HAVANA TIMES, June 27 – The political moment is complicated. The economic situation is at its most critical point; social stagnation is chronic; the international campaign to isolate the government is worsening; the opposition is gathering strength, and measures by the state to alleviate some internal tensions are interpreted as weakness in the face of international pressure.
More than ever, cohesion is needed in the revolutionary ranks; otherwise the struggle to make socialism advance will cease within the core of those same ranks.
But this cohesion —not the apparent “unity” that conceals people’s subordination to a single hegemonic mindset— is impossible to achieve based on sectarianism, diminished democracy or the lack of dialogue.
A while ago there was insistence on the need to establish a new consensus on the type of society in which the Cuban people wanted to live. This cannot be imposed; rather, it results from an exchange between all revolutionaries and with all Cubans who are honestly interested in the well-being of the nation.
The mediation of the Catholic Church, facilitated by the government, to alleviate and possibly resolve the situation of prisoners related to political causes, is a positive event in the current difficult circumstances. It can and should serve for the opening of other opportunities to relieve the pressures under which we Cubans live. The enemies of dialogue, exchange and understanding, those who advocate making the contradictions worse, will always oppose these types of movements and will look to torpedo them in order to inflame and worsen tensions.
In this context —though it seems constructive at first glance, but is not upon a second reflection— the letter to the US Congress from the new opposition, requesting approval of an initiative that “would lift the restrictions on Cuba for all US citizens and would facilitate the sale of agricultural products to the island,” is something that has always interested the government.
The European Union has just deferred the reconsideration of its “common position” until September. The foreign minister of the Vatican visited us. Eminent Cubanologists on immigration, along with other prominent scholars, participated in a conference organized by the Catholic Church. Also visiting Cuba last week was the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Cardinal-archbishop of Chicago (the city that politically launched Obama).
A chance for change
This involves a generally favorable situation for the government to display political realism and its intention to affect substantial changes over its traditional intransigence; changes that go beyond making simple and short-lived expressions aimed at relieving international pressure and temporarily appeasing the internal mood. In such a sense, one might expect the carrying out of prisoner releases and other important internal measures, such as the beginning of dialogue needed between the different visions of the road to follow in the advance toward socialism and for the general well-being of all Cubans.
Cuba must change in many aspects, and many modifications will have to be made to improve the political system in order to achieve truly participative and decisive democracy, as is demanded of a society seeking to build the socialist paradigm never before achieved. These are transformations that must be the result of the maturation of the revolutionary process itself and not those made as concessions to external pressures of any type.
Dialogue is taking placed everywhere between opposed groups; between North and South Koreans, between Arabs and Israelis, between left and right wing parties in Europe, between the opposition and governments in all parts of the world. Could it be that revolutionaries here are incapable of even talking between ourselves?
If differences between the factions of the Cuban left are sharper than those that exist between the government and its prisoners accused of being “mercenaries in the service of the historical enemy” —for whom their release is being mediated by the Church— then our socialist future in Cuba is uncertain.
The Cuban people have experienced decades of insecurity and have been subjected to infinite numbers of ambiguities as well as all types of regulations imposed by the various levels of the bureaucracy. These hinder the life of the common citizen, who cannot know what direction the government will pursue, and therefore cannot make medium or long-term plans. Everything depends on changing conjunctures and decisions in which they cannot participate.
Breaking old habits
Gen. Raul Castro began his presidency offering hopes that people expected would be realized. Recently, in a meeting of the National Defense Council, he spoke of a five point political-military plan in which its aims were articulated. Days later, the Minister of the Economy mentioned a five-year plan up to 2015 that had been approved by the Council of Ministers.
The people do not know the particulars, the means or the methods, the resources or the criteria on which those plans are based. Nor have these been approved by a Party congress, nor even —as far as anyone knows— by the legislature.
Such issues do not simply involve consulting the people, their sovereignty resides in their being the ones who make the decisions and exercise real power.
The road to resolving the country’s accumulated material shortages —through whatever way and with a “quick fix”— could lead us into the arms of Uncle Sam, which is where the “democratic transition” of the pro-annexation opposition hopes to direct us.
We need to structure the new consensus that allows us to merge the motive forces of socialism; a consensus around that which excites people with a new plan and advances the socialization and democratization of economic and political power, despite the difficulties and the US blockade.
The problem is not simply producing more, but how to produce. The question is with what methods, with what form of workers participation; with what people in the leadership, the administration and over the distribution of what is produced, and in what investments are made. That is the “the chicken in the chicken and rice soup.” If what is concocted is turkey and rice (neoliberal measures instead of socialists ones) we could end up seeing a few of our needs mitigated, but at the cost of destroying what remains of the Revolution.
The government is now confronted with a serious employment problem. We wouldn’t have had this if the possibility had been opened for creating all types of cooperatives, for freeing up all types of self-employed work, and for removing all the absurd regulations that impede relations of social exchange.
Proposals for participative and democratic socialism
The only socialist plan that has been presented in Cuba so far in this century is the set of Programmatic Proposals —presented from within the government and the Communist Party— for a Participative and Democratic Socialism (SPD). It will be described as incomplete, perfectible, debatable and even utopian by those who have never wanted, understood, shared, imagined or attempted to create socialism.
Those of us in support of SPD have our vision, which we don’t seek to impose on anyone. Rather, we aim to disclose it, to debate it and to seek the manner for it to be a part of the solution. However, through their sectarian ways, the State rejects discussion and dissemination of it in the official mass media, the only one. Meanwhile, they insist on defending the failed model of bureaucratic “State socialism,” that the government-party insists on “upgrading” instead of changing. That structure battles against the grain of reality and its own botched outcomes.
Given the consequences of the bureaucratic system of state ownership, wage labor and the centralization of decisions and surplus (inherited from the now failed Stalinist system, and therefore requiring change, not simply up-dating), if such a plan is not adopted then the sole guaranteed advance is toward collapse. The rest of their actions (such as indefinitely postponing the 6th Party Congress, not openly reporting positions to the people, not carrying out discussions within the breast of the revolutionary movement and other movements) can only be interpreted as an effort to “buy time,” waiting for some miracle to revive the “model”…which has been a disaster.
Either the system is socialized and democratized or it will collapse. Many revolutionary Cubans have already expressed ideas in this respect, and they don’t then blame imperialism.
The bureaucracy: uncommitted to change
The bureaucracy, and especially the predominant dogmatic sectarianism in the higher echelons of the leadership of the party and the government, are hampering sincere and committed dialogue within the revolutionary sectors; the same thing that the historical leadership requested, and that could be the master key that opens the way to the promised road of the Marti-based Republic: “With all and for the well being of all.”
At the beginning of the 1960s, when some leaders of the former Communist Party (the Popular Socialist Party) maneuvered to put their activists in key positions and tried to control the organization that sought to integrate the revolutionary currents of that time (the Integrated Revolutionary Organizations, or ORI). Many people criticized the sectarianism and bureaucracy that was shown through that attempt. It is now known that this “communist offensive” to take over the institutions of the Revolution was the cause of serious problems, many that history has yet to deal with.
After removing many old communists from important positions in the “integrated” party, the exclusion of these from leadership positions and security and economy issues began to be seen as something normal. Revolutionaries who were not members of the new Communist Party (PCC) and those people who differed with the policies of its leadership were forced out.
This damaging sectarian practice continues today. The Programmatic Proposals for Participative and Democratic Socialism remain unpublished in a single press outlet in the country. Likewise, sectarian forces representing the power tried to prevent the presence of revolutionary posters of the Critical Observatory in the last May Day march; reprisals against some of those comrades have been carried out in different ways.
Recently, after he published an article warning of the danger posed by State corruption to the Revolution, the noted revolutionary communist and intellectual Dr. Esteban Morales —a black man who is perhaps our most accomplished specialist in US affairs— disappeared from the Mesa Redonda [“The Round Table,” a daily evening news commentary program shown on almost all channels in Cuba]. He had traditionally participated on that program when issues related to the US were dealt with. In that same vein, Party activists have also been fired from their jobs or had their e-mail addresses and accounts withdrawn for spreading ideas about participative socialism. Other acts of harassment to which people have been subjected, I prefer not to disclose here, for many reasons.
If those old communists were sectarian, what about these new ones?
All of this involves an old and well-known issue that Marx approached bluntly in a letter to Federico Bolte on November 23, 1871: “The development of socialist sectarianism and the development of a real labor movement always proceed in an inverse relation. The sects were justified (historically) when the working class had still not matured for an independent historical movement. But as soon as it reaches that maturity, all sects become essentially reactionary.”
In Cuba today, the reactionary nature of the sectarianism in those actions, which create divisions and resentment and hinders the socialist advance, are recognized with complete clarity.
Sectarianism is a form of the corruption of social conscience, a phenomenon that some confine to the economy but that in fact extends to human behavior in general. This is especially true in the political environment, where it manifests itself as spirit of exercising hegemony in an ongoing and absolute form over others. This degenerates into favoritism, nepotism, individualism, and the manipulation of the laws, institutions, regulations and healthy democratic habits in the effort to preserve the absolute power of one or a few.
Respect for diversity in Cuba has been expanded in the recognition of genders, considering aspects of the culture and religions of homosexuals; but it would be deceptive to assert that this has led to the recognition of political diversity in current day Cuban society or a special-differentiated treatment of the race issue.
The Programmatic Proposals for Participative and Democratic Socialism, presented to people of Cuba and to all revolutionary Cubans with a view to the 6th Congress of the Communist Party, have evidently been met with the disapproval of some in the government leadership and the Party, as well as those outside and within Cuba who are in favor of capitalist restoration. Some are trying to prevent its understanding on the part of the people and the workers, while others are attempting to sabotage it in various other ways.
Both are identified by and boast of their attempts to find a way to discredit these, because the proposals offer all that is good that could be offered by both the opposition and the government: freedom, democracy, diversity, respect for all human rights and the rights to education, health and guaranteed social security. On the other hand, it rejects all the bad that weigh down both: wage-labor exploitation, social distinction, privilege, consumerism, environmental degradation, centralism without democracy and the suffocation of individual and collective freedoms.
One of the representatives of statist and bureaucratic sectarianism stated that it was necessary to block the propagation of these ideas because, like cocaine, they were “addictive.”
Only sectarianism can explain the fact that the Programmatic Proposals, which hasn’t a single comma in support of capitalism, has not been published in Granma as part of the debate that is being attempted there. What are they afraid of? If these are utopian notions or impossible dreams, as say some, activists and the people would have already rejected them. These are not the daughters of anyone in particular, but of the historical-concrete situation of the Cuban revolution in this new century. If the signature of their author is so upsetting, they can remove it.
Some want us to abandon the policy of collaboration-criticism with the government-party and adopt confrontation. I won’t describe their aims and worn-out methods, everyone must know their reasons. We won’t lend ourselves to campaigns that can even appear to be outside the Revolution or against it. Everything we do will always be from within, the inner contradiction. In terms of my personal life, with it or based on it, I will die or I will live. Some here might make a mistake; the imperialistic enemy knows this quite well.
To publish the Programmatic Proposals in the national press would be a sincere expression of the willingness of the current leadership to abandon sectarian dogmas, to leave behind their opposition to constructive dialogue between the revolutionary forces. It would be an important contribution to their cohesion, in moments in which the economic and political crisis in which Cuba lives is getting even more complicated.