by Pedro Campos, (photos: Caridad)
HAVANA TIMES, March 16 — Some people “believe” that for there to be a transition to a socialist economy (where cooperative and self-management forms of socialist production predominate), a high level of capitalist development must first be attained, and therefore we need to prioritize the expansion of domestic and foreign private capitalism.
In this manner we would be “advancing” socialism, only in the same way that all other less developed capitalist countries are, except that such progress here would be like in China, “delimited” by the control of the Communist Party.
To support their positions, the advocates of this path hide behind the notion that “socialism is the transitional stage” under which capitalist remnants subsist. Those who cite Marx’s reference to the period of transition (in his Critique of the Gotha Program) to justify further capitalist development at this stage, fail to realize that his intention was precisely the opposite.
This period must serve to unearth the foundations of the old regime so as to lay the groundwork for the new mode of production, which Marx always understood as being socialism: the abolition of wage-labor and the development of freely associated labor, which he observed in independent cooperatives organized by the workers themselves.
If Marx mentioned the transitional state as the “dictatorship of the proletariat,” it was in the broad sense that every state is a dictatorship exercised by a class, not in the political sense of the term “dictatorship” as a form of government, since Marx clearly described the workers’ government as a “democratic republic.”
With such friendly advocates, socialism in Cuba (or anywhere else in the world) doesn’t need enemies.
We accept that they aspire to institute a kind of NEP (New Economic Policy), as envisaged by Lenin in Russia: “Communists building capitalism!”
But what’s left of those experiences?
What happened subsequently in developing capitalism without having developed cooperativism and self-managerial (“autogestion”) production? What followed was total statism, repression and all of the subsequent atrocities committed under Stalinism.
Why the denial of the posthumously published work by Lenin in relation to socialism, titled “On Cooperativism”? It should be published in Granma newspaper and be bedtime reading for all our “leaders”. It should be studied by the party study groups who call themselves Leninist.
Without their knowing it, I hold that the supporters of the strengthening of capitalism as a means of reaching socialism are effectively in agreement with the liberal Cuban author Carlos Alberto Montaner when he said, “Socialism is the transitional stage between capitalism and…capitalism.” Of course he was referring to “state socialism,” though what we have was never really even that.
More clearly: Behind those “Marxists” are some followers who are confused and well-intentioned, but also hiding behind them are a number of supporters of capitalism and authoritarianism. They don’t have to be accused of being traitors or taken to the “guillotine”; we’re well beyond such violence and absurd Jacobinism, but we are forced to examine their views as part of the dialogue we desire.
Those in power who want to promote capitalism in order to “build socialism later” would be throwing away 50 years of struggles and hopes for socialism, as well as 50 years of anti-capitalist confrontations, clashes with imperialism and sacrifices by the workers and the people.
To “do things correctly,” I’m sure they are already thinking about bringing back the thoroughly “trashed” capitalists and the imperialist monopolies. Yet it’s unlikely that the “communists” who were incapable of “constructing socialism” can “construct capitalism.”
Someone even told me that Cuba first had to become rich, and for that to happen capitalism was necessary. It is as if exploiting the labor of others were something normal, something without the slightest social significance, a meaningless phrase.
They speak as if capitalism could create more material, spiritual and human wealth than freely associated labor, as if capitalism alone created the rich and riches without their respective tradeoffs. They speak as if capitalism weren’t in crisis.
I will limit myself to repeating Marx: “The same as slave labor, the same as serf labor, wage labor is but an inferior transitional form, destined to disappear before freely associated labor that accomplishes its tasks with gusto, enthusiasm and joy.”
Not everyone agrees that capitalist wealth comes first
Many rank-and-file workers and communists disagree with the idea of developing capitalism first. They didn’t fight and struggle for half a century for that and they still uphold the slogan “Never backwards, not even to pick up momentum,” which Raul Castro made popular in the early years of the revolution.
A state monopoly over the economy and politics is one thing, but it is altogether something else to think about restoring the classical private capitalist system and the power of money and capital.
Those who gave all their efforts and their entire lives to the “revolution,” those who have subsisted for over half a century on low pay — supplemented by subsidized health, education, food, clothing, footwear and housing — cannot understand or accept continuing with such low pay.
Nor will they accept the unilateral elimination of those subsidies for prices dictated by the international capitalist market and the bureaucracy in Cuba that controls the foreign exchange market. It is the vox populi: if the subsidies are to be eliminated, wages and pensions must be increased.
What can the state do? It needs to live up to its principals by giving up so much control over the economy and the lives of citizens. Give people some room to organize itself economically and politically, as they understand it: completely opening self-employment and cooperative work, along with full freedoms of expression and association, but refraining from prioritizing and extending “private wage exploitation.”
The state has provided tax exemptions on capitalists who exploit five or more workers. Where is this heading? Are they protected by the state in its need for the creation of wage-labor jobs? Why not accelerate the creation of jobs in cooperatives and self-managed companies?
The supporters of capitalism exist here in Cuba, holding all types of positions; concealed and open for various reasons. One of the most important reasons is that because of the failure of “state socialism,” together with ignorance concerning revolutionary Marxist socialism, they believe they have been left with no other options.
Therefore, those who oppose the development of self-managed and cooperative forms of socialist production and who object to the dissemination of ideas concerning Marxist socialism are placing their bets on the restoration of the old capitalist regime.
The rich exist here, directly and indirectly. Permitting them to legally exploit others not only goes against the constitution, but it is also promoting the mode of production that we are supposedly attempting to supplant; but what’s worse is that this is being done without the parallel development of cooperativism and self-management, which would at least offer the possibility to compete on the playing field.
The power of money
Money can buy the means of production, labor and even hearts. It can buy everything that stands in front of it. The rich, the capitalists, have gradually grown, increasingly exploiting wage-labor workers for the simple reason that their system is more productive and pays better than state capitalism.
They may end up buying the country, complete with its corrupt bureaucrats (whoever they are), which will be that much easier if there is no superior form of the organization of labor, one capable of producing more and better and generating more satisfaction of all types among producers.
I was told by a friend, a colonel in the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), that if they completely open up to capital and lift the blockade, we will see more than a few people selling themselves “like fresh pork at the market.”
From the opposition — the traditional supporters of capitalist restoration — to let them carry out such a project, which is the one they have always defended.
Those who believe that capitalist development is first necessary to then advance toward socialism are falling into the old Stalinist prejudice that views history as a mechanical and compartmentalized succession, with impenetrable partitions and socio-economic formations where one begins only where the other ends.
According to this dogmatic view of history, when the primitive communal mode of production exhausted its potential, there was the slave system; and when the slave system could provide no more, there then came feudalism; and when that system in turn exhausted itself, there then came capitalism; and socialism “will be built” once capitalism collapses.
This idea ignores the true parallel historical development of modes of production, ones that have been predominant in accordance with the development of their productive forces and the capacity and the disposition of the classes in power and the new revolutionary classes.
Those who use these schematics don’t consider, or don’t want to consider, that within the core of primitive communalism there began and developed the first forms of slave society, and that within the first slave systems there arose feudal relationships that were then refined into the most classical ones. They don’t know that wage-labor — capitalist — forms of production were expressed even in the slavery stage, of which there is evidence in Greece.
In 19th century Cuba there was slavery, feudalism and capitalism mixed together. Among workers there appeared the first signs of cooperatives, such as the Proudhonist mutual company in 1856 and the typesetter associations; at the same time the Aurora newspaper in 1865 led the tobacco growers’ guild in advocating cooperativism as a solution to wage slavery.
Perhaps the dogmatists don’t realize that cooperative forms of production have been expressed since people began to hunt mammoths, though these achieved their greatest development only under capitalism, under which they have been refined and will someday prevail in this or another country until they become generalized.
Cooperatives have expanded around the globe
Today, the cooperative movement in the modern capitalist world has been extended to the point where it involves more than 900 million cooperative members. This year, 2012, has been recognized by the UN as the “International Year of Cooperatives.” Nobel prizes in economics have been received by scholars of cooperativism, and the list of events and phenomena that demonstrate the importance of modern cooperatives is endless.
Stated simply: the new socialist mode of production has been underway and doing so at the expense of the old capitalist mode of production.
Socialism isn’t going to be built tomorrow from a single blow from a “violent revolution,” or by the decision of an enlightened group of thinkers: it has been developing within capitalism and will be attained, through its development, as the dominant mode of production.
In Cuba prior to 1959-60 there were many cooperative forms: cooperatives properly speaking in production and services, mutual clinics, retirement funds, mutual aid societies, large bus companies, hotels whose proceeds went toward unions, and other businesses that the revolutionary government “statisized” when it implemented its “nationalizations.”
For there to be revolutionary but less violent processes that are necessary for the triumph of socialism as a world system, these will depend on the ability and intelligence of the modern bourgeoisie to make adaptations to the capitalist system — as they have been doing — by allowing more workers participation in ownership, management and profits; enabling the development of cooperative enterprises, permitting a more equitable distribution of profits through the collection of taxes and by including social benefits in the state budget (as social-democratic or popular capitalism, etc.), but also the intelligence and capacity of the new revolutionary class of freely associated laborers to continually extend their new mode of production.
This is an issue that goes beyond the struggles of organized groups for power.
The new technologies and change
The new state-of-the-art information technologies are playing a major role in the liberation of wage-labor slavery.
Opposition to these is therefore logical given the existence of reactionary interests in all societies and their interests in censoring and limiting international networks. The freedom that permeates the Internet is very dangerous for authoritarians and those holding capitalist power.
Capitalism as the prevailing world system is in an increasingly acute crisis. It is being compelled to make reforms such as raising taxes on the wealthy, increasing lending to those poor who are willing to start their own businesses, expanding social services to the indigent, limiting the aims of big business; controlling the generation of waste caused by profit system, which stimulates ecological disasters; and adopting more democratic forms of government, as demanded by indignados (the outraged) of the world.
Either it makes these changes or social upheavals ill increase and turn into violent revolutions.
This is what’s happening with the protests in Europe, the United States and the Middle East, where the more brutal and violent the exercise of power, the more violence it engenders. In each region, international imperialism is responding with “smart power” in an attempt to control the situation and support their interests.
In their own countries they resort to repression; but while still trying to avoid bloodshed and deaths, they make reforms. In other countries, they try to capitalize on the protests with direct or indirect intervention, which are more or less violent.
I have written about this on other occasions, never attempting to stigmatize or discredit anyone. I’m merely trying to provide some clarity to the discussion: the old bureaucratic, statist, top-down mentality is the result of deviations from critical-revolutionary-dialectical Marxism that fell with Russian-Soviet revolutionary process.
Though named “Leninism” — by the Stalinists, but without the approval of Lenin — that mentality has tried to spread itself to all revolutionary and socialist movements of the twentieth century.
These were the deviations — opportunely identified by Rosa Luxemburg and ones that Lenin began to recognize in the last years of his life, though by that time physically disabled and unable to exercise leadership — that resulted in the subsequent disaster.
The supporters of a more participatory and democratic socialism understand that if the “updating” doesn’t engage itself, as quickly as possible, the main engines of socialization — which are broad cooperativism and the direct participation of workers in management, administration and the distribution the profits of state enterprises — Cuba will not be heading toward more socialism, but toward the predominance of private capitalism.