Ten important lessons of what shouldn’t be done in the name of socialism: Fidel Castro’s great legacy.
HAVANA TIMES — Many believe that everything Fidel Castro did in the name of socialism was a huge mess. But shouldn’t we consider the acknowledgment and study of the many mistakes made in the name of socialism a great lesson, a great inheritance for all socialists?
Fidel Castro is regarded as one of the great political figures of the 20th century. So are Stalin and Mao, and we socialists have learned much from them, particularly what shouldn’t be done if one’s aim is to contribute to the development of a new society that is free and democratic and whose means of production have been socialized for the benefit of all citizens.
I insist, assuming full responsibility for my statements and any repercussions thereof, that the work of Fidel Castro as the leader of the Cuban Communist Party and the Cuban government and State for more than fifty years has taught us what shouldn’t be done if our intention is to bring about a socialist future in this or any other country.
Unless and until we Cubans are able to distance ourselves from all of the aberrations of Fidelismo done in the name of socialism, we will not be able to impel any type of socialist society here.
Some will say that, with the collapse of the socialist bloc and the popular unrest that shook Havana’s ocean drive at the time, Fidel Castro essayed a number of policy changes. This is true. But we should also recall he referred to these changes as a “necessary evil” and that he began to rescind these after he felt he had secured Venezuelan oil through Chavez, and that, in 2005, he stated the revolution could only be reverted by the mistakes of revolutionaries themselves. In practice, the absurd pillars of the revolutionary process still stand.
The Party with its double standards will surely accuse me of many things – but I know many from within will quietly acknowledge the truth of what I’m saying to themselves. Raul Castro, who has had to fix many of his brother’s blunders without laying the blame for these on him and without distancing himself from the Party line, will likely agree with many of the things I will expound on.
It is not my intention to address all of the lessons to be drawn from Fidel Castro’s actions in this brief article. Identifying and elucidating these in detail would require a thick volume that a group of analysts could perhaps write some day. I will limit myself to some I know many will agree with, because, in one way or another, a number of colleagues and I have been addressing these in our critiques of Cuban “State socialism” for some time now.
Below are ten of the lessons of what not to do that I believe we can walk away with:
1) The concentration of absolute power in a single person and the elimination of autonomous State powers, the rule of law and a democratic political system that ought to have been steered directly by the people. This is perhaps the most important lesson to be drawn here.
In Cuba, everything was done and undone in accordance with Fidel Castro’s informed opinions – everything from the establishment of a political-military leadership, the Agrarian Reform, the country’s laws and the building of roads and towns to the form and content of measures aimed at developing the economy, agriculture, industry, fish farming and fishing in general and all levels of education, the structuring of the party and grassroots organizations, foreign policy, “proletarian internationalism” and the fostering of violent revolts in the style of the Cuban revolution.
The list can be lengthened with concrete examples in which Fidel Castro’s personal decision was key, from the Cuban Missile Crisis (which placed the world on the brink of nuclear apocalypse), through the color of school uniforms, the 10-million-ton sugar harvest, the massive planting of coffee trees around Havana, Cuba’s gigantic cattle-raising and milk production plans (all steered by a misguided voluntaristic policy), to day care centers for newborns, a system of boarding schools in the countryside applicable to all possible junior and senior high school students, the sending of thousands of troops and armaments to distant conflicts, the homophobic Military Units for Aid in Production (UMAP), the Gray Five Years, the repression of religious activities, providing the enemy with information that served to detect a network of Cuban secret agents operating in the United States, the Black Spring of 2003 and many etcetera’s.
2) The forceful expropriation and placing under State control – not the socialization – of all large, mid-scale and small properties and their concentration in State hands, to a degree never achieved under capitalism.
3) Maintaining the salaried exploitation in the State companies, which kept alive the very essence of the capitalist system, in its State-command form. Hence the turn towards State monopoly capitalism.
4) Eliminating and violently repressing any and all opposition (no matter what its skin color), maintaining a single-party system and eliminating the freedom to associate freely.
5) Control of all means of information and communication by the State-Party-government and thwarting freedom of expression.
6) Dismissing the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the conventions on economic, social, civil and political rights as “bourgeois”, even though these rights are the result of social struggles by different revolutionary movements, spanning centuries.
7) Eliminating all forms of self-managed individual or associated labor, particularly cooperative, mutualist and self-employed forms of labor that do not involve wage exploitation.
8) Regarding the market as a capitalist abomination that must be subordinated to the interests of the State, instead of allowing for its development and restricting all forms of private or State monopoly that try to confine it to narrow interests.
9) Seeking to export Cuba’s “socialist revolution” and believing oneself with full impunity before the international community to act in defiance of the conventions and legal frameworks agreed upon by the community of nations.
10) Ignoring the general laws of economic and social development and believing that capitalism and imperialism can be wiped from the face of the earth through the violent action of revolutionaries.
We must thank Fidel Castro for having taught us what we should never do as socialists.
So, with all due respect, sincerely and without any kind of sarcasm, I openly say: thank you, Fidel.