The Trap of Stifling Debate

Pedro Campos

Cuban workers. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, July 25 – In comments made by Cuban bureaucrats interested in maintaining the status quo and not “changing anything that must be changed,” it’s common to see in their “arguments” the assert that: “While we are under siege by imperialism, it is not the time to make sharp criticism of corruption, bureaucracy or deviations committed in the emancipatory, democratic and socialist advance of the Revolution.”

According to those who hold such positions, Fidel and Raul Castro made a mistake when they called for mass discussions about the form of socialism we want to see, since the sole beneficiary of this dialogue was imperialism.  For the bureaucracy, we in Cuba will be able to discuss socialism only when imperial pressures disappear – but not now.  However, at this very moment, the bureaucracy, corrupt elements and opportunists of all kind are putting the continuity of the Revolution in danger.

These inveterate ultra-conservatives maintain that we can never discuss our problems, or those of socialism, because the forces of imperialism will never allow us the truce necessary for such debate.

Do they really believe that imperialism will forgive the existence of the Revolution or willingly allow it to make needed socialist transformations? Will they freely help us with investments, capital, etc.? It has been said on other occasions that what the imperialists will do in relation to Cuba is do everything to prevent the construction of a new socialist society here.

In fact, it’s precisely the other way around: opposing debate and criticism of the Revolution can only serve imperialist and counter-revolutionary plans to destroy the Revolution and prevent socialist transformations in Cuba. The strategic political objective of imperialism is to prevent the construction of socialism in Cuba.

Counterrevolutionary “revolutionaries”

It’s therefore quite clear that those who want to obstruct debate over the Revolution in Cuba are seeking the same outcomes as imperialism.

It’s simple: They are trying to silence revolutionary criticism against the corrupt and bureaucratized wing of the Party-Government-State. It is indispensable to oppose the political maneuvering of that wing and to assist those who are truly willing to make changes in support of the consolidation of socialism – be they within or outside of those structures.

Those who are attempting to prevent criticism are also concealing a neo-Plattist concept, one that objectively subordinates the advance of the Revolution and socialism in Cuba to the interests and approval of our historic enemy.

At the moment, we obviously have serious differences with such comrades in terms of methods and focus. But we should not pose ourselves against each other. We should not become opponents. We should not become sectarian and allow our differences with them to impede their participation in the needed debate that is now taking place in Cuban society, despite opposition from those same circles. We are willing to debate fraternally based on the fact that some of them and others of us want to save the Revolution and make socialism advance. But no – the dominant sectarian forces in power are hindering this.

Opening discussion around Participative and Democratic Socialism

Those in favor of Participative and Democratic Socialism (Socialismo Participativo y Democrático, or SPD) do not wish to impose anything. We want the masses of people, communists and revolutionaries to know about these points of view and discuss them; and —if they find them objectionable— they can reject these ideas. We know that some people fear such a debate; they have not hidden their opinion that these ideas are as “addictive” as cocaine.

The dominant sectarian faction of the PGE is impeding the popularization of these ideas in Cuba and in the official media. They have even fired comrades from their jobs and expelled people from the Party for disseminating or expressing these opinions.

What course is left for us other than disclosing our points of view through whatever means possible? The truth of the matter is that this discussion goes back to even before Fidel’s 2005 speech [admitting the possibility of the Revolution being reversed due to internal ills such as corruption], or have many revolutionaries forgotten that many similar questions were posed in previous debates at the 4th Party Congress in 1991? And look at what has happened? It is as if nothing had been said by the rank-and-file membership.

The historical leadership played an extraordinary role in the revolutionary process. No one has tried to deny this in the positions of SPD. But to now try to blame the ultimate division of the revolutionary camp and the possible failure of socialism in Cuba on those who want to radicalize the Revolution and make it advance to democratic, participative and socialist heights —to where the historic leaders have been unable to take it— is at least irresponsible and demagogic.

Constrained by the interests of the bureaucracy

The sole culprit behind the disaster that is now being suffered by the Cuban revolutionary process is the bureaucratic statist system, which many of those within the historic leadership have held up as being “socialist.” Now they have dug their heels in by continuing to characterize the system as such, despite all the lessons of revolutionary practice in the 20th century. To make matters worse, they openly repress and ostracize those of us who differ or try to contribute to change in favor of more socialism.

This is how they have responded to those of us who responded to Fidel and Raul’s call!

If we are the target of indirect and direct acts of aggression, it won’t be because we have the blood of martyrs (or want to be the victims of suicide, as some say), but because the betrayal of socialism has already taken possession of the minds of the ultimate murderers.

Nor should they continue insinuating that those of us who defend the ideas of SPD are “working for the enemy.” They would have to try to prove such a charge in court. But no matter how many traps they attempt to lead us into, they will fail. Remember, we didn’t begin yesterday struggling against the enemies of socialism. Some of us are hardened combatants of the Revolution, and we have learned a thing or two.

Those in power can indeed do everything, this is true: even devour their young. But we now know where that seemingly golden road is leading. No one in Cuba who is serious —not even in the very heart of the Party or the government, where we are well known, or around the world— no one will believe them, even if they plant millions of dollars, loads of weapons or packages of cocaine in our houses. Nor will they be believed if they present “documented proof” of any supposed relationships with emissaries of the empire.

All this is threadbare, just like the argument that we are leveling the same critiques as imperialism. Imperialism may be manipulating some truths that exist independently of whoever raises them, they can even try to use some of our criticisms, but the solutions that they outline to the same problems that we point out have nothing to do with our proposals. They are simple misrepresentations.

I repeat: Who is going to believe them? They can try to ignore us, even kill us, but our ideas will never be crushed. If they end up attempting similar acts of stupidity, these will only serve to destroy the Revolution in a few hours.

Fidel is the sole leader responsible for us thinking and acting in this way.

It is clear. Resorting only to such arguments, they are seeking to silence the discussion, current debate, accusations and articles like that by Dr. Esteban Morales.

If the Party-Government-State wants to put an end to the revolutionary debate taking place online, there is a simple solution: Have the nation’s parliament take on the roll which communist/poet Félix Guerra has been clamoring about for more than a year, or hold a national conference with the participation of all sectors, without the sectarianism that we have outlined here. If they please, they can even invite the opposition with whom they negotiated recently through the Catholic Church.

Regarding that point, people looked very negatively at the government’s negotiating with the opposition and imperialism through the Church while at the same time trying to isolate the left, to silence it, to repress it in a multitude of forms. This was seen as something “ugly” in the eyes of everyone, including the very enemies of the Revolution, who can have little trust with regard to respecting the human rights of those who continue repressing their own comrades in struggle.

The trap of stifling debate

Isn’t firing someone from their job for expressing socialist ideas a violation of their human and constitutional rights?

Don’t they realize that those positions are impeding the advance of the Revolution?  Are they trying to silence the needed debate?  Aren’t they creating the conditions for full capitalist restoration? Aren’t they falling into the trap of those who wish to prevent the advance of socialism in Cuba?

I don’t consider them envoys of the empire for all of this. However, they know that their positions serve imperialism and counterrevolution, and not our proposals for change, which cannot be carried out if there is not first a deep, revolutionary and sincere criticism of what has been realized.

To contact Pedro Campos write: [email protected]

Writing (in Spanish) on Participative and Democratic socialism can be found at

6 thoughts on “The Trap of Stifling Debate

  • Earth to Sam and grok: Flash! One does not have to be a Marxist in order to be a socialist.

  • The critical question of any socialist transformation is that of state power. In Cuba state power is held by a political party that seeks to engage in what has usually been called “socialist construction.” Surely, nothing is possible unless state power is retained by the PCC.

    This does not mean however that the PCC should continue to beat the dead horse of Soviet-type economy. The socialist state should give partial, controlling ownership to those who actually do the work of society.

    This means farming & ranching families in the countryside, small entrepreneurial families in the cities, and employees in industry & commerce through Mondragon-type cooperative corporations everywhere.

    If the PCC will make these simple yet profound changes, not only will the Cuban economy make a stunning turn-around. This new model of workable, dynamic socialism will quickly transform the other countries of the world.

  • Cuba is between a rock and a hard place. The enemies of the Republic, mainly the Yankee imperialists to the north, are salivating over all the problems that the country is facing. They would like to descend on Cuban shores with their never ending greed and capitalists scams to totally destroy Cuba.

    Does Cuba want to go back to the Yankee exploitation of years before 1959, or does it want to continue fighting for its current system, even if it is not a perfect one?

    The Yankees are also suffering innumerable problems: the Great recession of 2008 may well end up becoming Great Depression #2; deflation may be around the corner to accompany the millions of American who can not find jobs. Hate against Hispanic immigrants is growing, which is very reminiscent of what happened in Germany during the 1930’s. The outlook for the U.S. is not pretty either.

    Do not give up, Cuba! Fight hard and fix whatever needs to be fixed, both politically and economically, but do not re-import corrupt American capitalism and all the familiar vices that accompany it.

  • Everything Pedro says here of course is valid. He is one comrade upon whom we may depend to speak the truth.

    It seems reasonable that powerful elements in the Cuban Party are preparing for the collapse of the socialist state in Cuba. Why else would they stifle the very debate that Fidel and Raul have called for? What is not clear is why Fidel is not demanding a healthy national discussion.

    Could it be that he is isolated from what is going on within the Party?

    I continue to believe that the monopoly state socialism of Marxism is responsible for both the miserable economic performance of the Cuban Revolution, and the entrenchment of the all-powerful, non-socialist bureaucracy. To my mind the only cure for the disease that is destroying the Cuban Revolution is for the socialist vanguard to recognize that the Marxian definition of socialism is incorrect, and that a new economic hypothesis must be evolved to pursue the further experiment.

  • This is a profoundly correct analysis AFAIC, except I would say that the chances of intelligent & principled actions on all sides (& with the cuban bureaucracy in particular) recedes pretty closely to zero possibility. We have only 2 look at the camp of the CCCP et al. under stalinism & “actually-existing socialism” 2 C the future of continuing on this course. So the choice is either intelligent change — or lowest-common denominator change; but in any case *change, no matter what*. So what is intelligent then, in the cuban nomenklatura hanging-in doggedly like dogs in the manger? Do they really C anything beyond what happened 2 the soviets? Do they look 2 chinese capitalism now? Vietnamese? Poor “socialist” examples each there. It is far easier 2 believe the capitalists’ endless propaganda lies about “human nature” etc. instead, than in the reality of some socialism-to-come 1 day, under such stalinist deformation & degeneration.

    The best western marxists do not believe in the nationalist regimes of stalinist “socialism” being able 2 selflessly lift themselves out of their self-interested rut & simply hand all power over 2 the workers & farmers. However all good marxists 2, Marx & Lenin included, understood that socialist development in @ formerly bourgeois country would likely proceed somewhat differently according 2 its particular “national” circumstances — an understanding which has invariably been twisted around into a handy excuse by stalinists, starting with the “socialism in 1 country” scam of the soviets.

    The stalinist nomenklatura is faced with a stark choice now: either give up power 2 the masses now, or simply give up power eventually 2 the imperialists. But any cuban bureaucrats contemplating jumping ship like rats into the imperialist camp would simply B counterrevolutionary traitors. & in that case: R we not now in a very dangerous situation inside the cuban government & Communist Party as reflected in the developments mentioned?

  • This reminds me of the destruction of the Soviet Left during the 20s and 30s. In a sense, the worst threat to those who accumulate any power, economic or political, are actual communist theoreticians. Lenin foresaw the possibility of Stalin seizing the revolution and crushing the revolutionary aspects of the Communist party, IE Trotsky, and warned against it. Stalin on the other hand, used the threat of Imperialism to excuse absolute and unquestioning control of the state apparatus.

    Of course, this is nothing as bad as what happened in the USSR. I doubt Esteban Morales will be put to death, though it seems that there is a push to purge him from the party. But I doubt the logic of Fidel and Raul, who refuse to take the side of these leftists. Do Raul and Fidel really support the bureaucratic elements to the exclusion of the Democratic Left? Do they really think that is a sustainable system, or that Cuban socialism will survive with that model? By killing Trotsky and other Russian leftists, Socialism in the USSR became a fundamentally conservative phenomenon, something which has been reflected in all Soviet-inspired states since. Considering the success of the Soviet model after 1989, shouldn’t Cuba consider progressing beyond tired Stalinist notions of the State and socialism for nationalist interests? Wasn’t the mindless bureaucracy and resentment for the Nomenklatura one of the reasons that the Soviet government was seen as ideologically corrupt by its collapse? Can a Socialist revolution survive on mindless propaganda alone, assuming that the people can’t see that the bureaucrats are a new ruling class?

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