A Cuban’s Look at the Internet and Socialism

Pedro Campos

The newly laid cable from Venezuela to Cuba will greatly increase Internet capacity when it goes on line this summer. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, March 26 — Capitalism has developed forces that will, from within its core, end up imposing the socialization of knowledge, ownership of the means of production and the appropriation of its output.

Perhaps no other tool can contribute so decisively in that direction as the network of rapid, versatile and inexpensive communications facilitated by modern information and communications technologies, especially the network of networks: the Internet.

The contemporary world is now becoming impossible without modern technology involving computers, automation and communications, without which would be hindered the development of production, commercial exchange, sciences of all types, culture and the democratization itself of the economy and politics.

If in fact socialism goes with the socialization and democratization of economic, political and social lives of people, nothing is more intrinsic than the horizontal intercommunications facilitated by modern computer and communications technologies.

There will never be enough written on the importance of these modern technologies for the democratization of politics and the role they are called to play in the participation of the masses in the democratic organization of future society, something that is already being seen practiced in some countries, although with limitations.

It’s not possible to consider the systematic consultation of all citizens on participative budgets or the holding of referendums on important laws that concern everyone without modern communications and computational technologies.

Nor would it be possible for all citizens to be systematically informed as to the form in which their taxes are being spent or allocated in budgets without the existence of government web pages at the different levels and which immediately report on these actions and facilitate transparency in the handling of funds on the part of governments.

The great equalizer

At the time of forming and reforming laws and constitutions, the role of these technologies is irreplaceable in the modern epoch if one truly aspires to involve the opinions of all those involved. The Internet equals the possibility of expressing and announcing those opinions, because no matter how much those who seek to control the written press, radio and television, the network of networks is creating conditions so that everyone can communicate their opinions and that these can be known by everyone. This is the horizontality dreamt of by all socialists of all times.

But certainly for this it would first be necessary for these technologies to be socialized, which in a socialist society should be very inexpensive or subsidized by the government in transition, like with water and other basic public services.

It’s known that hegemonic interests manipulate information on conflicts of every nature; but it’s also known that each person reacts to such information according to their interests, vision and convictions. The more cultured, free, democratic and socialized a society is, the better it can face the challenges of international networks.

Corresponding to the socialist society of the future is a new type of participative and direct democracy that has nothing to do with the bourgeois representative forms present in the majority of countries (although it’s true that in many contemporary societies there are now also practiced forms of direct democracy that allow citizens to use the Internet to broadcast their opinions, vote in elections, and participate in the creation of budgets, municipal and national laws and the like).

The French firm Alcatel Lucent laid the cable that will give Cuba greater conectivity. Photo: Caridad

That type of direct participative democracy (where each citizen — without an intermediary — contributes to the formation of opinions, laws and decisions and proposes candidates for elected positions and then votes for them directly and for those in charge of carrying them out) will only be possible through the existence and extension throughout society of modern computer and communications technology.

That’s why we socialists aspire to those new socialized and democratized societies. Without reservations we support the development and socialization of modern technology and certainly we have no fear of exchanging information and opinions over networks, even while knowing our opponent’s technological superiority, because we trust our understanding of the truth.

Technology in itself is not “bad”; it depends on who uses it. Concrete paths to exchange, such as the Internet, have owners, but they can be used by everyone within mutually accepted legal and ethical norms or those established by each one of the circuits. Likewise, new societies can also establish limitations on the use of sites that degrade human beings by creating their own systems, their own national or international networks, without being isolated from other ones and without ceasing to use existing pathways.

The worst of the information manipulated as part of the enemy’s psychological war is not pernicious in itself, what is harmful is the absence of its being challenged or its being non-critically internalized. In addition, the more people know about the Internet and its actors, the better they are able to assess the information they receive and act on it accordingly. That is a task that corresponds, in first instance, to the people themselves and is only developed through its practice.

Freedom of information is an inalienable right that cannot be hindered by the fear of the mass media being used by the opposition. Culture and principles are capable of defeating any smear campaign.

Propagandistic actions of imperialism over the Internet have possibilities of success as long as and as much as they are based on truths or half-truths. The fundamental defense before such eventual enemy campaigns resides in not committing errors that can be used or promoted by the opponent.

In the informational osmosis between the imperialistic powers and the former socialist states of Eastern Europe, the victory of capitalism was due not to its informational superiority, but to all types of weaknesses and errors of “real socialism” (which was never real).

The imperialists have prepared themselves to combat other countries on international networks and to block and destroy the offensive and defensive capacities of their eventual enemies. They have already rehearsed those cybernetic wars — which are not the same as psychological wars — in concrete military conflicts and there exist indications that they have also been using technology against revolutionary websites such as Kaosenlared.net that is not only restrictive but also destructive.

Intelligence and counter-intelligence agencies will use those technologies — like they previously used mail, radio and television media and all technical advances in communications — according to their interests; but it occurred to no one in their right mind to eliminate letters, newspapers, television channels, cable or radio-electronic space as a method of defense.

The duty of revolutionaries is to know these modern technologies inside out, to use them defensively and to socialize them to the maximum within the heart of the people, and especially to enhance participative and direct democracy, which will correspond to the new socialist society (and will certainly have nothing to do with monsters going by that same name in the 20th century).

To contact Pedro Campos write: [email protected]

One thought on “A Cuban’s Look at the Internet and Socialism

  • Good article, Pedro. Thanks.

    You make reference to “‘real socialism'(which was never real).” I’d like to address the idea that what formerly has been called “real” socialism is not real socialism, at all.

    It seems to me that a synonym for “real” socialism would be “workable” socialism.

    How is it possible for us to call something “real” of “not real” socialism if we can’t define socialism itself? Our nascent movement in the US believes that there are two conflicting definitions–or concepts–of socialism in the theoretical arena.

    One is where the socialist state holds ownership of the land and all the instruments of production. The other is where the land and instruments of production are held by either cooperative worker associates or small individual entrepreneurs and families.

    That is, the two general, conflicting forms of socialism have to do with whether the institution of private productive property rights can be retained and used by a socialist state, or must be abolished by full state ownership.

    My understanding of your concept of “real” socialism is that, yes, the socialist state owns the land and all the instruments of production, but somehow those who do the work of society have democratic control of production.

    If this is your concept, it would seem to mean that all the sincere socialist needs to d–in order to make it “real” socialism–is to convince the political and economic bureaucracy to hand over workplace democracy to the workers. This has never occurred.

    What we hope you will consider at some point in your struggle for real socialism in Cuba is that a form of socialism that ensures workplace democracy can only come with the existence of private productive property rights plus most of the instruments of production being owned directly by cooperative worker associates per the Mondragon model.

    Best wishes.

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