Pedro Campos Interviewed by Dmitri Prieto
HAVANA TIMES, June 28 – HT continues its interview with Pedro Campos Santos, a member of an informal group called SPD (Participative and Democratic Socialism), which for the last several years has devoted itself to promoting the socialist road for Cuba’s present and future. This is a socialist path based on people’s self-management with freedom for all who pursue it; it is a socialism in a republic “with all and for the well-being of all,” as national hero Jose Marti desired.
HT: What can you tell us about the opportunities for debate in our society today? By this I’m referring to settings that are academic, political, online, in life daily, in meetings of mass organizations, etc.
PC: Very few opportunities exist. We’ve been invited to some official settings (such as the forum sponsored by the magazine Temas, the Juan Marinelo Cultural Center and the magazine Criterios), but official academic centers try to exclude us. Still, they can’t prevent comrades from emerging and developing the same or similar thoughts within their own ranks.
We have participated in debates convened by the leadership of the party. Many people who share our ideas are members of the Communist Party and the Young Communist League (UJC), and in their individual clubs and local committees they present these ideas. Also, the meetings of Popular Power [city council] and the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution are settings we’ve often used. In addition we participate in the Critical Observatory Network. Certainly where we’ve been able to play the most active role is in cyberspace — still with many limitations — by writing for international left websites and posting articles through the Intranet.
Together with Miguel Arencibia, Felix Sautie, Felix Guerra and others, we founded the Cuba Section of the website Kaosenlared in 2007. On my request we also opened the section of that website called “Debate Socialista” to discuss the Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party. We collaborate actively with other Latin American websites in Central and South America, and our articles have been published in practically all sites of the diverse international Spanish-speaking left. Plus, we’re aware of several websites in English that publish us, some regularly – like Havana Times.
Many of our articles have been published in the left press. For a while we were publishing the bulletin SPD, but difficulties in accessing the Internet due to government actions have been limiting our work. At the same time, however, the appearance of other bulletins like Compendio del Critical Observatory, Desde la Ceiba and IDS (Democratic and Socialist Left) — who understand our concerns — have been publishing our writings and therefore compensating for our limited online access.
Those factors led us to suspend work on SPD. Other basic reasons are explained in an article in edition 71 of SPD [the note announced the suspension of the publication of that online bulletin]. But we did not want to cram the limited email capacity of Cuban intranet accounts with unnecessary repetitions. We’re not interested in playing any particular leadership role. If demanded it will lead to SPD being published again.
HT: What importance do you give “alternative world” spaces, those global debates on the future of the planet; and solidarity with causes that, while seemingly not affecting people’s pockets, do indeed touch our hearts? How does the thought and work of people like you impact those actions and how does it contribute to those movements? Can you mention some activists or collectives that have helped in your work or have received your solidarity?
PC: Certainly we [SPD] involve ourselves and are a part of that storm of contemporary ideas undergirding the social and alternative world movements tied to the search for solutions to the serious problems facing humanity. These especially include problems of the environment, exclusion and discrimination for different reasons, the promotion of ways of life and exchange (beyond “proletarian internationalism”), addressing poverty and all those derivative problems of a world burdened by wage-labor production and its consequent classist and hierarchized divisions, which naturally engenders contempt and discrimination by the powerful towards others.
Despite the limitations and prohibitions, we contribute as best we can with ideas and concrete actions. We participate in forums for debate and with not always successful attempts at building an economy based on solidarity and cooperation. We support cooperativism (not only in Cuba) while offering and practicing our humble solidarity with groups in Cuba and everywhere else in the world where people suffer discrimination for various reasons – be they racial, gender-related, sectorial, political, residential, etc.
Internationally we have worked in solidarity from the broad left consisting of groups, associations, institutions, political movements, online left publications, cooperatives and those in favor of cooperativism and workers self-management, with these being basically from Latin American, US and European political organizations.
We’ve been invited to many international events, which is also a form of solidarity, and our articles have been translated and published in America and Europe in an infinite number of online magazines and websites; they’ve also appeared in the printed press. We’ve generally seen wide repercussions in both what we write and publish on the Internet.
Some periodicals described as center and right have quoted us and some have even published our articles in full. Though of course they don’t share our strategies, they do agree with some of our critiques. Our writings are free to be reproduced entirely or in part without charge. We’d be happy to see everyone publishing us, even if they’re on the right. The use of the bourgeois press by revolutionaries has always been part of the left’s political arsenal. The history of the Cuban Revolution itself bears this out.
We cooperate with a broad national network known as the Critical Observatory Cuban Social Forum. We can say the same of the “Cofradia de la Negritud” (the Negritude Brotherhood). We have openly criticized the repression and imprisonment of Cubans whose political ideas we don’t completely share, but whose rights to freedom of thought, expression and association we do in fact defend, as we do for all other Cubans.
We oppose violent actions from any angle. We have signed international documents in support of just and popular causes around the entire world. We have condemned repressive actions against revolutionary Latin American sisters and brothers, and we have dedicated special attention to the solidarity with the Cuban Five imprisoned in the US for fighting terrorism. An aspect highlighted in our theoretical and practical action has been our opposition to actions by our imperialistic enemy directed against the Cuban Revolution and against the international revolutionary movement.
We are very concerned about and attentively observe the events in the Americas, in the South, the Middle East and in Europe. We reject all types of foreign intervention directed at internal problems of any country, especially the US and NATO playing the self-proclaimed role of international gendarme. In no way do we overlook the cost of imperialistic aggression and the blockade, or the restrictions imposed on any socialist model; moreover, we emphasize the need to counter things that can be used to justify such plans directed against our country.
As for the list of people, groups or institutions with whom we’ve worked in solidarity, that would be too long.
HT: How do you see the revolution of the future? In your opinion, how have the Cuban managed all these years, and how can we continue confronting a country as powerful as the United States?
PC: Social revolution, in the Marxist sense, is not an act but a succession of economic, political and social movements. A political revolution that brings about only a change in government may or may not lead to a social revolution; this depends on whether decisive changes in the production relations occur.
The new world social revolution underway, which has “freely associated workers” as its main actors, has been evolving since the 19th century and has been marked by thinkers who systematized the ideas of the socialization of the means of production and the democratization of political life. I’m not referring solely to Marx but to numbers of ideologists from diverse perspectives — albeit all anti-capitalists — who have contributed to the modern revolutionary heritage.
I would identify this new revolution’s beginning with the Paris Commune of 1871, because since that moment the world revolutionary process has been developing — though perhaps some people don’t perceive it this way — based on the search for decisive participation of workers in the production processes and in the reproduction of their material and spiritual life.
This is demonstrated within economic transformations produced within capitalist countries evolving towards forms of production with greater participation of workers in ownership, decision making and in the profits of companies; it’s seen in communities where workers and the people make decisions about participative budgets; it is experienced in processes of the democratization of bourgeois society, where protest movements in the general interests of the workers and people achieve control or representation in government; and these changes are reflected in political revolutions in countries dominated by bureaucratized tyrannies or corrupt governments but where mass popular movements impose processes of democratization on political life.
One aspect of tremendous importance in the contemporary revolution is the socialization of information and knowledge. This is taking place thanks to modern computer and communications technology, which is increasingly extending everywhere. That’s why we consider the Internet a revolutionary medium of the greatest importance, despite its limitations.
This whole group of arenas as well as other forms of social, economic and political movement (which would take a long time to describe) are what is spread to the new society that in each country, with their particularities, gradually develops in a winding and spiraling manner against the grain of the forces that seek to maintain the status quo, including the concentration and centralization of economic and political power.
The process is realized in the heart of capitalist society, primarily in peaceful ways. When there has been violence, not only armed conflict, it’s because the reactionary forces have been the first to turn to it. All those who promote changes in the direction of the democratization and socialization of economic, social and political life are, in my opinion, the subjects of the modern revolutionary change. All those who oppose it make up the forces of counterrevolution on a universal scale.
Cuba is not alien to that world revolutionary movement. Here, there exists a process of democratization and socialization that clearly began with the political revolution of 1959. Has it suffered periods of lingering stagnation? Clearly. But the revolutionary forces have not ceased being present. They’ve not been defeated, nor have they stopped struggling to advance conditions. Those forces have been in the government, though they haven’t always prevailed, just as outside of it.
In Cuba an authentic, nationally-generated and anti-imperialist revolution has been developing with support of the majority of the people, despite its having major democratic and socializing deficiencies. That support has varied over time because the revolutionary process doesn’t always move in the same direction. Some confuse “the Revolution” — out of self-interests or ignorance — with the government, the party or the leaders, which is why sometimes it seems the Cuban Revolution has died or is about to perish.
Yet the process continues to advance below the surface, in the hearts and minds of many Cubans and in the development of new forms of association that people forge on their own so as to produce and coexist. The Sixth Congress has just approved the expansion of cooperativism. This is a step forward. Its real importance depends on a cooperative law that has yet to be approved and on the abilities and freedoms that will be allowed. But it represents an achievement, though modest, made by all the supporters in favor of new forms of socialist production.
Let’s hope that cooperativism extends, integrates itself and leads to socialist self-management. It is now a task that we must continue pursuing. We support the positive changes. Let’s hope that the revolutionary process can confront imperialistic plans, whether countering a siege or a gradual coming together or penetration. In that same vein, let’s hope the revolutionary process can defeat the retrograde and anti-democratic forces within its interior, forces that are more dangerous than the neighbor to the north. All this depends on our advances in the socialization and democratization of economic and political life, as I’ve been explaining. Inertia or real or concealed large-scale privatizations would lead to Cuba being hogtied by international capital and would halt and reverse the revolutionary process.
HT: Many people from around the world read Havana Times. What would you like to say to them? Especially, what do you want to tell those who have placed their hopes in Cuba for another better world?
PC: Let’s hope that other better world is possible and that Cuba will be part of it. What it turns out to be, what we achieve, or what the backward and reactionary forces impose on us will depend on the struggle that’s waged, on the intelligence that guides us, on the support we have internally and externally. The return to private capitalism is not inevitable.
International solidarity against the US blockade is important, but the international left now knows that solidarity with the Cuban people is broader and more complex and that they must in fact support us. There are also things that should be criticized, and such criticism doesn’t harm the revolutionary process – it strengthens it.
Cuba is a whole with many parts. In Cuba, the disaster of cloning “real” neo-Stalinist socialism has resulted in the distancing of a good part of the people from the original ideas of revolutionary Marxist socialism. Here, like almost everywhere, “anti-communism” has been fed by the neo-Stalinist politics of “state socialism.”
Essentially people here are anti-Stalinist. They rejected and continue to reject that distorted form of socialism, the state-totalitarian brand, what was experienced as the curtailer of all rights, marked by the authoritarian ravings, since Stalin. Those were the arguments conceded to the right and that made for the most difficult battle.
The 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union criticized Stalin’s excesses, but it was not able to defeat Stalinism ideological and politically.
When it’s presented, Marxist and revolutionary socialism (whose essence is democratic and self-managerial) is easily accepted, even by people who the government/party consider dissidents or opponents.
I’ve confirmed this personally through discussions with workers, intellectuals and professionals who are opposed to “state socialism.” To win back those who lost their faith in socialism is one of the most complex and important tasks for preventing the disaster that the status quo is leading us towards.
I tell people that in Cuba there are revolutionary reserves that can help prevent a collapse and that these forces haven’t conceded the possibility of an advance toward socialism in Cuba. If that were the case, such a blow to the current international revolutionary movement would be devastating. And those principally responsible wouldn’t be the US imperialism and their “sidekicks” but the inability of revolutionaries to do what is required of us.
That was what Fidel expressed in November 2005, in his very own words, and what was repeated more recently by Raul. The only battle one can lose is the one that’s never fought.
HT: And Cuban youth?
PC: When I was young it bothered me a lot that they were trying to manipulate me; today I just laugh. I’m not proposing anything concrete to the youth. I hope they do what they understand needs to be done. They have to lead their own lives their own way, like we led ours. I hope they listen to all and do what they think is right. It’s life itself — the struggle — that will teach them and show them the way.