Cuba’s Battle of Ideas

Fernando Ravsberg

Alfredo Guevara - photo: cubadebate.cu

HAVANA TIMES, July 1 – “I will never ever recommend prudence to anyone; I recommend that they fight – that they express themselves, that they struggle, that they accept to run the risks. Because this time the risks will be of a different nature, and they will be a revolutionary contribution within the Revolution.”

This was what was said to Cuban youth by Alfredo Guevara, a very high-level Cuban intellectual who is a founder of the Cuban Film Institute, and a holder of the Order of the Legion of Honor of France and of UNESCO’s Federico Fellini Gold Medal.

During his university years he fought against the Batista dictatorship, having experienced the Colombian “Bogotazo” in 1948 along with Fidel Castro, it was he who gave the first books on Marxism to the future Cuban leader.  Since 1959 he has promoted some of the important ethical and aesthetic debates in Cuba.

A month ago he spoke with journalism students at a conference that was transcribed on the Internet.  This was an extremely interesting discussion that I am pointing out now after having confirmed that these were his actual words.

Guevara recognized that Cuba is experiencing “a crisis that is of a political and moral character (…) with the most terrible thing being its vacuity.  The most terrible thing is to go walking down the street and not know if the people you pass by are the living dead or real people.”

He added, “The things we experience in daily life are too hard, too bitter; they sometimes hurt us so much in our lives and in the lives of our families that it’s logical that certain features of insensitivity are developed, aspects of desperation and ones of rejection.”

He did not bite his tongue when affirming: “For many years the State has been the refuge of all the —I don’t mean to describe it so harshly; I’ll say it, but note that I’m saying it with love— it has been the refuge of all the vagrants and of all the people who aren’t good for much of anything.”

He also questioned the current activity of the committees of the Communist Party.  “We get together to sit around and look at each other, telling ourselves whatever, such and such was oriented from above and that didn’t make it up, and later we leave to go home acting like we’ve solved everything.”

The aging Guevara accepts the fact that his contemporaries don’t understand the digital age, however he denies the existence of generational conflict.  As he noted, “It’s a terrible conflict that the youth face, including youths such as me.  It is the conflict that exists between resistance to change, routine, restlessness and the time that’s passing by.”

He proposed that the students change the direction of the country without abandoning socialism.  “As the State and as the revolutionary vanguard —if that’s what we continue to be— we have to choose another path, one road or another, but it will take some time, ”

He affirmed that, “Those whose turn it is are ready to take the step,” but he held that the solutions should be found among everyone.  He proposed “the creation of think tanks; that’s to say, groups for reflection and analysis, and for the design of potentials.  In this way taking advantage of the talent that we’ve created and that wander around here, sometimes serving meals in the cafeterias.”

However, Guevara seems to discard the thought of any dialogue with dissidents and émigrés: “What I cannot accept is the counterrevolution, because to allow an active counterrevolutionary force is to accept suicide,” he told the students.

He accepts the application of a Chinese economic model but qualified this by saying as long as it does not sacrifice generations of Cubans: “We have already sacrificed ourselves enough, and I’m not referring to us who are older, but of all those who are coming behind us – you.”

Guevarra told the journalism students that the Cuban press “is very poor, it’s not convincing” and he asked “where are the new examples in our journalism; I don’t know how much work it will take the professors here to quote a contemporary paradigm in our journalism.”

He recognized that not everything is the journalists’ fault, because for a new form of journalism to emerge “all the idiots have to disappear, all the imbeciles and all the ignoramuses that hold positions today.  It’s necessary to struggle for that.”

Nonetheless, his vision of this profession also seems highly politicized when he asserts that “only from activism —which is what I call passion and passionate partiality— can one, in my opinion, do true journalism.”

The statements of Alfredo Guevara, Silvio Rodriguez, Esteban Morales, Pedro Campos and many other intellectuals exhibit a fundamental political and psychological shift: for the first time in a half century, revolutionary Cubans are openly expressing their criticism without feeling that by doing so they are “collaborating with the enemy.”

The debate is coming out of the Revolution’s “own channels” and the disappearance of the sacrosanct unanimity has not caused chaos nor broken the country’s unity.  To the contrary, if it continues to widen, it could mark the first steps toward a true “battles of ideas” over the future of the nation.

An authorized translation by Havana Times (from the Spanish original) published by BBC Mundo.


29 thoughts on “Cuba’s Battle of Ideas

  • July 9, 2010 at 4:35 am
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    Well said, Michael.

    May I say in agreement that yes, both private monopoly capitalism and state monopoly socialism do waste human potential . . . Oh, so much waste! Only a socialist cooperative republic, in Cuba, the U.S. and each country can change that. Cheers.

    And a tip of the hat to all the contributors of the symposium. This is the type of dialogue we need in abundance.

  • July 9, 2010 at 2:40 am
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    Reading Ravsberg’s interview with Alfredo Guevara and your–Julio’s, Grady’s, Luis’s, Alberto’s, Greg’s, Sam’s–responses to it, is like being a fly on the wall at one of the symposia amongst Socrates and his friends. More than mere responses, it seems like this article was a catalyst which has provoked your own ideas. Like the Socratic dialogues, you all seem to be engaged in articulating and defining “What Is To Be Done” or, more precisely, what NEEDS to be done. Somehow, I feel there are truths in what each one of you is saying, but that you are all feeling your way, as through a glass, darkly, towards better solutions to the problems of living, and working, in society. I feel myself privileged to listen in on this discussion.
    I am optimistic that Cubans, both within Cuba and within the diasphora, will come up with solutions which transcend the mistakes of the past. Likewise, I hope that we here in the U.S. will come up with equally creative solutions. We are far from arriving at the New Jerusalem–and perhaps never will– but I can’t help but feeling that both “capitalism” and state “socialism” waste tremendous human potential. Like the characters in Chekov’s plays, let us hope that some day our ancestors will look back on our efforts with some sympathy.

  • July 7, 2010 at 4:28 am
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    Julio: You’re correct about the legal system in capitalist countries being able to act against the monopolization of markets. This helps mitigate the process, but that process–which apparently is a natural and powerful part of entrepreneurial competition–is so much a part of capitalism that it cannot be completely held back. The destruction of smaller enterprise by larger is a constant, and today’s world system is recognized by all economic and social science as “monopoly capitalism.”

    Yes, Julio, I agree that the system in Cuba is a form of monopoly. This monopolization comes from the theoretical projection in 1848 by the capitalist Engels & his well-to-do cohort that the future socialist state should and would “concentrate all the instruments of production” in its hands.

    This “all” formula automatically wipes out the historically evolved institutions of private property rights and the free trading market. That is, if the state now owns everything productive in sight, no individual citizen or corporation can own anything, and the trading market–which relies on a pluralistic and variegated number of suppliers and competitors–is automatically destroyed.

    With the naturally evolved mechanisms of social production thus put out of commission by the bourgeois duo’s theoretical formula, the only way to make social production limp along is through bureau planning and control of industry and commerce.

    Ironically, the working class–in whose name all of this was purportedly to take place–is now employed through wages and salaries by one big, monopolistic corporation–the state. This corporation, like all modern corporations, is run by bureaucrats who rake all the gravy of social production to themselves.

    This looks like an advanced but crippled form of monopoly capitalism–coupled with one-party social and political absolutism, especially with military hostility from abroad (the embargo)–but there is a theoretical problem with calling this unworkable mess “monopoly capitalism.”

    The problem is that the political state that leads this monopolized economic monstrosity is sincerely trying to construct a society without exploitation and all the degradations that are a natural and inevitable part of capitalism. Given that state power is the critical question of whether a country is capitalist or socialist, it appears that Cuba is still not capitalist.

    But she cannot be called a workable socialist country either, because this unnatural, rotting system cannot build a truly socialist society and cannot lead in the future to a classless and stateless society. And so we see Cuba as “state monopoly socialism.”

    The good news, from our point of view, is that Cuba is still a crippled form of socialism. The bad news, from our point of view, is that Fidel, Raul and the Old Guard still in power are totally infected with the sickness of believing that Marx was a god. Believing this, and not seeing that he was an agent provocateur, they apparent will keep on beating the dead horse of Marxian economic until the Cuban Revolution is destroyed.

    This unfortunate outcome is practically assured because brilliant opposition leaders still do not understand that the system is “state monopoly socialist per the Marxian formula.” They rant and rave that it violates what Marx intended; that it is monopoly capitalism; that it is Stalinism and non-Marxian; that what is needed by the workers is more control at the workplace. Being the victims of a secular, quasi-religious faith, they–like the historical leaders–probably will continue their impotent bellyaching until it is too late.

    Thanks, Julio. If it were not for the putrid example of monopoly socialism you experienced in Cuba, you probably would be a modern cooperative socialist. Best wishes.

  • July 6, 2010 at 8:35 pm
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    Luis if you are referring to this fragment I wrote

    “I think we all agree that monopolistic capitalism is really a bad thing for everyone so in capitalist countries it is not allow for any enterprise to totally monopolize any market if they do so then the government has the right to intervene for the greater good.”

    I mean by that We, You, Grady and Me
    I know you do not like capitalism so it was safe to assume you will not like the worst kind of capitalism the one that should always be avoided Monopolistic Capitalism.

    Grady I believe also agrees with me that the economical system in Cuba is not socialism
    It looks more like Monopolistic Capitalism.
    That is something I am also in agreement, I am not sure if you agree with us also on that.
    So what do you say?

  • July 6, 2010 at 8:03 pm
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    Hey Grady, I’m pleased you got the ‘magic markets’ thing straight. About the ranting, of course I wasn’t referring to yours… they are far from ‘primate’ 😉

    And Julio, I cannot reply to you unless you specify which persona – the “we Cubans” or the “we (The US)” one – is on beforehand. I’ll be making a fool of myself otherwise.

  • July 6, 2010 at 5:10 am
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    Julio: Thanks for the long reply. I see your points and can appreciate them.

    What I can say at this point is that the control of the working people and society’s wealth by a bureaucratic elite under Marxian state monopoly socialism is a great misfortune. But this unworkable, stupid system was injected into the fledgling socialist movement by the direct agents of capitalism: Engels and Marx.

    The disgusting part of it all is that intelligent, sincere socialist activists, people with real patriotic motivation and noble hearts, have bought into this nonsense. The rest is history.

    We are trying against great odds to define and formulate authentic, workable socialism. Sincere socialists who reject the state monopoly socialist model, still cannot seem to let go of their religious-like adulation of and faith in Karl Marx. Like all personality cults it is a sickness that is almost impossible to cure. Perhaps the only hope is with those who have not yet been indoctrinated into the blind Marxian conga line.

    The way we see it is that our Cooperative Republic Movement will either lead to the creation of a world network of modern cooperative socialist republics, and end the monopolist systems of both left and right, or civilization will be destroyed within a few decades.

    Best of luck to us all. We will need it.

  • July 6, 2010 at 1:49 am
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    Grady do not get me wrong I am not hostile to any kind of system as long as people are not force into them. Just the same as in this country people that like to practice the type of ideas you talk about can do it but I do not agree that everyone should submit to those ideas. Because I can tell you they will be many that will be oppose.
    Why then should they be force into something they do not believe?
    Can we all live together and practice the ideas we like best?
    Those that like socialism go for it, those that like cooperative socialism do so too
    I am happy with my capitalism and the freedom I have to really speak my mind.

    I should clear something. I do not like a system like the Cuban regime because I have seen everything with my own eyes and I have suffered the experience. The level of injustice over there is so big that is hard to describe! You will need to read a lot to get some idea of what the average cuban has to endure.
    I am very sorry for those at the bottom, they are so exploited by those that promise so much and deliver so little.

    Those of the elite and their children are living the life of really super rich people while they ask for more sacrifices from this people that barely have anything to eat each day. It is very sad that they are so selfish. I would not have any issue with that if those others that are not in power would have the same opportunities but that is not the case. They control Cuba as it was their own personal farm.

    I have tried to forget about Cuba but for some reason I can not. I know they are many over there that would love to have the same opportunities I had and I wish that by me doing this they will be able to get them some day.

    One other thing Grady
    I am not under the influence of any Cuban land lord 🙂
    Where I live the only Cubans near me that I know is my own family 🙂
    My only influence is my wife that have asked me to stop writing on these sites but as I said I do it also maybe for myself for the time when I was young and could not do it. Now that I have freedom I have to.

    Sorry for my rants I do feel that other people in the world need to know and get all the information they can about Cuba so that they do not repeat the same mistakes we Cubans did.

  • July 5, 2010 at 3:48 pm
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    Also with regards to slavery. They have to command people to be more productive and to produce more etc etc. Their top down system where the elite commands those at the bottom.

    Here(US) as you know people work because they want to or because they need to but not because they are commanded to do so.
    In Cuba people need to be commanded to produce more!
    Do you see the subtile difference?

    In this country the politicians are there because we put them there and they answer to us while in Cuba the elite thinks the working class is there to do whatever they like. Do you see the difference in aptitude?

  • July 5, 2010 at 3:40 pm
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    Grady

    This statement

    “We believe in the thing the monopolists fear most: socialist consciousness by the great mass of the people.”

    smells to me to what Cuba has now. There is no such thing as socialist consciousness in a mass of people. You do get what you get. You just can not be counting on people been this way or this other.
    You will get in this mass people willing to commit murder, people willing to steal to commit rape and any crime imaginable. You will also get those that are willing to work and study and help others. There is little we can do to control what people will become. Human relations are too complex a little understood. So to talk about consciousness is a total fiction. Unless laws are put in place that does not allow monopoly it will happen. Humans are inherently greedy that is why capitalism is so successful.

    That also is the reason why we have to place breaks on monopoly because if someone’s greed make them the sole proprietor of a company that produces all the food then they will have each of us at their mercy!

    I know you have agree with some of what I have express but I am writing also for others reading here and I suggest you do too.

    Now with regards to slavery. I have explained that the Cuban system is a modern day slavery.
    For example Cubans that like to exit the country will have to ask for permission to do so.
    If they were free then no permission should be required.

    People who come from Cuba to visit us here are charge 150 dollars a month, so they are in fact renting us their slaves. Doctors and other workers are sent to countries in exchange for money the majority of that money is kept by the regime.
    The money they earn is not even sufficient to buy the food they eat.
    So given all of that it is very safe to assume we are in the presence of some sort of slavery. I called it Modern day Slavery. Of course they will never call it that. But it is Slavery translated to modernity.

  • July 5, 2010 at 7:44 am
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    Julio: One small but important point. You have characterized Marxian regimes as a form of “slavery.” This is technically incorrect.

    “Slavery” is when the bodies of the workers are legally owned.

    “Serfdom” on the other hand is where the worker is controlled by ownership of productive property. In feudal times this was accomplished by ownership of the agricultural land, coupled with the peasants being legally bound to particular pieces of aristocratically- or royally-owned land.

    Under both monopoly capitalist and state monopoly socialist regimes the instruments of production are owned and/or controlled by individuals and corporations, and the workers are forced to work through this alien ownership. This control, in which the produce of the workers’ labor is appropriated by others, is not slavery because the body of the workers are not legally owned.

    Even so, the form of servitude under both Marxian and capitalist regimes is a form of bondage and servitude: wage and salary serfdom.

  • July 5, 2010 at 7:24 am
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    Julio: When you rant to me against the state monopoly socialist that exists in all Marxian failed experiments, you are wasting your breath. I already agree with much of what you say. But you are criticizing in favor of capitalism, and you seem to imply that capitalism is the wave of the future for Cuba and every other country.

    Let me tell you a secret. Capitalism, like Marxian state monopoly socialism, has been tested in the laboratory of real life and has failed miserably. It is about to destroy the environment and civilization. If you were not under the suffocating influence of those right-wing Cuban landlords and other parasites, I think you might understand this and begin to say something truly constructive.

    Yes, much of what you say is valid. Your fundamental hostility to socialism–authentic, cooperative socialism–is not.

  • July 5, 2010 at 7:17 am
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    Luis: To your first excellent question, reproducing “the Mondragon-style cooperatives organization on a larger economic scale” is a progressive pursuit, but this in and of itself, no matter how successful or widespread, can never achieve a socialist cooperative republic. The old cooperators’ idea of a purely economic road to a new society was wrong in the 1800s, and it is wrong today.

    Socialism–authentic, workable socialism–cannot be achieved without the assumption of state power by a sincere cooperative socialist leadership political party. This party must take power–hopefully through democratic mechanisms and non-violently–and implement a solid plan of transformation. But even if state power is achieved by another route, for example via a coup or by a civil war being forced on the radicalize people, the important thing is that state power is achieved.

    The key element in all this is the majority of the people being won over to this plan and this political party. Even sizable sections of the old state must be won over (army, navy, police, intelligence services, state bureaucracy, etc.). We believe in the thing the monopolists fear most: socialist consciousness by the great mass of the people.

    Re the “to prevent” part of your question, the socialist state should have legal corporate standards to discourage any sort of monopolistic abuse. But if an enterprise is grossly incompetent or lazy or for any other reason cannot be run in a proper way, then it should face the possibility of going belly up.

    Re the “invisible magic of the market” statement, I was referring in general to the unplanned mechanisms that help discipline and self-regulate economic activity. To assume that this is some sort of Libertarian re-hash is a cheap shot and is worthless for this discussion.

    Modern cooperative socialism believes that both private property rights and the trading market can be used by a truly science-guided political leadership for the construction of a socialist society. The socialist trading market would not be however the capitalist trading market. There would be a fundamental difference, in that now the instruments of production–through Mondragon-type cooperative corporations and plenty of smaller, individually owned enterprise–would be owned and democratically controlled by those who do the work and try to satisfy the people’s market needs.

    If you do not want any anti-socialist/communist rants, that is fine. I am surely not a communist, although I do believe that the route to a future classless society–if such a society is ever to be achieved–is through direct employee ownership of the means of production. It certainly is not through the Marxian state monopoly socialism that you may still believer has some political future left to it.

    Thanks for your comments.

  • July 5, 2010 at 5:16 am
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    Luis
    The answer will be to do the same we do in capitalism. I think we all agree that monopolistic capitalism is really a bad thing for everyone so in capitalist countries it is not allow for any enterprise to totally monopolize any market if they do so then the government has the right to intervene for the greater good.

    The reason why we all suffer with monopolistic capitalism is because when an organization controls a market then innovation goes down until there is practically none and this makes the company stagnant. The company could also fix prices since they have no competition and we could be paying a lot more than if it was a competitive market.

    Now what I just describe as problems with Monopolistic capitalism is exactly the problems that Cuba face. It is monopolistic capitalism! Price fixing and stagnation!

  • July 5, 2010 at 4:18 am
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    Grady, should we reproduce the Mondragon-style cooperatives organization on a larger economic scale, what mechanisms you think can be implemented to prevent one or more cooperatives to accumulate enough capital and grow powerful enough to overrun smaller cooperatives, thus reproducing the ‘bank-controlled monopoly system’ you criticize so much?

    The ‘invisible magic of markets’ ideology is even older and even more antiquate than classical, orthodox Marxism. To tell the truth, the ‘free market’ thing has never been as such – even during the ‘Belle Époque’ the more-than-visible hand of the State was there, on behalf of the burgueoise’s interests.

    ps: don’t bother with primate anti-socialist/communist rants.

  • July 5, 2010 at 2:14 am
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    Grady I will not lump you with the closed minded communist that still do not see the regime for what it is.

    Modern day Slavery.

    I will tell you something about the ideas you so much try to advance.
    You yourself have pointed that the Mondragon project is underway in Spain and that there is some bakery in California with similar ideas in mind.
    It should be pretty obvious to you that the freedom to do such projects is provided by Capitalist governments!
    Now try and do something similar in an Stalinist regime like Cuba’s, Those of the elite will not allow it because if they lose economical control over the people they rule then they do not have control to coerce them into submission!
    So yes I myself believe that all this projects should be experimented with but nobody should force any other into something they do not believe in. That is why Cuba is a failure because we Cubans know that communism can never be successful as an economy. It is not natural.
    Now I do not think I or you should impose our views on the communist and socialist and on the same token they should not try to impose their views on those that do not want to be communist. Why can they not let the Cubans in cuba that will like to go towards capitalism do just that? Anyways that’s just wishful thinking.
    Funny thing is that they do not mind to have a capitalist foreigner in Cuba owning Hotels and other things!

    As you guys can see they are full of contradictions!

  • July 5, 2010 at 12:47 am
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    Greg: Your parecon scheme is a formula that ignores what has been proven by historical experience: pay not based on production does not work.

    You take a moralistic stand against markets. This is the stand taken traditionally by non-working class individuals who are dabbling in socialist ideas.

    But markets are not the problem with a society, whether that society is bank-dominated monopoly capitalist or bureaucracy-dominated state monopoly socialist. The problem is that those who do the productive work of society do not have direct ownership of the instruments of production.

    When the employees own the workplace cooperatively–where private property legal rights are in force–markets will function and do their invisible magic without exploitation or anarchy. The Mondragon cooperative corporations are the mechanism for workable socialism, so long as a socialist-led republic has displaced the old capitalist regime.

  • July 4, 2010 at 11:58 pm
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    Julio, I apologize for the “back yard” remark. It was uncalled for and maybe even juvenile.

    Please don’t lump me in with the Marxists and communists, just because I’m a socialist and hope to end the monopoly capitalist empire at some point in the foreseeable future. Modern cooperative socialism is completely the opposite of communism and the state monopoly socialism of countries like the Soviet Union and Cuba.

    Our Cooperative Republic Movement believes, along with many traditional bourgeois thinkers, that private property rights are necessary in society to counter-balance the raw power of the state and keep it from becoming tyrannical. We go one important step further however and say that the private property must be in the hands of workers, farmers and the small entrepreneurial families. Otherwise we have the militaristic, bank-controlled monopoly system that has brought civilization to the present unsavory state.

    To Sam: I don’t “oversimplify the message of Marx.” I point out over and over that he and Engels injected the idea of state monopoly socialism into the transformational movement, and that this simple, core formula for a socialist economy has proven unworkable and self-destructive.

    What amazes me is that you and other Marxists say you embrace “scientific socialism,” but cannot at the same time use the scientific method to analyze our present reality.

  • July 4, 2010 at 5:24 am
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    Greg, I am sorry to be pessimistic but what make you think that after 51 years of absolute authoritarian rule the elite will willingly give up command to the people whom they have never consulted for any of the big decisions?

    Example When Fidel Castro declared that Cuba was going to be a socialist state, he never asked the people what they wanted Cuba to be. He decided and dictated from above what was to be done.
    It’s 51 years of that kind of behavior I am very reluctant to believe they are about to change.

    Luis, Silvio is a little too known for them to react harshly towards him. But other less known artist like Jorge Luis Ferrer were treated exactly the way you describe in your post. Believe it if they can get away with it they will punish harshly any cuban that talks back at them.

    Those few Cubans that dare rise their voice against the injustices committed by them are punished in one way or another. The phenomenon happening now seems to be a good sign that multiple cubans are loosing the fear and are starting to be critical some with very timid comments others with stronger comments the critical thoughts go all the range. But what is very clear is that people a great majority is in disagreement with many things the regime does. From political prisoners to the permits necessary to travel in and out of Cuba.
    Those are the mechanism the regime still use to control the mouth of many Cubans inside and outside of Cuba.
    I could post many example of Cubans that reside outside of Cuba and that the regime punish on purpose for speaking their mind against the regime.

    The same goes for Cubans inside Cuba. The biggest example I could place is the case of Yoani Sanchez, who has been denied exit permit to receive prices etc.

    I wish I could be optimistic with regards to the regime but experience tells me otherwise. The elite is too afraid of giving power back to the people and I can tell you why. Because they will loose the Mafiosi control they have exerted over Cubans. They will not have anything to used to have leverage over Cubans even worst they could just simply be boot out of power if people really can elect others that can keep promises!

    As I explained before that is not good for them since loosing power for them will mean that Justice may come knocking at their doors.

    So you see, it is not really in their best interest to give up power, to give up control to establish a democracy they will have to be willing to give up all the power and that is something that they want to keep until they die.
    If you read one of Fidel Castro’s reflexions you will find the famous phrase of “the honey of power” when they eliminated those two accusing them of been tempted by the enemy and so on. Who really knows what actually happen to those two and why they were eliminated for the elite.

  • July 3, 2010 at 8:41 pm
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    OK, if they’re serious about maintaining socialism and I really hope most of Cuba is, then participatory planning via councils or workers and consumers is going to be key. The whole of society sets it’s priorities through participatory discussion and input, and then worker councils say what they need and how or if they expect to be able to meet the priorities as set by the overall society. This does away with most of central planning as we know it. And by following the full methodology of participatory economics we also escape the “anarchy” of markets. While it leaves markets behind, parecon allows us to maintain just incentives that are based on effort and sacrifice as relative to the capacity of a worker or production unit (if a production unit doesn’t have the best tools it doesn’t get paid less than the one that have higher productivity because it has more tools, or a sugar cane cutter of 5′ 6″ doesn’t get paid less because he can’t cut as much as the man who’s 6’5″ – the smaller man gets paid relative to how hard he’s working as relative to his ability). In this way we bring up the productivity of all of society, not just enabling the most capable to be the primary producers who we rely on.
    Balanced rotation of roles is the next prong and is so that everyone does a balance of conceptual and menial work in their sector, which totally prevents corruption, and creates incredible efficiency as instead of a coordinator class just delegating all the shitty work to the underlings, everyone knows they’ll have to deal with it first hand at some point in the rotation. Efficiency, so it becomes in everyones’ interest to innovate for automation or prevent from accumulating much of the more repetitive and menial work. There is still specialization but there is a balance or tasks especially between conceptual and manual. Cuba has already experienced some of this in sugar cane cutting. In fact Cuba has experienced much of the mechanisms of parecon, but not all at once, and especially not through participatory planning councils that aren’t overridden by party committees and central planners.
    The main challenge of the revolution has been getting meaningful buy in from the lowly workers. You can’t ask for real, meaningful participation from the workers, while not giving them real and meaningful self-governance and say in the conditions which affect them. If you want the most from your workers, allow them a real voice and to directly determine their own production processes. Then you’ll get innovation, then you’ll get meaningful productivity. Workers and consumer have to know that at least the majority of their decisions (about their own internal production processes) won’t be over ridden by the whim of an extra-constitutional body.
    A security apparatus must be allowed to govern many of the decisions. This can be done naturally through strict encryption processes on the input computer networks and especially at the Facilitation Board , which essentially is a repository and agregator of data as submitted by consumer and worker councils. In the face of the U.S. this may well not be enough of a security layer, especially on some economic issues, mostly the deigning of total wealth in the Cuban economy. Determining level of wealth and thus the amount of units of remuneration available to be distributed amongst workers relative to their effort and sacrifice will be one such majorly sensitive security issue as it was when Che Guevara so stealthily and swiftly fought off the U.S. counterfeiting-debasing operations.
    Such security councils, might be appointed via a reference based system, where everyone who has the most references as an honorable communist should be able to run for election to the security council with a staggered rotation of personnel so that it doesn’t become entrenched and corrupted but so that there is also continuity of security initiatives.
    Anyways, lots to discuss. I would like to spend more time in Habana just so I can help facilitate such discussions. Although I don’t want to be involved with anyone who is prone to thinking about the solution through any kind of market or state-capitalist ‘framework’.

  • July 3, 2010 at 1:10 am
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    Grady-i dont get why you oversimplify the message of Marx so much. It seems like Marx is more of a strawman for you, no offense, for Statist economic thinkers, which oversimplifies his actual philosophy.

    Anyways, I agree with the overall article.

  • July 3, 2010 at 12:43 am
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    Grady I just went to my back yard and shake myself and this is what I have to say 🙂

    I did not say capitalism was perfect. I said that because we have the freedom we can change it it to something better. Something we can never do in a socialist country because they are not participatory democracies.

    I have to see the day when the Castro regime will allow people protesting for example the pollution in Havana city from the refinery Nico Lopez.
    As for Nuclear weapons, both sides had them. Nobody is a saint.
    The (Soviets) Russians are as guilty of ecological disaster also let me remind you of Chernobyl
    As for economical collapse? Get real Grady. The Soviet Union imploded because they could not sustained themselves economically. That is why they do not exist anymore.
    Yes capitalism is not perfect just as any human creation is full of mistakes but there are mechanisms in place that allow to fix the system.
    That is something an Stalinist leftist regime like Cuba lacks and what is worst their leadership do not seem to get the message. They are going the way of the Dodo.

    Survival of the fittest. Why did you guys think communism disappear from eastern Europe? It could not support itself. The same we know about Cuba’s regime. Is simple economics. The system is unable to support itself.
    Why do you guys keep persisting into the idea that communism is better?
    It was tried not in just one country but many and it failed in all of them.
    The Chinese and Vietnamese got really smart and decided to turn their economy back to capitalism they realized the socialist economy was and is a failure.

  • July 3, 2010 at 12:28 am
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    Alberto
    I am not shutting down any ideas. In my opinion as I expressed before there should be a lot more diversity in Cuba’s politics. For once there should be and end to the one party rule!
    It is necessary if Cuba is to advance that they allow all Cubans to contribute to Cuban society and that is impossible as long as they restrict the generation of solutions to the “revolutionaries”

    After all what makes one a revolutionary?

    Is it the one that finds the best solutions to the problems that Cuba face

    or

    is it the one that provides unconditional support to the ruling elite?

    I am afraid the answer is those that are unconditional to the elite are the “revolutionaries”!

  • July 3, 2010 at 12:03 am
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    Uh, Julio, the capitalist countries and banks you apparently admire have brought us ecological catastrophe, massive un-payable debt, intense world poverty, the possibility of nuclear war and imminent economic collapse on a worldwide scale. Are you in some sort of dream world where you chose to see some things but not others that are a hundred times more monstrous and deadly to humanity?

    As they say in the countryside, you need to go into the back yard and shake yourself.

    The answer to Cuba’s problems is not a continuation of bureaucratic socialism or the reintroduction of outright capitalism. You should use your brilliance and critical eye constructively. Come back to planet Earth.

  • July 2, 2010 at 11:21 pm
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    People,

    While your critique is overall valid, I think many of you are banalizing Stalinism – were Cuban regime as such, mr. Esteban wouldn’t be booted from the party and working in his an appeal right now, he’d just be shot in the back neck. And the great Silvio Rodriguez wouldn’t get a cartoon (the horror, the horror!) published on Granma, he’d just be banished from performing.

    To Grady: nobody who relies on Fox News-quality cliches as arguments can be ‘well-intentioned’.

    To Alberto: I couldn’t agree more.

  • July 2, 2010 at 8:45 pm
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    A while back I was very critical of the Cuban regime for exactly their unanimous positions on everything. We that have lived in other countries where there is freedom know that is impossible to have such unanimous votes.
    Not only is it fake but also very harmful for the country since only one person’s opinion (The maximum leader) are taken into account instead of the best solution to problems. All humans are fallible including those that happen to be in high places.
    By allowing others opinions and not punishing this people it is a sign of relaxing the strict rule of the Stalinist left is allowing for some others to give input. Still this is not sufficient,
    What about the right? What about those people in Cuba that like to go back to capitalism? Why should they be ignored? Their opinions are as important as any of this other people.
    I know as soon as Silvio was just a tiny bit critical they immediately place a caricature of him on Granma
    See reproduction here

    http://zoevaldes.net/2010/03/31/granma-publica-caricatura-critica-contra-silvio-rodriguez/

    The caption says
    Yes …I used to sing for the poor on Earth
    and the following caption says
    That was before I made a lot of money with social songs!

    Many commented that was a clear warning to Silvio Rodriguez to shut his mouth up and stop been critical.
    Now you see that Esteban Morales has been excommunicated from the party!
    Who do you guys think is pulling those strings?
    Do this things happen on their own executed by some overzealous individuals that are trying to keep the pure Stalinist regime or is it directed all the way from above?
    One thing for sure, Those above on the leadership have not come to the defense of Silvio Rodriquez or to the defense of Esteban Morales. This fact alone seems to indicate that at least they are complacent with this facts. They do not seem to tolerate easily deviations from their orthodox party line.

  • July 2, 2010 at 8:29 pm
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    To Alberto: I think Julio is throwing well-intentioned rocks at the “stagnation” of the revolutionary process. In doing so he seems to have mistakenly assumed that capitalism is some sort of alternative to the bureaucratic mess that is sinking the Revolution. We own him a hearing however and perhaps even a debt of gratitude, because the rocks he throws are apparently from a sincere heart, and he throws them in ethical language.

    He also makes erroneous statements like, to paraphrase, that Cuba should “go back” to democracy, freedom & respect for human rights. If he means to the Batista regime and U.S. colonial domination, he is of course making a serious and absurd mistake.

    The bottom line for Cuba is the bottom line for the U.S. and every country. Socialist transformationaries must proceed according the scientific methodology. We may have our differences with regard to the nature of Engels & Marx, and of Marxism itself, but if we go at reality through the scientific method, we are more certain to find solutions to our transformational problems.

    The Marxist hypothesis for a socialist economy was full state ownership of the land and all the instruments of production. Cuba has tested this hypothesis and found that, while it may work for a time, serious social, economic and political problems emerge that seem intractable.

    If we are trying to be scientific, let us advance new hypotheses for the further experiment in socialist construction. The hypothesis our movement in the U.S. has advanced may be applicable in Cuba, as well, with regard to Revolution-saving reform.

    We have looked at the uniform failures of the Soviet model. We have looked at the Chinese method of escaping from the economic constipation of the Soviet model. We have looked at the successes of direct worker ownership of the instruments of production in Mondragon, Spain.

    We’ve concluded that the cooperative corporation on the Mondragon model, if coupled with state power in the hands of a sincere leading party, plus only “partial” ownership of the instruments of production, is a viable new hypothesis for the socialist movement.

    Our Cooperative Republic movement can only offer the ideas and program of modern cooperative socialism to revolutionaries like you, and hope they assist you in your deliberations.

    Sincere best wishes to you and all the heroic comrades of Cuba.

  • July 2, 2010 at 5:40 pm
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    As a supporter of what Esteban Morales have done and said and after reading the analysis of the Cuban situation by Alfredo Guevara, I fully agree with him also, I would caution Mr Yncera, to understand that we are dealing with a process, not a bakery or shoe factory.

    Slow as the changes are coming, overacting and being constantly on guard to fight every position, rather than helping, will lead to exactly what Mr Yncera and others fear.

    I encourage readers and writers of this site, to use this opportunity to present constructive critique, suggestions, ideas that may help our country come out of its stagnation, instead of unwittingly, shooting down ideas coming from the right, left, top or bottom.

    One thing guide my thinking and I hope, will guide the thinking of others and that is, the wellbeing of the Cuban people, wherever they are.

  • July 2, 2010 at 3:13 am
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    Ok let me get this straight what is the message they are trying to send now?
    That the are allowing some wiggle room within the revolution?
    So why did they get Esteban Morales out of the party why did they publish caricatures of Silvio
    Are they allowing dissent withing the party or are they all going to be called to close ranks and make the conga line they all have been tuning for 50 years?
    Is this a new strategic shift from Raul to make look as some openness is happening or is this people tired of dancing the same steps for 50 years?
    I think it may be a bit of both!
    Raul may not have the cloud to impose his will and each of this people is pulling in a direction this something new to Cuban politics. They are of course all pulling on the left side but if a lot softer left than what the central command hard line left is.
    So what does this means?

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