It is not a matter of imposing upon producers the bourgeoisie discipline of hunger or compulsory military service, but instead it’s about “associated labor plying its toil with a willing hand, a ready mind, and a joyous heart”
By Pedro Campos
HAVANA TIMES, May 28 – In a recently televised report, Lázaro Expósito, First Secretary of the PCC in Santiago de Cuba, was seen visiting bakeries and confectionaries fraught with poor sanitation, a shortage of workers, temporary closures due to a lack of packaging materials, the loss of tons of food, “unauthorized” production and other “pearls.”
Lazaro criticized the situation, in situ, stating directly to the workers that “this mess is what blocks our progress,” “There is no system,” he repeated, “there is no system.” After the report, the journalist concluded: “We must continue to work with discipline and conscience. That is the only way that Santiago can return to a high living standard.”
The party leader’s statements contained a fundamental conclusion: the problem is that “there is no system” (of production, organization, or work) leading to the current mess. He blamed the methods and therefore it must be inferred that a functional system should be established. Change the methods to eliminate the mess.
The journalist- whose final sentence is what sticks with the viewer- drew a different conclusion than Lazarus that was taken from the arsenal of immobilism: work with discipline and conscience. This conclusion insinuates that workers don’t already work with discipline and conscience, thus placing the blame on them and justifying the imposition of discipline that forces them to work as if in the army, or to feel their “need” as in capitalism, ie. bourgeois discipline of hunger.
If the workers were a bunch of undisciplined and corrupt thieves as suggested by some of those from above, such “leaders” should be reminded that “the dominant ideals of any era have never been any other than the ideals of the ruling class.”
In the end, we don’t know what Lázaro Expósito did afterwards. What steps did he take? Did he try, following the logic of his own thinking, to change the production system or did he follow the bureaucratic line of the journalist and “order the fabrication of a little more discipline and conscience” in order to “instill” these values into the attitudes and minds of the workers? Did he impose a military-style discipline as some have tried or did he send workers into the street to starve as capitalism does?
What is certain is that encouraging news is coming from Santiago about the political activity that moved its First Secretary, as happened when he was in Granma. But we all know that “one Swallow does not make a summer.” However, it is not a matter of making 14 clones of Lázaros Expósito, one for each of the provinces, but rather of implementing a system that functions, with Expósito or another official, in the eastern provinces as well as in the capital.
Needed is a system that motivates people to work and work well, not out of obligation, but out of conviction and self-satisfaction: “associated labor plying its toil with a willing hand, a ready mind, and a joyous heart” in the words of Karl Marx.
It is clear that the party leader was totally right: the problem is systemic.
This mess will not change as long as the centralized-state wage system of production remains unchanged, where workers decide nothing and continue to have no responsibility for determining their living conditions; as long as they do not feel —because in reality they are— like the owners of the resources and means of production; while they remain affected neither positively nor negatively by the results of their work; as long as the “discipline” that some want to impose on the workers is the bourgeois discipline of hunger, of compulsory soldiers or of cogs in a machine, instead of the self-discipline of the new actors of the socialist production process, which is self-governing. It might be modified according to circumstances, as it has been in the past, but it will not be remedied.
The work ethic is an element of the social conscience that depends on the relations of production, the economic base, the mode of production, and the system. A feeling of ownership is not achieved by slogans.
It has been demonstrated throughout nearly 100 years of “state socialism”: a system with “socialist” ends and capitalist means and methods, half capitalism-half socialism, “capisol”, can neither function positively nor generate a new social conscience. Conversely, if it is not the best, it is very good at “producing” corruption, bureaucracy, laziness, indifference, moral decline and other ills.
It’s worth repeating: To achieve socialist ends, socialist means must be applied.
At a time when the prevailing discourse and action in the Cuban State come from the perspective of discipline, experience, and cadres of military origin, it would be useful to recall the Generalissimo, the General of Cuban Generals of all times, and his Yaguajay proclamation of December 29, 1898 when he said: “It should never be forgotten that as the sword is the benefactress for leading and governing well matters of war, it is not very suitable for those purposes in times of peace, given that the word Law is what the people should hear and the military command is too rough to interpret with sweetness, the spirit of that law.”