On Cuba’s Future: Calling on Karl Marx as Capitalism Nears the Gate

Vicente Morin Aguado

“The prehistory of human society accordingly closes with this social formation.” (Karl Marx, 1869)

Street in Matanzas, Cuba. Foto: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — “Annibal ante portas!” This is what the Romans yelled when the great Carthaginian commander approached Rome. The Roman Senate accepted the temporary rule of a dictator to rally all forces and save the city. Cuba’s Hannibal has been capitalism. Now, we are definitively facing the essential question, what Francis Fukuyama called the “end of history and the last man.”

It is not exactly an apocalyptic moment. The debate in Havana surrounds whether socialism is to continue or whether we will head towards the only other option, capitalism. When Obama and Raul Castro revealed that the two countries had been engaged in secret negotiations for 18 months, the US government was clear that its efforts were aimed at “promoting the independence of Cubans,” such that they would “no longer have to depend on the Cuban State.”

Now that the re-establishment of diplomatic relations is imminent, as we celebrate with a good lager beer in Havana, we are reminded that keeping things up-front is a sure way of staying friends.

It is now a question of dismantling the authoritarian state that has steered the nation’s destiny for over fifty years, assuming “popular” ownership over the properties confiscated from the capitalists (but doing everything save give the people real control over the means of production, to use the old Marxist parlance).

I invoke Marx because it is time we return to the essence of his thought and his proposals for putting behind us our prehistory as a species. It is a Hegelian notion reinterpreted by this great, Promethean philosopher, whose point of departure is the possibility of turning human beings into the masters of their own destiny, the creation of a socio-economic and political system based on the experience accumulated by humanity.

The proposal adds a number of considerations essential to the survival of humanity: solidarity and equity on a planet which, according to the most recent discoveries in physics, will remain isolated from any other inhabitable corner of the universe for a long time to come.

The concrete proposals made by the so-called classics (Marx, Engels and Lenin) must not be taken out of context. We must reject the equations drawn up by communist politicians when they insist on the continued validity of these texts. Even Jose Marti, who was anything but Marxist, must be rolling in his grave because of the repeated allusions to the “continued validity of his thought,” which can only be understood within the context of his lifetime.

A new kind of socialism, understood as a development of Marx’s essential proposal, is not only possible, it is necessary – and it stems from the implicit logic of world events. It is completely irrational that a single man – George Soros – should have accumulated, in less than a decade, a fortune equivalent to the number of people who inhabit the Earth today.

While this great speculator and others amass such quantities of money, millions of people, including many in the United States, have lost their homes because of the volatile behavior of the stock market, turning their savings into the immense, individual fortunes of a few able gamblers.

As far as I know, Mr. Soros only wears a pair of shoes once (and I imagine other multimillionaires do the same). I don’t believe there is anyone capable of denying the intrinsic irrationality of capitalism.

On evaluating the socialist states that have existed till now, a staunch anti-communist named Francis Fukuyama correctly pointed out that “Socialism’s failing went far beyond its inability to produce factories that could manufacture semiconductors: by creating a dictatorship that trampled over the dignity of individual citizens, it failed to create that equality of recognition that is necessarily the basis of a just society.”

Fukuyama does not believe in the possibility of a different kind of socialism, to me indispensable in light of the new challenges that face humanity.

I am speaking of survival in simple, ecological terms, of the need to feed ourselves, dress and lead dignified lives wherever we may be, as it is clear that we are a single species.

I am speaking of the unstoppable spread of the democratic ideal, broadened every day by new communication technologies and by the ever broader exchange among human beings.

For Cubans, the new year began with the promise of decisive changes in the long and difficult path we have traced as a nation. We can prove those who insisted the end of history has already arrived wrong, beginning anew without forgetting the past.
Vicente Morin Aguado: [email protected]

9 thoughts on “On Cuba’s Future: Calling on Karl Marx as Capitalism Nears the Gate

  • False choice of pure communism versus unfettered capitalism. Capitalism in US operates with a historical level of state regulation. Same for historical levels of socialized food, housing, medical and so an. What history has taught is that pursuit of extreme equality is foolish. Economic equality and not communism is what is over in Cuba. The state will retain a heavy hand and seek to spread economic gains around, but with acceptance that incentive matters.

    Those that add more to the production of a society should be rewarded. How much, is up to the governed.

  • Capitalist countries have adapted, in part by adopting social democratic policies and institutions. That’s the one big advantage of liberal democratic societies: they constantly try out new ideas, replace failed policies and search for compromises & new solutions. That approach is in contrast to that of “Communist” dictatorships such as Cuba, which eliminate huge categories of possible solutions from consideration, punish dissent brutally and reinforce the status quo. ’57 Chevy’s are only the most visible of outdated things in Havana.

    I’ve read Howard Zinn. He makes up sh*t because it “feels” right to his Maoist ideology. His books are not history, they are political advocacy.

  • I think if you look closely at this history capitalism and socialism oscillate with one another. Periods of capitalist domination are predictably punctuated by recessions and depressions followed by brief but effective periods of social spending. Read Howard Zinn’s book on the New Deal or his “History of the American People” A key piece of legislation protecting consumers for years the Glass-Steagall Act reined in banking investments but was repealed by Bill Clinton. Google the New Deal for a primer.

  • Capitalism has faced “imminent collapse” for a hundred and fifty years or more, yet somehow it continues to adapt, adopt and evolve. Capitalist economies eventually learn from past mistakes.

    If “socialism” is to endure, it too must adapt, adopt and evolve. The author called for a return to the roots of Marx, Engels & Lenin, which is the opposite of learning from past mistakes.

  • “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

    This is the very definition of corporate capitalism and is teetering on the edge of the same dustbin that you refer to.

  • My hope for Cuba is that it becomes a beacon of socialism in the Western hemisphere not a socialism of the strict Marxist genre but a more modern system that creates infrastructure and social inclusion to this fine island nation. America is an experiment whose capitalist strength has become its biggest weakness by excluding and inventing classes based upon wealth. This is not the fault of technology it is the fault of an exclusionary government rife with corruption and lobby driven legislation, Cuba could very well become a legislative example similar to Ecuador that regulates the hedge fund short sellers and holds them to account and encourages legitimate and beneficial investment in their country. The same organized crime that populated pre revolutionary Cuba is still alive and well on Wall street and has not mended its ways. Instead it has become more powerful by its insidious influence over the House and Senate. Welcome back to a dangerous and stratified world, Amigos, and temper your expectations..

  • Marx, Engels, & Lenin again?

    What is the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

    Those three fools and their failed ideologies are rightly consigned to the dustbin of history.

  • Good luck.

  • Vicente writes, “I am speaking of survival in simple, ecological terms, of the need to feed ourselves, dress and lead dignified lives wherever we may be, as it is clear that we are a single species.” During my wife’s last trip to Cuba to visit her family, her former hairdresser and longtime friend pleaded with her to bring her an iPhone the next time she came to Cuba. Not just a cell phone, not even just a smart phone, but an iPhone. This woman is an average working adult Cuban who is not particularly more materialistic than any other Cuban. The GPS, iCloud, wireless internet features and many of the apps loaded on the iPhone are absolutely useless in Cuba, yet having this phone is a status symbol among Cubans. I highlight this episode to point out that Cubans who think like Vicente, however noble, are in the minority. Cubans are fabulous consumers and as soon as they have the resources and access to the world marketplace, they will eschew all that socialist crap so fast your head will spin. Anyone who has spent time with Cubans in Cuba and Miami can clearly see how Cuban, on the whole, love to adorn themselves. Vicente’s hope for a “different kind of socialism” is doomed.

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