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Cuba, a country both wished for and possible

Cuba, pueblo, bloqueoWith the triumph of the revolution in 1959, Cuba obtained independence and
sovereignty. If they’ve really existed since then and not just as a goal, their
preservation remains as a challenge. To respond, Cuba must not only
continually attend to national defense in the face of external enemies, but
also achieve economic efficiency and functioning. Without them, Cuba won’t
be able to satisfy the population’s material and spiritual necessities.

There are obstacles along the way that, from the point of view of pragmatic
thinking, may seem unconquerable. But Cuba’s very existence as a
sovereign and independent nation is the fruit of its revolutionary vanguard at
the end of the 19th century having carried out something that pragmatic
thinking of the time would regard as unrealizable, specifically, to win the
country’s independence from Spanish colonialism and U. S. imperialism.

The thinking was that the latter, having been checked, might not end up stronger
through the expansion that was underway. It was necessary to block it so
that all of Our America could be free of that threat and world equilibrium,
already endangered, might be preserved.

That goal, which José Martí embraced as the essence of the revolutionary
project he envisioned for liberating the country, gave rise to the
emancipating will that led to the victory of January 1959. In turn, that
determination early on accounted for the reversal of frustration imposed on
Cuba through U. S. intervention, which in 1898 snatched away Cuba’s
victory over Spanish colonialism. It was a mindset rooted in identification
with the poor, who were decisive in the independence struggle. That was
something the very rich, with exceptions, pretended not to understand.

After 1959, and especially after April 15, 1961, when the country’s socialist
project became explicit, Cuba would have to confront great obstacles to keep
the flags of social justice flying. The worldwide context then was of
domination by crisis-ridden but still vigorous imperialism. Facing up to
obstacles like these with hope of success always requires the greatest
possible clarity in order to understand, explain, and above all confront the

The intellectual resources employed in this undertaking must serve to
generate light rather than add to confusion between realities and goals. By
themselves these don’t make for miracles nor substitute for thinking. Of all
such resources, the DAFO scheme (initials in Spanish for weaknesses,
threats, facilities, and opportunities) has gained favor in the world. Its
origins date from the 1970s in the United States where DAFO served
entrepreneurial and commercial competition. Like the others, it can be a
useful tool, but isn’t a magic wand.

The texts provide a good guide when they set forth precise ideas and don’t
try to replace reality with them. A voracious reader, Martí asserted that, “The
book that interests me most is life, which is always the most difficult one to
read, and which has to be consulted most often when it comes to politics -
which ultimately is the art of assuring people the enjoyment of their natural
powers for thriving.”

Cuba, where the teaching of the legacies of José Martí and Karl Marx is well
established as part of its history, is rich in extraordinary documents. With no
extra zeal and considering only the supposedly preeminent stage of the
Cuban revolution – its unleashing on July 26, 1953 –History Will Absolve Me,
and the First and Second Declarations of Havana can be cited, and likewise
the Main Report and the Programmatic Platform approved by the First
Congress of the Cuban Communist Party. They provided the basis for the
new Constitution of the Republic of Cuba.

After a broad, productive consultation with the people, the Sixth Congress of
that organization approved the Guidelines for Economic and Social Policies of
the Party and the Revolution. That document led to the recent Project of
Conceptualization of the Cuban Economic and Social Model for Socialist
Development. Both documents respond to the necessity for putting the
economic model into practice.

Although the second document was approved in the Seventh Congress as an actual project, the leaders are presently
looking to perfect it through necessary collective, democratic discussion
within the ranks of the Party and in mass organizations.

As regards changes or transformations in the model of socialist
development, ideally it should be possible to find a happier verb than “to
update,” which is associated with chronologic order. Yet in the world of today
the Greenwich meridian of the economy passes though capitalism, which is
not Cuba’s compass, nor should it be. But what’s certain is that the country
needs to re-structure its economic functioning. And speaking of economic
matters brings us to other spheres inseparable from the economy but which
don’t end there.

We must rely on objective, calculated possibilities, and with the force of will
that concentrates thinking, a force that is indispensable for guiding a people,
inasmuch as the extremes of volunteerism can end up harmful and show up
even as euphemistic formulations. Hence the need emerges of realizing
that the most recent Congress of the Party recognized the necessity of
calling things by their name. Although the concept of private property
evokes apprehensions and annoyance, a private business doesn’t stop being
just that merely because it takes on another name. Words and good
intentions don’t suffice for channeling the changes that are coming within
the class structure of the country.

Regarding specific prohibitions against concentration of property and wealth
by individuals or by legal non-state organizations, there are now trustworthy
indications that legislation is being zealously applied that go along with our
socialist principles. One example is legislation specifying, formally at least,
that concentration of property can be legally blocked, but it doesn’t happen
that way with wealth gained within the realm of private property, not to
speak of wealth resulting from plunder regardless of where it takes place.

Our assumption that Cuba’s Second Law of Agrarian Reform eradicated large
land holdings may have reinforced confusion stemming from common
practice that puts landholder and the owner of a large land holding in the
same category. According to the etymology, a landholder is one who
possesses land, and today in Cuba a property owner can earn enormous
amounts of money through the productivity of relatively small parcels of
land, and also through the paltry competition they face from products
marketed from lands administered by the state.

They tell of places where, in reaction to attempts to investigate cases of
enrichment, voices are heard warning, “Be careful, this producer is making it
so that people can be fed.” At times it’s not even a question of basic foods,
but of condiments that, raised under conditions of doubtful healthfulness,
are sold strictly for use in centers where food for health institutions is
produced. The concern shouldn’t be disregarded, because these are
situations where middlemen are enriching themselves exorbitantly and also
because commissions they earn often end up sky-high. And who even knows
who these people are?

A brief look here and there suggests that property owners gaining new
wealth actually exceed many of their predecessors in access even to
technological resources: trucks, tractors and other machinery, and also
passenger cars and motorcycles. Will this have to be stopped? Surely not,
but there must be less obvious examples we know nothing about. In regards
to income and possessions on hand, we must look at complaints about
inadequate controls imposed on state-sector functionaries.

Although information provided the public regretfully doesn’t cover criminal
activities very well, the conclusion is quite obvious: there is a need to
prevent and eradicate growing corruption. And those whose responsibility it
is to watch over social order and monetary contributions shouldn’t make the
mistake of overlooking what’s happening. To minimize the danger of survival
often being bound to forms of corruption can lead to tremendous
deformations and prepare the ground for measurably worse corruption. And
if this seriously disrupts socialist property, how can there be any doubt about
its capacity to interfere with the social benefits anticipated from private
property becoming a full reality?

Economic pragmatism is useless for nurturing those ethical values
personified by Fidel Castro. Following Martí, he warned – I am paraphrasing
here – that, “Being around big money generates corruption.” Rich people, or
the aspiring rich, regularly take on admirers, imitators, servants,
accomplices. They exert political influence which extends to political
organizations and society, although they aren’t always interested in
dedicating themselves to political tasks, since their businesses provide more
income. As they move into varied roles and functions, the empire, by no
means coincidently, saves a place for them in its plans for Cuba.

Fallout from the wealthy gaining influence doesn’t disappear or ratchet down
just because getting rich is legal. Even that land for which long-term usage
was granted by the state will be put into production with practices that turn
out to be money laundering. After all, those producers operate with
resources removed from state entities.

To suppose that citizens laboring in various non-state forms of property
share characteristics with the owners very likely will lead to conceptual and
practical errors. To begin with, that idea detracts from the clarity we need for
discussions on the way about the class structure of the nation. Furthermore,
that notion obscures the fact that in the non-state sector there are
proprietors and employees, owners and wage workers, and thereby, in our
view, exploiters and exploited. That’s because of surplus value.

Some will think themselves happy to be exploited in exchange for salary
totals far superior to those received by persons working in the preeminent
and essential sector associated with social property of all the people. But
they would be forgetting reality or sugar coating it, or convincing themselves
that the wage worker is well-defended in a labor union section with an owner
close by. He or she will be there extracting surplus value and imposing
particular working conditions.

There is the situation of social property owned by the entire people who
must not be replaced by the state, whose purpose is merely to represent the
people. There is another one of owning in common through cooperatives in
which all members have similar roles in the productive process and share
profits. But cooperatives may not all be alike. In any case, they are forms of
collective but also private property. That’s frequently ignored.

Objectively, surplus value and exploitation do exist. But they go against the
grain of the best intentions associated with a socialist project. To deal with
them, laws and labor codes must be perfected overall. Private owners,
latching on to general assumptions, believed labor relations posed little
problem, or none at all. They accepted that some of their earnings were
destined for big public services and national defense, except for some being
siphoned off by corruption or flawed administration.

In the present circumstances, the state and especially the unions must
broaden and deepen their attention to those who, situated outside areas of
state purview, may be on the verge of suffering – or are already suffering –
from no longer benefiting from that which workers gained historically
through long and often bloody struggle against capital. It’s not enough just
to assume that the existence of non-state forms is automatically in sync with
the objectives of socialist development.

There’s no magic in any of this. We must attend even to the apparently most
insignificant details and thus to facts and the conclusions that follow.
Perhaps that time from 1968 to the present that’s been dedicated to
reducing private property to a minimum did sow prejudices, difficulties, or
confusions interfering with its revitalization now and causing problems.
People think we must honor the little, or now not so little, manifestations of
private property. They presume that the revolutionary prestige of social
property automatically transfers to workers in that sector.

Reality has shown that in the public’s view economic solvency brings prestige
to workplaces. There’s a joke that illustrates the abominable and painful
result of such thinking: a highly qualified professional was drunk and
expressing delusions of grandeur; he thought he was a hotel baggage
handler collecting tips in hard money.

Idealization can expand through persuasion that paints private property not
just as a particular means of production but also as a contribution to
employment, an efficient economy, and overall well-being. Although there
may need to be forms of private property in a context dominated by
socialist relations, putting a good face on things will come about mainly
through putting essential, and as yet unspecified, mechanisms in place for
holding off excesses like egotism, everyman for himself, corrupting
influences, and even racism.

The most resolute and responsible participatory democracy will serve as the
most effective antidote for such excesses, and for others like bossism,
enthronement of bureaucracy, and nepotism. And all of these can infect
social property. It would be an unnecessary redundancy to speak of
democratic socialism except for the fact that an openly socialist project can
take on profound deformations. It can end up like royalty, even perpetuating
the dynastic tendencies peculiar to feudal modes of social organization. The
world’s experience confirms this.

These evils must not be considered as separate from particular cultural
formulations. These would be the human tendencies reflected in Karl Marx’s
words saying that, “the tradition of all dead generations weighs like a
nightmare on the brains of the living.” José Martí knew that the “interests of
the oppressors and their habits of command” were linked to and reinforced
the weight of tradition. It’s not enough merely to expound upon a more or
less abstract democracy.

In order that the socialism to which Cuba aspires not be confused with state
capitalism, democracy is vital and indispensable. It will be differentiated
through its participatory character. There must be active, responsible
intervention by the people in debates, in arriving at decisions, in discussions
about administering resources in areas of work situated within social
property. As for the latter, discussion must exert a fruitful influence and
move beyond debates over criteria and beyond achieving catharsis. Socialist
democracy must have function and power that distinguishes it from the
bourgeois variety, so exalted by capitalist propaganda.

Fully-formed facts serve to counter such unbounded praise. One example is
the trick played on the Greek people through the referendum benefiting the
European Union. Another is the coup against the French people through the
government’s labor reform that privileged private companies. That action
tarnished the label “socialist” through obedience to neo-liberalism and
turning the worst kind of social democracy into a reality.

We must now give the lie to traps devised through manipulation by the
capitalist media. As the existence of civil society in Cuba is being recognized,
other fundamental revelations are emerging that facilitate the functioning of
democracy. The least of them would be non-recognition in the past of
interrelations between civil society with its rights and duties and reason of
state, and also the differences between the two.

Civil society can be appreciated as being fundamentally identified with the
state, which takes charge of administering the property of all the people,
and that – with the participation of all the people – assures national defense
and the quality of international relations. But the state has to be guaranteed
space and necessary resources in order to express repudiation, merited, we
say, by actions occurring in other countries with whose governments Cuba
has relations. Otherwise, a rule of silence could prevail, with harmful
implications in regard to ethics.

That doesn’t concern just the international arena. When it becomes urgent
to get rid of corruption, it’s necessary to strengthen the ethical sense of
existence. Corruption is a force that undermines the social entity and stands
out among others that could bring down the project of revolutionary
transformation from inside. There are these forces demanding that an
ethical way of being be consciously nurtured: the political, economicfinancial,
social, demographic, territorial, scientific-technical, and formativecultural
dimensions of protecting and conserving resources and the
environment. There are also the politics of communication, so necessary for
true change; politics itself; and generally all factors influencing the forward
march of the nation.

These aspirations depend in large measure on the quality of education. We
now point out something that may not be explicitly or even prominently
included among those aspects of education seen as strategic for the
development of the country. We are thinking about the undesirable influence
of economism, something that ought to be done away with. That’s a term
alluding to crude economic ideas. It comes to mind because education has
fostered scientific development which, among other good results, is one of
Cuba’s main sources of income. And yet, originally, education was one of the
main battlefields of revolutionary work in Cuba.

Education does not end with strictly an economic purpose. In order that its
usefulness may be fully fledged, the role of education in the ideological and
cultural formation of the people, necessary so that the nation can protect all
of its gains, must be maintained and perfected. The process requires the
greatest possible outreach and depth based on scientific rigor and cultivation
of spiritual values.

Consolidation of socialist principles and achieving a high economic and social
development are two goals indispensable for safeguarding and strengthening
the independence and sovereignty that Cuba gained with the victory of the
revolution in 1959. At that time there was no imperial force capable of
staving off the victory of the rebel army, the mambises of that era, although
that may only have been so because, at that beginning stage, the empire
underestimated the reach of the victory on the way.

Now the empire admits that more than a half century of policies openly
hostile to Cuba hasn’t worked for realizing its plans. The character and scope
of its purposes can be measured in juxtaposition to severe damage caused
by armed and terrorist actions and by the blockade against the Cuban
people, still in force. Its aim was to asphyxiate the population through
hunger so that responsibility for it would fall on the state and the people
would rise up against it.

But even the achievement of a truly prosperous, democratic, and sustainable
socialism will end up with a disabled socialism unless it bestows upon the
population a free existence and an environment that, being free of
bureaucratic hobbles and based on social discipline and living together
decently, assures the dynamics and atmosphere of a livable country. It’s not
enough that that the country is wished for and is possible; the need is
urgent to make it real and true and on a daily basis.

(By Luis Toledo Sande, Translated by Tom Whitney)

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