Reconciliation, Dangers & Model Change for Cuba

By Pedro Campos

Photo by Agnese Savito

HAVANA TIMES, July 24 — Recently several articles, interviews and initiatives from the peaceful opposition were published — domestically and abroad — and directed to the Cuban government for the promotion of dialogue, national reconciliation and changes toward more democratic forms of governance.  Almost all of these have had some link to the Catholic Church.

It is customary among the highest levels of the Cuban government/party to interpret such initiatives as being related to the interest of the United States government, and therefore aimed at provoking a change in the political and economic regime in Cuba towards the full restoration of private capitalism.  This time, however, that doesn’t seem to be the focus, at least not in all cases.

Significantly, proposals from Cuban-American entrepreneur Carlos Saladrigas (concerning capital from the diaspora eventually participating in the “upgrading” of the economic model proposed by the government/party) have already received non-contentious public responses from the governing authorities.

For years, some of us within the revolutionary ranks have been advocating changes toward a participative and democratic form of socialism as well as the holding of a national dialogue with all blocs involved.  We therefore appreciate these peaceful initiatives as generally positive and would like to see all of us arrive at a consensus.

My points of views today on the matter are not the same as in 1979, when — as a part of my job — I was involved with “The Nation and Emigration” dialogue forum.  Personally, I began assuming that challenge some time ago with another vision.  In 2007 I published a commentary concerning the book Socialismo y reconciliacion en Cuba (Socialism and Reconciliation in Cuba) by my friend Felix Sautie, whose essential positions with respect to that topic I share.

In March 2009, the poet and writer Felix Guerra, equally in support of a more participative and democratic socialism, made public his proposal for carrying out a “Congress of the Nation” with the participation of all political tendencies.

In the programmatic documents of the group Socialismo Participativo y Democratico, presented in relation to the pre-assembly discussions for the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, we explained why the island needs a participative and democratic form of socialism.  In “Programmatic Proposals,” published in August 2008, and “Proposals for the Advance to Socialism in Cuba,” published in January 2011, we advanced broad concrete suggestions for reforming the Cuban political system.

In no case did we receive even the most minimum comment from the government/party.

I salute those who — from different angles — have taken part in drafting the proposals and participating in the debate for the respectful manner in which they have done this.  I also acknowledge the Catholic Church and particularly “Espacio Laical” for the initiatives they have advanced for the realization of dialogue between the different blocs of Cuban society, more divided on some issues than what it seems at first glance but more united around others (though these are concealed by a lack of information and horizontal exchange, as well as double standards).

I won’t refer to the differences that might exist between Saladrigas and the other proposals.   If we start with that we’ll end with that.  In this first approach, I’d prefer to identify the points of agreement, the general frameworks and future benchmarks around which we might possibly concur.

Photo by Agnese Savito

Changing for the better doesn’t imply betraying principles.  By maintaining distances and differences within the core of the revolution, we have also changed – some more than others.  Certainly, we will only be able to achieve reconciliation through all of the camps changing more.  But it will always be important to define the direction of the change.

The feeling of love for Cuba, for the Cuba that Marti dreamt (free, democratic, with distributed ownership) could be the key to success of the dialogue.  But so this doesn’t end up as just another attempt by only two blocs (the Cuban government and a group of émigrés who more or less recognize that government) — without exhibiting all of the diversity outside and inside the island — there will have to be inclusive and respectful dialogue with everyone.  Those who wish to remain disconnected from this process may do so.

It’s necessary to presume the sincerity of the good intentions of those proposals, though they come from staunch critics of the government.  In any other manner there will be no dialogue, but also because some of the proposers come from a religious base.  I am not one of them, but I know true Catholics and Christians, as is the case of my friend Felix Sautie, a lay Catholic, a communist, a liberation theologian and an advocate of a more participative and democratic form of socialism.

These will not be the first cases in which I have known of “recalcitrant counter-revolutionaries” whose religious beliefs led them to change their aggressive tactics for those of dialogue.

My work experience in the Cuban Foreign Service related to matters of emigration for more than two decades confirms to me that we can find a diversity of positions among those Cubans who emigrated and the opponents of “socialism.”  I’ve had the opportunity to deal with fellow citizens of all perspectives and I can assure that all of them — from the so-called extreme right to those sympathetic towards the Cuban government — retain that feeling of nationality, vigorously.

The dangers of a close relationship with such a powerful neighbor as the United States were noted by Marti, and we have been suffering from them ever since US troops disembarked at Daiquiri on June 22, 1898.

The bulk of emigrants with economic potential reside there.  But I believe that there must be very few true Cuban annexationists, though people in favor of all types of close relations with the US are plentiful, even in the government/party.

The greater risk is not open annexationism, but neo-Plattism, which doesn’t conceive of the economic development of Cuba without all types of exchanges being dependent on the US.

In China, the capital of “overseas Chinese” has played an important role in the restoration of an atrocious form of capitalism.

Considering all of this, viewed from our own historical experience and based on what happened in the former “socialist” countries, any matter in Cuba’s future related to the participation of capital from emigrants must be carefully assessed and specified.

Photo by Agnese Savito

The great majority of Cuban emigrants are those who left with empty hands.  They had only their knowledge acquired in Cuba and their desires to earn a living and help their relatives here.

People who knew of and benefitted from the finest achievements of the Cuban revolutionary process (free and universal health care and education) have not been able to surpass their condition of wage-labor workers or small businesspeople abroad.

It is that bloc, the one that is doing the most for the process of reunification, which is now coming from below, from families — as Saladrigas says — based on changes in the Cuban government’s domestic policies and on US policies toward our country.

I assume that what is fundamental in all those proposals is the promotion of dialogue between Cubans in search of needed reunification.  I appreciate the fact that Jesus Arboleya and Ramon de la Cruz share that desire.  The selections on the concrete form in which capital from the diaspora would participate in the improvement of our economy is one of the many questions for discussion, clarification and consensus building.

Our country is living through exceptional moments in its history.  We are before the almost general recognition that the old statist system of the neo-Stalinist model, poorly understood as “socialism,” not only doesn’t work, but has been the principal cause of many of the economic and social problems that Cuba suffers, particularly the division of its population.

Although aggressive policies and the blockade/embargo by the US share those “merits,” one cannot forget — as was well expressed by President Raul Castro — that their own errors are the worst enemies of the Cuban revolutionary process.  The correction of these require not a mere political event, a change in administration, a state, a party or a leader, but the advance of society in the direction of the socialization and democratization of the economic and political life of the Cuban people.

Cuban society now faces a series of changes in the economic and political system in effect.  These are demanded by reality, by the workers and people in general.  These even resonate with that part of the ruling echelon that appreciates this need, but who fear the consequences, because reliant on the evolution of those transformations is the desired future of Cuba or chaos with incalculable consequences.

Photo by Agnese Savito

Something is clear: Neo-Stalinist Cuba has no future and its defenders are being called on to cease their resistance and to cooperate peacefully for change in the direction of the political and economic democratization of Cuban society, otherwise their ignorance and obstinacy could provoke the disaster that seriously harms everyone.

But the capitalist world in general is also in crisis, and with its irrationality it is generating the destruction on this planet of life itself.  In its decomposition it has also been generating new forms of organizing production, methods different from traditional wage-labor operating systems that typify classical private capitalism.  Civilization based on capitalist industrialization is reaching its end.

Our country suffers from serious economic problems that cannot be solved with mere reformist patches aimed at repairing the old undeniably inefficient statist model; instead new economic policies are required that lead to a new political economic model.  This is not about simply making the economy grow, but how to make it grow and what will be the role of workers within it, as was so clearly expressed by Arboleya.

Overcoming the current contradictions of Cuban society will therefore mean the negation of the current economic and political model in crisis, not falling back to the level of contradictions that existed previously and that today convulse the capitalist world.  Rather, we need to advance towards a new type of society – one superior in all aspects.

Cuba must change by adopting a different economic model, one different from dysfunctional “state socialism” (which conceals state monopoly capitalism) and irrational private capitalism.

That’s why the fundamental problem of Cuba today is, in my opinion, more than economic – it’s  political.  What is retarding and impeding changes toward the new society is the group of obstacles presented by the statist-bureaucratic system.

The society fought for by Jose Marti and for which today Cubans struggle “with all and for the well-being of all” will only be realized when freedom is expressed as full democracy and with the effective distribution of our patrimony – far from its concentration and centralization in the state or in the hands of a few millionaires.

The current authoritarian and excessively centralized model makes it practically impossible for any plan for the insertion of those who emigrated from our society.  This is due to its democratic deficit, its dogmatic preconceptions, its exclusionary and sectarian political prejudices; its excessive monopolistic regulations, laws and arbitrary obstacles that hinder the development in other forms of production outside the state; and even the obstruction of effective horizontal dialogue among those who advocate socialism.

The laws of the US blockade also constitute obstacles to reconciliation.  But the complete lifting of the blockade is practically impossible as long as Cuba retains its political model of neo-Stalinism in effect, which we will have to change.  But this will not be because someone from the outside pressures us, but because we ourselves are convinced of that model’s senselessness.

Photo by Agnese Savito

Because of that, I’m specifying now that such constructive reconciliation and participation by those who emigrated from Cuba, which must emerge from the updating of the no-longer-valid neo-Stalinist model, only appear possible to me as parts of fundamental changes toward the socialization and democratization of the economic and political life of the Cuban people, beyond the “updating” of the current model that bows to the existing government/party.

In this context, Cuban emigrants can play an important positive role if they align with political and economic democratization and if they insert themselves in such a process, not with sectarian or vengeful longings, but seeking to support the path chosen by the great majority – those of us who do not wish to continue like we are, but also not wanting to return to the past of exploitation and submission.  Their participation in the process of discussion and dialogue could also help to continue modifying the restrictions of the blockade.

Consequently, I believe that the dialogue toward reconciliation being promoted by various groups and people of the traditional opposition is not independent; rather, it is emerging from the necessary discussion and the societal consensus that we want to build between all Cubans, respecting differences and minorities.  No one will accept anything that they haven’t participated in and for which they don’t feel at least partly responsible.

It will therefore be important to specify among everyone the ends, means and methods of the current process of changes and, as part of this, to clarify and achieve consensus as to the role of emigrants and their capital in that change.  If we don’t care for each other — in some way or another — we’ll be sorry later on.


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One thought on “Reconciliation, Dangers & Model Change for Cuba

  • It is disheartening that comrade Pedro Campos still mis-characterizes the Cuban form of socialism as “neo-Stalinism,” and not as “Marxian socialism.” By so doing he can advance neither a cooperative republican program for the perfection of the Cuban model, nor ignite a new debate and the cooperative revitalization of the world socialist movement. He certainly is not helping us is the US to develop our program and possibly win the US people to socialist consciousness and socialist state power.

    Cuba “must change by adopting a different economic model” is very true, but what would be the physiognomy of that model? Pedro believes it is to maintain state ownership of the instruments of production, per Marx and Stalin, yet depend on the bureaucracy to grant workplace democracy to the workers. This of course will never happen. Anyone who thinks it will is living in a dream.

    What is needed is a socialist cooperative republic that re-embraces private enterprise property rights and the adroitly-conditioned trading market. This would allow the vanguard party to construct a natural, libertarian, cooperative-entrepreneurial bridge out of the old society, over to a new classless society in which classes, private property and the coercive attributes of the state have withered away.

    This would take one or more generations to complete, but if that bridge is never constructed, the inevitable result will be a loss of state power by the vanguard and a return to some form of capitalism.

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