HAVANA TIMES, Sept. 17 — Fidel now says that he was misinterpreted, yet that doesn’t eliminate what is known by almost all Cubans and most earthlings: “State socialism in all its national varieties —sustained by State ownership, wage labor and the centralization of economic and political power (truly state monopoly capitalism that is disguised and administered by a party)— has failed in Cuba, as it has everywhere it’s been attempted.
The reason is simply that it is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms, a negation in itself. Socialism implies the conscious action of revolutionaries, workers and the people in favor of the withering away of the State, and not of its magnification, along with the abolition of wage labor.
When the objective is to advance toward a new society that is different from capitalism, workers in a socialist society will organize themselves as the effective and real power to produce and administer society. Simultaneously, the State, as a superstructural institution with its bureaucratic apparatuses, would begin to naturally lose its functions of economic, political and social control that for centuries were incrementally granted it by the hegemonic classes to ensure their interests. Such functions would be gradually assumed by labor and social communities to cease being actions characteristic of centralized specialized apparatuses “hanging from the sky,” as our friend Malime writes.
Socialism is the road to the disappearance of class differences and hegemonic classes; it is the road to the full freedom of the individual, to true equality (not egalitarianism), to the full exercise of the harmonic integration of human beings with nature and not the prevalence of the interests of classist institutions over the two. It is the step from pre-history to history. If one does something different, they must give it another name.
For socialism to eventually triumph on the earth, there seems to be a precondition that revolutionaries, workers, the left in general and people have just come to understand: What was called socialism in the 20th century, or “real socialism, which —with its specific variations— we still have in Cuba, never went beyond its good intentions and a few social achievements; it never became socialism.
Likewise, to continue insisting that this cannot be done because “imperialism hasn’t allowed us” is to accept the strategic victory of capitalism in advance. It is to recognize imperialism’s superiority and to whisk away the historical truth concerning the neo-capitalist character of régimes that, in the name of socialism, have attempted to set up autocratic, statists and bureau-bourgeois societies. Behind that defeatism hides ignorance, opportunism and betrayal.
A new Cuban model
Socialism will have to be a process, one which will not be achieved once and for all and one that will have its own dynamics. It will result from the growing influence of new freely-associated production relations, self-managed cooperatives characterized by collective or usufruct property, democratic management and the equal distribution of the common fruits of labor, which statists everywhere have always resisted.
Those who speak of the failure of “state socialism (ignoring that socialism has never existed) as the failure of collectivism, also premeditatedly obscure the fact that no such collectivism has ever been prevalent in such a system; instead, there has been greater economic and political centralization, even more so than in classical capitalism, only with an attempt to implement social distributive policies, thus creating a flagrant contradiction between the means and the ends.
On the other hand, true collectivism —and I’m still not referring to socialism— is triumphing even at the very core of modern capitalism. This is evidenced through the widespread development of cooperatives, mutual aid societies, credit unions, many small family businesses and other forms of self-management that, despite their being immersed in the current crisis of the capitalist system, successfully resist its impact in a way that large traditional companies are unable, since these bigger firms operate on the basis of wage labor.
Capitalists, interested in remaining as the hegemonic class, have had to slowly modify the terms of exploitation, allowing some participation by their employees in operations for example. This, according to Marx, is the first form of the decomposition of capital. The workers, tired of being exploited, increasingly seek individual, family or cooperative solutions: forms of freely associated labor.
As long as the wage-labor forms of exploitation prevail, be they under private capitalists or the State mechanism, the hegemonic classes (capitalists and the bureaucracy, respectively) will specify specialized superstructural apparatuses (governments, laws, police, army, fiscal controllers, etc.) to preserve their interests from the protests and actions of the workers that they exploit.
It is logical that while socialism has not become the predominant system on the planetary scale, revolutions —both violent and peaceful— will have to develop their proper defense mechanisms in the face of international imperialistic interests. However, those structures will be particular to these new forms of production, such as militias for collective and on-site defense (something similar to the attempt in Cuba with the Territorial Troops Militia and self-defense zones), direct democracy, participative budgeting, the self-supply of food, autonomous and democratic municipal powers, democratic planning and others.
Back to basics: The withering away of the State
“Obrerismo” (workerism”), as my friend Ramon Garcia correctly calls it, is typical of traditional communist parties, which when coming to power never intended to change the wage-labor conditions of work for freely associated relations praised by Marxists and anarchists as being necessary for the development of socialism. Moreover, by continuing to subject workers to that system of production, they reproduced —in different variations— models of the bourgeois State, obviating all the experiences of the Paris Commune.
As production and its organization would be the center of life of communities so that the workers could constitute themselves as effectively in power, the first thing would be for them to become those who concretely make the decisions at each production or service center; they would decide on what, how, how much and why they were producing. This would give a new social sense to ownership and to production itself. Accordingly, it would imply the socialization of appropriation, the path to overcoming the fundamental contradiction of capitalism: the increasingly private character of appropriation and the increasingly social nature of production.
In other articles I have explained that, based on the laws of economies governed by wage labor, the law of the falling tendency of the rate of profit —which leads to overproduction crises in capitalist societies due to the gradual concentration of investment in the means of production to the relative detriment of investment in the labor force— is made much more apparent under state monopoly capitalism (which underlies “state socialism”).
This is owing to its need to invest in extended bureaucratic apparatuses for control over the means of production and its wage-labor workers. In addition, the State’s paternalistic equalitarian policies require huge subsidies. These subsidies constitute an enormous expense that can only come out of depressing the wages of productive workers and de-capitalizing less “productive” State enterprises that do not receive resources to cover their maintenance costs, and even less to expand their reproduction (which is what happened, for example, with Cuba’s sugar industry). The only difference is that here the crises engendered are those of underproduction.
It doesn’t work
As the State becomes increasingly unable to pay wages, workers lose interest in working under state capitalism, which discourages production, leads to the pilfering and embezzlement of resources, the destruction of the productive forces, work force instability, their moving to better-paid sectors, de-professionalization, emigration of the youth and professionals, and other forms of degeneration known by everyone. The responsibility for all of this lies with the bureaucrats, who insist on blaming the workers for their unwillingness to work and their lack of “socialist consciousness.” (I don’t know how one can acquire a “socialist consciousness” while being exploited under a wage-labor system, and poorly paid on top of that.)
It doesn’t work. A system cannot work that is incapable of neither paying its workers the cost of their labor power. I’m not saying anything that was not said by President Raul Castro when he recognized that wages do not satisfy the needs of the workers, only that here we are trying to find a scientific explanation, beyond stating the problem.
This is not, as some defenders of the statist system try to claim, denigrating the Cuban Revolution, socialism or anything of that type. As long as one is not fully aware of the error, it will not be corrected. This is an attempt to explain the inadmissibility of continuing to cling to an unproductive system, a predator of human beings and the environment and a generator of all types of deviations that are destroying the country’s productive forces, compelling our young talent and professionals to emigrate, pre-maturely aging our population, generating abysmal social differences and degrading the historical values of socialism thought out by the great humanists of all times.
Poorly viewed, Cuban statism is rejected by the majority of the left in Latin Americana. For a long time we have been an example to everyone of educational and health systems in the style of the typical welfare states of developed capitalism, though with innumerable deficiencies and an economy unable to sustain those systems. Nonetheless, we have been very far from meeting all of the other aspirations of a people that has lived for 50 years under a regime described as socialist.
The Cuban people, in their majority, are now tired of promises; they want to live today – now. The future is today, it is reached day by day; otherwise it’s a hoax. The “sparkling” capitalism that appears to us from the North has already dumbfounded the minds of many Cubans, and more than a few bureaucrats, thanks to the counterproductive, negligent and failed statist system – that of a “socialism” that has never existed and has increasingly fewer followers. Our economy couldn’t be more deteriorated. Our international lenders either have no more to give us or do not wish to. The imperialistic blockade has loosened, but its worst consequences persist.
Preparando para turistas de EE.UU.
Some understood the statements on Iran and the holocaust by Fidel to The Atlantic magazine as a shift in search of support from the powerful Jewish lobby to create better relations with the US. The bureaucracy that controls tourism with exploited wage labor fabricates and creates illusions, thinking that it will receive the blessings of the empire, though what Uncle Sam will do is gobble us up.
Hoping that Americans will be allowed to travel and invest freely in Cuba, the Havana airport is being reconditioned to receive hundreds of thousands of US tourists, while construction of tourist paradises along our coasts have been accelerated. The State is developing golf courses and bordering residences for millionaires, readapting port facilities to receive vacation cruise lines, importing tourist cars and yachts – with everything that this implies, especially for the environment and the de-prioritization of autonomous agricultural, artisanal and citizenry-focused development; these latter are areas where the laws and abusive regulations of the State, even with minor, continue to hinder communitarian, self-managed, cooperative and individual development: the truly socialist sector of the economy.
Do those who are promoting this invasion of tourists and money from the North have an idea of all of the economic, political, social and ecological consequences?
If the means and ends have any relationship, the prioritized means into which the State is concentrating investment for “development” have nothing to do with socialism. It should be the truly socialist area of the economy, now de-prioritized, where investment is concentrated. Could anyone say with accuracy how much the State has invested in the development of cooperative and self-management systems and how much in preparing themselves to accommodate US tourism? That difference indicates the sense of their politics.
These are times of definition. Either the Cuban bureaucracy must clearly decide to change the obsolete model of the unsuccessful, wage-labor-based statist form of production and advance toward a more participative and democratic socialism that guarantees the self-development of communities and the rational production of food and goods necessary for the population, or it will end up like all the other “socialist” bureaucracies: seeking the aid of international capital, allying with it and surrendered its workers arms in order to survive.
The bureaucracy has two paths: merge with the people by sharing power with the workers, or try to swim with the sharks of foreign capital, which in our case —since we’re not big fish like in China or Russia— would mean our being devoured.
I refuse to believe that this latter is what Fidel and Raul want.
In Cuba, with our current situation, without having consolidated new production relations, without having achieved a generalized socialists consciousness, and given our history, our traditions, our uniqueness and our proximity to the US, to seek the “socialist” way out through that type of mercantile relationship, and not in via an autonomous and communitarian processes, would be like extending a bridge across the Strait for imperialism’s economic, political, social and intellectual penetration, one plagued with annexationist dangers.
Note: It is recommended that the reader review the author’s article written [in Spanish] in August 2007: Alerta Cuba: EE.UU. puede cambiar su táctica política, no sus fines (Cuba Alert: The US Can Change Its Political Tactics, but Not Its Ends)
(*) To contact Pedro Campos write: firstname.lastname@example.org