The Changing Slogans of Cuba’s Leadership

“Down with Capital, Long Live Capital!”

Pedro Campos

Foto: Juan Suarez
Foto: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — Those in Cuba who once bet on the complete expropriation and nationalization of foreign capital today beseech foreign capital to come in their aid, offering investors every imaginable guarantee.

The Cuban State economy is in crisis, but not as a result of the imperialist blockade or the collapse of the Soviet Union, as the defenders of “State socialism” often say.

The main reasons for the crisis must be looked for in more than fifty years of nearly-absolute state control, in the extreme centralization of decisions regarding how and how much of the billions of rubles received as subsidies from the former Soviet Union and the billions of Cuban pesos and hard currency produced by the working class were spent over this period of time, in the all-encompassing intervention of the State in the economy through domestic and foreign trade monopolies.

It is to be found, also, in the State’s almost complete control over the means of production, in the nationalization of international capital, the capital of Cuba’s high and petite bourgeoisie, of free, individual and family workers – recall the “revolutionary offensive” of 1968 – of cooperatives and worker associations.

The low salaries of workers, the maintenance of wage labor for the State, the financial imbalances generated by high spending in gigantic State institutions – such as the Armed Forces, State Security, the Party’s political and grassroots apparatuses, propaganda networks entirely subordinated to the State / Party / government, the country’s unwieldy foreign service – and international campaigns aimed at securing support for the government are some of the other causes behind the crisis.

All of this could be summed up as the catastrophic result of that series of aberrant, archaic and dogmatic conceptions that Stalinism developed under the banner of Marxism-Leninism. According to the Stalinist logic, a political and military elite is to determine and regulate a society’s laws, economy, way of life and just about everything else in the name of the communist Party, the revolution, socialism and the working class – so-called “real socialism”, whose only real characteristics have been the absence of democracy and the refusal to socialize political and economic power.

I have insisted on this elsewhere: unless the economic, political and social failure of this false socialism is acknowledged, the mistakes made will never truly be rectified.

Waiting in line at Havana's Coppelia Ice Cream Parlor.
Waiting in line at Havana’s Coppelia Ice Cream Parlor.  Photo: Juan Suarez

Those who defend this unjust system and now unscrupulously try to “update” it mistakenly identify the Cuban revolution with the Cuban government/State/Party that has made and continues to make every absurd mistake, “validating” the claims of right-wingers worldwide regarding the “unviability of socialism” (perhaps the best help global capitalism could hope for).

Today, Cuba’s State economy can no longer rely on massive subsidies from the Soviet Union, Venezuela is experiencing a serious economic crisis and cannot continue to provide the aid Chavez offered the island. Likewise, the governments of powerful allies such as Russia, China and Brazil only offer credits that must be repaid.

The bureaucratic apparatus of Cuba’s government/Party/State has refused to consider the truly socialist option: it has refused to share the country’s economic power with the people, with Cubans at home and abroad, with the workers.

It has refused to allow workers to participate in the administration, management and revenue-collection of State companies and to grant full freedom to the self-employed and cooperatives, instead subjecting these to regulations, experiments and all manner of toing-and-froing.

Naturally, workers identify less and less with a State that only caters to the interests of an elitist, bureaucratic caste which continues to determine the country’s laws, investments, estates and the lives of people.

Faced with this complex situation, torn apart by its own contradictions and flip-flopping, the Cuban government/State/Party has now decided to contract legal matrimony with international capital, in order to be able to continue exploiting Cuban workers with its aid.

The ironies of history! The “revolutionary leadership”, thirsty for foreign capital, today assures us it will not nationalize foreign investments made at El Mariel, the immense commercial project dependent on the end of the US blockade / embargo.

The same government that blamed international capital – and US capital in particular – of all the world’s evils, that once boasted of having nationalized (placed under State control, to be more accurate) all foreign properties, today swears blind that it will respect international capital and begs, beseeches its powerful northern neighbor to lift the restrictions that prevent US millionaires from showering Cuba with dollars.

They are not concerned about the risk that big, transnational companies – particularly US companies – will take possession of the resources and wealth of the “Pearl of the Antilles”, the “Key to the Gulf”, the “World’s Cruise Ship”, offering foreign investors the sweat of Cuban laborers on a silver platter, in order to share with them the surplus value they can squeeze out of workers together.

Havana St.  Photo: Juan Suarez
Havana St. Photo: Juan Suarez

This is typical of the annexationist stance that Cuba’s new Right – which has taken power in “socialist” Cuba – cannot conceal. We are dealing with the same people whose slogan once was “down with Capital”, those who today yell: “long live Capital!”

The traditional Cuban Right based in the United States does not conceal its intentions of restoring capitalism on the island. The new Right offers us a pig in a poke, painting itself a “socialist” red while acquiescing to Yankee capital, allegedly excluding the old, “imperialist” capitalists (no, the new ones are “anti-imperialists”), so that the nouveaux riches and bureau-bourgeoisie, allied to and financially dependent on international capital, can survive the inevitable collapse.

This comes as no surprise. Many of us in Cuba’s democratic and socialist left have been saying for many years that the bureaucratic State has only two options: coming to an agreement with the Cuban workers and people or with foreign capital.

The second alternative has been the one chosen in all places where “State socialism” was essayed, where the powerful, authoritarian elite re-converted back to capitalism and became a new type of bourgeoisie.

We are not against foreign investment. The question is who these investments benefit and what type of economy they are to serve, whether they are aimed at overcoming the economic and financial problems of the bureau-bourgeoisie and Cuba’s new Right or at developing the mid-sized and small companies and cooperatives of a socialist economy.

During a fund-raising campaign in Miami, President Barack Obama assured Cuban dissidents he would not negotiate with the Cuban government in what is left of his term in office, while speaking of the need to change the United States’ long-standing foreign policy towards Cuba.

The Democrats are already scrambling to secure votes from the Cuban and Hispanic communities, in view of the fact that there is a good chance the Republicans will put forth a Cuban-born senator as presidential candidate in the coming elections. If that were to happen and the Republicans won…

Many concerns, questions and disagreements must exist in the high echelons of Cuba’s leadership. What did the US president mean? If there are to be no negotiations, the blockade will not be lifted and American investments will not come. What will they do with the Mariel project, its three million containers and their debt to Brazil?

What steps could be taken to ensure the inflow of US capital, without putting their political power at risk? If this US president doesn’t lift the blockade, is that possibility to be discarded by Cuba’s current leaders? If the Republicans were to win the coming elections and a man of Cuban origin were to take office, what would they do?

Now, has anyone in Cuba’s distinguished government of generals asked the Cuban people what they want?

With every new development, what becomes clearer and clearer is that Cuba needs to democratize society, allow all Cubans to freely express our thoughts and to peacefully and democratically fight for their realization, allow for freedom of expression and association, the free and democratic election of all public officials and full access to the Internet.

This process of democratization would allow all Cubans of good will to take part in the building of a democratic future of peace, justice and harmony, with everyone and for everyone’s benefit, regardless of their political views, religion, skin color or sexual orientation.

Let’s hope open debate and the interests of the people prevail over the petty interests of extremists.

Socialism in defense of life.

Pedro Campos: [email protected]

5 thoughts on “The Changing Slogans of Cuba’s Leadership

  • Pedro, interesting read. While I strongly disagree with socialism and what it stands for, you are spot on as to what ails the island. The elite members of the Cuban Communist Party has been taking money from the state for decades. And now they are afraid, very afraid, of what is to come. There is nothing to fear from a free, open, democratic, and yes, capitalistic system of government.

  • Rubio’s father opposed Batista and fled his police in 1956. Yes, there were Cubans actively fighting against Batista before the Fidel arrived on the Granma. When Castro gained power and many Cubans in Miami were cheering him as a hero, Rubio Sr. returned to Cuba, hoping the dream of a free and democratic Cuban had at last arrived. He soon discovered that Castro was worse than Batista and returned to Miami disillusioned by Fidel’s turn towards the Communists and his refusal to allow elections.

    If by the Republicans possible Cuban-American pick you are referring to Ted Cruz, he was born in Canada of a Cuban father and an American mother. Cruz’s father actively fought against Batista and was tortured by his thugs. He too was soon disillusioned by Castro’s deception.

    I would say both Rubio & Cruz are long shots for the top of the ticket, but they might get the VP slot. The GOP are more likely to pick a governor for their candidate, as Senators often prove to be lousy presidents.

  • Thank you for a very thought provoking essay, Pedro.

    The current Cuban leadership does seem to be taking the country in a curious new direction, inviting foreign capital, selling Cuban labour and resources at dirt cheap prices, and brutally repressing any and all dissent. If the Castro regime is able to convince a few more corporations to invest, they may be able to limp along for a few more years.This political style has been seen before and must be called what it is: fascism. Like an inside- out watermelon, the Cuban leadership is red on the outside but olive green in the middle.

    Regardless of who is the next US president, whether of Cuban heritage or not, the US will not be lifting the embargo until the Cuban government allows significant political reforms. This means free and democratic multi-party elections and the Castro clan is gone from power. Only then will the US gov’t enter into negotiations with a democratically elected Cuban gov’t over compensation for expropriated US and Cuban exile property and the end of the embargo. The process could be facilitated by a series of reciprocal gestures, taking down the embargo piece by piece, while the Cuban government transitions to a liberal democracy step by step.

    With articulate and engaged Cuban intellectuals active in Cuban politics, one can expect to see a full range of political representation in a future democratic Cuba, including Pedro’s democratic socialist left. So often we hear from the shrill defenders of the Castro regime that a liberal democratic election will only result in “rightists” gaining power, undoing all the achievements of the revolution.

    First, let’s be clear about one thing: nobody has done more to undermine the achievements of the Cuban Revolution than the brutal and sclerotic leadership still clinging to power in Havana. Secondly, there is no reason to believe “rightist” parties would achieve a majority of the vote. Instead, one should expect left, centre and conservative parties to each elect candidates to a coalition government whose task it would be to shepherd the transition to a reborn Cuba.

    Yet, with all that promise, nothing will come of it so long as the Castro regime and the ruling party rule out any political reform. With no political reform, the embargo will not be lifted and the Mariel port scheme will become yet another failed project of the failed revolution.

    In the end, Cuba’s future is in the hands of the aging leadership and the Cuban people.

  • A technical correction: We all assume you are referring to Senator Marco Rubio when you say “there is a good chance the Republicans will put forth a Cuban born Senator as Presidential candidate in the coming elections”.

    Senator Rubio was born in Miami and not Cuba. He has recently acknowledged that his earlier statements about his parents fleeing Cuba after the Revolution succeeded were false and they actually left before the Granma landed.

    is a good chance the Republicans will put forth a Cuban-born senator as
    presidential candidate in the coming elections – See more at:
    Pedro Campos
    Pedro Campos

  • Wow! Pedro has generally done a good job in describing Cuba’s current predicament. Not bad for a leftie. A few corrections worth mentioning include that President Obama did not say during his recent fundraiser in Miami at the home of famed anticastrista Mas Canosa that he would not negotiate with the Castros. He affirmed that he would not veer from the goal of democracy and freedom for Cuba. In fact, his remarks imply he would negotiate but without concession. Second, Senator Marco Rubio’s chances of being the next President are very, very remote. For all the lefties who blindly support the Castro dictatorship, an analysis of the regime which truthfully describes the island’s slow walk back to capitalism must be a hard read. Like the super cow, the ten million ton harvest, and the oil drilling busts of the pasts, the Castros’ bet on the Port of Mariel project and the surrounding economic trade zone will come to nothing unless Cuba can freely trade with the US. The current embargo precludes this trade so it makes no sense why the Castros continue to hold Alan Gross hostage blocking further improvement to relations. As the Cuban economy continues to spiral downward, the US ‘do-nothing’ strategy makes more and more sense. The much-maligned as ineffective US embargo may finally have its day in the sun. Hopefully, once the historic leadership has left the building (read: Castros), it can only be hoped that the leadership put in place to carry on will reevaluate their “updating strategy” and move towards, as Pedro states, “democratize society, allow all Cubans to freely express our thoughts and …”

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