Intransigence Is Not Revolutionary

Pedro Campos

Havana mural. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, April 10 — Last Sunday, President Raul Castro continued his discourse with flexible language that tried to offer hope for the future – though without offering any substantial concrete changes.

However, life teaches us that if you want different results, you cannot continue repeating the same thing.

“(We must) foster frank discussions and not see having differences as being a problem; on the contrary, these are the sources of the best solutions… We must consciously suppress everything that fuels simulation and opportunism.  (We must) learn how to incorporate different opinions, stimulate unity and strengthen collective leadership…” said the nation’s president at the 9th Congress of the Cuban Young Communist League (UJC).

In this I support him completely.

With that said, what relation do these lines have with the intransigence reflected in other paragraphs of the same speech?

How is it possible to foster frank discussion, eliminate simulation and opportunism, incorporate opinions, stimulate unity and strengthen collective leadership and —at the same time— continue with the old Statist wage-labor economic model?  Such a system is only attempting to upgrade itself, not make substantial change.  It remains intimately connected to the bureaucratic, interventionist, centralized, vertical, sectarian, authoritarian and intransigent political system, which is not even mentioned as an object of transformation?

How can you achieve change when there is no real dialogue, not even among revolutionaries themselves; or when they don’t give space in the country’s only press to the opinions of communists and revolutionaries who promote a socialist perspective different from the failed official outlook; or when they reject other writings dealing with those issues?

Raul Castro during his speech on Sunday.

There’s no doubt about the desires of the historic leadership to prevent the reversal of the Revolution.  However, their obstinacy in continuing with the failed neo-Stalinist model, their resistance to dialogue and their intolerance, all call into question their willingness to make concrete steps in the direction of the socialization and democratization of economic and political power – the sole real possibility for ensuring the historical continuity of the revolutionary process.

It’s not a question of walking more quickly, but of changing paths…of abandoning the capitalist logic of the obtaining of wage-labor derived profits, which are concentrated in the hands of only a few in power who decide on how these profits are used.

Since when is intransigence revolutionary?  Since when has it had anything to do with the Marxist dialectic?  Since when is flexibility incompatible with the will to triumph?  Since when is tolerance synonymous with hesitation? …or negotiating with surrendering? …or conceding with losing?

We need to be as flexible as steel, which bends and doesn’t break; but not rigid like glass, that cracks easily with the slightest touch.

The siege in the Sierra Maestra [in the late 1950s] was not defeated by the intolerance of the rebels, but by their readiness and confidence of victory, by the flexibility of “hit and run” tactics, the constant changing of positions and the support of the urban underground “Llano” wing.

We won at the Bay of Pigs not from intolerance, but due to the capacity to flexibly combine the militia with the police, the air force, the cavalry, artillery and the infantry.  There was not a nuclear war in 1962 thanks to the tolerance of others, not to the intransigence of the Cuban leaders.

Has the Cuban Revolution remained on its feet after the fall of the socialist camp thanks to its intransigence? …or was it thanks to momentous changes in the economy, and in international relationships and in changes to the electoral system itself between 1989 and 1996 (which then began to be disassembled when the support of oil from Chávez was felt)?

Is it necessary to recall what good was so much Statism in eastern Europe, so much “dictatorship of the proletariat,” so much one-party rule, so much authoritarianism, so much anti-democratic extremist communism?  Is it necessary to recall the result of so much uncompromising armed struggle in Latin America?

Is it necessary to recall how much tolerance the Cuban people have had with unsuccessful economic plans over a half century by the same government?  Is it necessary to recall that only the tolerance of many of today’s Cuban communists and socialists prevented a division in the revolutionary camp in the face of such intransigence by the historic leadership?

Peace only can be obtained through peaceful means, just as socialism through socialist means, democracy through democratic means, freedom through emancipatory means, understanding through dialogue, and a new world through new means and methods.

We have experienced much glory; however, today it could be much greater and everlasting, and this world would be very different had all revolutionaries of the 20th century been more tolerant and truly democratic and libertarian – as is consistent with socialism.

If the historic leadership does not want to bury the Cuban revolution itself, than it must abandon its prosaic intransigence, which seems more like suicidal machismo inherited from bellicose ancestors than the scientific and revolutionary politics of [national hero] Jose Marti.

Is it necessary to recall that the valorous, valiant and uncompromising attitude of General Antonio Maceo in the Protest of Baragua had to be changed for a more a flexible position a short time later.  This allowed for entering into terms with the enemy for a retreat that prevented his unnecessary self-sacrifice, as well as those of many other mambises (independence fighters), and the frustration of the revolution itself?

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7 thoughts on “Intransigence Is Not Revolutionary

  • grok, what are you trying to say here? That the vanguard party, the Revolution’s “Guardians” as it were, are correct in NOT trusting the people, and of holding onto its monopoly of political and economic power because, if they DID decentralize power, the people COULD/WOULD be tricked into throwing away socialism and embracing capitalism? It seems to me the very essence of socialism was supposed to be “production for use, not for profit.” However, if not enough is produced for use, then you wind up with the same old economy of scarcity which characterizes the capitalist mode of production. I can’t help but thinking that a new synthesis is called for, one that, on the one hand, decentralizes economic and political power, but on the other hand, like China, continues the Party’s centrol role in setting economic goals and priorities. Krugman not a socialist?! I’m shocked! Still, his heart is in the right place, as is ex-Reagan Asst. Treasury Sec’y John Paul Roberts.

  • Very articulate and well written. I doubt I could write something like this about my own society.

  • Paul Krugman?? Please. The author covers 2 much ground here 2 even begin 2 address it all; but there was plenty he expressed that was quite dubious; & this particular response from 1 of his admirers proves it AFAIC. The ONLY real solution 2 Cuba’s problems would B a socialist 1; & Krugman is manifestly NOT a socialist.

    The Cuban Revolution is caught in a bind largely NOT of its own making, but a bind it must deal with nonetheless & which is not being overcome fast enough, clearly. The question of leadership — true leadership — & the nature of the “vanguard party” is at the center of the problem at this moment, even tho the problem at root is based on the material poverty of the island & thus of the Revolution itself. Obviously, the Party is afraid 2 devolve power 2 the mass of the people when the imperialists are going all out 2 bribe & fool them into throwing away the Revolution & embracing capitalism: a choice so foolish & deluded it has so far justified present praxis.

  • Time and again Pedro Campos seem right on the mark! Why isn’t he in a position of leadership and authority? If he’s not, he should be, for the analysis he articulates and the solutions he offers will drive the Revolution forward. An early Northamerican supporter of the Revolution, C. Wright Mills (“Listen Yankee: The Revolution in Cuba,” c. 1960) once said something to the effect that “When will men of power serve knowledge, rather than men of knowledge merely serving power?” I guess there would have to be a new world for this to happen, (“A New World is Possible!”), probably a utopian vision. For example, up here in the EE.UU. folks like Paul Krugman should be in positions of power, making economic policy. Instead, the economic policy makers Obama appoints are the usual Wall Street insiders who are responsible for the economic crisis. Let us hope the Revolution has the flexibility to choose the best and the brightest to formulate economic policies and exercise…

  • Pedro, u become more brilliant with every article.

    I think the key word or idea here is “flexibility.”

    It seems to me that the key argument here–at least as I take it–is: “Tolerance, flexibility & a willingness to experiment are consistent with revolutionary science; whereas intolerance, rigidity and a dogmatic insistence on the the old way of thinking are unscientific and a guarantee of defeat of the Cuban Revolution.”

    When the Russian economy sputtered, Lenin was flexible & advanced his NEP (New Economic Policy).

    I feel what Pedro is saying is: “Let’s talk openly and constructively about possible changes in our Cuban model of socialism.” [my words, not his]

    Cuba is not just working out her own solution to problems of socialist construction. She is working them out–hopefully–for all human kind. Let’s hope she does so in time to model workable socialism for the entire world, b4 our brutalized world environment is destroyed by the monopolist empire.

  • Is it too idealistic to argue that real communism should be a bottom-up effort? The original sin of Stalinism, and perhaps Leninism too, is the fact that the Vanguard Party ideology is taken way too far, and mixed with too much top-down statism. If the bureaucracy becomes a pseudo-bourgeoise, and if the community at large does not truly own the means of production, then your communist revolution has stalled. It seems the Castros almost need the embargo to justify maintaining the status quo indefinately. Yet paradoxically, some type of reform is necessary to save Cuba from mindless Capitalism and Stalinism both!

    Step one would be to give more democracy to economic management. If one is going to have state ownership of the economy, it should preserve for the populace the right to use the technology at hand in accordance with their own will.

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