By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES — I have always stressed my political position very clearly: I’m a democratic socialist. “Socialist” meaning that I promote a system of social organization which steers towards giving citizens the most social justice and equality possible. “Democratic” means that I advocate for representative and participatory democracy (real not fake), both to establish and maintain it.
If violence or a dictatorshop become necessary, this is already a symptom that there is something wrong and the consequences of this could be far worse if we put up with it and nothing is done to fix it. That’s why when I watched Chavez and his Bolivarian political movement win, talking about a new brand of socialism, about social justice and democracy, I couldn’t do anything but sympathize and celebrate the victory.
His political boldness and charisma filled people with hope. He put forward and managed to push through a new Constitution, using a democratic base which tried to be participatory. A step in the right direction, although the political channels they always used didn’t seem very viable and susceptible to autocratic use in my eyes. And indeed I was right, they ended up being used to keep social control and weren’t used for real civic engagement.
The idea of a new kind of socialism in the 21st century captivated me; it’s a shame that it wasn’t realistically established. Attacking capital or threatening it isn’t a wise or constructive thing to do, much less necessary. And Chavez never built up trust with those linked to capital, on the contrary, he revealed himself to be an enemy. And he won himself powerful detractors and lost irreplaceable allies. Even though I always gave him the benefit of the doubt, and he died prematurely leaving the ugly side of the coin to Maduro, watching the movement head where it has now, I painfully foresaw its collapse.
In November 2010, everything was still going swimmingly well. In spite of the temporary crisis because of a sharp fall in oil prices in 2008, the economy was already slowly recovering and the dollar only cost 9 bolivars on the black market, in spite of high inflation rates. Oil money was still paying for social missions, it determined foreign policy, gave oxygen to the always “asthmatic” Cuban economy and it opened up the doors to international integration bodies.
I wrote something on this subject over 7 years ago and I disseminated as best I could, from handing it out to people. When I wrote that piece, I had never been on the Internet. I will share some brief excerpts that reflected my concerns then, which have sadly been confirmed today.
“… no matter how just the intentions of leaders who head revolutions or popular democratic movements, which are taking place within the region, if they don’t have a project that is able to democratically change the foundations of an underhanded capitalist dictatorship, which is what a project of new socialism should effectively do, it will be condemned to failure.”
“The capitalist class no longer needs to be destroyed, nor does private property, nor the State, nor life without money, or fear of political freedom in a system which wants to establish social justice, democracy and socialism. All of this can co-exist in constructive harmony (…) (if it’s based) on social balance.”
“Any new socialist system needs to be profoundly democratic and needs to be based on full political freedoms and plurality; it needs to give shape to a strong State that is the protagonist in the national economy and also needs to develop the market at the same time; it must also give political importance to the working class…”
“If leaders of the Cuban Revolution choose to update the system, (…) everything would be much easier in finetuning socialism in Cuba and winning ground in the rest of the region. Here, we have all of the favorable conditions (…) to swap the old model copied from the Soviet Union, for the dynamic, democratic and revolutionary socialist model of the 21st century.”
“Giving up political stability, the great power that the orthodox model gives the Revolution’s leaders, is going to be very difficult, that’s understandable, (…) However, the political landscape has changed for the better and not changing is a danger, not only for Cuba’s development but for socialism on the whole.”
“A Cuba that clings to 20th century socialism will greatly harm the socialist projects of the 21st century within the region because it stigmatizes them; it marks them accomplices of an alleged deceitful project, with the purpose of radicalizing other progressive revolutions over time so they slowly adapt the Cuban model.”
“The necessary interdependence of other regional movements with Cuba, the evident friendship, the friendliness they show our leaders, introducing our country into mutual integration schemes, among other things, not only frightens many progressive sectors (…), but impedes the necessary incorporation of small and medium-size business into the economic development that is being pushed…”
“In summary, it ramps up the counter-revolution, it delays the implementation of new socialism and could lead them down the dead-end alley of radicalization, as a result of its example and capitalist reactionary efforts, which is unnecessary and completely counterproductive to what needs to be done today.”
“If Cuba doesn’t answer to new socialism (…) and if it doesn’t react in time, then it could lose this beautiful historic moment that it has been given…”
And we lost the moment!
As a socialist, I suffered greatly watching this process of radicalization that was in progress, which has been crowned today. I can’t approve of authoritarianism being encouraged in the name of socialism, without caring about its electoral origins. And I hold the Cuban government greatly responsible for both its failure as well as its unsustainability. Not changing in time has been a crime in every sense of the word and it has brought about disastrous consequences, not only for the Cuban people.
The new Left needs to overcome the trauma it has of believing that it needs to rule forever, once it has come into power. The Marxist-Leninist backwardness which their psyche attacks them with. Losing is normal, as is making mistakes; and rectifying these mistakes is necessary.
What isn’t normal and something we honest socialists can’t accept is that our political movement is being tarnished because of radicalism and the lack of public spirit. The people are the ones who give power and the people are the ones who take power away, by respecting and obeying the rules of the democratic game.
The Right isn’t our friend, their empowerment essentially answers to great Capital’s interests and it has always made lots of mistakes to get power, but that doesn’t justify that from a seat in power, and much less a socialist sitting in this seat of power, the dirty game of anti-constitutional authoritarianism is used.
Losing can be winning in politics if you don’t throw mud in the defeat, like Chavistas do far too much today, and it’s better to learn from these experiences. If only they could do something right now and stop sinking into the swamp of tyranny. I don’t know if they are shameless “to the T” or if they suffer from a historicist/dogmatic disease which has got hold of their most basic form of reasoning.
Anyone can see that their pig-headedness for staying in power and for forcing a distorted socialism that only exists in their minds doesn’t have a future. Because what’s left of that noble idea that Chavez had in the beginning which shook the continent and which continues to be brandished as a flag, is just a blurred illusion.