Rethinking post-capitalism in cuba

By Grady Ross Daugherty

HAVANA TIMES — Is it proper for a citizen of the imperialist United States to set forth an article suggesting how Cubans might modify their form of socialism? I believe it is. Socialism is a worldwide movement; and what fails or succeeds in the land of Marti has implications for every country on the globe, as well as for all future generations.

Still, the propriety of doing so needs a further word. Why should such a citizen even bother? The reason is straight-forward: What can be made to work in Cuba would be a highly-visible example, and would allow the people of the United States, Canada, Mexico and every other country to understand how to reorganize their own countries along socialist lines. Given the present-day economic breakdown and environmental catastrophe of monopoly capitalism, this could transform the world in short order.

Conversely, what does not work in Cuba discredits socialism before the peoples, and has an opposite, anti-transformational effect.

Let us start from the beginning and try to review the theoretical underpinnings of our worldwide movement.

What exactly is socialism? Once we poise this question however, the intellectual quarrel begins and we are right back to the contentious present. Let us begin therefore by simply asking, “What is post-capitalism?”

As long as we stay with this more neutral nomenclature, the contentious juices are held somewhat at bay, and we may ascend into the stratosphere of the objective voice.

In the early- and mid-1800s, when thinkers and activists were first trying to conceptualize the nature of post-capitalism, there were various theories. Not only were the attributes of post-capitalism under debate, but also the manner by which such a society might be achieved. The latter problem was clarified by the Bolsheviks with the conquest of political power in 1917, and their ensuing attempt to build post-capitalism under extremely difficult conditions. The former problem however is still fogged in.

It became clear through the Bolshevik Revolution that the essential question of post-capitalism is the achievement of state power by a sincere, transformation-minded political party.

Such power however, speaking theoretically, might be achieved in various ways—workers’ insurrection; military coup; foreign military imposition; even democratic winning of the people and constitutional mandate—but the old, capitalist state must be superceded, and a new, transformationary state power must be put in its place. Post-capitalism otherwise will remain but an amorphous dream.

No one would argue of course that 1918 Russia, with regard to its economic mode of production, was a “socialist” country. Judging by its mode of production and level of industrial development, Russia was still very much capitalist. Even so, something fundamental had changed. A political party now had state power in its hands and, as Lenin indicated, they were setting out to build a post-capitalist society.

Post-capitalism should be seen therefore as a society in which a transformation-minded political party is in the driver’s seat. The social vehicle itself might be positioned in capitalistic terrain—or in some sort of intermediary, dysfunctional, choked-by-bureaucracy terrain—but because the driver is now intending to head in a different direction, toward an entirely different goal, representing entirely different class interests, the country might accurately be characterized as post-capitalist.

According to this criterion, Cuba, China, Vietnam and even North Korea would fit the technical description as being “post-capitalist” countries.

This is a critical point. If we are unable to distinguish between state power, on the one hand, and the prevailing economic mode of production, on the other, we may come to absurd conclusions. We might look at China and scream “Capitalism!” We might look at bureaucratic Cuba and scream “State Capitalism!” This of course is precisely what many in the world have done and are doing.

What is certain is that the essential question of post-capitalism is the existence, or non-existence of state power in the hands of a political party that, at least intentionally, is attempting to build post-capitalism. Cuba therefore would be post-capitalist, for the PCC holds state power.

This does not mean however that the PCC is driving the social vehicle 100% correctly, or in the appropriate direction. It knows that it wishes sincerely to get to the goal of a classless society, but it has broken down and is sitting alongside the highway, so to speak.

Forward motion has been arrested, and there is a threat of the PCC being removed from the driver’s position. This has not occurred, as yet, and there is still the possibility of making repairs and getting back on the road. Nonetheless, the danger of the loss of the driver’s position—of state power—remains, and supportive, comradely discussion is on the agenda.

The original, 1800s movement for post-capitalism coalesced around a specific political program.

This divided itself naturally into two parts—strategic and tactical.

The strategic program was the economic, social and cultural concept of reorganization for when the working people should come into possession of state power. It was popularly called the maximum program, and was to be the set of measures the new government was supposed to undertake, in order to transform society away from a capitalistic mode of production, and toward a classless future.

Post-capitalism may be defined therefore as that period in which the working people’s transformation-minded political party—by whatever means—comes into possession of state power and, with the support and active participation of the productive classes, builds a perhaps several-generations bridge to a society without class distinctions of any kind. Along with the diminution of social classes, it is expected that the coercive elements of the state apparatus also wither away, and that social co-ordination ultimately is achieved by non-coercive, democratic civil administration.

The tactical program, which was also known as the minimum, was and is the set of measures the political party which aspires to post-capitalism ought to take, in order to establish a new state power and a new democratic socialist republic.

But there is no need for a traditional minimum program in Cuba. The Cuban people demolished the old capitalist state under the leadership of Fidel and the 26th of July Movement; and the arrogance and attacks of the United States government ensured that the new republic would develop in a post-capitalist direction.

When we speak of “reforming” or “perfecting” the Cuban model of post-capitalism, we are speaking of the tweaking of the strategic, maximum program of social transformation. The past half-century has been an experience of enormous social and political achievements. Revolutionary Cuba has literally altered the course of world history.

In speaking of reforming or perfecting the Cuban model therefore, we are not disparaging the enormous accomplishments of the PCC leadership. We are participating in a collective think-tank to iron out the wrinkles, make certain necessary repairs, and hopefully get the Cuban vehicle back on the dynamic road to a highly prosperous, classless society. (Please pardon the mixed metaphor.)

Cuba seems to have made, around 1968, the same well-intentioned error as was made by China, around 1959, under Mao Zedong. The traditional socialist theory as to what constitutes true post-capitalism—that is, the building of a several-generations bridge to a classless society—was to concentrate ownership and control of all the instruments of production in the hands of the state. The PCC, under the prodding of the USSR, plus traditional theoreticians within the PCC, nationalized almost everything productive in sight, including the land.

If we look at what has occurred in Cuba with a scientific frame of mind, we must look at it as an experiment. (Science is based on experimentation, and indeed, the so-called Scientific Method is universally acknowledged as, first, the putting forward of a hypothesis; and second, its subsequent testing through a series of experiments.)

Yes, there has been a half-century experiment in Cuba, and this has been conducted around a certain specific hypothesis. The first step in reforming or perfecting the Cuban model therefore should be to analyze the results of the experiment to date. It must be decided whether the traditional hypothesis has been proved true, false, or false, but partially true.

Let us formulate the original hypothesis as monopoly state ownership of all the instruments of production. We would argue that this hypothesis—assuming that we have formulated it correctly—has been proved over a half-century to be the last of the three possibilities, that is, as false, but partially true.

The reforming or perfecting of the post-capitalist model in Cuba requires therefore a new hypothesis for continuation of the process of experimentation. This is where we descend in altitude from the objective voice to the tendency voice. That is, we now must re-enter the lower atmosphere of political debate, and we all have our opinions.

There is however a way to guide our collective discussion as to the proper new hypothesis for the further post-capitalist experiment in Cuba. I believe what will work in Cuba will also work in the United States, and in every other country.”  If we keep this “reality check” in mind, it should help us stay out of the swamp.

In the United States a new hypothesis for post-capitalism has been formulated by a tiny group of transformationary iconoclasts. We suggest that the PCC and others around the globe should take it into consideration.

The core idea is that the post-capitalist state need not own everything productive in sight; it can co-own significant industry and commerce silently and partially with working cooperative associates on the Mondragon corporation model. This would allow the socialist state to receive enormous quarterly distributions from a dynamic economy, and not be burdened with the day-to-day administrative responsibilities of running enterprise. At the same time, it would allow the small bourgeoisie to develop and participate enthusiastically in the socialist, bridge-building process.

On the basis of this natural economic democracy—which, by the way, would retain and utilize the historically-evolved institution of private property rights, plus a socialistically-conditioned trading market—social and political democracy would have a chance to arise and ennoble society.

Progress toward a classless society, under the new hypothesis, would be based on broad, democratic ownership of productive enterprise, and the economic and cultural merging of class elements, not on the pre-mature abolition of private property rights.

The new hypothesis we recommend for the further post-capitalist, strategic experiment in Cuba, concisely stated, would be modern cooperative, state co-ownership socialism.

Best wishes to the valiant PCC, and to the valiant Cuban people.


18 thoughts on “Rethinking post-capitalism in cuba

  • October 3, 2012 at 8:36 am
    Permalink

    I’ve been working class all my life. The three generations of my family that I’m familiar with on both sides have been working class. I’ve worked with my hands and my head since I was eight years old. I’ve owned no businesses. I own no property and never have. I have no investments outside of what is made necessary in a capitalistic society for retirement, most of which is in fixed income investments and not equity markets. You are not likely to find anyone more working class than me, including yourself I suspect.

    Now that we have that out of the way, I think we can stop gnawing on that bone. I got my definition of what is core to socialism from Bertrand Russell, a socialist and yes, from the privileged class. You obviously have not read him to any extent. I recommend reading ‘Power’ for starters. I must admit, I’m rather surprised at this sudden stereotyping of people along class conscious lines instead of dealing with what they have written.

    You write that the “privileged mindset” changed “equitably” into “equally”. That is not the case with Russell. He was hardly a Utopian, often writing that equitable did not mean equal. In a socialist world, there will be differences in income but not great enough to create an imbalance of power, inevitably making some people ‘more equal’ than others.

    You write that after eliminating “the daily exploitation of capitalism” from workers, all will naturally have good and sufficient incomes”. But financial security is only one aspect of what socialism is all about. It is really about power -the power one group or class has over another. If there is a significant income differential, it will cause an imbalance of power. Participatory democracy will not be enough to come to terms with dealing with power imbalances.

    You write that “The only requirement within a just society for honor is that a person be productive and not a parasite.” I’ll assume you are not including those who cannot be productive due to physical or mental handicaps.

    The terms ‘just society’ and ‘honor’ have been defined in many different ways. I won’t elaborate but I think more in terms of rational, supportive societies – supportive of all for very practical reasons more than ‘moral’ ones – the best hope for individual well-being is through achieving well-being for all. It seems intuitively obvious but I can argue the case.

    Feeling that somehow issues of power and inequality will somehow magically work themselves out, it reminds me of an Adam Smith-like “invisible hand of socialism”. Power can only be ignored at your peril. There are no magical invisible hands that will take care of it.

    That brings us to the question of “private property rights”. You write that I “wax eloquent” against them “as though they are alien to human beings.” I’m not exactly sure what that means but the concept of private property rights is certainly quite recent in history, emanating from dysfunctional European cultures that propagated the concept along with colonialism and imperialism throughout the world.

    Let me give you a concrete example. Maoris in New Zealand, in common with other indigenous peoples, had no concept of private property rights or ownership. Nor did they have a concept of tribal or communal property rights. Land was lived on and worked as long as it served a tribe’s needs and then it was relinquished.

    When settlers from Europe arrived, they would enter into agreements with the Maoris about using land in Maori areas for cultivation and raising livestock. Settlers viewed this an ownership agreement. Maoris took it to mean they had access to it as long as long as it was occupied and used.

    When the settlers moved away – typically to the city – Maoris assumed the land was again available for their use. Children of the settlers would show up claiming land ownership, many times wanting to sell it, not work it, causing significant conflicts. Settlers typically fenced in the property which was another bone of contention that led to the protracted ‘Land Wars’ or ‘Maori Wars’ in the mid 1800’s.

    The North American ‘Indian Wars’ were all about land ownership. It is still going on, mostly without physical confrontation although there was a major incident not far from Toronto in 2006 that is still not settled.

    So yes, private property rights are very recent in human history. One could argue that Maoris owned the ‘means of production’ in their world – using the land for producing food, with no need to lay a claim to property rights in perpetuity. In a system where no one is trying to take away the means of production, either through competition or legal claims, the question of ownership was irrelevant.

    Without a need to sell for the sake of selling, acquisitive consumerism was not promoted that caused one group ‘getting rich’ off another with a resulting imbalance of power. That came with the settlers – selling inappropriate items – alcohol and guns – for their get rich quick schemes. Natives were never successful at it. It was totally foreign to them.

    But we come from a different tradition where selling, acquisitive consumerism and power imbalances are standard. Will we be successful at overcoming what is in our cultural heritage simply by assuming that the ‘invisible hand of socialism’, once it is place, will look after things? I think we need to be more proactive in insuring they will. Addressing ways of dealing with power imbalances, like significant income disparities, is needed, I think.

    You admit “We evolved in cooperative, communal groups, and the cooperative, communal instinct is what has allowed us to survive and succeed in peopling the earth.” Yet you write, quite defensively, I feel, fuelled by the usual resistance those who come from European-based cultures exhibit whenever native wisdom is noted, that I “vector off into outer space” in “thinking that what is functional and instinctive within families, clans and tribes, is what ought to be foisted onto a society just coming out from under a monopoly capitalist regime and culture.”

    Far from ‘vectoring off’, I’m firmly grounded in millenniums of human history, in contrast to the flyspeck of that European so-called civilisation represents – with its highly neurotic cultures, occupying a tiny portion of our planet.

    Common to individuals descendant from these cultures, your attitude reeks of cultural superiority -. ‘How can we possibly learn anything from societies organised along lines of families, clans and tribes? Sniff, sniff. Don’t “foist” primitive behaviour onto us.!

    Anthropologists point out the only ‘primitive’ element in indigenous cultures is technology whilst their social organisation is far more complex, sophisticated and superior to anything that came out of Europe. These are societies that were able to operate without prisons, police, lawyers, judges and politicians and still maintain social order.

    My point was that the tribal groups operate like successful worker cooperatives. There are certainly differences in the two worlds, the biggest being family relationships resulting in everyone in the group being ‘us’. But isn’t this what cooperatives need to find an equivalent for in order to succeed?

    And they also need to find a way to amicably relate to others outside their cooperative, as natives for the most part did successfully. Bringing it back to the point of needing an equitable distribution of income, natives also dealt with this quite successfully.

    So there was no attempt to “foist” anything off on your theoretical world, only to introduce more information into the discussion relating to social and economic organisation. I’m not surprised you can’t handle it. Most people coming from the settler class have the same difficulty. There’s a lot of baggage going on, ranging from attitudes of cultural superiority to guilt. I did expect more from you, however, obviously.

  • October 2, 2012 at 7:28 pm
    Permalink

    Hey Lawrence, let me try to address a few of your points.

    You say that one of the basic requirements of socialism is “ensuring and equitable distribution of income.” I think you are making an incorrect presumption as to the existence of such a “requirement.”

    You apparently are harking back to the ideas of thinkers like Edward Bellamy (“Looking Backward”). Such privileged-class elements misconstrued socialism as “distributing incomes equitably.” In this privileged mindset the word “equitably” became “equally.” This whole non-worker misconstruction has caused enormous damage within the socialist movement.

    It is not a basic requirement of socialism to distribute income equitably. This will happen naturally under authentic socialism, but it is not a formal, basic requirement.

    What is a basic requirement is for those who do the productive thinking, laboring and creating to crease being fed upon (robbed) by banks, capitalists and landlords, and the whole panoply of parasites. With the enormous productivity of modern technology, those who have the daily exploitation of capitalism removed will naturally have good and sufficient incomes, and that could and would satisfy your laudable desire to see prosperity among all the people.

    You say that you have an “abhorrence of private property rights” and what this leads to in a capitalist system. Well, we are not talking about these rights in a capitalist system, but in a post-capitalist system. Didn’t you get the memo?

    Working class people have no trouble understanding that private property rights are not bad, so long as the private property in question belongs to those who do the work of the enterprise that is owned–whether cooperatively as with most workers, or independently by small business persons like farmers, restaurateurs, shop-owners, small manufacturers, et cetera.

    If you cannot understand this, perhaps it’s because you are not a working class person. Don’t take this the wrong way, for it is not an insult to be either an intellectual or a small bourgeois. The only requirement within a just society for honor is that a person be productive and not a parasite. But what tends to happen within the socialist movement is that non-working class people come into it and bring privileged class ideas that have no real validity with the transfomationary vanguard.

    You wax eloquent against private property rights, as though they are alien to human beings. Well, in one sense you are correct. We evolved in cooperative, communal groups, and the cooperative, communal instinct is what has allowed us to survive and succeed in peopling the earth. Where you vector off into outer space is thinking that what is functional and instinctive within families, clans and tribes, is what ought to be foisted onto a society just coming out from under a monopoly capitalist regime and culture. This profound error has been made by all the Utopians before you.

    It has also been made by Engels and Marx before you. What distinguishes those two from the Utopians, regarding this error, is that they proposed that the prompt abolition of private property rights ought to be forced onto post-capitalist society through monopoly state ownership of all the instruments of production, including all the land.

    Every real socialist looks forward to the far future where private property will have evolved away, by not being functional any longer. But private property “rights” will not evolve away. They are abstract legal rights that we expect will cease to have any relevance, due to the extensive development of communal property and a whole transformation of human culture.

    But this is not a part of the several generations socialist maximum program. Whatever evolves out of socialist society will be the affair of the people of that era, and we need no stay up nights worrying about it.

    All of this may be moot in a decade or two or three, if the transformationary Left cannot discard Marxism and state monopoly cretinism, and make the socialist transformation across the globe. Monopoly capitalism is destroying the environment, and the point of irreversibility will surely be reached in the not too distant future. But we will never save the environment and civilization if we can’t understand the nature of authentic, workable socialism, and how private property rights are necessary to make it work. Cheers.

  • October 2, 2012 at 6:52 am
    Permalink

    Hello Grady,

    I have two thoughts about what you wrote. I’m certainly not in favour of “worker-managed, pseudo cooperatives” under a “state monopoly” but I equally have an “abhorrence of private property rights” and what this leads to in a capitalist system.

    Is there a bigger picture that should be looked at first? Worker cooperatives certainly fulfil one of the basic requirements of socialism, putting the means of production in the hands of workers but what about the other requirement, insuring an equitable distribution of income?

    It strikes me this is the biggest nut that co-ops have to crack. Otherwise they become like unions, protective of their cohort at the expense of the whole.

    As I’ve written, I look to indigenous societies for guidance. Their economic model has existed by and large successfully for far longer than any other, something that the so-called ‘civilized’ western cultures ignore – forced to, otherwise they would have to face what colonization has done, bringing death, destruction and genocide, not ‘civilization’, to these peoples.

    Native groupings were primarily tribal, made up of family and extended family relationships that were more or less self-sufficient, only interacting with other tribal groups for purposes of trade. I’m most familiar with North American and South Pacific indigenous cultures (Africa is different but that’s another story) where conflicts were very few, contrary to popular perception. The colonizers had a need to make them seem as bloodthirsty as they were.

    These tribal groupings were like worker cooperatives, organised along lines to maximize survivability. The welfare of the tribe, not the individual, was paramount. A common story is of hunting parties returning with their bounty, distributing it amongst the tribe, sometimes resulting in the hunters getting nothing, yet feeling fulfilled for having brought sustenance to the group.

    The only hierarchy in the group was a tribal elder system. Elders had no power, only influence due to the recognised wisdom that came with age. Another typical story is of settlers going to villages, seeking the ‘chief’. They invariably went to the biggest tepee, only to discover the biggest tepee usually belonged to someone who traded with the settlers. Chiefs’ tepees were the same size as everyone else.

    The rational principles that are illustrated in native organisation are still prevalent in native culture to this day that I continuously witness despite the 350-year occupation by a foreign culture they have had to endure.

    I see no reason why these same principles cannot be applied to any social and economic organization that we aspire to. The uber-principle, dominant in native culture is survivability, recognizing that cooperatively servicing the common good is the best way to guarantee individual survival and well-being.

    The dysfunctional European cultures, through colonization, infected the rest of the world with more than infectious disease. They made a virtue of greed and selfishness and rewarded those who championed it instead of controlling these individuals, as native cultures traditionally do.

    I feel our only hope for achieving a better society is to find a way to return to these rational principles first. Worker co-ops make rational sense but unless there is a recognition of uber-principles, I fear they will be short-lived.

    The other thought I had reading your last, concerns what is possible from the PCC at this point in time. They come across as the ultimate control freak, micro-managing everything. Some of this comes out of the planned economy model that they are following but the state of siege that the blockade represents is also responsible for a large part of it, I think.

    Whenever I have had to face someone who is a hostile force, I recognize that I behave differently than I would if the hostility was not there. I see it in what I write on this forum. I look back at what I’ve written sometimes when confronting the propagandists and realise I’m in confrontation mode. Looking back, I see a bluntness in writing to you that caused misunderstandings. It’s hard for me to change modes sometimes.

    Confronting outside threats are obviously basic to our vary natures. We have been selected by evolutionary biology to go into attack-defence mode.

    I’ve had my fingers rapped a couple of times and some of my comments have not been posted by the moderator. I have a bulldog side to me that opposition brings out. Organizations are made up of individuals. I’m not apologizing for the policies of the PCC but I may be able to understand them better than some.

    Propagandists work hard at trying to demonise the heroes of the Revolution as being monsters in order to turn the Cuban people against them. They clearly started out as idealists, inspired by servicing the well-being of all of Cuba’s people. Power can corrupt but they would have had much more power if they did what most of the world’s leaders do, including that of my country – kowtow to the American Empire. Something that is normally not recognized.

    Think of the life and wealth that Fidel could have had if he became a lackey of the US like the others. Instead, he wore army fatigues most of his life, lived under constant threat of assassination, has no money stashed away, despite attempts to claim otherwise, and had to mostly confine himself to a beautiful, but small island in the Caribbean.

    I’ve diverted from topic somewhat, but my point is, until the blockade ends, the PCC may find it difficult to loosen its control on the economy to the extent we would like them to. It’s useful to ensure we don’t lose sight of what is eventually needed to achieve a successful social and economic system, after the blockade is lifted and the Revolution is allowed to continue without having to deal with hostile foreign influences.

    It may be necessary to pry the fingers of those in power off of government but that can be faced at the time. I always remember how once WWII ended, the British immediately dumped Churchill, a right-winger, for a Socialist government. I’m confident Cubans, with their strong commitment to social justice, will find a way to get what they want when the time comes, free of the Empire that wants it back in its clutches.

  • October 2, 2012 at 4:49 am
    Permalink

    if co-ops are not owned by the members and paying a reasonable amount of tax there is no capital for expansion, like mondragon, and it´s the old, old story. owners have more of an interest in their own property or business. with ireland´s economic problems, the irish have invited in mondragon experts.

  • September 30, 2012 at 7:38 pm
    Permalink

    Thanks for the, as usual, superbly worded response. I apologize for the “windbag” remark.

    Your suggestion that we discuss the possibility “that cooperatives can survive and thrive in Cuba” is interesting. My feeling is “Yes,” but there is a caveat. The Cuban party must get over its theoretical and ideological abhorrence of private property rights under post-capitalism. If it does not, worker cooperatives can only be pseudo, leased creatures of a state monopolist bureaucracy.

    I can’t prove this at present, perhaps, but I can say it with a great deal of certainty, based on the negative experiences with worker-managed, pseudo cooperatives in state monopoly countries–for example, in Yugoslavia–and the positive experiences with worker-owned, real cooperatives in countries that have not prematurely abolished private property rights–for example, pre-1959 China; 1949-53 Faridabad, India; and the Basque region of Spain (where, I’ve recently learned, there are almost 600 worker-owned coops in addition to those in the Mondragon complex). (Sorry for the long sentence.)

    It worries the hell out of me that the PCC will try to impose state ownership of urban coops, hoping to squeeze out most of the surplus values generated for state coffers. If this happens, nothing positive will be accomplished. (When Engels and Marx smuggled the Utopian abhorrence of private property rights into the socialist movement, they really accomplished a catastrophic wrecking job!)

    We’ve probably exhausted our exchange regarding this article, Lawrence, so I will sign off and wish you the best.

  • September 30, 2012 at 7:02 am
    Permalink

    Dear Grady,

    I think a misunderstanding has taken place resulting from what I’ve written. I don’t seem to be as great a communicator as you give me credit for.

    The crux of the misunderstanding is you didn’t understand why I felt there was a ‘missing frame’ in what you wrote – a frame that dealt with the blockade. Following from this ‘not understanding’, you conclude that it must have something to do with my support for centralized state power.

    I obviously didn’t make clear, and will rectify that now, that I am completely in agreement with everything that you wrote in your essay, and in other comments you have made on this website. This means that I in no way support centralized state power in any manifestation.

    I’ve stated my views a number of times in comments. It’s understandable if you missed them or forgot about them. Here are some of them:

    “I am not saying in any way that the Cuban government is perfect, near perfect or even suitable for Cubans. I am a staunch believer in participatory democracy and egalitarianism. As such, I could well be seen as an enemy of the current Cuban government.”

    Writing about what I have learned from my conversations with First Nations people in Canada:

    “One of their key phrases that is still alive and quoted, has become core to my beliefs, that “No one stands above you or below you”. There are many other principles and practices that native culture is based on that are in harmony with the basic definition of socialism and with participatory democracy.”

    And writing about what I feel about capitalist representative government, mirroring the sentiments of Canada’s “prairie socialist” movement in western Canada:

    “Sooner or later, all the representatives come to serve the dominant power, which is the capitalist class. Which, of course, is why ‘Griffin’ slathers over “democratic pluralism”. Participatory democracy in an egalitarian framework is the ideal, not a system that is easily co-opted.”

    And finally, in a comment to an essay that was critical of Fidel in his old age that serves as a segue into writing about the blockade:

    “Fidel easily qualifies as a wise elder in [First Nations] tradition. Unlike native traditional practice, he did not use the principles of participatory democracy they used. But we know their fate and need to heed the lesson I think. Participatory democracy has not been able to stand up to either rapacious invaders or rapacious imperialists.”

    What I obviously was not successful at communicating to you was, I felt your essay was picture perfect in its theories and in mirroring what I believe.

    You write that your “article is trying to deal with a fundamental flaw in the traditional conceptualization of post-capitalism.” And that you have done quite well. But you go beyond that, and it is the beyond, I think, that requires dealing with the blockade.

    You write that you “put forward a proposal for re-examining the problem of rectification, or reforming, or tweaking, or altering the Cuban maximum program.” As such, you are transitioning from theory to ‘facts on the ground’, requiring dealing with the blockade.

    We can discuss what in theory the Cuban government should be doing, but without acknowledging what it is up against, it inevitably makes it look like it’s a failure in not meeting rational understandings.

    You write, “When we speak of ‘reforming’ or ‘perfecting’ the Cuban model of post-capitalism, we are speaking of the tweaking of the strategic, maximum program of social transformation.”

    I feel that without acknowledging what the Cuban government is up against, it is impossible to “speak of ‘reforming’ or ‘perfecting’ the Cuban model” with any validity. Theory and practice in times of war are always different from when there is no external threat.

    One can write a book on the theory of child care, for example, but if it fails to note the external realities that parents have to face – like holding down a job – it can be used to make parents appear delinquent by a family member that perhaps wants to adopt their kids.

    There is an element on the website that is ready to leap at and magnify any perceived government failings in order to serve the agenda of a foreign government that is attempting to make Cuba part of its Empire, once again. There are also disaffected youth and others writing on the website who this element sees as fertile ground for sowing seeds of discontent.

    Under the circumstances, the website, intended to be a resource for expressing dissent – what official state media does not provide – has become somewhat of a battleground, with foreign agents seeing it as an opportunity to “win hearts and minds” of Cuban youth through posting relentless US government propaganda. That notorious phrase, made infamous in Vietnam, has often included torture and murder as mechanisms for ‘winning’ those two internal organs.

    There is a place, I feel, to “speak of ‘reforming’ or ‘perfecting’ the Cuban model” within the context of the blockade but “to iron out the wrinkles, make certain necessary repairs, and hopefully get the Cuban vehicle back on the dynamic road to a highly prosperous, classless society” strikes me as being more optimistic than what will be possible until the state of war – the blockade – is eliminated.

    I’ve written that I feel fairly safe in supporting the opening up of internet access and relaxing travel restrictions that the government could undertake, with acceptable risk. And I think it would be wise of the government to allow critical voices to appear in state media.

    It’s great that Havana Times is permitted to exist but by concentrating criticism in one facility, I find it has a distorting effect that has the effect of magnifying it, perhaps beyond what it actually represents.

    HT could also consider becoming more of a general source of information about life in Cuba in addition to being a forum for dissent. At times the content is neurotic in its obsession to offer an outlet for criticism, descending at times to issues of toiletry!

    The issue you are most interested in – worker cooperatives – are very worthy of discussion. Raul has embraced it, in words at least, and it would be useful to discuss the problems the government and the Cuban people face in putting them into effect.

    We only hear from the propagandists who would have us believe the government is as addicted to power as their government is. And cooperatives represent major changes in how Cubans live their lives. Is there more hope that cooperatives can survive and thrive in Cuba than there is in capitalist countries?

    Something I would welcome a discussion on.

    I hope this clears up our misunderstandings. I will have to gratefully decline your invitation to join your “socialist cooperative republican” movement. I feel my role at the moment is best served in supporting Cuba’s struggle to remain independent of the US Empire as long as they choose to continue resisting it.

  • September 29, 2012 at 11:34 am
    Permalink

    To Lawrence W.,

    It is a pleasure to exchange with you, Lawrence. As I’ve expressed previously, I stand in awe of your eloquent and incisive comments, especially your debunking of Moses’ obsessive assaults on the Cuban experience and leadership. If I had your impressive knowledge and abilities, perhaps re-groupment of the transformationary Left around a corrected maximum program could proceed much rapidly and more smoothly.

    As you may remember, I’ve invited you to become a socialist cooperative republican, in order that you might help win the people to a near-term socialist transformation of society. But let me now take this warm arm from around your impressive shoulders and offer you a more abrasive challenge.

    Now that world historical experience has shown that the Marxian core principle for workable post-capitalism is “false, but partially true,” the intellectual elite of the Left have been in a quandary. Many have spent their political lives chasing the state monopoly goose. When the goose reveals itself visibly as chimerical–as it most certainly has–they tend to respond by finding other causes for the negative results of post-capitalist experiments.

    One world tendency blames it all on Joseph Stalin. They defend this superficiality with near-religious fanaticism. Nothing, they apparently believe, can possibly be wrong with the holy musings of Marx, for he has been transformed into a god-head.

    The Soviet and other failed statist experiments therefore must be the results of the evil Satan: Stalin. Even when I point out, line and verse, the theoretical origins of state monopoly socialism, they have tended thus far to clam up and not say a thing.

    I don’t know, Lawrence, if you are part of this world tendency. I do know however that you will not deal in a forthright way with the central trust of my article–cooperative, state co-ownership as a new hypothesis for the further post-capitalist experiment in Cuba–and that you endeavor trenchantly to shift the spotlight from the state monopoly shortcomings in Cuba, to the criminal US blockade.

    In your comment you restate my presentation, in order to clarify your understanding of it. What an intelligent comrade you are! But you then launch into a kind-of martial arts throwing of the discussion away from the critique of Marxian post-capitalism, and toward the blockade. In other words, the state monopoly hypothesis can’t be blamed, therefore it must all be the fault of the blockade.

    You don’t blame it all on Stalin or Marxian state monopoly; you blame it all on the blockade.

    My challenge to you, comrade, is to take a sincere look into the mirror, and see if perhaps you are deluding yourself, in order to save your life-long assumptions.

    We only have a few decades, at the most, to regroup the Left and achieve transformation in Canada and the US, and in other countries. Your assistance in this might be historic. But you will remain an eloquent windbag if you don’t begin to look at the socialist transformation from a programmatic standpoint, and start applying your genius to meaningful political party-building. Cheers.

  • September 29, 2012 at 4:14 am
    Permalink

    Americans then are the biggest ‘farmers” of them all. Every US president has massive blood on their hands – 3-6 million Vietnamese in a war without meaning. And currently – from Information Clearing house: Number Of Iraqis Slaughtered In US War And Occupation Of Iraq “1,455,590”

    There’s a ‘locavore’ element to the fertilization: Number of U.S. Military Personnel Sacrificed (officially acknowledged) In America’s War On Iraq: 4,883; Number Of International Occupation Force Troops Slaughtered (mostly American) in Afghanistan : 3,190

    A new joint study by Stanford and New York Universities concludes that in Pakistan, men, women and children are being terrorised by drone operations ’24 hours-a-day’. One in 50 victims are militants while the rest are civilians.

    And the ‘farming’ is ongoing. Americans seem to feel deaths have benefits too

    This doesn’t excuse what Mao is responsible for. Nor does it excuse what the US is responsible for. Remove the blinkers to see the full horror.

  • September 28, 2012 at 9:23 pm
    Permalink

    Thank you, Lawrence, for a provocative, comradely response. I truly hope that we are on the same page in many respects, and believe that we are.

    I’m not sure nonetheless why you focus on the fact that I failed to mention the blockade, as though this supposed “failure” somehow degraded the primary value of the presentation.

    The article is trying to deal with a fundamental flaw in the traditional conceptualization of post-capitalism. It is trying to lay the basis for a more scientific approach to “perfection” of the socialist model in Cuba. In order to lay this basis, it has been thought useful and necessary to abstract from as many related elements as possible, in order to focus on the targeted, specific area. I’m somewhat astonished that you do not see this immediately, and instead sally forth against me as though I had forgotten or covered up something very important.

    For over a century-and-a-half the concept of the state owning and administering all the instruments of production was–and for many still is–the strategic, maximum program of the world socialist movement. It began in 1847 with Engels’ second draft of the Communist Manifesto, the Principles of Communism.

    It continued in 1848 with his and Marx’s third draft, which Engels had renamed the Communist Manifesto. It continued during the last decades of life of both Engels and Marx, and they reaffirmed the state monopoly principle in 1872 in the Preface to the German edition of the Manifesto.

    It continued in the Marxian Erfurt Program of the SPD, and in the Marxian writings of Karl Kautsky. It continued with Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao, Ho, Fidel and Raul.

    It continues today with ultra-Lefts like the RCP in the US, who see Mao’s disastrous communal stupidity as “true” socialism.

    It even continues within the PCC, where they face catastrophic experimental results that threaten state power.

    And so, my dear Lawrence W., I put forward a proposal for reexamining the problem of rectification, or reforming, or tweaking, or altering the Cuban maximum program from a fresh angle, and you criticize the article and me for not mentioning the blockade. Why?

    The only reason I can imagine is that you wish to keep from addressing the central thrust of the article. The central trust is working to formulate of a new hypothesis for the further post-capitalist experiment in Cuba–with enormous political implications for Canada, the US, Mexico and all the countries.

    Should the new hypothesis be having the instruments of production owned and administered primarily by those who do the work, whether these are proletarian associates on the Mondragon corporate model, with silent state co-ownership?

    This is what I would hope you and other transformationaries in Canada would undertake to discuss, not the chit-chat of whether I neglected to mention the blockade, the impending destruction of the world’s oceans, global warming, the threat of nuclear war, or any other important aspects of today’s world.

  • September 28, 2012 at 3:24 pm
    Permalink

    Grady,

    Thank-you for your excellently written essay, rendering a subject that normally gets bogged down in definitions and dialectics easy to comprehend. Your “post capitalism” construct both allowed this, and it also established an easy method to introduce “transition” governments into the conversation.

    It also put into perspective what is of primary importance, I think, the imperative of going beyond capitalism more than on the details of what the beyond will look like. It represents, for me, the reality that I am seeing, that capitalism is a primitive institution whose best by date has long since passed.

    Capitalism’s only current success, as Chomsky and others have pointed out for some time, has been to prop itself up for yet another generation.

    Leading us toward “the core idea … that the post-capitalist state need not own everything productive in sight”, you identify an “essential question of post-capitalism” – “the existence, or non-existence of state power in the hands of a political party that, at least intentionally, is attempting to build post-capitalism”.

    You state that the PCC, despite desiring “sincerely to get to the goal of a classless society” “has broken down and is sitting alongside the highway, so to speak. Forward motion has been arrested, and there is a threat of the PCC being removed from the driver’s position,” but “there is still the possibility of making repairs and getting back on the road. Nonetheless, the danger of the loss of the driver’s position—of state power—remains, and supportive, comradely discussion is on the agenda.”

    You point out that when “we speak of ‘reforming’ or ‘perfecting the Cuban model of post-capitalism, we are speaking of the tweaking of the strategic, maximum program of social transformation,” as opposed to overthrowing it.

    I am writing this to ensure my understanding of what you wrote is correct. If I have, then I am certainly on the ‘same page’ as you, and a worthy page it is.

    I believe we are actually seeing the “tweaking” going on by Cuba’s current president, driven perhaps by fears of losing the “driver’s position”, but it does represent responding to Cubans’ concerns. It’s worth noting that this “fear” is totally absent in my society at present where political leadership is confident/arrogant in thinking they have no need to address what Canadians want.

    I have one concern, however, in what you wrote – the Mammoth in the room is not to be seen. Presumably this is what motivated ‘Moses’ to “thank you for an excellent post” – thank god, I can hear him saying, Grady didn’t mention the blockade.’

    The omission is not trivial. Every socialist worker cooperative model in history has been killed off in short order by capitalist opposition, enlisting the full and deadly force of their governments. It’s a standard capitalist practice – when they can’t compete successfully they work to kill off the opposition. Walmart, the largest business in the world, are past masters at it. The larger, more powerful you are, the better your success rate, obviously.

    I feel what you wrote has great value but I think what the blockade represents always needs to be acknowledged to know what we are up against. US capitalist propagandists on this website are always at pains to trivialize its effects, relentlessly working to spin that Cubans’ economic problems are caused by their government, – the so-called ‘internal blockade’ – against reason.

    Without acknowledging this deadly history and the current forces ‘en train’, I feel the excellent picture you offer has a missing frame.

    I’ve had correspondence from Circles who tells me Cubans he knows – presumably younger ones – are tired of people blaming their economic difficulties on the blockade. I am certain they are. But it doesn’t change the fact that the blockade is having an enormous effect on the Cuban economy.

    If you want to mitigate the “danger of the loss of the driver’s position” for Cuba’s government, we need to deal with what the government is up against, I think. Theories are fine, but reality needs to be addressed.

  • September 27, 2012 at 6:34 pm
    Permalink

    Griffin, you are eager to put forward my “view” of China’s so-called Great Leap Forward, without the slightest knowledge or evidence of my actual view or views. You say my “scheme” is based on flawed theories, and et cetera; yet, make no textural reference to the content of my article. I think that, if you were a lawyer, you would lose every case.

  • September 27, 2012 at 6:23 pm
    Permalink

    Moses, your characterization of a modern cooperative, state co-ownership republic is erroneous. The operating principle, or hypothesis, of such a republic is not “to redistribute wealth to undeserving members” of society–yours, mine or of anyone else. It is to refocus the labor and genius of all productive and patriotic citizens, in order to repair the enormous damage done by monopoly capitalism, and establish truly free enterprise and a just society.

    You say, “I believe in a merit-based society with equal opportunity to succeed and fail.” Well, what in the world do you think the proposed alternative to state monopoly socialism is? But i think your idea of “success” is the ability to get into a position whereby one may live high off the labor and genius of others.

    Cooperative state co-owned socialism proposes to discard the catastrophic mistake of abolishing private property rights and the trading market through state monopoly ownership, and put in its place a form of socialism where all able-bodied citizens have to work in order to pay the bills, and have jobs and positions through which to do so. How you can see this as some sort of taking what you have been able to amass and distributing it to the indolent and undeserving is beyond me.

    You agree with the old quote “the poor will be with us always.” I think you have a good heart, in many respects, but in others respects you are an intellectual pygmy. The poor are poor because they are fleeced of most of the lion’s share of what they produce, not because they are lazy or without merit. Poor people, generally speaking, are the hardest workers, and they are also the most exploited, i.e., most robbed by the banks, capitalists and landlords.

    The poor as the “undeserving members of my society” are a figment of your arrogant, landlord-like mentality; and it is evident by your words that you see a just society as being where you and your fellows are in a privileged position and have the means to throw compassionate crumbs to the down-trodden.

    Thanks for the “good luck” wishes, Moses. Fortunately, the socialist transformation of society, if we are able to regroup the Left and make it in time to save civilization, has an objective basis, to add to the hoped-for luck.

  • September 27, 2012 at 6:18 pm
    Permalink

    Informative and constructive. Food for thought, fuel for action.

  • September 27, 2012 at 5:05 pm
    Permalink

    You obviously didn’t understand – or pretend not to – Grady’s proposal, which is very well fundamented and coherent, and very different from what the post-capitalist experiments of the 20th century were or pretended to be.

    Ah, nice quote from a sensationalist best-seller. This shows us how ‘stunning’ your knowledge of History is.

  • September 27, 2012 at 1:18 pm
    Permalink

    Dear Grady,

    You approach economic & political theory as if it were nothing more than one of those computer simulation games, like Mine Craft or Sim City. With the right tweaks here and a patch there, you can design a perfect society that will hum along productively and equitably. Your scheme is doomed to failure because it is based on false assumptions, flawed theories and a stunning ignorance of past historical experience.

    In your view, China’s Great Leap Forward is nothing more than a “well intentioned error”… 38 million Chinese died in that “well intentioned error” which Mao justified with the succinct phrase, “Deaths have benefits. They can fertilize the ground.” _”Mao: the Unknown Story”, Chang & Halliday, p. 439.

  • September 27, 2012 at 12:38 pm
    Permalink

    Grady, thank you for an excellent post. It was clearly well-thought out and your intentions are easily discerned. As a capitalist, I must resist your desire to redistribute wealth to undeserving members of my society. I believe in a merit-based society with equal opportunity to succeed and fail. I believe that ´the poor will be with us alway´ therefore a more compassionate society should be our goal, not one that is poverty-free. Nonetheless, good luck at this. You will need it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *