“State Socialism” in Cuba

Grady Ross Daugherty

grady1HAVANA TIMES — In Cuba and the Incapacity of State Socialism to Change and Renew Itself, Pedro Campos and Armando Chaguaceda argue that “state socialism” (ownership and administration of all the instruments of production by the socialist state) is an economic system which springs primarily from the brain and character of Joseph Stalin.

The addition of one-party political and social absolutism, in their terminology, results in the composite phenomenon of “Stalinism.”

Cuba, they believe, is run by such a Stalinist autocracy which has fastened “state capitalism, established in the name of socialism” onto the people.

This is quite a charge. It deserves a comradely response.

Let us go to the classic Marxist literature, and try to identify the textural origins of this “state socialism.”

Its original formulation—for the first time in history that we know of—may be found on the next-to-last page of the second chapter of the Communist Manifesto:

“. . . The first step by the proletariat in its revolution is to raise itself to the position of ruling class . . .

. . . [It will then] use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to concentrate all instruments of production in the hands of the state [emphasis added] . . . and to increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as possible.”

This is fairly straight-forward. By degrees, the socialist state is to concentrate all productive forces in its hands.

grady2When the word “all” is used, we may assume it to be a well-considered stipulation as to which instruments of production are to be nationalized. These would include everything from hotels and restaurants to mines and sugar mills.

Marx and Engels lived a long time after 1848. They had ample time to mull over their core stipulation of 100% state ownership. Here is what they said in their preface to the 1872 German edition of the Manifesto:

“. . . However much that statement of things may have altered during the last twenty-five years, the general principles laid down in the Manifesto are, on the whole, as correct today as ever.”

Both of the above quotes may be verified in almost any edition of the Communist Manifesto published today; or, on-line at the Marx/Engels Archive.

If the reader is not sure if the above quotations reflect the authentic Marxian recipe of “state socialism,” let us turn to the last chapter of that 1880 Engels pamphlet Socialism: Scientific and Utopian (made up of three chapters from his Anti-Duhring).

This pamphlet was first published in French in 1880, almost one-third of a century after the Communist Manifesto. In his third and last chapter, Engels makes numerous references to the fact that, under socialism, the state is to own everything productive. Here is what he says six pages from the end:

“. . . The proletariat seizes political power and turns the means of production into state property.” [His emphasis]

Then, in his second-to-last paragraph of the pamphlet:

“III. Proletarian Revolution-Solution of the contradictions.

“The proletariat seizes the public power, and by means of this transforms the socialized means of production, slipping from the hands of the bourgeoisie, into public property.”

And so, it seems indisputable that the fathers of Marxism set forth in 1848 the essential core principle of state socialism, and reaffirmed it in 1872 and 1880.

grady3Moreover, the leaders of the world communist movement—including Kautsky, Lenin, Bukharin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao, Ho, Kim, Fidel and Raul—held, or hold “state socialism” to be the core principle of “real” socialism. Ideologically and programmatically, all these men were, or are “state socialists.”

Based on all of the foregoing, the comrades Pedro and Armando seem to have made a profound factual error in attributing “state socialism” primarily to Joseph Stalin.

The crimes of Stalin are well known; but he did not invent the economic and social core principle upon which his criminal autocracy arose.

It is reasonable to believe therefore that some form of Stalinism, in whichever country, is the inexorable result of the Marxian core principle of state socialism. A primary task of the left, it would seem, is to figure out why.


18 thoughts on ““State Socialism” in Cuba

  • May 29, 2013 at 5:50 pm
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    But Luis, aren’t you talking all around the subject at hand?

    Let’s try to focus on what is important. It’s not important whether Marx said this or that. He was not a god, and it is enormously tragic that the Left has considered him the Pope or Oracle of socialism for a century and a half.

    Everybody seems to try and prove or disprove points by ferreting out a quote from that dead guy. That scriptural-ist, quasi-religious approach to discussion is pure nonsense.

    It is by contrast vitally important that we of the socialist Left understand the core economic hypothesis for any further socialist experiment in transformation.

    The leaders and rank and file of the socialist Left have traditionally used the ironclad principle of “state ownership of all things productive.” The fact is important; where the fact was gotten is irrelevant. Don’t you agree?

    Marx and Engels should never have stipulated, or gave the impression that they had stipulated state monopoly socialism as an ironclad principle that had been scientifically evolved and verified.

    They ought to have emphasized that state socialism is a beginning hypothesis, subject to testing and, if necessary, altered. Don’t you agree?

    But they didn’t do that because they had embraced the prompt abolition of private property from the bourgeois Moses Hess, and thought in their self-confident bourgeois heads that they were unquestionably correct.

    Look, do you agree that it is grossly premature to abolish private productive property rights under socialist state power . . . or not?

    I say that it is premature, and that construction toward a classless, stateless, completely human society must be a several generations process; and that this process must be a strategic alliance of the working, small biz and intellectual classes.

    I say that classes can only diminish and hopefully disappear someday by making private property owned democratically, by those who do the work, whether by the peasant families who till the land, of the industrial and commercial workers who cooperate with each other for primary ownership and self-management, and allow the state to hold a minor, partial, silent share in order to avoid a tax-revenue system.

    What do you say?

    We need to talk about the correct maximum, strategic program of transformation which the leading party, if given a mandate by the people, would implement. All that other talk is useless beard stroking.

    If you are going to build a party in Brazil which has a chance, during your lifetime, to hold state power and usher in a socialist society, you’ve got to be able to tell the Brazilian people what you stand for programmatically.

    If you cannot, Luis, what chance do you have of raising the consciousness of the people to an authentic socialist level, of building a vanguard party, and actually making a revolution?

    Let’s talk about maximum program, shall we! Cheers.

  • May 28, 2013 at 8:30 pm
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    According to his (once upon a time) close friend Norberto Fuentes, Fidel described his own political views thus, “I am a Marxist of course, but never a Communist, in that I was never willing to subject myself to the dictates of the Party. I recognized in the methods and propaganda of the Soviet system the means to achieve and maintain power, that is all. Above all, I am a Fidelist.”

    Whether that was a direct quote or a synthesis of opinions gleaned through years of friendship, Fuentes doesn’t say. but it certainly rings true.

    Any Ruler who has kept an iron grip for half a century loves power and nothing else.

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