision and plan of reorganization of the future socialist republic, in order to deserve and know what to do with state power, on the one hand; and elevate the consciousness of the laboring people to a socialist level, in order to guarantee the acquisition of state power, on the other.

    The key element here, Luis, is the consciousness of the people reaching a socialist level. Not only is it necessary to achieve state power, but socialist reorganization needs to have an enthusiastic people ready and eager to carry out the reorganization and transform society. This democratic participation of the people is the real social revolution, not the achievement of political power–which can be accomplished by many different routes or methods, depending on the country and the times.

    None of this can happen if the vanguard party does not work out a correct, sufficiently detailed maximum program beforehand. This is the problem in Cuba, as it has been in all other Marxist-led states. None have never had a correct strategic, maximum program of social transformation.

    The reason? Engels and Marx said, in 1848, that the state ought to own “everything” productive, including the land.

    You ask what you have to do. I would say that you have to do what every sincere socialist needs to do. You need, first of all, to define clearly for yourself the core economic hypothesis upon which you believe any socialist state ought to function. This would mean choosing between Marxian state monopoly ownership, and modern cooperative, state co-ownership, socialism.

    If you choose cooperative, state co-ownership, you are, programmatically speaking, a non-Marxist–regardless of what you might think about the man Karl Marx. Then, we could begin an in-depth conversation.

  • Don’t care, George. Griffin does not even gets his facts straight, as if South Korea right after the split had not have an autocratic rule by Syngman Rhee and then a fascist regime by Park Chung-hee. All backed by the ‘freedom-loving’ US of A.

  • Slavery began in pre-capitalist feudal societies. It’s economic importance faded in Capitalism, which is why the more capitalist industrialized north fought the more rural & feudal south to end slavery in America. Slavery lives on today in North Africa, sanctioned by the Islamic laws of Mauritania, Niger, Chad, Mali & Sudan.

    Marxism too perpetuated slavery, in its own style. The Soviet Union used forced labour in their extensive Gulags to help “build socialism”. In North Korea, there exists a vast network of concentration camps where whole families live and die in brutal conditions. China continues the practice of slavery of their huge prison population. Where would the Cuban regime be today without the slavery they inflict on the Cuban people, selling their labour to the foreign corporations at a fraction of their true value?

    Yes, the US intervened militarily in other countries, sometimes with good intentions and sometimes not. But that does not in anyway refute the historical record of the the Marxist regimes. Indeed, in Korea, the US intervened to oppose the North Korean dictatorship, backed by Maoist China and the USSR from imposing a Marxist dictatorship on the south.

    You wrote, “The important point is that everything that has happened and is happening now is just part of the process.”

    That’s the kind of chilling inhuman logic that makes civilized people everywhere oppose Marxists who are ready to excuse any crime against humanity if it advances their ideological programme.

  • “But there is also two crucial commonalities they all share:

    1. Marxism
    2. Lots and lots of killing.”

    This is totally disingenuous. Since 1945 the U.S. has intervened in over 20 countries, and that is post the establishment of capitalism, it says nothing of the millions of deaths that took place in the establishment of capitalism. Would there be capitalism today without slavery for example?

    Marx provided an analysis of capitalism that is still valid today. He also provided a manifesto for how to hurry on the emergence of the next stage. He did not say what the next stage would be, only that the contradiction of working class vs capitalist class would disappear. We have still not reached that next stage, but one can ask whether we would reach it quicker if people hadn’t followed Marx’s manifesto. We will never know the answer. Would a capitalist Russia have been able to defeat Nazi Germany, or would we be living under the Third Reich? Nor have the Chinese abandoned Marx’s analysis. They have reasoned that one cannot go from feudalism to communism by skipping the capitalist phase and have thus tried to implement a managed form of capitalism in transition. They are now considering bringing more corporations back under state control. This dialectic between private property and state ownership continues to play out all over the world, but it is important to note that Marx actually foresaw a withering away of the state as we reached the next stage. One could actually argue that socialist policies, such as well fare or the National Health Service in Britain have actually acted to forestall the emergence of the next stage as they have reduced the tensions in the class conflict that would otherwise have led to revolution. On the other hand, perhaps technology, which Marx believed was one of the determining factors in the progression towards communism, had not reached the level necessary for such a revolution to be successful. Perhaps with the invention of the internet, we are now getting closer to the ability to have decentralised communal control of the economy. The important point is that everything that has happened and is happening now is just part of the process. We are waiting for the day when the distinction between working class and capitalist class disappears. Grady has a different manifesto from Marx, but nothing he says goes against this fundamental prediction.

  • Hi again, Grady.

    First, thanks for all the information. I do not know ‘a great deal’ about Marxism. I’m just an electrical engineer who dedicates some spare time on humanities. From Marx I’ve read only the Communist Manifesto and the Grundisse online. I first began with Labor and Monopoly Capital by Braverman and All That Is Solid Melts Into Air by Berman. Then some passages from Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks. Then the Power of Ideology by Meszáros (which is a very difficult and tiresome reading, by the way) and some anthropology with Darcy Ribeiro’s The Brazilian People. But the real ‘cream of the crap’ started with Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle and Marcuse’s Eros & Civilization. And now I’m literally breathless with Deleuze and Guatarri’s Anti-Oedipus. Now that’s some serious eye-opener shit!

    Anyway, I’m very welcomed by “your help would be much appreciated.” Well, count me in. What do I have do to?

  • BTW, I was going to apologize if you got offended about the ‘narrow-minded’ thing, but as you have proven throughout this whole thing that your critique is based upon the central thesis that ‘Marxism is evil because Marxists have killed people’ well… if that’s not narrow I don’t know what it is then.

  • I did not attack you. I attacked all of your arguments on comment #7. I said your discourse is limited, at best. As it continues to be. I bet you even didn’t read the article I recommended. You first contradict yourself, then come with a (very) poor excuse that ‘it doesn’t matter where the terminology comes from’ to avoid looking at your own fallacies, and do the old ‘blame your enemy of what you do’ by saying it’s me who’s ‘dancing around the terminology’ and still continue putting everything in the same ‘evil’ bag.

  • Luis,

    You did call me names. That’s what you do. You attack the source, not the arguments.


    1. It doesn’t matter where the terminology comes from. The critique is valid. The Cuban regime obtains government revenues by confiscating the surplus value from the labour of the captive Cuban worker. This is slavery by any reasonable definition.

    2. Castro equated his program for Cuba as “Socialist” and identified Marxism as the source of his ideology. The Party he used to lead the programme is the Communist Party of Cuba. The point being that the practitioners of Marxism make the equation or relationship between those terms. The further point I am making is that certain Marxist apologists continue to insist on subtle ideological distinctions between those terms to push the argument that “next time we will get it right!”

    So you can dance around the terminology all you like and whine about the unfairness of people using Marxists terminology to criticize a Marxist regime, but the argument against Marxism or Communism or Socialism stands.

    Are there differences between the Cuban system, the Soviet system, or Pol Pot and the Maoist systems? Of course. But there is also two crucial commonalities they all share:

    1. Marxism
    2. Lots and lots of killing.

  • When I said for you to study, I didn’t meant for you take a 5-minute glance at Wikipedia to give me a quick reply.

    You haven’t touched ANY of my points and fail to realize that I’m not ‘name-calling’ you, I’m just pointing out your obvious contradictions, lack of original thinking and theoretical basis for the discussion on a topic that you clearly lack knowledge, as you still keep, fundamentally:

    1. Using Marxian terminology to bash Cuba and at the same time saying its a bogus theory.
    2. Equating Marxism = Socialism = Communism.

  • Yes, Luis, you are correct re Lenin and the NEP. If only he had lived, he might have carried out the full revision of Marxian state monopoly ideology and program that is so vital to successful socialism. But due to strokes–the result, as I understand, of complications from the bullet of an SR–he died in 1924.

    An internal struggle then ensued, and Bolsheviks like Bakunin stupidly allied with Stalin to get rid of Trotsky. (Bakunin was late shot for his mistake of siding with that snake.)

    Comrades like you do not understand however is that the “transitional program” of the Bolsheviks was submitted to the 1928 Comintern under the signatures of Bakunin and Stalin. It had been worked out by Lenin and Bakunin previously, after their experience of mobilizing the masses in 1917.

    You and others do not understand is that the transitional program is (1) part of the minimum program; (2) that Trotsky opposed its inclusion in the 1928 Comintern’s “Strategy and Tactics” program, calling that section “pedantic, thin, and bankrupt from beginning to the end;” and (3) Trotsky crept to the Comintern program’s discarded Strategy and Tactics section in 1938, plagiarized its “transitional,” minimum program part, claimed it as the product of his genius, and raised it up into the whole program of his world “party.”

    You apparently know a great deal about Marxism, but you have critical gaps in your body of knowledge. You talk about Stalin and Trotsky, but miss the essential point that it is the correct maximum program that needs to be formulated for the worldwide socialist movement, not whether Trotsky or Stalin deserved an icepick in the head.

    We have a big and urgent job ahead of us, Luis, trying to regroup the Left around a corrected maximum program. Your help would be much appreciated.

    Marx and Engels injected the state monopoly programmatic error into the socialist movement. Period. Exclamation mark. It is irrelevant whether they did so out of ingenuous error or evil design.

    I recommend that you become a socialist cooperative republican, and stop all this irrelevant, paralyzing Marxist cultism.

  • Luis,

    Marx’s concept of the surplus value of labour is widely and robustly criticized today. These criticisms do not argue there is no value to labour, only that labour is not the only source of surplus value, as Marx argued. Some of the modern critiques of LTV come from the Left as well as from conservative economists.

    Now, whether or not you accept the criticisms of Marx’s labour theory of value or not, it remains a fact that the Cuban state takes the surplus labour, and more, from the Cuban workers. I say more than the surplus value of their labour because the people have to struggle to find money or other ways to buy enough food to survive. The puny salary and scant ration books don’t cover half what they need to survive.

    The surplus value of the labour which the exploitative Cuban State confiscates from the workers is used as a form of taxation which provided the revenues of the government for things like education and healthcare. Therefore these things are not free.

    Now I am glad to read you do not deny the bloody historical record of Marxist governments. These facts are why I insists “Socialism IS Death” is the more accurate motto of Marxism.

    Isn’t it getting a bit lame to keep on using terms like “McCarthyian” ? The term McCarthyism was used as a criticism of a cynical form of political harassment favoured by the US congressman of that name, half a century ago. While his methods were certainly crude and at times unethical, it remains an historical fact, that there were indeed Communists in Hollywood as he claimed.

    All that aside, I don’t see how the term applies to me. I’m not pointing out secret commies or blacklisting anybody. I am pointing out a particularly nasty fact about Marxism: that the practitioners consistently resort to brutality, suppression of human rights and mass murder of the populace. You seem to think those are minor details compared to the really awesome Labour Theory of Value, of which you accept no criticism. That’s how the Marxist totalitarianism starts, by holding onto an ideology with blind religious conviction and calling people you disagree with McCarthian or Courtoise or whatever other label that blocks out discussion.

    The historical record of Marxism is clear: as an economic program programme, it fails. As political programme, it fails. As a social model it fails. Every time it has been attempted, it has resulted in colossal human suffering. Yeah, but other than that, Marx is totally awesome!

    Study, study, study, Luis.

  • Griffin, should I say,

    Everything you wrote is a confirmation of what I said. Plus with some good ol’ Straw Man for accusing me of denying Historical facts (which I didn’t) and carefully ‘skipping’ my response to Grady about Marxism. It’s clear that you know crap about Marxism, Socialism (utopian, scientific and ‘real’) and Communism, as you use the same term for all of them.

    In your 7th paragraph you only but express all that I said about the unoriginality of your old and over-used Courtoise-like anti-communist discourse. To counter that I’d recommend this article to ‘balance’ the hate propaganda.

    In your 8th paragraph you explicit demonstrate your contradiction of *not* knowing what you’re talking about. You say “There are sources of surplus-value other than labour, and therefore not all surplus value is obtained from exploitation” but, instead of exemplifying THAT, you exemplify the Marxian notion of surplus-value in a Cuban context and thus REAFFIRM what I said. There is simply no surplus-value *not* obtained out of exploitation of labour because *all* wealth originates from labour. Grady didn’t “ably” pointed out that the notion of surplus-value isn’t a Marxian concept, because all he said is that it’s a ‘common-sense’ notion. Certainly not before the 19th century – nowadays it’s a ‘common-sense’ to know that electromagnetic waves can propagate without a material medium (like in the space vacuum) but for a very long time people believed they propagated in the ‘Ether’…

    In your 9th paragraph you assume you either didn’t read, or read but on purpose ‘skipped’, or read but didn’t understand my response to Grady where I wrote what I think about Marxism.

    In your 10th paragraph you contradict yourself yet again by expressing your ideology and saying it’s ‘not an ideology’. It is. The feeble “ideology of no-ideology”.

    And finally, in your 11th paragraph you express what I told you about your McCarthyian scarecrows: “it won’t work. It’s evil. Period”.

    Summing up: study, study.

  • Luis, you wrote,

    “And you said you know the “truth” about Marxism in the previous part of this interview.”

    Yes, and I wrote that in reference to the inevitable slaughters that marxists states have repeatedly inflicted upon their own populations. My specific quote was:

    “Maybe it’s time to finally realize it is not possible to build a perfect society through the exercise of brute force by an all powerful State? How many more Gulags and Holomodors and Killing Fields and Great Leap Forwards and Katyns and Tugboat Massacres do you need to see before people will admit the truth about Marxism?”

    Now you say that earlier statement is a contradiction of my comment above in which I reference the excess labor value (or surplus labour value, if you will) confiscated by the Cuban state from the workers.

    There is no contradiction or hypocrisy in my comments.

    It is an historical fact that every Marxist government that has ever obtained national power was exercised brute force upon the people to enforce it’s will. This was true of the Soviet Union, beginning not with Stalin, but from the beginning with Lenin & Trotsky. It was also true of Mao, Pol Pot, the Kims of North Korea, and the Communist dictatorships of Laos and Vietnam. The Marxist dictator of Mengistu of Ethiopia was convicted in absentia of genocide. The Soviet satellite regimes of Eastern Europe have their millions of victims. The Cuban revolution too has their victims of State terror, although compared to over-achievers like Mao or Pol Pot, Castro was a light weight. Go ahead and look them up is you are unfamiliar with the events, but anybody who denies these thoroughly documented atrocities is not a serious person. It is not “McCarthyite” to mention these historical facts, although it is perhaps a sign of a Stalinist mentality to deny them.

    As for the surplus value of labour, there are many good critiques of the Marxist concept, (which Grady ably pointed out, was not original to Marx anyway). There are sources of surplus-value other than labour, and therefore not all surplus value is obtained from exploitation. Nevertheless, it is clear that at least some surplus value is produced through labour. In the case of the Cuban economy, the State exploits the Cuban workers and hold onto that surplus value and uses it to fund State expenses. I used that argument to point out that the State does not provide “free” education and healthcare to the Cuban people, but that the Cuban people pay for it through the confiscated surplus value of their labour. If you think this does not happen, then please inform us where the Cuban state gets it’s revenue? Cubans who work in the foreign owned resorts are paid a salary of about $20/month. The resort operators pay the Cuban government about $400 per month per employee. The Cuban government keeps that surplus value of $380 per worker per month. That sure looks like a bosses exploitation of the workers to me.

    As Grady accurately points out, the origins of the problems of Marxism originated with Marx. You, like so many other Marxist apologists, attempt the feeble argument that Stalin (and presumably all the others afterwards) got it wrong and all we need to do is go back to the pure, true Marxism and everything will work out fine. That is a deadly delusion.

    The point of my argument is that any utopian programme will result in failure, disaster, and brutality. It is not possible to design a perfect system. Humanity is not perfectible and therefore, neither are our political and economic systems perfectible. The best we can hope for is to work gradually toward less brutal, less unjust systems. We do this by protecting human rights and maximizing freedom. This is not an ideological position. On the contrary, it is anti-ideological, as ideology is where political thought diverges from reality.

    This is why, while I appreciate Grady’s incisive critiques of Marxian systems and thought, I don’t agree that his proposed solution will work.

  • I hate to say this, but Ortiz’s analysis is very superficial in comparing Cuba with Spain. It ignores the historical realities of how different countries got to where they are at and it ignores the problem of resources. I don’t know the figures for Spain but for every person in the world to have the average resource consumption of a British citizen it would take three planets worth of resources. For them to have the average resource consumption of a U.S.American it would take five planets. This resource distribution is a result of the historical circumstances, plunder, colonialisation, imperialism, slavery etc. that shaped the world. It can be seen starkly when one considers that China, with its market mechanisms, despite having enormous economic growth, actually has a lower GDP per capita than Cuba. In other words the average wealth of a Cuban is greater than that of a Chinese. There are some points in the article that are worthy of further investigation, and it is important to investigate the deficiencies of the Cuban system, but it is useless to compare the system of Cuba with Spain in isolation of the differing histories and geopolitical realities.

  • Hi Grady, thanks for the reply. And for calling me a ‘comrade’ – after all the greatest sin of the Left is that, as the saying goes, it only unites in prison (The Spanish Civil War is a testament to that).

    Here’s what I think about Marx. He was an outstanding thinker. His contributions on how History flows and how Capitalism works are precious. Reading parts of the Grundisse I must say: ‘wow! This is some serious shit!’. However, his works are marked by three problematic issues:

    1. Historical Determinism
    2. Eurocentrism
    3. Rationalism (too bad Freud were to write about the unconscious only in 1900 in his seminal The Interpretation of Dreams…)

    About his program for a socialist society in the Communist Manifesto. Well, Lenin followed this during the Russian Civil War. Soon after it was over, he realized that a 100% state-controlled economy only served the purpose of maintaining the Red Army, and that the transition from capitalist property to socialist property (and eventually to non-property at all) should be gradual. Thus came the NEP. Unfortunately he suffered his series of strokes and was ‘disabled’ from the leadership of the URSS in 1922. And then the struggle for power between Trotsky and Stalin. As we all know, Stalin won and imposed the forced collectivization policy upon all productive forces. That’s why there are Marxists who ‘blame it all on Stalin’.

    The bottom line of what I want to say to you: don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater! 🙂

  • Well, my exchanges with comrade Luis have been somewhat off-the-subject of Yusimi’s interview with Abraham Ortiz. On the other hand, there is an important connection.

    Everything regarding the Cuban experiment in socialism that comes to light in Abraham’s excellent, candid responses has to do with core principle of state ownership of all the instruments of production. It is this core principle–which really should have been considered as a hypothesis, rather than an ironclad principle–which has guided and misguided every Marxist-led socialist state thus far.

    (China and Vietnam, luckily, have modified the “hypothesis” enough to survive and progress; while, unluckily, their adherence to Marxist ideology make them unable develop their countries as cooperative republics.)

    And so, Abraham’s take on things illustrates the utter stupidity and crippled functionality of the socialist state abolishing private property rights, and owning everything productive itself.

    In my view, there is only one thing holding monopoly capitalism in place: Marxism. Unless the Left discards that bogus, counter-transformationary ideology and program– and reaches the masses with a corrected program and ideology–monopoly capitalism will continue its evil until the world environment is destroyed and it is too late for the coming generations.

  • Luis, out of respect for your “request,” please allow me to point out “where Marx was wrong.” When I do however, I hope that you will go to the text and see whether I am correct.

    In the Communist Manifesto, on the next-to-last page of the second chapter, it says in no uncertain terms that a future socialist state should concentrate all the instruments of production in its hands. This is the core economic principle of state monopoly ownership socialism. Marxists have taken this a “principle” ever since.

    To them, “real” socialism is where the state owns everything productive, and private property rights are thereby (by 100% nationalization) abolished.

    Some opposition Marxists in Cuba (and around the world) today however refuse to recognize this as the origin of “state-ist” socialism, and blame it all on the monster Joseph Stalin.

    This refusal simply means that they have no alternative program for successful socialist transformation, and must rely, for keeping members cocooned in their sectarian groups, on obfuscation of the truth. They must divert attention from the Marxian origin of state monopoly socialism, call it “state capitalism,” and blame every negative manifestation of this erroneous core principle on their version of Satan: Stalin.

    Are you one of these people, Luis, who still clings to the idea that state monopoly socialism was originated by Stalin, and not Engels and Marx? If so, let’s talk about it further, on a principled programmatic basis.

    If you would like a reference to where Marx’s “programmatic points for a post-capitalist society were bogus,” please begin on the very last page of that second chapter, and you will see ten programmatic points that are utterly absurd and worthless for construction the socialist bridge to a classless society.

    I hope that you have the intellectual honesty and polemical stomach for a real programmatic discussion, Luis. If so, you may open your mind enough to hear what I’m saying, and what our rejection of Marxism is all about.

  • “The excess value of labour (…)” That is surplus-value. The extra time you spend working not to satisfy your own needs, but for your boss. That’s the origin of all profits. This is classical Marxian terminology. And you said you know the “truth” about Marxism in the previous part of this interview. That’s why I called you a narrow-minded ideologue – you fail to acknowledge your own words. I’ve seen hundreds of people like you with the exact same discourse. No original ideas. Just primitive McCarthyian scarecrows and Courtoise propaganda.

  • Actually Luis, I think Grady did make a nice point-by-point argument where Marx and the Marxists were wrong, specifically on the subject of surplus value. The only person rampaging about is you, objecting and insulting everybody who voices a dissenting point of view. Talk about your narrow minded ideologue!

  • Go ahead and quote my alleged contradiction. But please, you’re the last person to go around calling others narrow minded ideologues.

    Am I being narrow minded when I object to the denial of human rights by Marxist states? Am I an ideologue to point out the tens of millions of people who died in failed Marxist experiments?

  • You didn’t get it. What your contradiction was. Well I think it’s impossible to get through with narrow-minded ideologues such as yourself.

  • Who used the term for the first time in an academic formulation, then?

    Look Grady I think your movement for a new kind of socialism is awesome, but I suppose that you’d gain more followers if you just pointed out where Marx was wrong, that his programmatic points for a post-capitalist society were bogus and all, instead of a doing a rampage-like campaign against him and the Marxists.

  • A very insightful interview.

    Like any good interviewer, Yusimi asked some probing questions. Abraham did really well in answering them.

  • Ah yes, it so horrendous to condemn the ideology of Marxism which has inflicted so much suffering, destruction on murder upon the human race. Guilty as charged, I am indeed so horrendous for thinking people should live free and happy.

  • This is an excellent interview. I particularly admire Yusimi’s professionalism, in allowing a revelation of so much about the man interviewed, and about present-day Cuba.

    Luis, a timely correction is needed to your comment. “Surplus-value” is not a Marxist concept. Attributing the “discovery” of it to Marx was and is a tendentious cog in the confidence scheme of Marxian sabotage-from-within of the socialist movement.

    No one “discovered” the “extra value” produced by workers of every stripe, whether slaves, serfs, farmers, proletarians or many others. Extra value is what has made civilization possible, and thinking people have known this for thousands of years. Knowledge of the extra value produced by workers is as common sense as knowledge of the air we breathe.

    Engels, in Anti-During, attributed the “discovery” of surplus-value to Marx as one more way to enshrine him as the infallible, unquestionable oracle of socialism. This conversion of socialism into an ersatz religion, with Marx as the god-figure, was necessary in order to make the nonsensical principle of state monopoly ownership socialism accepted on faith.

  • I was actually sympathetic with Abraham’s figure until he touched the ‘culture’ topic. In terms of population and monetary resources, Cubans have a plethora of cultural activities to choose, especially in Havana. Hell, only the ‘What’s On’ section here on HT gives anyone a nice figure of that.

  • It’s funny to see one bashing Marxism so much (and in a horrendous way, to say the least) in the previous part of the interview actually using the Marxist concept of ‘surplus-value’ to troll Yusimi.

  • The interviewer asked:

    “HT: Isn’t it true that we don’t have to pay for education or medical care? Isn’t it fair to expect repayment?”

    How clueless can you be? Of course Cubans pay for their education and healthcare. These services are never “free”, just paid for in different ways. The Cuban people pay for education and healthcare everyday of their lives with their artificially low salaries controlled by the government. The excess value of labour is kept by the State and used to pay for all government expenditures.

    Saying these services are free is as foolish and offensive as saying a slave-owner gives his slaves free food, free housing and free chains.

    In my country, Canada, we have “free” healthcare and “free” education (K to 12) but nobody is so naive as to believe we don’t pay for it with our taxes. Of course we do.

    As the old saying goes, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

  • Abraham’s perspective is shared by most of the Cuban expats whom I speak with. Despite the low cost to attend world-class ballet in Cuba (about 80 cents usd), more than half who attend are usually tourists and foreigners who live in Cuba. Despite Fidels’s boastful claim that Cubans are the most cultured people on the planet, I agree with Abraham that is is simply because they have fewer choices of diversion. Good interview.

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