Rogelio Manuel Diaz Moreno
HAVANA TIMES — The veteran essayist Samuel Farber has unexpectedly honored me by taking a rather flimsy article authored by yours truly and delving into the ideas addressed in it. The subject of the article is the role of one or more political parties in society in general and Cuba in particular.
As Farber underscores, few Cuban intellectuals – among those considered to “know their stuff” – dare debate the issue. As they do not want to make the lemonade, they leave the aficionados at home and more seasoned persons abroad with the task of squeezing the lemons and mixing the juice as best we can.
As for me, I was delighted with Farber’s response. In addition to being flattered by his attention, I had the opportunity to see other expressions of the phenomena addressed and delve more deeply into them, with new arguments.
Farber’s explanation about Cuba’s single-party system, wielding a form of power that bears the name but does not evince the nature of a political party, is illuminating. In general terms, I agree with his explanation regarding the monopoly of power and its different conveyor belts. I also share his views regarding the need to develop a civil and political society and for citizens to participate, under different democratic principles.
I must make some observations regarding Farber’s interpretation of my arguments. My thesis addressed typical bourgeois political parties, understood as the defenders of the interests of the class, in general terms. It was not my intention to establish that, in a capitalist society, a single party represents the entirety of the bourgeoisie. Such a claim would be theoretically inadmissible and mistaken, historically. Perhaps an imaginary example can give us a better sense of my idea.
Let us imagine a specific city-State, a Verona, like the one Shakespeare lived in, but far more developed, with a form of capitalism that is far more advanced in relation to what we saw at that point during the Renaissance. Let’s say the Montesquieu were…textile industry owners, and the Capulets leaders in trade. Let’s say the former promoted a protectionist policy, while the latter a form of free trade.
Obviously, these two families aren’t going to build a single, joint party. In an effort to make their quarrels a bit less bloody, they could, however, agree to regulate their confrontations through the electoral-civic game. Even so, we would still say that these party structures ultimately defend the general interests of the capitalist class.
The losing family may be ruined because of the policies of the winning one, but what we aren’t likely to see, if, say, the Capulets won, is for them to allow the textile workers to take control over their industries. In the opposite case, The Montesquieu family also would not allow the dockers and warehouse workers to socialize the means of production, services and profits of their commercial activities.
What is probable is that, if those workers collectively tried to demand political participation (rights and other prerogatives included) in government, the way would be blocked from above. The bourgeoisie, with all its resources, experience and power, would confront them with an alliance more solid than a hundred marriages between Romeos and Juliets. Hence the need for these people below, in our fictitious example, not to become divided on issues that do not fundamentally affect the basic principles of working-class unity.
I must continue to rely on this rather whimsical example to make up for my lack of erudition in comparison to my gentle critic. The objectives, scope and organizational forms that the working class must assume constitute such a vast and complex issue that the work of many intelligent people over several centuries has not managed to answer it fully. Would the proletariat in Varona find it advisable to establish a party, in the traditional meaning of the word? Would it want to work with a network of unions and community organizations and set up NGOs while it’s at it?
Whatever they do, such an organization should not operate within an authoritarian and centralized structure. Like Jose Marti, we could say: a republic cannot be run like a military camp. If such a distorted conception took root and prevailed, a new elite would not take long to substitute the exploiters of old. The Montesquieu and Capulets would be replaced by others and those below would continue to fare as badly as before. I support, then, what Farber suggests in terms of active involvement within the organizations, transparency and democracy as antidotes to bureaucratization and authoritarian tendencies.
The political movement, party or whatever we wish to call the organization of workers in Varona could take on a program suited to its class interests. Ideally, we would be talking about nothing less than a revolution.
Warehouse and textile workers will have common interests, shared with the majority of workers at the smith workshops and with artisans, peasants and others. To improve the sanitary conditions in which they live and the atmosphere in which their children are raised would be some common aims of such a revolutionary program.
An unavoidable strategic process aimed at reaching such goals will consist in seizing control over production processes and means, and defending such control once established. A number of financial entities that had already been established would be included in the process, and others that I am omitting here. Even through parliamentary laws that have been democratically approved and all that, they would open a can of worms. The expropriated bourgeoisie would threaten them with hell’s fire, as it has done historically.
Beyond this central aim, the members of Varona’s working class will surely have a broad range of interests and even different ideas as to how to reach those objectives. For instance, the age-old dilemma of protectionism versus commercial freedom. Farber makes the important point of the contradiction that exists between planning, prioritizing investment or consumption. There would also be a lot to discuss in connection to artistic policies, the establishment of scientific schools, city planning, philosophy and, today, we could add feminist, ecology and other groups to the mix.
It could be convenient to hold the bulk of these discussions outside the reduced ambit of the party or political body, in the narrow sense of the term. Different associations and unions of folk musicians, neighborhood assemblies, groups of art lovers and medieval landscapes, will have a lot to contribute and should be prominent participants of the political life of this imaginary Verona.
That said, this can take place in a fresher and more spontaneous environment, where each worker can realize themselves freely. The best that can be done, I believe, is debate our differences in a fraternal manner, in absolute freedom, without thereby fracturing our unity, to be able to take the collective challenges that come along, time and time again.
I thank Samuel Farber for his kind attention and criticisms and everyone who wishes to make constructive contributions to this debate. I hope we will continue this exchange in the future.
Photos by Juan Suárez