Cuba Party Conference, a Last Chance

By Pedro Campos, photos: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, Nov 30 — Great specters are haunting the world: freedom, democracy, social justice and ecology.

Various peoples in the Middle East are toppling corrupt, despotic, feudal governments. Papandreou resigned in Greece. Berlusconi resigned in Italy. The “indignant movement” is making Spain shudder and is calling for changes in the political-economic system. In Portugal, military personnel are protesting cuts in their salaries.

The euro is facing a difficult test and control over banking is being questioned everywhere. Unemployed individuals, students and workers in the US are occupying Wall Street. Students in Colombia have virtually taken over Bogota, while in Chile they’re in the streets.

In Bolivia, thousands of indigenous peoples marched on the capital and succeeded in blocking projects that would have affected the Pacha Mama. Nuclear energy development projects in Iran are terrorizing Israel (the great US ally in the Middle East that poses the threat of war and is a latent danger to all humankind).

Meanwhile imperialism, in its eagerness to take advantage of everything that occurs on the planet, is committing atrocities like those in Libya.

The world is convulsed, and Cuba is in a complicated economic and political situation.

We have reiterated: The political revolution of 1959 changed the forces and figures in government and nationalized all property, but it failed to socialize it. Nor did it change the wage-labor organization that typifies capitalism.

From private capitalism we proceeded on to state monopoly capitalism and, corresponding to that economic basis, what was established was a centralized political order. That revolution, which has remained stagnant and didn’t advance the social revolution, never made the democratizing and socializing changes necessary in the form of producing and coexistence.

The libertarian, democratic and socialist deficits of the statist model and its inherent widespread corruption are largely recognized within the party/government itself, but the solutions being proposed don’t address the systemic causes.

Neither the process of the socialization and democratization of economic and political power nor even the timid reforms of the “updating” can clearly advance given the host of bureaucratic and monopolistic obstacles. The president has publicly complained, but these impediments remain and are even expanding.

Some people cannot or they refuse to see the discontent and the pressing need for fundamental changes in the economic system and in the form of government.

Given these national and international circumstances, if there is no clear evolution towards a more participatory and democratic form of socialism, the Cuban people will clearly open themselves up to the prospect of a new political revolution.

The possibility of us in Cuba having another political revolution doesn’t depend on someone’s wishes but on the development of several factors, including accidental ones. Among the more predictable and important ones would be: the disposition of those holding power to develop and carry out socializing and democratic changes that the circumstances demand; the manner in which the changes to be implemented impact the thinking of the workers and the people, and their capacity to articulate a new social consensus and their own assessment of their real possibilities. There could be other factors.

Millions and millions of rubles in Soviet aid sustained the statist-parasitic model, but what is currently received from Venezuela is insufficient, and it’s not very clear if this can even be maintained in the near future. They must either end the parasitism, which cannot now be at the expense of the people, or the country will fall into the abyss.

Attempting to steer clear of collapse, the new government of Raul Castro has begun a slow movement of changes that the party/government refers to as “updating” the model.

However “updating” doesn’t change the basis of the scheme. The basic wage-labor organization for the state remains; it concentrates, centralizes and monopolizes the output of production; and economic and political decisions that concern everyone are held within the purview of the central state bureaucracy.

The updating serves only to add new tax sources for the state, increase economic control over self-employed workers, create more banking regulation over the people’s money, introduce measures that tend to limit the state’s role as the distributor of welfare benefits, reduce jobs and implement cuts in social security. All of this has caused outrage everywhere.

The government is emphasizing its role as the controller and the collector of finances and resources while trying to extricate itself from its social commitments.

It is left with the worst features of “state socialism” and is adding the worst ones of neoliberal capitalism.

This cannot lead to anything good.

The situation is not like some of our critics affirm (that we are attacking the government’s new reform measures); rather, the problem is that the bulk of the measures are inconsistent with socialism, even with its stated aims.

We will not stand by and let the imperialist enemy or the opposition be the ones to point this out and take advantage of it. We must raise revolutionary criticism of that direction so as to change it. Raul is asking for people’s opinions, and we give them where and when we can. But we’re attacked for trying to help find a way out of this situation when voicing our sincere, committed and well-considered opinions.

The steps announced to offset the gradual move away from the paternalistic role of the state (decentralization, the autonomy of business enterprises, the relaxation of restrictions on self-employment, moves towards cooperativism, and the elimination of many absurd rules) are being carried one drip at a time and from a state-centric vision.

Meanwhile, while what remains in place are the host of limitations, taxes and monopolistic regulations that are hampering the application and unfolding of the reforms.

As for the dual currency, which sponges up people’s savings and remittances, this devalues ??the labor of Cuban workers while serving to prop up the bureaucracy by maintaining its privileges and its more or less authorized corruption (though no one wants to talk about any of this). As far as any one knows, there’s no specific plan to eliminate this situation.

The consistent implementation of the philosophy of “de-statization” enunciated with the “updating,” which in practice is proving to be the contrary, would break the current stalemate created by the stagnant neo-Stalinist bureaucracy.

However the priority given to the development of government and private capital — over the free association of producers, the economic and social essence of the organization of production under socialism — tends to tilt the model in the direction of a mixed government/private form of capitalism.

The economic part of the “updating,” specified in the guidelines of the Sixth Congress, were just completed in their political side with the “draft document” of the First Conference of the PCC (set for January), which in essence subjects the government to “Leninist” party principles – meaning Stalin’s biased, dogmatic and totalitarian interpretation of Lenin’s overview of the socialist revolution. This is expressed in his collection of articles “Problems of Leninism,” that tried to generalize the entire world revolutionary movement.

Consequently, the “updating” seems to be a local version of the Chinese model: a capitalist economy with government participation in important areas, gradual domination by national and foreign private capital, and absolute political control by the “communist” party.

State capitalism plus private capitalism equals capitalism. But if we add foreign capital, like in the case of Cuba, and like bureaucrats hope, along with the anxiously desired lifting of the blockade, then what we will soon see is private capital coming in from the US, which could be a reality in a second Obama administration.

We would then have an equation equaling a real or virtual form of annexation if this “model” (?) finds a way to remain afloat two more years — as it’s hoped by some — and if there are no other determining national and/or international events.

Should the system meet with the “embrace of death,” the extreme right would have to thank the economists who designed the “updating” and the politicians who approved and encouraged it.

If Cuba wants to remain an independent country, economically and politically, it will have to be socialist in the Marxist sense, not figuratively. I’ll never forget that phrase from my friend and comrade Celia Hart: “Cuba is either socialist or it’s not.”

Therefore all those who proclaim their intention as the building of socialism in Cuba, and to then maintain a free, independent and democratic country, should know that they have two short years before we voluntarily put ourselves in the imperial eagle’s beak, so that engulfs us, attracted by golf courses, marinas, the Mariel “Special Zone,” oil offered to the highest bidder, other investment opportunities and the policies of advantages and giveaways by the bureaucracy, who some time ago lost all of their revolutionary shame.

The Chinese model

But given our history, it doesn’t seem possible that such madness would lead the Cuban variant toward the Chinese model. There are many differences between China and Cuba.

These dissimilarities have been explained in other articles and by other comrades, but it’s useful to jog our memory about a few: We don’t have the same culture or identity of China, nor its people or its territory or its natural resources.

We aren’t on the other side of the world but right next door to the center of world imperialism, where this giant has historically aspired to annex our little island, despite our having plenty of ties. Also the Cuban nationality is one and very strong, while the Chinese consists of a number of nationalities, dialects and ethnic groups, and are thus easier to divide.

The rejection of imperialism by Cubans, especially US imperialism, makes it very difficult here to reintroduce US capital on a large scale; although their products yes.

The histories of China and Cuba as nations are very different, as are the pasts of private capitalism in each country. One very important aspect: When China started going down the capitalist road in the late 70s, the recent socialist experiences didn’t exist, which is something we can learn from if we understand it in its dialectic complexity and if we can find ways to successfully move away from this mistaken statist road.

The biggest difference that one can appreciate is that of the particular development of capitalism in Cuba as being historically linked to slavery. Owing to this and the past half century of our labor, social and political experience, within many Cubans inside and outside the country there has been generated a strong sentiment against exploitation, submission, domination and working for others.

We Cubans prefer to work for ourselves and our families, which makes us self-managerial in principle, a quality that is not so well rooted in the Chinese quasi-feudal social consciousness.

This is why — despite the insufficiency and limited nature of the “updating” — most Cubans have welcomed the measures since these are related to greater openness for self-employment. We are anxiously looking forward to a law on cooperatives and we advocate real economic decentralization and greater direct involvement of workers in the decision-making and profits of companies.

However, numbers of state monopoly restrictions are hindering the development of truly decentralization and socializing economic measures, which — together with the continuing bureaucratic political system — are preventing subsequent progress towards the necessary socialization and democratization of economic and political power, the essence of a socialist social revolution.

Suffice it to say that self-employment is limited to a set of activities that exclude most professions in the country and is constrained by the current tax law as well as other state monopoly laws on domestic and foreign markets and the absence of a credit policy. The absence of a law on cooperatives in industry and services, speaks for itself.

Nor is there a law guaranteeing private ownership by small producers or cooperative ownership, in case of any excesses of the state apparatus, nor have they completed the handing of effective local power to the municipalities, especially over the local economies.

If we cannot impose a democratizing and socializing evolutionary force on the existing structures, the means and systems of production, distribution and consumption, or affect the participation of workers and people in the decisions and budgets that directly affect them, the political crisis of the state-centric model will continue to worsen.

This will reach a point where it will open the doors to political revolution. Depending on the forces that are capitalized, this will point to either private capitalism — who knows how barbarous — or true socialization.

After beginning this revolution, if those from below decide not to continue supporting those above because the elite is unable to do what is wanted by those below, it won’t matter what the current party/government puts in place as repressive forces to prevent this. These same forces will side with the people, because here a Tiananmen-like attempt to crush popular protest is unthinkable, given the nature of our military and because everyone knows that imperialism would not miss this opportunity to end everything – though we can never discount the actions of a few nuts.

Carrying out another political revolution in Cuba today would bring with it another danger (apart from imperialist trap): The popular rejection of “socialism” (which we never had) could swing the political pendulum to the other extreme. All of us know this. This is why the enemies of socialism are content with the failure augured by the limited and constrained “updating” that contributes so little to socialism.

To avoid running such risks, evolution is preferable.

For years now, many of us Cuban revolutionaries and communists have been trying to push for the evolution of “state socialism” towards a more participatory and democratic socialism, both from within and outside the government/party.

What has happened with this evolution, which is what we want, as does Silvio. We reject violence. We already carried out a political revolution, that of 1959, and which has cost much blood, sweat and tears to maintain. We have tried to deepen it, to democratize the political power that is owed to the people and to socialize the means of production concentrated state.

We must not let the revolution be snatched from us a few stubborn blind men, ones led astray by their vices, egos and desires for wealth generated by power. The revolution belongs to all Cubans, not anyone in particular, and not for them to destroy it.

The political revolution triumphed in 1959, but the unconcluded social revolution must be carried out, moving from state monopoly capitalism to socialism, participatory and democratic socialism, so that another political revolution isn’t needed.

This transition could occur if the powers were capable of abandoning their prejudices and dogmas, their outdated mentality and their attachment to power. It could occur if they decided to share power with the people and workers and advance the democratizing and socializing phase of the revolutionary process.

If the people have no other choice but a political revolution, don’t blame the rioters, the disgruntled, the disenfranchised, the revolutionaries or those who decide to change the government by any means necessary. The only culprits are those in the government/party who have obstructed socialist development by imposing their counterrevolutionary resistance.

As Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa aptly put it, we live not in an epoch of change, but in a change of epochs. Today anti-capitalist and democratizing winds are blowing, strongly, and from all directions, and Cuba is at the crossroads for the world.

Soon Cuban revolutionaries could face the dilemma of undertaking a new political revolution, because the retarding forces have made it impossible for the evolution of stagnant bureaucratic control. The upcoming January party conference could be the last opportunity.

To contact Pedro Campos write: [email protected]

11 thoughts on “Cuba Party Conference, a Last Chance

  • Thank you, Marce Cameron, for your Dec. 4 comments. With regard to the silly ultra-Leftists, you are absolutely correct.

  • Well, I’ll let Cort speak for the dead if he wants to. I prefer to let them rest in peace. Who knows what Che would say today? I have no idea and neither, presumably, does Cort.

    I’m not ignoring what’s taking place in Cuba. What is happening is that Raul Castro is leading the struggle against bureacratism in Cuba today, a struggle that has many fronts. One is the opening to self-employment, small businesses and cooperatives. Another is the decentralising dynamic of reforms so far (such as in agriculture) and others foreshadowed in the Guidelines, devolving responsibility from the centre to the state enterprises and municipalities. Another is the anti-corruption drive led by the comptroller general’s office. Another is the lifting of counter-productive prohibitions that stimulate the black market and corruption, and by far the most dangerous administrators are the ones involved in large-scale corruption. Yet another is Raul’s insistence on the need for more public criticism and debate in the media.

    These are the facts. Now, what does Cort have to say about all this? He implies that Raul Castro and the rest of the PCC leadership are not “real socialists”. The “real socialists”, according to Cort, are the ones who sound the most radical, those who criticise every measure as inadequate, those who are, in a word, more leftist than thou.

  • And its much easier for some like Marce to ignore whats taking place and blame the victims of a corrupt bureaucracy on the road to the restoration of full blow capitalism.

    I am sure comrade Che, Celia Hart and the other real socialists who have passed in Cuba are turning over in their graves at what is going on.


  • It’s easy to write shrill, alarmist commentaries about “last chance” this and “last chance” that. For some, it appears to be a form of cathartic release. It’s much harder to be in Raul Castro’s position. He has to deal with reality.

  • There is one principle held in common by the early Utopian socialists, all the Marxists, all the Trotskyists, and John Goodrich, et al. It is to keep direct ownership of the instruments of production out of the hands of those who actually do the work of society. All these types demonized the historically evolved institution of private property rights, and of its necessary corollary, the trading market.

    All the mole ideologies that call themselves socialist do this one thing. Productive property must be “state” property, or “social” property, but never individual or cooperative worker property. This reflects the privileged class orientation of these ideologies. Workers can never own their own enterprises and run them themselves, it is believed, because in the eyes of privilege class intellectuals, workers are lower human beings who cannot be trusted to run production, or own the produce of their own labor.

    Marce Cameron makes a good comment about the new reforms. Let’s be positive and hope for the best.

  • “The political revolution triumphed in 1959, but the unconcluded social revolution must be carried out, moving from state monopoly capitalism to socialism, participatory and democratic socialism, so that another political revolution isn’t needed.”

    Thank you Pedro for one of the best analyses I’ve read on the state of the revolution in Cuba .
    The excerpted sentence above says what needs to be said and done and the reforms must come at a far faster pace unless and until any change becomes a publicly acknowledged danger. The key being a democratically designed and supported reform program that begins from the bottom up and not in the bureaucratic top down fashion that is half-heartedly supported by the masses and which, in and by itself, illustrates so well the need for democratic reform.

  • Everybody should chill out, especially Comrade Pedro Campos. He says there are no bank loans for the self-employed. That was announced in Granma last week and will come into effect this month. Everything can’t be changed overnight when the changes are big and complex. The socialist renovation process has to proceed step by step.

    Marce Cameron

  • Comrade Pedro Campos expounds, once again, his idea that the Cuban mode of production is “state monopoly capitalism.” This is a profound theoretical error. Cuba is “state monopoly socialist.”

    The mode of production to which he refers is, in truth, socialism “in the Marxist sense,” but Pedro cannot bring himself to consider such a thing. To him, Marx was an infallible source of wisdom and knowledge, and to think that what he sees in Cuba could possibly come from Marx is impossible.

    Even though I’ve pointed out to him many times that the formula for what he now calls “state monopoly capitalism” is found in the Communist Manifesto, and reconfirmed a quarter-century later in Marx’s preface to the new German edition to the Manifesto, Pedro still maintains that Joseph Stalin seized power and forced this dysfunctional principle onto the socialist movement.

    Even though the formula of the state coming into ownership of all the instruments of production has been, since 1848, the core basis of Marxian socialist economics, Pedro simply cannot and will not face the truth.

    If Pedro Campos, one on the best theoretical minds of Cuba, cannot and will not face the truth, there is little hope for rectification of the Cuban mode of production, or of the socialist Cuban state.

    If Pedro and other sincere socialists should ever realize that Marx was an agent provocateur who smuggled the Utopian error of the immediate abolition of private property into the working class socialist movement, through the absurd idea of the state owning everything productive, Cuba might have a fighting chance to save its socialist revolution. Please, Pedro . . . Wake up.

  • ‘Nuclear energy development projects in Iran are terrorizing Israel (the great US ally in the Middle East that poses the threat of war and is a latent danger to all humankind).’
    Not sure what the place of this is in an otherwise fine article. Nuclear energy, with its uranium mining, is an unsustainable energy and remains a threat to humankind not just for radiation and the never resolved question of nuclear waste storage, but also as it eats up financial resources.
    However, it is time someone here speaks up for Israel’s right to exist. In 1948 the UN established the State of Israel and the State of Palestine. It was and still is the only possible solution. Israel had to be established as a lesson from the Holocaust but also as a homeland for Middle Eastern Jews, for example from Iraq which had semi-fascist governments allied to Nazi Germany. The State of Palestine was denied the Palestinian people by Arab leaders who wanted to annex the whole of Palestine. If they cared about the Palestinians, why did they not establish the Palestinian state before 1967? Also, what do you believe will happen should Israel be wiped off the map? Nobody will any longer give a toss about Palestine and the Palestinians. They will simply be forgotten. No matter how criminal the Netanyahu government, and how long it may take, but without the State of Israel there will never be a State of Palestine, not the other way around. (See again Arab history prior to 1967).

  • Cuba has been through what critics usually define as “A Last Chance” or “Final Hour” many times since 1959. The Revolution was not to last beyond Christmas of 1959. Economic Embargo, Operation Mongoose, Bay of Pigs, Missile Crisis, Reagan War, the Collapse of the Soviet Block, and the World Economic Crisis. All the while, Cuba has managed to address homelessness, illiteracy, health care, educated their population to higher levels, developed an impressive biotechnological industry, world class athletes, artists, musicians, ballerinas, cinematographers, and more under very adverse conditions lead by the US.
    We currently have economic crisis not only in many socialist countries but in capitalist economies as well and it is the largest, most populous communist country who is now bankrolling most capitalist economies. It must be time to rethink the new world order, forget the cold war, and stop looking for capitalism as the answer.

  • a fine article. almost reads like a manifesto.

Comments are closed.