Chavez’s illness and Cuba’s Future

Pedro Campos

Hugo Chavez on Friday Feb. 24th before leaving for Cuba. Photo: Venezuelan government.

HAVANA TIMES, Feb 27 — The second surgery on President Chavez in Havana was announced, and we ardently wish his speedy recovery.

However, if for some reason this operation implies the possibility of him not being able to run for reelection in October, the government of Cuba could find itself without crucial financial support from Venezuela, because whether the “United Socialist Party of Venezuela” (PSUV) is to win or lose, this support would be uncertain without Chavez as president.

For a long time the Cuban government-party has been trying to diversify its income sources and investments. But resources received from Brazil, Russia and China combined would not fill the gap that would be left without Venezuela’s support.

Collaboration with the United States around matters such as drug trafficking, terrorism, migration and human trafficking has helped to loosen a few buttresses of the blockade, but the basic structure remains intact. Meanwhile, the Escarabeo 9 oil rig has just begun its drilling off the coast of the island.

The Scarabeo 9 oil rig. Photo:

In the government’s “updating” of the Cuban economic model in search of increased productivity and income to benefit itself as a rentier state (valid solely for the US as the issuer of the currency used for international exchange), it opted for a divorce from its own working class.

This was shown when it decided to eliminate 1.5 million jobs and to form an alliance with domestic and foreign capitalists rather than share control of state enterprises with workers and to move forward in a process of co-management or self-management.

This would not have involved large central budget revenues, but it would have promoted production, generated direct benefits for the population, increased the material responsibility of workers and strengthened their political commitment to the revolutionary process.

That was our proposal to the democratic call of Raul to the Fourth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) in 1991. His response was to distance himself from us. We provided another plan, argued in much more detail in 2006, which was sent directly to Fidel and Raul, but it was ultimately sidestepped, rejected or ignored.

We did the same in 2007 with “15 Practical Proposals to Revitalize Socialism in Cuba.” We again expressed our ideas in the 2008 presentation of the document “Cuba Needs a Participatory and Democratic Socialism: Programmatic Proposals.” And in 2011 we presented “Proposals for the Advancement of Socialism in Cuba” (here in Spanish) to the Sixth Congress of the PCC – always without receiving a reply and with quiet repression.

We didn’t do this for recognition or for some degree from the university. Those on top know full well why we acted: we did it to help workers and the socialist transition, to attempt to advance the revolution, to begin opening the path for the socialization and democratization of economic and political power— currently mired in statism — and to avoid disaster.

Neither national nor the foreign capitalists have been able to assist the government to perform its “updating” with the speed and efficiency it needs. Its policies of international isolation have continued, which makes it exceedingly difficult in the modern world to support a government of the neo-Stalinist model, one that insists on full control.

Photo: Caridad

The measures taken to stimulate agriculture and industry — continually burdened by the original sin of centralized statism — have failed to save the country from shortages. This has meant that the government has had to continue investing hundreds of millions of dollars in food that could be produced here. In addition, the annihilation of the sugar industry left Cuba without its traditional trade commodity.

In the meantime, the two key drivers of a possible socialist economy — auto/co-management and cooperatives — continue to remain off the table.

Without the support of Venezuela, the traditional state-centric political and social economic model — which the government-party only wants to “update,” not change fundamentally — could suffer its most serious setback since the collapse of the USSR and the “socialist” camp.

Cuba could re-experience the worst moments of the Special Period crisis: blackouts, drastic reductions in public transportation, the paralyzation of industrial plants that managed to stay in operation or start up with the help of Venezuela, instability in the delivery of the few subsidized food items still supplied by the state and distributed through the ration book, a drastic decline in the quality of tourist and other services – all due to a lack of oil.

The existing discontent could generalize and street protests could become massive. Repression and the use of rapid response units and riot control forces would only aggravate the situation, while threats made to alternative ideas would become increasingly counterproductive.

Photo: Caridad

If they create a climate of hostility and widespread repression, it could spell the end of the revolutionary process and the full opening of the road to the restoration of the old regime. Then too, the possibility of direct intervention by the United States would be present.

The only ones responsible would then be those who resisted granting real participation in power to the people and workers, as those in leadership positions preferred repression over dialogue.

In the face of a potentially approaching crisis, the only way that the government-party can offer a national solution is the true sharing of power with the workers and the people in each workplace in each neighborhood, district and municipality.

It would need to rapidly develop a wide-ranging program for workers participation in the direct control of management, administration and the profits of enterprises, quickly promoting cooperative production and opening all doors to self-employment. This would require a radical change in the executive personnel and in management methods.

Parallel to all of this, there would have to be progress made in the democratization of the current political model, enabling direct democratic elections of all public offices, conducting referenda for the approval of participatory budgets and laws, and allowing full freedom of expression and association to the left for them to politically defeat bureaucratic and pro-capitalist tendencies within and outside of government.

What’s more, this would require workers and the people to be organized into direct democratic forms for exercising power in their neighborhoods, districts and across the nation.

With the creation of workers councils that would manage state enterprises in accordance with the new forms of self-management and co-management, the workers would have the full ability to defend their interests – politically and materially.

In short, this would mean developing an economic, political and social program that was genuinely democratic and socialist.

There were historical lessons taught by the fall of the USSR and the “socialist” camp that must be remembered: When not addressing the interests of the workers, when not sharing real power (economic power) with them, when not allowing workers to cease being wage-laborers or to become freely associated workers (the new revolutionary class), then the power of the bureaucratic class ends up losing the support of its own wage-laborers.

And when that controlling class becomes isolated, the workers will end up cooperating with the opposition forces that seek capitalist restoration for the simple reason that private capitalists pay better than the capitalists of the state and they allow more formal freedoms.

Photo: Caridad

Yet today — tired of being blamed for the current situation for their being “undisciplined” — Cuban workers could accept the offer of sharing power. However, the all-possessing and all-deciding state would have to understand that this would be the true beginning of the end of systemic bureaucracy and corruption.

It would mean the end of the privileges of unlimited terms in office, the elimination of the big military and domestic security budgets, the end of centralized statism. This would all make way for the birth of the democratization and socialization of economic and political power.

It would allow for the unconcluded social revolution of Cuba “with all and for the good of all,” democratic and free, as Marti dreamed.

Without the help of Venezuela, the only way to prevent the restoration of the old regime is to make the economic and political power of workers and the people truly effective – without any subterfuge or deceit.

Still, the government-party has to choose between the people and the workers or the “precipice on which we’re balancing.”

4 thoughts on “Chavez’s illness and Cuba’s Future

  • cuba´s petroleum may or may not be there. if it is there it will be many years before it is pumped and refined. google delhi solar panel policy. it is not necessary to buy solar panels. just rent space and buy the electricity. the chinese solar panel company makes the best solar panels. solar electricity is now the cheapest and i think that cuba´s electricity is generated with venezuelan oil. solar electricity works best with oil fired power stations. not coal. then whoever imports cars should think about electric and plug-in hybrid cars. india, china, america and renault make electric cars. the israeli/renault system of changing batteries with computers and GPS is now in denmark, israel, australia and china. americans are working on an 800 km. battery which could be available in 8 years. keep up to date with coming technologies and you won´t buy the wrong things. this is 1 way not to become too dependent on venezuelan oil just in case mr. chavez´s illness gets worse. politics is unpredictable and who knows who will be president after hugo chavez? i remember reading this in the jerusalem post. i trust anwar sadat but he is not bullet proof. that turned out to be very true. how different history would be if ronald reagan´s would be assassin had used a .44 magnum.

  • The workers of Cuba do not need (1) democracy-at-the-workplace or (2) workers self-management handed to them as a gift from the ruling state and party bureaucracy. They need to be the primary, legal owners of the main instruments of production. From this direct, cooperative, primary ownership they can achieve 1 and 2 automatically, and eliminate the bureaucracy and absolutism that has always arisen, and apparently will always arise from the full state ownership formula for socialism of Marxism.

    Comrade Pedro Campos and all the other Marxian socialists around the world, it seems, simply cannot advance beyond the disproved and discredited idea that the socialist state must concentrate all the instruments of production in its hands. This puts him and the others in the same programmatic camp as the Utopians, who thought that the institution of private productive property rights is the problem. It is not. The problem is that such private property is owned by capitalists under capitalism, and by the state under state monopoly socialism.

    Socialism can be either the state monopoly ownership form, or the modern cooperative, state co-ownership form. The former has been tried over nine decades and found insufficiently dynamic to sustain socialist state power or inspire the world’s peoples. It is high time for Comrade Pedro to come up for air with regard to program and theory, and take a look at a really viable alternative to his state-monopoly-ownership-with-the-gift-of-workplace-democracy-handed-down-to-the-workers.

  • The oil problem might well be solved with the hopefully successful drilling just begun.
    That 20 billion or so barrels of oil could also offset many or most of the negative effects that the U.S embargo has on Cuba’s fragile economy.
    Rather than knuckling under to the embargo and “liberalizing” (read: surrender) that oil wealth could turn Cuba around and make it the shining example we have always hoped it could provide to the world..

    I am in total agreement that even with that marvelous possibility , it would be for nought were worker democracy not implemented and the present top-down, undemocratic government and economic system dumped into history’s trash bin.

    The form used in Cuba and which is becoming ever more corrupted and which is patterned after that of the Stalinist states is what gave socialism the bad name it has among the people of the United States who in the vast majority cannot accurately define true socialism, state socialism, socialism as practiced in Cuba, communism or even democracy for that matter.

    A reformed , democratic and prosperous new Cuba would do wonders for their political and social education.

    Democracy NOW!!!

  • FOOTNOTE: The recently “wikileaked” Stratfor Global Intelligence firm, once described as the “shadow CIA,” forecasts:


    “Cuba’s ultimate international challenge is to balance the liberalization demands of the United States with its need for subsidized Venezuelan oil. A sudden disruption of these shipments is unlikely, but a political shift in Venezuela could force Cuba to reach out to the United States as a much more powerful — but also more politically invasive — economic partner.”

    Let’s hope and work as critical voices to keep it from going in that direction.

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