Cuba: The True Counter-revolution

Pedro Campos 

Construction worker. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, August 8 — “Only we revolutionaries can destroy the revolution,” said Fidel Castro in 2005.  “Our worst enemy is not imperialism and much less its hired hands in our native land – but our own errors,” added Raul Castro this past Monday, August 1, in addressing the Cuban parliament on what is impeding the implementation of the Sixth Communist Party Congress agreements.

In this way — putting the imperialistic enemy, its blockade and home-grown opposition on the second plane — both positions left it clear as to what is the principal enemy of revolutionary advancement in Cuba: true counter-revolution.

It’s now impossible to conceal the most dangerous counter-revolutionary forces because they have the capacity to hold back the necessary changes.  They are within the very own bureaucracy of the party/government.  They are the forces that speak of change but don’t change anything, those who oppose the slightest basic change.  They are the sectarians and exclusionists who accuse all those people of being counter-revolutionaries and agents of imperialism who propose an alternative for getting us out of this stagnation into which we’ve sunk due to a half century of statist and ultra-centralized government.

Raul just criticized immobility and inaction, and already there are articles in the party’s press attacking the bureaucracy.  They are calling for respect for people’s right to be informed and for journalists to report. They’re even criticizing the bureaucratic mentality and the obstacles that are preventing the approved limited measures from advancing.

However it’s necessary to recognize that the phenomenon has a systemic character and that the bureaucratic mentality and the obstacles erected by the functionaries do not change with speeches, exemplary pronouncements or good intentions.  This stratum is not the cause but the consequence of the collection of concepts and state-centric norms upon which the current bureaucratic and dirigiste model was established.

That structure is in fact what has to be changed so that it changes the mentality.  We cannot forget that the predominant social conscious is a derivation, the consequence of a way of producing and living.  “Social being determines social conscience,” as Marx noted.  The ultraconservative-bureaucratic mentality is the result of the bureaucratic and paralyzed structure and the form in which production and socio-political life in the country are organized.

Bureaucratic immobility

Fifty-five years since the “Secret Speech” by Nikita Khrushchev to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union — criticizing Stalinism and its methods — many people here still continue in essence following the same canons and deviations.  This stems from them continuing to confuse socialism with the creation of a state directed by a “dictatorship of the proletariat” administered by a “communist” party that concentrates the ownership of the means of production and decisions of all type.  In addition it divides society into two principal classes: the directing-bureaucratic-exploiters and the directed-exploited-workers: a form of disguised monopoly state capitalism.

Matress Repair Person. Photo: Caridad

They’re the ones who limit the criticism of Stalinism to the crimes committed by Stalin and his state security agencies against the Communist Party and people of the former USSR, the Molotov-Ribbentrop “non-aggression/spheres of influence” pact and its consequences, the murders of thousands of Polish army officials in the Katyn Forest; the crushing of democratic revolutions under the wheels of “Soviet” tanks in Germany, Hungary and Czechoslovakia; the indirect interventions in Romania, Germany, Poland and other countries; the isolation to which self-managerial Yugoslavia was subjected, and other major errors and horrors too numerous to discuss here.

These people here on the island are the same ones who don’t understand that this deviation of Marxism is above all a framework for a statist and totalitarian society of absolute control over economic, political and social life.  It is the “socialism” that communist parties of the 20th century sought to expand to the rest of the planet but that failed everywhere, in addition to being rejected by those people who lived under it.

After that condemnatory report, Stalinism metamorphosed itself.   It used more democratic disguises and employed more sophisticated methods of repression and control, but without changing its state-centric and totalitarian essence.

Those more or less populist and paternalistic variants only led to the dismantling and defeat of all of the socialist attempts of the 20th century on the four continents.  In the Third World what were generated were autocratic nationalist governments which have been effectively serving the most spurious interests of international imperialism and its anti-communist propaganda.

The rejection of Stalinism, not socialism

Their authoritarian, extremist and violent methods, their artificial and rapid sharpening of the class struggle (which they identified with socialism or communism, and was widely covered by the western mass media, sometimes wildly exaggerated) were what people rejected, not true socialism (to differentiate it from those other brands).

A private "paladar" restaurant.

The socialism of Marx, Engels and other great thinkers of all times, with their differences, coincide on the democratic, humanist, libertarian and self-managerial essence of socialism.  Such an authentic socialism, practically unknown by the great majority of people, was concealed and buried by self-proclaimed communists under a mantel of dogmatism and stereotypes.

That’s why I said not too long ago in an interview with my friend Dmitri Prieto that “anti-communism” in Cuba and everywhere else, previously and now, has essentially been anti-Stalinism.

As a consequence, one of the most important tasks of communists in the 21st century is in fact to ideological and politically unmask and defeat Stalinism and its proponents.  Added to this is rescuing socialist ideology with all of its authentic revolutionary dialectics and spiritual wealth from the darkness in which it was plunged by parties and regimens that tried to construct socialism under those statist, totalitarian and Manichean dogmas.

History demonstrates that to correct an error, the first thing one must do is recognize it.  That’s why the only way to undertake true change in the dirigiste economic-political-social model implanted in Cuba — through of no fault of anyone in particular, but due to the historical circumstances that emerged with the revolutionary victory of the Cuban people in 1959 — is to recognize the model’s complete failure, its shortfalls of all type, the parasitism, bureaucracy and systemic corruption, as well as its mistaken neo-Stalinist means and methods, even when here it didn’t reach the extremes of elsewhere; here, concrete achievements were achieved in some specific areas and it’s anti-imperialist merits are recognized.

The monster that cannot be reformed

That bureaucratic model continues preventing the Cuban people from exercising freedoms of speech, assembly, choice and association to produce and for other social articulations.  This is why many citizens who were ignored, isolated, excluded or even accused of being “counter-revolutionaries” and repressed for having criticized or challenged neo-Stalinist policies were at least part right.

The revolution was made by the people to win all their rights and that which belonged to them, not anyone in particular or any group, no matter how outstanding their participation at some moment or in a certain sphere of action might have been.

What was sought was a hierarchized society with an all-powerful, spendthrift, hard-working, paternalistic, internationally generous state with a powerful military and foreign policy at the cost of an increasingly deprived population.

The monster, a tropicalized copy of “actually existing socialism,” cannot be reformed, as nor could that be done to any of the attempted variations in other parts of the world, since they were sustained on unproductive, subjective and voluntarist bases.

Due to their functional weaknesses and contradictions they 1) changed direction from socialization and democratization to economic and political power, 2) they evolved toward the restoration of full private capitalism, and 3) they collapsed like houses of cards.  Here too it is a complicated process that, when compared to a baseball game, still has some innings left – as aptly expressed by Dr. Humberto Miranda.

Dark glasses for sale. Photo: Caridad

For more than five years, part of the leadership of the party/government has been pointing out some of the serious errors committed in relation to the economy and in politics.  Accordingly, they have tried to make modifications, but unfortunately they’re still hindered by confusion and dogma.

These are preventing them from carrying out successful change and making any progress very slow.  This is also because the forces of immobility are determined to maintain everything like it is.  The bureaucracy has not moved a finger to affect the extension of cooperativism into all branches of the economy, which — representing a step towards the true socialization of appropriation — was the most important measure approved by the Sixth Congress.

New openings?

The president is encouraging an opening (one obviously being undermined by the bureaucracy of his party/government) by offering opportunities to writers and artists in the theater, cinema and television to make devastating critiques of the neo-Stalinist potion.  In that same vein, he has allowed diverse visions of a more participative and democratic form of socialism to join in the fray in limited settings for internal debate.

Continuing with the baseball simile, the socialist and democratic left has been able to “come out onto the playing field and to outline their game strategies; but those who are really coaching the Cuban team seem more willing to lose to capital’s team than to change their methods.  Those who don’t want to lose will possibly have to make different decisions.”

We have outlined and we reiterate that without democratization and without the socialization of political and economic power, neither socialism nor the country can be sustained.

The PCC conference foreseen for this coming January will be decisive for the immediate future.

The great majority of Cubans do not want to continue as we have been, but nor do we want to return to the sordid past of exploitation and capitalist submission.  Those up above are no longer in condition to maintain the old model, and those below want to change it.  “State socialism” was always subsidized from the outside, it is unable to self-manage itself, it is bankrupt, teetering on the brink, said Raul.

The neo-Stalinist positions were defeated by their economic policies when put into practice, and beaten ideologically by the increasingly shared ideas of a more participative and democratic form of socialism, where the workers exercise control over the companies and the people directly control national sovereignty.  But the people must operate the fundamental levers of real power — the economic and political ones (especially apparent in the ideological sphere) —presently aren’t even present in the debate forums, they shy away from debate and they avoid sharing other points of view at home or abroad.

Religious items for sale. Photo: Caridad

Raul has just defended the right of Cubans to express their opinions, but the ideological apparatuses and those of political control are dedicated to hiding, ignoring, slandering, threatening, harassing and repressing political differences, including proposals and analyses around true socialism.  But the battle waged on the field of ideas will continue…until its final consequences.

It is a lie that the defeat of neo-Stalinism would be the defeat of the Cuban Revolution.  What it would do would allow the continuity and advance of the revolutionary process begun in 1959 toward its definitive consolidation, now bogged down and stagnant.  This advance could occur if the democratization of political life in the country and the socialization of the means of production were imposed, two stages that have been ignored.

If communists, socialists, revolutionaries of all stripes, democrats and other Cubans of good will, within and outside of the party/government, are not able to unite to dismantle the structure of neo-Stalinism (the generator of bureaucracy and immobility) and undertake the needed socializing and democratic transformations for a superior model of society, “with all and for the well-being of all,” then the country’s inevitable collapse could be capitalized on by those who are attempting to return us to the past of neo-colonial shame.

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One thought on “Cuba: The True Counter-revolution

  • Comrade Pedro continues to blame bureaucracy on the bureaucratic mentality of bureaucrats. This of course is circular reasoning.

    Bureaucracy does not come from the mentality of bureaucrats. It comes from the fact that state ownership of all things productive abolished both the institution of private property rights and the price-fluctuating market. If this is true, it follows that the way to defeat and abolish bureaucracy is to have a form of socialism that reestablishes and utilizes private property rights and the market.

    Pedro doesn’t understand. He holds to the Utopian conviction that private property is evil, and must be abolished as soon as a revolutionary state is achieved. Fine. But if you abolish it by giving the state ownership of everything, with what do you replace it? The historical answer has been central state planning and bureau management of enterprise. The workers are always left out of management because they are not the owners of the workplace.

    Pedro and others can rant and rave against the nasty bureaucrats for the next century, and it will not change anything. This sort of ranting and raving is what Left sectarians have been doing for a century, and it goes nowhere. The mentality that has to be changed is not that of the bureaucrats, but of the socialist vanguard elements who must return socialism to its direct worker ownership, cooperative roots. Private property is not the enemy. The enemy is someone or something other than the enterprise associates owning it.

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