‘Anti-Capitalism’ That Falls Short

The former Soviet embassy in Havana, Now the Russian embassy.

“Scratch an extremist and you will find an opportunist” — V.I. Lenin

Pedro Campos

HAVANA TIMES — The little expression “anti-capitalist” is very much in vogue today “We’re anti-capitalists.” Our position is “anti-capitalist.” Our revolutionary program is “anti-capitalist.” “Down with the capitalist enemy.” “Death to the capitalists.” This is how many people express themselves. Yet reading and listening to some of these “anti-capitalists,” I’m amazed to find that they defend state capitalism.

Don’t ask for names. More than once I have explained: the ideas must be fought, not individuals.

What falls short in this “anti-capitalism” — which doesn’t extend to the operation of the Cuban government — are the people who dare to accuse those of us who criticize state capitalism as being in league with the “imperialist enemy” or favoring “capitalist restoration.” What nonsense!

Those of us who hold socialist positions are ideologically and politically confronting the state capitalism that exists in Cuba, though concealed as “state socialism.” Precisely what we seek is to transform this state capitalism” into a more participatory and democratic socialism, where the workers and the people are those who decide how to reproduce their lives and all the laws that affect them, while preventing the restoration of the old regime of exploitation by private capitalists, imperialist corporations, and Creole land owners and oligarchs – as occurred everywhere that “state socialism” was attempted.

In the specific case of Cuba, as we have reiterated, such restoration would lead to neocolonial dependency, which would be nothing less than our real or virtual annexation to the northern giant, which wants us as an unconditional ally and yet despises us.

The advocates of state capitalism don’t know that they’re working for annexation in the long run.

Our positions are reflected in our programs, proposals and actions. Whether people are unfamiliar with them or have class limitations for understanding them is another matter; workers who are exploited under wage-labor statism will understand this quickly and well. This is why some bureaucrat said to be careful with these ideas of “autogestion” or self-management because they’re like cocaine, addictive.

Many of us have already had our anti capitalism and our anti-imperialism put to the test in direct confrontation against their forces in the countries and cities of imperialism itself. This is unlike some of those “pro-state capitalist ‘anti-capitalists,’” dedicated to defending it, without rhyme or reason, from their positions within the state, with the people’s resources, enjoying all types of media perks and privileges – with all of this having been done in the name of “socialism and the working class.”

“Socialism” learned by rote

Indeed, as Professor Jorge Luis Acanda has pointed out, the “prostitution of language” has led quite a few journalists, intellectuals, politicians, activists and “leaders” to employ the terms of political economy without the slightest attachment to their content as historically recognized by socialists.

A downtown Havana street.

They call something “socialism” that has never been socialist; they consider something to have been a “social revolution” when it was only a political revolution; they consider “the enemy” to be anyone who doesn’t think like them; they confuse “social revolution” with the government, a party and the state.

All of this confusion — introduced into the language of the social sciences by the neo-Stalinists — is in part what has led such “anti-capitalists” to be supporters of state capitalism and defend it to the hilt, with their eyes closed and fangs bared, like bloodthirsty zombies, without the least consideration, without knowing or investigating the essences of the positions they call “contaminated,” with no idea of who they’re accusing.

Clearly… the problem is that they never linked capitalism with wages. When they studied capitalism in college (if they studied capitalism), nobody told them that capitalism is a social relation of production linked to wage-labor exploitation. And if they ever had Capital in their hands, it was for reading excerpts under the guidance of their teacher.

For these “anti-capitalists,” capitalism is evil and exploitative, because that’s what they’ve heard ever since when that were kids. They never knew why. They simply believe that “capitalism is evil because it’s evil; therefore anyone who looks like they’re defending something that has to do with capitalism is my enemy.” From this, they end up viewing almost all of humanity living under capitalist regimes as being the enemy.

Knee-jerk tendencies

Because of that same ignorance, a guard at the Presidio Modelo Prison in the era of the Batista dictatorship allowed the prisoners to read Capital, thinking it was a work in support of capitalism. Extremes meet.

Such “anti-capitalists” don’t differentiate between democratic, authoritarian or fascist capitalists. To these people, all of them are enemies just the same.

It was because of this that the alliance between the socialists and the democrats was rejected and that the policies of the Comintern under Stalin helped Hitler come to power in Germany. It was because of an underestimation of the strength of the democrats and maintaining his alliance with the neo-Stalinist conservative-hounds of state capitalism in the USSR that Gorbachev ended up being the victim of a coup by his “comrades” on the Politburo.

Those who delve into history only to know what happened, without recognizing the lessons of the past for the present, can contribute much to the knowledge of the past, but little to the development of the present and the future.

Luxury living in Miramar, Havana.

We have “anti-capitalists” who are so “anti-capitalist” that they reject everything that comes from capitalism (except for its sophisticated products, which they consume and enjoy to the utmost, thanks to the perks provided by state capitalism). But for them, the human values that led to the triumph of capitalism over feudalism “have no validity under socialism.” They see capitalism— and socialism as well — as having landed on the earth in alien spacecraft (complete with ETs), and having nothing to do with what previously existed.

They don’t know, never knew, never wanted to know, nor was it of any interest to the neo-Stalinists, whether productive forces and production relations of socialism and its values had been developing within the capitalist core.

Struggling to maintain special privilege

How long will this infantile disorder of the left continue? How long will these senseless insults go on, these accusations of collusion with the imperialist enemy? How long are some of these people going to keep on disrespecting differences, even “pro-capitalist” positions, though they don’t share them?

How long are they going to continue considering the term “democracy” exclusively as the political system of the bourgeoisie? How long are they going to consider human rights and democratic values achieved by the humanist struggles over the ages to be bourgeois?

Could it be that the bureaucracy that controls state capitalism and its means of production and distribution is well served by this prostitution of language in that it allows them to continue trying to confuse the workers with their “socialism” that never was? Do they really want socialism to be an economic and political model that is rejected by the workers and people in general?

Everyone makes their own judgments. It’s true that there’s much confusion and ignorance, but what’s apparent in some of these “anti-capitalist” extremists is the most vulgar opportunism.
To contact Pedro Campos, write: [email protected]

10 thoughts on “‘Anti-Capitalism’ That Falls Short

  • Lawrence asked,

    “What are you afraid of from a country of 11 million people? As if we didn’t know – the loss of privilege and power over your fellow human beings ”

    I am not afraid of Cuba. I simply believe the Cuban people have a right to decide their own destiny. The Castro regime has denied them this right. It’s as simple as that.

    Perhaps you fear democratic elections because you know the Cuban people will reject the Communists and choose freedom.

  • The difference between Cuba’s system and your system is yours is based on one group of people having power over another. Your system can’t survive without it. There’s hope for Cuba. There’s none for yours unless it gives up the basic inequality of power.

    Workable non-capitalist systems were the norm throughout the world until Europeans poisoned the environment with colonialism, imperialism and capitalism. Don’t take my word for it. Read history.

    I don’t have to “imagine some form of non-authoritarian socialism”. Humans have lived for most of their existence in social groups that were non-authoritarian and reflected the two basic principles of socialism – having an equality of resources and working cooperatively.

    Capitalism has never relented in its opposition to economic equality – for obvious reasons. It’s too late to know what Stalinism or Maoism would have been like without having to contend with capitalist hostility. It’s not too late to know in Cuba.

    What are you afraid of from a country of 11 million people? As if we didn’t know – the loss of privilege and power over your fellow human beings – the only real power that exists in the world, coveted by those addicted to it.

  • Lawrence wrote:

    “Class systems give one group of people power over another. Once it starts, there’s no stopping it.”

    Oh, you mean like in Cuba, where the same small clique has ruled the island for 53 years?

    If you ever come across a workable non-capitalist system that does not have all the problems of Communism, you be sure to let us know. You might imagine some form of non-authoritarian socialism is the path, but that too will lead to the same evils as Stalinism, Maoism or Castroism, and once it starts, there’s no stopping it.

  • Quite a snit fit ‘Hank’. What ticked you off, Pedro’s intelligence? Yeah, that always angers those who can’t understand him.

    That remark about how “Cuba was a paradise before Castro” – some folks certainly thought so, people like Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky. I don’t suppose you, no, your couldn’t be that old. Must be talking to the wrong people though.

  • Oh, come on now, Hank. Tell us how you really feel. Don’t hold back.

    Excuse me . . . Did you say that Cuba was “a paradise” before Castro? Well, then, gee . . . I wonder why there was a revolution!

  • There is no meaningful debate ‘raging’ “between Reeps and Dems in the US”. There is only sound bite posturing, bought at enormous expense. How can there be a debate when both sides represent the same class – the one that pays for their election campaign? Get real.

    You claim to see one side of a socialist debate ‘debasing’ the other? Debasing it what is taking place in the US presidential campaign – defined as attempting to lower the moral character of someone – attack ads, negative campaigning, ‘dirty politics’, ‘dirty tricks’, all quite common is US campaigns. It’s part of the system.

    I don’t see any of this in what Pedro wrote.

    You state that Pedro claims “that capitalists ‘wants us as an unconditional ally and yet despises us.’

    Pedro was actually writing about the neo-colonialism that can be expected if Cuban state capitalism continues. The neo-colonialism would lead to Cuba’s “real or virtual annexation to the northern giant, which wants us as an unconditional ally and yet despises us.” That’s what neo-colonialism represents.

    Your parallel with France as “hardly an unconditional ally but an ally just the same” is bogus as the US has never imposed an economic blockade on France – the despising part – and it is powerful enough to fight off being an ‘unconditional ally’ – remember its resistance to the Iraq war? – something Cuba would be unable to do.

  • Pedro,

    Quite a fire and brimstone essay! I agree, ideas certainly get mangled along with the words used to describe them.

    American politicians perennially embrace ‘democracy’ without the slightest idea of what it means, and with no hope in hell of achieving it.

    Just so long as folks vote and have a ‘choice’ – no matter how few vote under a system designed to disenfranchise those at the bottom with ‘voter ID’ requirements whilst preferencing those at the top who fund/buy candidates, choosing between two candidates who offer little difference between them.

    I must admit, I’ve become a non-card carrying anti-capitalist. I used to think capitalism could be ‘regulated’, with weaknesses dealt with utilising Keynesian economic principles. After all, wasn’t capitalism responsible for the “sophisticated products” you write about?

    But I’m older and wiser after seeing what the imbalance of power that capitalism represents can do in very short period of time, in my lifetime – able to easily disassemble Keynesian practices, bust the power of unions, remove regulations designed to protect us – environmentally and economically, allow wealth and power to grow uncontrollably by eliminating graduated systems of taxation, remove our social safety nets, trash the planet in the name of providing us with those ‘sophisticated products’, take over control of all mass media and make a perpetual state of war the norm.

    I now feel capitalism can never be trusted. Once bitten, twice shy. I’m now a devoted anti-capitalist. But I agree with you, the Cuban government, or its apologists, cannot pretend that state capitalism is any different. All of the dangers I just listed are possible.

    Your write about “the human values that led to the triumph of capitalism over feudalism”. That was a long time ago. Feudalism is long gone. What looked good then looks like something that needed updating quite a while ago. The marvel of capitalism is that it has managed to prop itself up for so long.

    Capitalist supporters now seems to have gone rigid – arrogantly refusing to answer for its sins or makes changes to prevent them from recurring – flagrantly playing power politics, wedge style, that divides citizens into hate groups. It’s hard to see how the props can last for long.

    I’ve finally come to understand the basic flaw in capitalism that makes it unredeemable. It is based on a class system. Class systems give one group of people power over another. Once it starts, there’s no stopping it.

    I first read it in Marx when I was young but didn’t understand its full significance. I’m older now, and wiser, at least when it comes to capitalism.

    That’s why I’m an avowed non-card carrying anti-capitalist.

  • The USA want’s to “annex” Cuba? What the USA has been forced to do is annex Cuba’s population, who cannot live under that sick, totalitarian regime, that is run by two old 80 years plus dictators. Your silly, little diatribe cannot change the fact that Cuba was a paradise before Castro. Funny how Castro makes deals with multi-nationals from France and Spain. What is that, Capitalist light or Socialist “light? No matter who “vanguard” and 1930’s ‘progressive’ you try to be, the is socialism is a failure! Grow up or shut up. You poison minds with your infantile economics and you pathetic understanding of what it takes to succeed. Intellectual sloth would be putting it midely. Apologist for tyranny and failure is more accurate.

  • Well, Pedro, you have uncorked and a lot has come gushing out.

    A major problem with post-capitalism being where the state owns all the instruments of production–a principle originated by Engels and Marx, and followed by Marxists for over a century-and-a-half–is that such a state is then the owner of everything in sight, and must employ all productive members of the workforce for wages and salaries.

    No other way under such a state , in practice, has been found to motivate people to get up in the morning and go to work, day after day, week after week. People need a frequent paycheck, in order to pay the bills.

    And so, the all-owning and all-employing state appears to be like one giant, exploiting corporation. It is complete with an army of bureaucrats and bureau workers for planning and administration. It is complete with a state coercive apparatus that suppresses criticism and different programmatic proposals.

    This however is merely the Marxian version of socialism. Pedro Campos works very hard to convince us that all this is according to the greed and insanity of Stalin, not the stipulations of Engels and Marx.

    He also insists this “creature of Stalin” ought to be called “state capitalism,” completely ignoring the question of state power.

    What Pedro has yet to accept is that only a cooperative, state co-ownership republic–where private property rights have been re-established, permitting real cooperatives and development of a small bourgeoisie–can transform the state monopoly system in Cuba into a workable form of post-capitalism.

    He often appears to be right on the verge. He has all pieces but still can’t put them together.

  • As the debate rages between Reeps and Dems in the US over the strategy to reinvigorate the economy, it does not surprise me that within Socialists ranks there are differences as well. What does surprise me is the extent to which each side of your debate will go to debase the other side. I take issue with your claim that capitaists ¨wants us as an unconditional ally and yet despises us.¨ On both points you are incorrect. France is hardly an unconditional ally but an ally just the same. The US does not despise Cuba. We despise the Castro regime. There is a difference.

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