With No System: What’s the Solution?

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

Cuban workers on May Day.

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.”

6 thoughts on “With No System: What’s the Solution?

  • Dear Sam, Look, either Engels & Marx called for all the instruments of production to be concentrated in the hands of the state, or they didn’t. Check the last two pages of the 2nd chapter of the Communist Manifesto, just as I’ve indicated in a previous comment. There is no way any rational person can deny where the state ownership of everything in sight originates. It originates with Engels & Marx, and there’s nothing you or anyone else can do to change that.

    The problem seems to be that people have this religious-like faith in Karl Marx, and cannot imagine that his words might be the font of the massive bureaucracy that has choked every revolution thus far. All our modern cooperative socialist movement can do is continue to point to the documentation and hope that the left vanguard elements will wake up and deal with the unvarnished truth.

    Please do not dance around the most important issue. The Marxian formula for a socialist economy has as its core stipulation 100% ownership of the means of production by the state. It’s right there in black and white. Please stop blaming the bureaucracy on Stalin and all the nasty bureaucrats. They are all the product of the explicit Marxian formula.

    Bottom line: When all the instruments of production pass into the hands of the state, per Engels & Marx, this abolishes the institution of private property. (Even cooperative private property is nationalized.) This then requires bureau planning and control. To make such bureau planning and control work the state has resorted in every instance to political, one-party absolutism. This is not the harvest of Stalinism . . . It is the harvest of Marxism.

    Please face it and come to your senses.

  • Marx and Lenin both called for the vanguard party to be a temporary setup, to create the conditions for Communism. Stalin called for the perpetuation of the Vanguard Party and its domination as the primary social class. There’s nothing “Communist” about that.

  • Dear grok, I don’t understand how u & people like u can continue to label the Soviet-type command economy as “Stalinist.” Stalin merely followed the formula for a socialist economy laid out by Engels & Marx in the last pages of the 2nd chptr of the Communist Manifesto.

    It says there clearly that “all” the instruments of production r to be concentrated n the hands of the state. Yes, this is “Stalinism,” & yes, this is “Marxism.” If u r an honest socialist u will recognize this & try to deal with it intellectually & ideologically.

    When all the instruments of production–per Marx–are concentrated n the hands of the state, abolishing thereby both the institution of private property ownership rights & the trading market, the only way to run a modern economy is by “command.”

    Such command must flow from someone or something. History has shown that this “someone or something” is a massive, growing bureaucracy.

    Pleas deal forthrightly with the undeniable facts.

  • Another gem from our dear comrade Pedro Campos. It seems however to be another cry in the wilderness to which no one is listening or replying. I do so wish that we could have a truly international discussion on the problems of reform in Cuba, but this is getting really disheartening.

    Our movement tries to look at reform there from this bit of perspective: what would work in Cuba with regard to reform of her system would also work in our US–& other capitalist countries–with regard to the program of a future socialist republic.

    With this in mind we resolve, first of all, that full state ownership of the instruments of production–per the Marxian Communist Manifesto–must be scuttled.

    Legal ownership should pass to employee owners of cooperative corporations on the Mondragon model, plus to small, privately-owned entrepreneurial enterprise.

    The socialist state should remain in place–to preserve the socialist goals–but with broad civil democracy.

    Tks, Pedro.

  • While the World ‘means of production’ become objectively & materially social — & compellingly-so, over time — the *relations* of production OTOH R a wholly subjective & political, social matter, howevermuch they stem from the former. & so while stalinist ‘command economy’ methods succeeded 4 a time in instilling bourgeois forms of economic discipline in supposed socialist states, clearly they have been a disaster in *real* socialist terms: because at core, stalinist command methods R inherently undemocratic — & therefore completely unsocialistic. So no wonder every stalinist regime in the World has decayed into its essence: a de facto capitalist dictatorship.

    There is absolutely no alternative 2 the replacing of the stalinoid bureaucracy in Cuba with participatory, democratic production units based primarily on neighborhood committees & production communes. If Cuba doesn’t do this – immediately – it’s finished as a socialist experiment. Waste no time. Change now.

  • Let me apologize first for not commenting on your previous post (yet), Pedro (do you write in english, or is your stuff translated for you here?) You’re one of the best posters on Havana Times — not simply because you’re trying (and very well) to analyze cuban society from a socialist POV, but also because that form of analysis demonstrates reasonable and realistic hope for the future — whereas the other essayists appear to generally have given up in existential despair, retreating into all manner of obscurantist thinking in too many instances.

Comments are closed.