By Pedro Campos
HAVANA TIMES, 26 August — In April of 1823, US President John Quincy Adams established his well-known “Ripe Fruit” foreign policy in relation to Cuba:
“There are laws of political as well as physical gravitation; and if an apple severed by its native tree cannot choose but fall to the ground, Cuba, forcibly disjoined from its own unnatural connection with Spain, and incapable of self-support, can gravitate only towards the North American union…
“There is no foreign territory of greater significance to the United States than the island of Cuba… It has come to take on momentous importance for the political and commercial interests of our union.”
One hundred an eighty-eight years have lapsed and the fruit has yet to ripen. Nevertheless, the strategic political, military and economic importance of Cuba for the empire has not declined one iota.
At this point, annexationism as a political concept among Cubans has been reduced to small and steadily declining segments of the extreme right that have no influence on the island’s population.
Even anti-government groups of some significance in Cuba have clearly distanced themselves from classic annexationism. Many have even spoken out against the blockade and the aggressive policies adopted by the US against Cuba.
However, the systematically aggravated economic, political and social consequences of the neo-Stalinist model of “state socialism” (really a disguised form of state monopoly capitalism) have by natural pendular restoration generated a progressive increase in the numbers of those who sympathize with the US economic and political system. This has reached the point that the United States has become a point of reference for many Cubans, especially youth, who see no other remedy than immigrating to the United States or transplanting that system in Cuba.
So Who’s to blame? John Quincy Adams? Richard Nixon? George Bush? Barack Obama?
The upper echelons of the Cuban government have recognized the true enemies of the changes they would like to implement in the bureaucracy, corruption, immobility, double standards and that whole pernicious mentality generated by the statist and centralized model of neo-Stalinism.
If the “fruit” ended up maturing and fulfilling the prediction made by the sixth president of the United States, we would have to “thank” that model implanted in Cuba in the name of “socialism and working class power.” That model has acted like carbide, the chemical compound used by Cuban merchants to artificially ripen fruits.
This is why for some time I and others have been denouncing the existence of a new neo-Plattism that has consistently blamed all of our misfortunes on the US blockade, deflecting attention from those truly responsible.
It won’t be necessary to wait long for the verdict of history to identify what/who has turned out to be the best ally of imperialism and annexationism.
That monstrous model has led to such an ideological disaster that the Communist Party itself has decided to undertake economic reforms under a slogan of “updating” the model.
Notwithstanding, their effort is pregnant with neoliberal recipes: laying off workers, increasing the retirement age, intensifying the exploitation of wage labor to the benefit of private capital, transferring land to foreign capitalists for tourism deals, making drastic cuts in social services, reducing care for the handicapped and the chronically ill, expanding opportunities for foreign capital, granting administrative autonomy to companies without workers’ control, and others.
However this “updating” doesn’t propose solutions to two basic problems that are generating corruption, causing the popular economy to hemorrhage, encouraging emigration and serving to age the population: Low wages and the double currency. Instead, this effort centers on remedies of discipline, control and demands imposed from above. Volunteerism always fails, and the blame for the disaster allows falls on the workers.
The economists behind the “updating” — who fail to understand the causes of the failure of “state socialism” — are choosing a narrow capitalist gorge for the Cuban economy. This is what is pointed to by the “Guidelines of the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC).”
It’s not that those “updaters” are inadvertently aiming for the real or virtual annexation of Cuba to the US, it may be that they don’t understand that the full integration (I use the term “integration,” not “interchange”) of the Cuban economy with the contemporary capitalist system can lead us to dependence and our real or virtual annexation to US capital – so near to us, so predictable in its habits, and always so eager to control our strategic position.
This should be known by all those who desire the return to private capitalism — with its “free” circulation of capital — even if they’ve distanced themselves from annexationist ideas. The idea isn’t to go from the frying pan into the fire”).
E. Preobrazhenski, one of the great economists of the Russian Revolution, in his work “Perspectives of the New Economic Policy” stated: “The unnatural alliance between the socialist state and big foreign capital will fail and be replaced by a natural alliance between that same foreign capital and all the bourgeois forces of Russia.” (1)
History agreed with him in Russia, and in the rest of former socialist Europe and in China.
What would happen with new oil discoveries and lots of tourists?
Have they considered what would come of Cuba if its oil were pumped by US companies and if two million American tourists visited the island annually while foreign companies administered or co-administered our state-run tourist facilities, beaches, our sugar-alcohol industry, hotels and scientific centers?
Have they imagined the impact of more than a dozen golf courses and “gated communities” for the well-heeled (complete with luxury mansions and limousines), along with the repercussions of several marinas with slips for the yachts of millionaires, a giant port in Mariel and a “special economic zone” (with a maquiladora assembly park that would exploit cheap Cuban labor) that would handle several million containers going to or coming from the US?
Is that what we want Cuba to come to? A world cruise-line destination – yes; and appendage of the United States – no.
Isn’t it enough that our special intelligence services cooperate with those from the empire on their southern border to control drug trafficking, illegal emigration and terrorism while we serve as an example of the unworkability of “socialism” to the continent? And look at the imperial compensation: they again put us on the list of countries that support terrorism.
No one is pleading for a moat in relation to the US or for complete economic self-sufficency. We are not advocating ignorance of the contemporary world or the absence of all types of exchange with the rest of the world (as was attempted in Albania, North Korea, and in China at one time).
International collaboration – yes, but not with the objective of accumulating capital at the expense of workers. Technology and money by themselves do not generate socialist development. This is a part of prioritizing the advance and consolidation of forms of production under workers’ democratic, collective and generically socialist control, along with their broad participation in ownership, the management of companies and the distribution of profits through cooperative/self-managerial structures. This is a condition that has been emerging — for centuries — within the core of more or less developed capitalist countries as a natural alternative to capitalism’s failure.
Cuban economists trained in the de-ideological epoch of the ‘90s, placing emphasis on macro-economic problems traditionally dealt with by bourgeois experts (like those related to fiscal policy, the circulation of money, marketing and others), discarded Marxist political-economic categories and analysis as being “out of style.”
Being so “well-informed,” they tell us: “We have to live within the modern world; we have to integrate ourselves with it.” But aren’t they confusing the facts that it’s one thing to trade with the capitalist world and another thing to be integrated with it?
They forget, ignore or don’t want to know that without effective changes in the wage-labor production relations of capitalism, we will not be able to advance to a new mode of producing and living.
Once again, I repeat — for those who insist on refusing to understand that it’s not about converting everything into cooperatives — what we are proposing is prioritizing the socialization of government-owned property through co-management processes (worker-state and national-foreign capital when necessary) and self-management by workers of government-owned industrial and agricultural companies or services.
This would mean full freedom to cooperative labor with wide state support in the form of loans, reduced taxes, freedom of trade and the full range of self-employed work (by individuals, including professionals, and families who do not exploit wage labor) as a form of self-managed production.
One philosopher, ignorant of the Marxism that Stalinism tried to hide, belonging to the neoliberal intellectual litter that generated the de-ideologization of the social sciences in Cuba (an action promoted after the fall of “real socialism”) said that Marxism has been unable to explain those events and that it has failed to offer a viable alternative to capitalism. Clearly this academic has not read Cuban historian Ariel Dacal Diaz, not to mention others who have not been published at home.
It was that same rejection of Marxist political-economy that ideologically dismantled the Communist Party itself and has in good measure led to the position of “updating the model” when what needs changing are the state-centrist and wage-labor foundations of the Cuban “socialist” system.
In the genesis of Stalinism there was subordination to a sole way of thinking, one that failed to understand that capitalism is a mode of production sustained by a number of pillars: the exploitation of wage labor, the concentration of ownership and production output, and the continuation of forms of social domination and oppression.
There was no real understanding that socialism implied the greatest freedom of thought and a gradual advance toward new forms of production different from wage-labor production, and that it entailed the socialization (non-statization) of ownership and output, along with the democratization of the country’s political life and the de-alienation of society through the elimination of all forms of oppression.
The basic error was the oversimplified identification of capitalism with a system of government and socialism with a form of distribution. From all of that were derived multiple political errors, such as combating all bourgeois-democratic forms of government, absolutizing the armed struggle as the path to revolution, underestimating transformations in the forms of production within the core of the capitalist system itself, looking down on the economic struggles of workers, the negation of self-management, and a host of other mistakes.
Neutralizing the “carbide effect” will demand the participation of everyone: communists, socialists, revolutionaries, national democrats and all Cubans of good will. Neo-Stalinist philosophy, methods and concepts must be disassembled within the party, within the government and within all of society to make the “unity of the nation” a reality and to truly turn Cuba into a country “with all and for the well-being of all.”
The Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba left a plan that looks more like capitalization than socialization, promoting differences rather than equality. The Party conference scheduled for this coming January could correct that path and rescue the libertarian, democratic, socializing and comradely contents of the revolution, those elements than many of us continue attempting to secure.
My colleagues and I have contributed to the debate around the current situation and various perspectives, and we continue to be willing to do so in any setting. We are ready to explain our position to the government, the opposition or any other interested parties.
Three years ago the document “Cuba Needs a Participative and Democratic Socialism. Programmatic Proposals” was published.