To Imperialism, Nothing; To the People, Everything

By Pedro Campos

Photo: Don Morrison

“We Cubans will carry out a revolution for the rights of the people, our full set of rights, which is the only justification for the sacrifice made by all of the people and for which we have denied ourselves; the day after the victory we will see the rights for which we have struggled?”   —    Jose Marti

HAVANA TIMES, Nov. 15 — The party/government spends plenty of resources and devotes ample space in their media to constantly remind the Cuban people of the endless string of attacks perpetrated against them by imperialism and the terrorist forces of the extreme right.  This message is the focus of its “Battle of Ideas.”

It’s true that since 1959 such actions were initiated in an attempt to reverse the revolutionary process underway.

The list of incidents is endless. Thick volumes exist that collect the records of these attacks, though perhaps even these do not cover all of the acts of aggression inflicted on the Cuban people over the years.

Let’s recall some of the most significant episodes: the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, financed and organized by the US government; the logistical support given to rebel groups in the early years; the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of armed attacks against economic targets and the civilian population; and the grisly bombing in Havana harbor of the freighter La Coubre, loaded with weapons.

And how could we ever forget the horrendous crime of Barbados; the multiple attacks against Cuban personnel and diplomatic and commercial missions abroad; the hundreds of assassination attempts against Cuban leaders, thwarted by anonymous but heroic members of the intelligence and counter intelligence services; the bacteriological war that affected people, crops and animals; or the unjust sentences handed down against the Cuban Five.

What especially deserves mention is the criminal and unjustifiable economic and financial blockade imposed on our country since 1962.  This continues to cause billions of dollars in losses annually to the national economy, the repercussions of which are felt in all spheres of national life.  However the blockade has also been used, above all, to try, to justify the other internal blockade imposed on the people of Cuba and all those economic and political aberrations that the revolutionary intellectual Alfredo Guevara has called “nonsense.”

The external blockade erected by imperialism, and the internal blockade put in place by the neo-Stalinist model and its controls of all types, each try to justify themselves while competing in vileness and crushing the lives of the Cuban people – who are made the victims twice over.

It is common in the rationalizing, Manichean and Berian line of the bureaucracy, to argue that it’s not possible to give the Cuban people the liberties and rights recognized by all revolutionaries of all periods.  They argue: “We cannot allow democracy and freedom while imperialism is out there, attacking us.” This justification is as if imperialism were about to end tomorrow, as if our people were to blame for its existence, as if punishing the people were a means of meting out punishment against imperialism!

This is the historical justification of Stalinism’s absolute control over the economic and political life of citizens: “The proletariat needs its dictatorship to defend its revolutionary power.” This is why it has rallied so many people against it and why the opposition is growing.

But in the end, not one nor all of these attacks combined or any real or supposed plans of imperialism justify the present situation 52 years since the triumph of a popular revolution “of the poor, by the poor and for the poor.”

The revolution overthrew tyranny precisely for violating democratic institutions, yet we still do not have a political system underpinned by genuine direct and participatory democracy.  The political system does not give effective power to the workers and the people; therefore it goes against the claim of being a new society without exploiters or the exploited, without hegemony or alienation.

Those attacks do not justify the fact that here in Cuba there is no full recognition of all of the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There are no grounds for the authorities to have not ratified already-signed accords pertaining to civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights, nor is there a reason for none of these being adequately covered in our civil legislation or the criminal code.

Photo: Don Morrison

If there are still any doubts, many of us Cuban revolutionaries have fought from within for those rights and freedoms well before most of their current supporters in the opposition, and the costs paid have been significant. This is an unknown chapter of our history.

Nothing justifies the lack of full freedom of speech, press and association, the criminalization of political differences, the suppression and prevention of publicly expressing different types of political thinking or the obstruction of full access to the Internet.

No threat of aggression justifies the Cuban government monopolizing all ownership and decision making over the economy and its hindering of freely functioning labor, the free association of producers, and self-employment in all professions and trades, all done through decrees and laws that are restrictive, abusive, negligent, absurd and corrupting.

These are restrictive because they are not comprehensive and only partially and poorly address problems. This legislation is abusive because the state confiscates most of the hard currency wages earned by Cubans working for foreign firms here and abroad.  It is negligent because there is still no law on cooperatives in industry or services.  Likewise, absurd because the tax law requires workers to pay 50 percent of their income to the government on any annual earnings over 2,400 CUCs (about $2,600 USD); and corrupting because — with their army of inspectors and officials demanding what they know is impossible and therefore seeking bribes — this compels violations of the law.

There is no justification for the curtailment of the freedom of movement within the country or the right of all citizens to travel abroad freely without irrational and anti-popular immigration regulations. — though out of sheer embarrassment I hate to even mention these. Immigration appears more like a private business run by members of the bureaucratic apparatus, than an office that facilitates citizens visiting their relatives abroad, vacationing in other countries, seeking better employment opportunities permanently or temporarily, and so on.

No threats of attacks by foreign powers justify the continued existence in our country of forms of discrimination on the basis of skin color, gender, sexual preference, religious belief, ideology, regional origin, age, political background or social origin, or not belonging to or responding to the armed forces, etc. Moreover, there is no rationale for the lack of laws on the books penalizing acts of discrimination.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, justifies the complete lack of transparency regarding the finances of the Cuban government.  There are no reasons for people not making decisions concerning these funds on the basis of participatory budgeting or for them never knowing where every dollar goes that enters the country and how it’s spent.

The real cause leading to all these restrictions is not the imperialist threat but the deviant neo-Stalinist state monopoly capitalist model.  Implemented in the name of “the proletariat, socialism and revolution,” this model has generated a bureaucracy that has concentrated and centralized political and economic power, which in turn it has appropriated for itself. They now fear that by granting such freedoms, they would lose their hegemony and domination over society.

Capitalism has never left Cuba; it just went from being private to state. Now this bureaucracy — the new “unforeseen” class — has emerged. Having almost turned into a bureaucratic bourgeoisie, they are in charge of stealthily burying the centralized and organized state so as to return us to private capitalism, but under their control instead of the former owners.

However, the revolution was carried out to empower the people economically and politically, otherwise it wouldn’t have been undertaken.

Certainly, plenty of damage has been done by Neo-Stalinism in the name of the revolution and socialism, and plenty of hatred and thirst for revenge have accumulated among some right-wing extremists who want to end this nightmare in a bloodbath. But to believe that the democratization and socialization of economic and political power would lead to the control of the extreme right is at least an underestimation of the humane, solidary and revolutionary values acquired by the Cuban people over the years.

Photo: Don Morrison

The freedoms, rights and powers that we call for are not to throw Cuba into the hands of the right-wing and its terrorist operatives, nor is it to return the country to the control of US capital and the old Cuban oligarchy, recycled in Miami.  We advocate those freedoms precisely so this never becomes a possibility — not by anyone’s personal whim or in the interest of an aspiring bourgeois — but so that the people and the workers themselves are the ones who decide; so that they can defend themselves against all hegemonies and can lead themselves.

The bureaucracy, with its core elements scrambling for fractions of power, is attempting to present a common front that rejects popular demands and gives people the “freedom of choice” between “us (the revolution) and them (the counterrevolutionary pro-imperialists).”

With their judgment clouded by their power, the bureaucracy has not assimilated the approach put forth by the new president, who is open to diversity.  They fail to realize that their hierarchic and wage-labor-based political-economic model has fostered a “them” and “us” dichotomy.

This has nothing to do with the alternative that we are offering as a choice, one that doesn’t divide people between revolutionaries and counterrevolutionaries or between the left and the right, but between those who rule and those who are ruled, between the possessors and the dispossessed, between those who have rights and those who do not, between the exploitative bureaucracy and the underpaid workers, between those on the “top” and those at the “bottom.”

Meanwhile, those at the bottom — who are the majority — are tired of state capitalism disguised as socialism.  They want power for themselves as a class, not for the bureaucracy or the wealthy pro-imperialist right-wing.

Extreme left-wing neo-Stalinist Cubans fail to understand that the greater they resist accepting to share power with the people and workers, the consequences may be worse for them. They have learned nothing from the recent history of “real socialism.”  They’re like the frog in the old saying about the scorpion in the middle of the river: “‘The problem is that I’m like this and I can’t change,’ said the scorpion, as he injected his venom in the head of the frog that was doing him a favor by crossing to the other side.”

It’s true that we mustn’t make any concessions to the US. But who’s talking about making concessions to imperialism and who in fact is making them? We don’t need to negotiate anything with them. If we are not in conditions of equality, we shouldn’t ask anything of them. We should not plead, as some have done, for them to buy from us or sell to us or invest their capital in Cuba. This is a large part of the “struggle against the blockade” that so much fraud and opportunism tries to hide behind.

We shouldn’t allow any of our natural resources to be appropriated, nor should our workers ever again be exploited. These are extremely dangerous concessions that the bureaucracy is making in their eagerness to remain in power and to obtain money, financing and “aid” from international capital, with whom they appear willing to share economic power and the exploitation of our workforce.

We mustn’t give imperialism “not even an inch, nothing.” Rather, everything must be given to the people, to this people, who have given everything for the revolution. Everything must be given to the people! All economic power! All political power!

I say this loud and clear to senior leadership of the party/government, who do not need to be given more evidence of my considerations: If they do not give power to the workers and the people before their physical disappearance, “their revolution” will go down in history as a sham.

To contact Pedro Campos: [email protected]

3 thoughts on “To Imperialism, Nothing; To the People, Everything

  • “The new dogmas and posturing of apolitical and liberal artists, writers and filmmakers are as much of an obstacle to deepening the revolution as entrenched bureaucrats. The Cuban revolution and its leaders can count on an enormous reservoir of good will, solidarity and loyalty from the vast majority of Afro and European Cubans. But there are limits in time and patience — the Cuban desire for a good life is pressing for solutions to everyday needs.”

    Cuba: Continuing Revolution and Contemporary Contradictions
    by James Petras and Robin Eastman-Abaya / August 13th, 2007

    The above critique by James Petras and Robin Eastman-Abaya is far more objective and well-balanced than the sweeping generalizations, unsubstantiated accusations and declaration-as-truth posture found in Pedro Campos’s latest diatribe.

    Good critiques provide evidentiary examples, show trends, provide citations, references etc to back up either accusations or contentions. Also some specifics for the critic’s proposed alternatives and how these are truly different solidify the arguments presented.

    I uphold the principle that only Cubans know what should be best for them. That is sacred territory no outsider can tread on. I also stress that I hold no brief for the Cuban leadership. But like any reader of written work, I respond through analytical questioning to contribute in a small measure towards fairness, honesty, transparency of motives and absolute objectivity in the discourse.

    Mr Campos has a facile tendency to make sweeping generalizations without backing them up, and making nebulous declarations without specifics or any semblance of concretization. It would seem in his mind there is no fine line between abstract thought and realization. Just declaring the abstract solves whatever problem he contends against. He appears to see no need to show what form his solution would take. But, alas, there is indeed a fine line between being a revolutionary in an armchair, a salon, an ivory tower and in governance!

    Mr Campos argues that Cubans “still do not have a political system underpinned by genuine direct and participatory democracy.” We at least know the system that the Cuban leadership established for this even if, in Pedro’s opinion, it has woefully failed. We do know about the Cuban political system from the Constitution of 1976, the Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular etc down to the much HT-maligned and ridiculed CDR’s. But what would Mr Campos put in their place? What would be their structure? Their composition? What is his political prototype and how would it be established beyond the sublime literary advocacy for “direct and participative democracy”. The Russian revolution, the French revolution, the Paris Commune, the Bolivarian etc all dealt with this question and did in fact come up with some concretization of ideas in practice!

    Then there are the very serious accusations:
    “Having almost turned into a bureaucratic bourgeoisie, they are in charge of stealthily burying the centralized and organized state so as to return us to private capitalism, but under their control instead of the former owners.”
    Evidentiary examples, citations, references…to back this assertion??? What decisions, policies and actions has the leadership undertaken to merit this accusation? Please do enlighten us, and with concrete examples not galactical inferences!

    Petras and Eastman-Abaya provide a totally-different conclusion in their top-cited article:
    “Unlike the ex-Communist countries of the USSR, Eastern Europe and Asia, Cuba’s transition to its new economy did not result in monstrous inequalities in which a tiny group of billionaires and multi-millionaires seized control of public assets and resources and left the rest of the population poor and jobless, facing skyrocketing rents, inaccessible privatized health and education and miserable pensions.8 Likewise, Cuba retained majority shares and control over most (if not all) joint ventures with foreign capital9, in contrast to the US and European takeovers of almost every major part of the Eastern European manufacturing, financial, media and commercial sectors!”

    Let us consider also Pedro’s argument on taxation:
    “This legislation is abusive because the state confiscates most of the hard currency wages earned by Cubans working for foreign firms here and abroad. It is negligent because there is still no law on cooperatives in industry or services. Likewise, absurd because the tax law requires workers to pay 50 percent of their income to the government on any annual earnings over 2,400 CUCs (about $2,600 USD)”

    How is this assertion justified when the Cuban tax regime is weighed against state subsidization of housing, education, food, health care, transportation and even entertainment? Against the examples of non-socialist countries such as Sweden and others in Europe which provide excellent social services with extremely-high taxation? What does PC propose instead?

    Paul Klebnikov, Godfather of the Kremlin: The Decline of Russia in the Age of Gangster Capitalism (Harcourt NY, 2000); James Petras “Global Ruling Class: Billionaires and How They Made it”, Journal of Contemporary Asia, Jan. 2008; David Hoffman, The Oligarchs (Public Affairs NY, 2003).
    Ernst and Young op. cit. Part IV Foreign Direct Investment and Part VI Sectors for Foreign Investment.

  • If comrade Pedro believes that Cuba has a capitalist economic mode of production, then he must believe that the Cuban state that maintains this mode is a capitalist state.

    If he believes that the Cuban state is a capitalist state, then, as a socialist revolutionary, he must be in favor of its being shattered to bits, and a new socialist state power put in its place.

    But he doesn’t call for the shattering of the present Cuban state. He calls on this inferred capitalist state to change its bureaucratic, undemocratic ways; and for it to implement a corrected, truly socialist mode of production with workplace democracy.

    This may make sense to Pedro and others, but it makes no sense to me.

    In my opinion, the present Cuban state is socialist, i.e., a state of the working classes. The mode of production it administers is socialist, but socialist of a particular form: state monopolist. This comes from the traditional concept that has existed within the world socialist movement since the 1800s that only state property can be socialist, and that only state property is socialist.

    I sincerely recommend to Pedro that he offer the Cuban people and the ruling PCC exactly what our tiny US movement is offering to the US people: a democratic republic in which the socialist state would silently co-own the major instruments of production with those who do the work. This would allow private property rights and democratic freedoms to play their natural, functional role, and underpin a new form of modern cooperative socialism.

  • Thank you Pedro for a superbly written and well thought out article.

    I particularly liked this statement:

    “But to believe that the democratization and socialization of economic and political power would lead to the control of the extreme right is at least an underestimation of the humane, solidary and revolutionary values acquired by the Cuban people over the years.”

    The worst enemy of the Cuban revolution may well be the 50 year war on Cuba perpetrated by the ruling elite of the United States but undemocratic (Stalinist) state socialism is certainly right behind that war as a deadly a threat to the Revolution.

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