Cuban socialism

Note: This article was written for the Segunda Cita blog led by Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez. We recommend those interested in knowing other opinions on this subject to enter the Segunda Cita blog spot.


The blog Segunda Cita, by Silvio Rodríguez, has hosted in recent days a debate on the conceptualization of Cuban socialism and its application in Cuba. Articles by Fidel Vascós, Antonio Medina and Silvio himself have brought up interesting reflections on a matter that I consider vital for a proper understanding of the Cuban system and its alternatives.

Marx studied the capitalism of his time and established the regularities that could explain its birth and possible evolution. The economic structure in each stage of the development of humanity was at the center of his analysis and the class struggle, corresponding in each case, was considered the political expression of the changes in these structures.

It constituted an economic analysis, but for purposes of historical research, which did not exclude other aspects of society, such as the superstructure, nor did it attempt to establish recipes regarding the path towards communism, which some later called “socialism,” a term rarely used by Marx and I don’t think he ever used it to explain the transition to communism. As Díaz Medina says, this vision was called “historical materialism” and its main teachings are the scientific approach to social problems and dialectic as a method. Dogmatism contradicts the very nature of Marxism.

For Marx, communism implied the abolition of private property and, therefore, the exploitation of man by man. It had to be the logical consequence of an extraordinary development of the productive forces, capable even of making the State disappear, as an instrument of the ruling class. In historical terms, it meant overcoming the prehistory of humanity, the formation of a “new man,” according to Che.

The problem for the revolutionaries has been how to intervene in this process, starting from the banner of communism. Not even Marx always had the necessary patience to read the “objective conditions” and foresee his outcome in the short term, much less his disciples. Paradoxically, the first socialist states arose from political struggles, where Marxist theory least anticipated this emergence — such as Russia, China, Vietnam and also Cuba. Marxist-inspired socialism — there are others that are not relevant — have been the result of popular revolutions, led by exceptional leaders, who found themselves forced to “invent” their respective socialisms, under the most difficult conditions and against the dominant forces to international scale.

Like all of its kind, Cuban socialism was born and grew in a state of permanent war. Its anti-neocolonial and anti-imperialist nature, as well as its geopolitical importance, determined the antagonism with the United States and explains the patriotic nature of the system. Preventing its success has been the goal of US policy toward Cuba. Many say that the blockade has failed, but in reality it has been a basic limit to the potential development of the socialist model in Cuba, as well as the source of sometimes unbearable difficulties for many Cubans.

The Cuban Revolution was a breath of fresh air for the international communist movement and expanded its influence in the Third World, but internally it succumbed to the influence of Soviet “real socialism” with an economy that ended up tied to the CMEA budgets. It is not worth discussing its possible virtues or defects, it was a model designed for a world that ceased to exist, and that is the main problem of the Cuban economy today.

Reforming Cuban socialism is a necessity, which goes through various conditions. In the first place, to adapt it to the international scenario in which it must function, which is none other than globalized capitalism and the height of its ideological influence. Secondly, to reach levels of economic efficiency that allow it to attenuate the effects of the blockade. At this time, there is nothing more revolutionary or patriotic than improving the national economy, for which a fight to the death against bureaucratism is imposed, conceived as a distortion of the necessary functions of the state bureaucracy. Finally, make popular democracy effective, the only resource to impose the power of the workers, as Díaz Medina says. The violation of this principle qualifies among the greatest misfortunes of socialism.

It is necessary to review the very concept of socialism and its bases of support. Although, as we have seen, Marx defined the transition to communism from transforming private property into social property, it is also true that he conceived it as a process, related to the development of the productive forces on a world scale. In the meantime, there is no other alternative than to function in many cases with instruments inherited from capitalism, as long as they do not distort the essence of the model or its strategic objectives. The same has happened with all the transits of the prevailing economic and social model, the original accumulation of capitalism was largely obtained through the actions of feudal empires and slave labor on a large scale.

Socialism cannot be defined based on exact and immutable rules; it is a transition, that is why it is so difficult to explain it beyond its objectives. Eclecticism accompanies socialism from its origins and should be considered one of the virtues of the system. In fact, to believe in socialism requires a great deal of imagination and human solidarity. While capitalism exacerbates individualism as a path to emancipation, socialism forces us to think in collective terms.

Years ago, a friend told me that there were no movies or novels about life under communism because no one could describe that reality. “We are willing to die for something that we cannot even imagine,” he told me, and he was right, the construction of utopia has been one of the deficits of the socialist discourse. Of course, the endless discussion do not work either. To understand and improve ourselves, we must promote the national debate — without fear or mediocrity.