A reply to Raul Castro’s July 7th address to the Cuban Parliament
By Pedro Campos
HAVANA TIMES — It is true, Mr. President, that all of the problems you described in your last speech continue to affect Cuban society and that these problems are on the rise. We, the proponents of participative and democratic socialism, have been emphasizing this in our writings for a number of years now.
For us, however, these problems do not have the connotations you give them; they stem from other causes and, of course, call for solutions that aren’t stricter order, discipline and demands.
According to you, the cause of all these problems is the “nobleness of the revolution”, the fact that authorities lack a firm hand, that they do not exercise enough repression.
To you, they have nothing to do with the economic, political, social and moral disaster that more than fifty years of State monopoly capitalism, disguised as socialism, as the “dictatorship of the proletariat”, has brought us, with the one-man, single-party system that controls most property and decision-making processes, under which citizens have been entitled only to “work gratefully and faithfully, in honor of those who gave it all and freed Cuba from the tyranny of Batista and imperialist exploitation.”
You in power fail to see you are playing with fire. Perhaps you are deliberately fueling the flames, but I prefer to think, Mr. President, that you are among those who do not realize what is taking place – though, for all practical purposes, it’s all the same.
Your government-Party-State, by your own admission, is facing a growing wave of social disobedience, a rise in acts of peaceful insurgency by the people, varying forms of non-violent resistance, as a result of a generalized dissatisfaction with the economic, social and civil policies of your corrupt and corrupting State.
All you can see there, however, is a cursed, ungrateful, ill-mannered, criminal and apish population that has been unable to appreciate the sacrifices you’ve made to ensure their happiness. Accordingly, you blame the people for the consequences of the mistakes you’ve made and threaten them from high up, from your position of absolute power: either you accept our system, or we reprimand you.
How inconsiderate, how disrespectful towards the people who gave you their unconditional support! How wrong you are! The government does not judge the people. It’s the other way around.
We’ll always need a system, but that system ought to be chosen by all, in a democratic fashion, not imposed upon the people, not established by force.
You yourself confirm, perhaps unwittingly, something we have pointed out elsewhere: the political, military and entrepreneurial bureau-bourgeoisie that wields Cuba’s economic and political power and uses it for its own benefit is not only set against the salaried workers it mercilessly exploits, but also against all other strata and classes of Cuban society, against the entire Cuban people.
Let us go over a number of things addressed in your speech and what we have argued elsewhere.
From your perspective, the people are stealing from the State. From our perspective, it is the Cuban State which has been robbing the people, getting the most out of the sweat of wage laborers, farmers, the self-employed, professionals, intellectuals, artists and others through measly salaries, abusive taxes and the two-currency system, the basic, minimum free services that are still offered today notwithstanding. And those who produce the country’s wealth are simply applying the “just compensation” law: they are taking back what you unjustly take away from them.
Where you see illegal housing, we catch sight of self- initiative, undertaken by people trying to put a roof over their heads, in view of the absence of any effective official policy that can create the needed number of homes.
When you mention the theft and illicit slaughter of livestock, we cannot help but recall all of the State regulations and laws which have hindered beef and milk production; the drastic drop in livestock that the State’s monopoly over the sale of beef brought about and, above all, the unsatisfied needs of Cuba’s population, which today is twice what it was in 1959, but with half the heads of cattle at its disposal.
What you describe as acts of vandalism in public spaces, against payphones, electrical and telephone installations, sewage systems, traffic lights and metallic road bumpers, we see as signs of civic discontent, as the expression of an “every man for himself” mentality, of an uncertain, precarious life, of disappointment, abandonment, of the chaos you yourselves have created.
In short, different degrees and levels of the discontent and rebelliousness that throbs in the veins of the people, who have been left to their own resources and without legal and democratic mechanisms with which to fight for their rights.
Need we remind you that, in Batista’s time, the 26th of July movement also sabotaged electrical installations and sewage systems, through much more violent and destructive actions, in fact?
What you see as a people who evade the payment of public transportation fares and a general abuse of buses and trains, we see as the prelude of a potentially extreme and massive outburst by the people, driven to the ends of impatience and despair by the inability to satisfy basic needs such as transportation, a problem your government has been unable to solve, and not for a lack of suggestions.
You say the school and family aren’t playing the roles they ought to in our society. But, who created these schools, who have been our ministers of education, who have established educational systems that forsook good manners as well as human and civil rights, rejected morals, ethics and democracy as “bourgeois” and exalted violent methods as a means of getting things done?
What, if not State policies that encouraged hatred towards those who left the country, the “internationalist missions” that kept family members apart for years and the creation of brigades that sent people to work in other provinces for extended periods of time.
How about the destruction of family inheritances, the Manichean division of Cubans into revolutionaries and counterrevolutionaries, discrimination on the basis of political affiliation, race, sexual or religious orientation, the use of violence against peaceful opposition and homosexuals, practiced with greater of lesser degrees of intensity at different moments in Cuban history.
What, if not all this, is responsible for the disastrous divisions that cleave Cuban families apart today?
We could respond very similarly to each and every one of the accusations you hurl at the Cuban people. You, and you alone, the so-called “historical leadership” of the revolution, on whom the people placed their trust, unreservedly, you, who razed the country to the ground in the name of “socialism”, are to blame.
We are not defending shoddiness, vulgarity, bad habits and behaviors; we are merely saying they are the natural outcome of the many prohibitions, regulations, exceptions and impositions that the Cuban people have had to endure. Were the people born this way, do they do these things because they are genetically predisposed to be bad? Or have you already forgotten one of Marx’s maxims, that people think as they live? Wretchedness engenders wretches. Hatred begets hateful people, violence begets violence.
Are you not aware of the fact that the great majority of those people you criticize were born after you came to power? Are the people you raised suddenly no good? Or are you the ones who haven’t been good to the people, and the people are simply demanding another government, another model? Think about it.
If we had kept quiet, if we hadn’t pointed out these problems before they reached their current state, analyzed their causes and proposed solutions – something we have been doing, from the inside, for many years, on the basis of thorough studies and ever more concrete socialist proposals as of the 4th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) held in 1991 – we would not have the moral authority to say these things to your face.
But the worst thing about this speech is that it reveals that you continue wanting to solve these problems by imposing order, discipline and stricter demands on people, through a deliberate call to intensify the repression of a humble people who merely seeks to survive whichever way it can, that you believe the problem is that the “revolution”, which you wrongly identify with those who have created this mess, has been too soft.
The broad socialist and democratic Left which you insist on ignoring has said it many times: it is a question of changing Cuba’s absurd, bureaucratic State-command system, democratizing its political structures, freeing the economy, domestic and foreign trade of all State restrictions and monopolies.
It’s also about socializing property through company self and co-management, promoting the extensive development of cooperatives, giving the self-employed and small and mid-sized companies true opportunities to grow, freeing farmers of all abusive regulations, approving a new tax law that incentivizes production, eliminating the two-currency system, and implementing a whole series of other measures that would make this list far too long – measures we have described in our programs and articles.
I could well keep quiet and leave you be without warning you that you are heading down the wrong path, a terrifying path that leads to an inevitable confrontation with the vast majority of the people, a confrontation whose consequences cannot be predicted. But, out of principle, I reject all violence and hope to see the serious problems faced by the Cuban nation today resolved peacefully and democratically.
It is almost unquestionable that some members of the revolutionary leadership are willing to run such risks, including the risk of an eventual foreign intervention (which would avail itself in the mass repression of the population), before acknowledging the failure of their centralized, State-command “model” and handing power over to the people and workers.
They would rather provoke an act of foreign aggression, so that history will remember that “imperialism prevented the definitive triumph of their socialist revolution”, not their own limitations. Can one conceive of a more annexationist attitude? Would the high command of the Revolutionary Armed Forces take part in such a barbarous act?
They remind me of the Spanish, back in the day of Cuba’s wars of independence: they preferred to surrender to the United States, than to the Cuban people, who had defeated them in the countryside.
But enough of that. Few people place any stock in what those extremists have to say, and history is already revealing the obvious: that they aren’t interested in socialism or in helping the people at all, that all they follow are their whims. And no more Cubans are going to die because of their whims.
You will have to acknowledge your ineptitude and open up new spaces to democratize and socialize Cuba’s political and economic system, faced as you are by different forms of continuing, peaceful popular resistance.
Contrary to your wishes, the bulk of the Armed Forces and Ministry of the Interior, who are a part of the suffering people, will not take part in your sinister, treacherous and backward scheme of massive repression.
I thank you for your informative speech, Mr. President, and apologize for singling you out, but it is, after all, your speech.
To contact Pedro Campos write: [email protected]