The Exodus Is Due To The Lack Of Freedom / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

The Red Cross helps Cubans stuck at the Costa Rica/Nicaragua border since last weekend. (La Nación)
The Red Cross helps Cubans stuck at the Costa Rica/Nicaragua border since last weekend. (La Nación)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 25 November 2015 — The current immigration crisis created by the presence of thousands of Cubans in Central America in transit to the United States has put the issue of human rights in Cuba back in the international arena, in particular the civil, political, social and economic rights of Cubans.

The government of General Raul Castro and a part of the international press emphasize the idea that it is a legal issue, related to the Cuban Adjustment Act. The Cuban government also links it to the maintenance of the blockade-embargo, which analysts say is an attempt to pressure the US government to repeal both laws. continue reading

However, it is not possible to hide, behind the Cuban exodus, the fundamental problem in Cuba: the dissatisfaction of hundreds of thousands of Cubans with the economic and political situation in our country, which remains essentially unchanged thanks to decisions taken by the government — which has been in power for more than half a century – in the name of socialism, which has never existed.

No, we Cubans are not starving, because really there is no generalized crisis of that type in Cuba. Although for many nutrition is precarious, the fundamental appetite Cubans have is for rights and freedoms, for democracy, because the “dictatorship” – supposedly of the proletariat – established in Cuba and always led in the same direction by the Communist Party, continues to insist on its political and economic model of monopolistic State capitalism; by its nature anti-democratic, exclusive and retrograde.

Despite the public discourse of an “opening,” in reality economic activity outside the State is constantly limited by laws, regulations and provisions at all levels and by high direct and indirect taxes. Autonomous work, or self-employment, continues to be restricted to a group of activities and cannot be exercised by professionals in medicine or law, for example. To establish a cooperative requires permission from the Council of State.

But above all, State monopolies in domestic and foreign trade and the limited access to international communications networks, hinder non-State economic activity.

But what most oppresses Cubans, along with the daily problems of housing, transportation or poor-quality food, is the repressive philosophy of the State that impedes the freedom of expression, of association and elections, which obstructs any democratic alternation in power of forces and figures different from the governmental clan, forces and figures that could bring another focus to politics and get the country out of the stagnation in which it finds itself.

This is definitely a massive and flagrant violation of the civil, political, economic and social rights of the Cuban people, by a government that has spent more than half a century in power, with the methods and mechanisms to guarantee its indefinite existence. And this is the real cause of the exodus and of the current crisis.

It is true that the internal problems of Cubans must be resolved by Cubans ourselves, but when these problems affect other nations it is logical that they would take action in the matter and try to influence events through international means established by multilateral institutions recognized by the States.

The Central American community has met to discuss the crisis, but it should go beyond the legal and border problems involved and evaluate it in its entirety. The Inter-American system should also take action on the issue and the United Nations itself should involve itself, because as long as there is no resolution to the internal problems in Cuba, the system imposed by this “eternal Government” is going to continue to generate regional tensions related to immigration, be it in Central America, South America or the Straits of Florida.

Some believe that the current immigration crisis caused by the presence of thousands of Cubans in Central America is a land version of the Rafter Crisis of 1994. Any attempt to put a plug in the Cuban exodus across the continent could lead to a situation like that one, if democratic changes that loosen tensions do not come to pass in Cuba

It’s Not the “Blockade”: It’s Fear 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

Raul Castro gives his speech at the UN. (UN)
Raul Castro gives his speech at the UN. (UN)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 30 September 2015 – The Cuban leaders insist that the “blockade” is the main obstacle to economic development in Cuba. This was confirmed by general-president Raul Castro at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.

Up until today, after the fall of the socialist bloc and the USSR, the United States blockade-embargo* remains the Cuban government’s main justification for the whole economic and social disaster caused by the Statist wage model imposed in Cuba in the name of socialism, in truth a kind of State monopoly capitalism.

The Cuban economy declined to the extent that the State concentrated ownership of land, which came to be 90%, as well as of industry and services, which reached 100%, and state monopolies controlled foreign and domestic trade.

All this was spiced with price controls, voluntarist* policies and plans, total control by the economic elite of the country of state investments and expenditures (“central planning”), the elimination the relationship between goods and money, elimination of individual and collective initiative, a war on private capitalism and cooperatives, now skewed with a thousand obstacles. Simply stated: it was increasingly constraining the initiative of society. continue reading

It has not been the “blockade,” as the Government says, nor this “socialism,” as argued by those who believed there was such a thing, that have been causes of the disaster, but rather the Statist wage model imposed by those who capitalized on the 1959 triumph of the Revolution. Instead of restoring the 1940 Constitution and the democratic institutions which for which all the democratic political movements and all social sectors had fought for, the State assumed control of all large, medium and small enterprises, all private or associated property, domestic or foreign, and they continued to exploit wage-labor.

In the name of a democratic and popular revolution the government imposed a persona, authoritarian, anti-democratic dictatorship which they called “of the proletariat” where the proletarians continued to be proletarians (i.e. workers), deciding nothing and, what’s worse, being exploited.

In the name of a nonexistent socialism they also appropriated the Cuban labor force for half a century, of the humble and dispossessed in the name of whom they erected this economic and government system. And unbearably, they called this thing socialism!

If from the former owners of land, factories, businesses and real estate they took away their material property, from four generations of revolutionaries of all stripes they took away their lives, which were placed at the service of the state in the Armed Forces, the State Security services, diplomatic work, international missions, guards and demonstrations. There was a need to defend the state from so many arbitrarily generated enemies.

But this is not the time for blame. If I mention blame it is because it is incriminating that the main cause was an effect, albeit one that has also done so much damage to us, above all because it has served to justify such nonsense.

It is time now for solutions. How to resolve the problem? Many of us have raised this and even Raul Castro knows it and says so, but he is in no hurry: the productive forces need to be freed.

How? By democratizing the political and economic life of the country. It is necessary to destroy the obstacles, laws and regulations that prevent people from deploying their initiative; to eliminate every restriction that stands in the way of the private labor of doctors, nurses, dentists, lawyers, architects and other professionals. The restrictions on free cooperativism need to be eliminated. Dismantle the state business monopolies and the price controls on agricultural and industrial products. Allow Cubans to import whatever they wish, establish stores and factories, with simple import and sales taxes.

Involve workers in the direction, management and profits of state enterprises, allow autonomous companies to invest, buy and sell. Allow the broad development of SMEs of all types, be they of private or associated capital, supported by private or state capital. Allow Cubans living abroad to invest in the island, supporting their families and friends. Change the tax laws to stimulate production and services.

To change the Foreign Investment Law for a simple investment law for everyone, where you can engage in all the forms of production that reality demands, with freedom for unions and guarantees for the fair wages for the workers. To reduce the size of the state and its spending. To expand and free the internet allowing free trade and horizontal exchange of information of all kinds. The free market makes possible the development of free labor, whether individual or associated. Without these changes there is no socialism, sustainability nor prosperity.

And can these changes in the economy be made by an authoritarian elite that aspires to perpetuate itself in power and maintain political and economic control over society?

So far it has been proven that they can not. First – or in parallel – there must be a process of democratization of the political life, which in a climate of trust will allow other sectors, groups or visions to perform with a focus on democratizing the society. This implies freedom of expression, association and free elections so that all political and economic trends manifest themselves and interact democratically to work towards a new constitution and a new electoral law.

A genuine democracy must establish participatory budgets locally, so that taxes and budgets are controlled more by communities to strengthen their capacities and sustainable development and to ensure that all relevant laws are widely and horizontally discussed and that all of the are subject to referendum.

And without an internal “blockade,” even if the other persists, so that as Cubans we can see what we are capable of.

If the blockade-embargo were lifted and these obstacles continued, the State would swallow all the loans and only support unproductive state enterprises of interest to the elites to paternalistically continue to govern health and education at a low cost, a pittance for food on the ration book, and precarious levels of wages, pensions, housing support and transportation the majority.

But the bureaucracy does not want socialization nor democratization: they do not want to risk their power and privileges. The fear of losing power is the ultimate cause that prevents these changes. Please, do not frighten them even more. No one needs to be done away with. Do not forget “with all and for the good of all.”

Whoever helps empower the people, whoever helps improve the living conditions of the people, whoever helps people to be more free and able to decide their destinies, to let them be happy and prosperous, whoever would do more for the welfare of the people, would win the greatest popular support.

If we have the United States to thank for all this and the lifting of its “blockade”… you get the idea, reader.

Translator’s notes:
*The Cuban regime insists on calling the US embargo against Cuba “the blockade.”
**In this context “voluntarism” is relying on volunteer labor for major economic activities.

Pope Francis and His Cuban Critics / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

Pope Francis did not hide his surprise at receiving Evo Morales’s gift. (EFE / Bolivian Information Agency)
Pope Francis did not hide his surprise at receiving Evo Morales’s gift. (EFE / Bolivian Information Agency)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 17 September 2015 — Of course all Cubans, no matter where they are, have the right to think as they see fit about events in Cuba and to look at other and related events according to the capacity of their vision or the calibration of their lenses, and others have the right to share or not to share these visions. My respect for everyone.

And here we are facing the third visit of a pope to Cuba in a few years when in all the prior history of Cuba we have had none. This is evidence enough of the importance the Vatican concedes to this little Caribbean archipelago, to its inhabitants and all of its natives.

Some criticize Bergoglio’s constant references to the poor and his dissatisfaction with the global systems of domination, his declarations that seem very leftist, his reforms and actions within the church, or his prologue to some book where he mentions social benefits that the Cuban people achieved in their struggles to better their living conditions, benefits that some may attribute as if they had been given the gift of multiplying the loaves and fishes.

No one would dispute Pope Francis’s role in mediating the reestablishment of relations between Cuba and the United States continue reading

It is not possible to establish a dependency relationship between the narrow modifications introduced by Raul Castro and the Church’s influence in them, but it is undeniable that in recent years it has played some role in them. For some, it has been a simple screen, for others, something more.

But what nobody can dispute is Pope Francis’s role as a mediator in the reestablishment of relations between Cuba and the United States, one of the most significant political events so far this year and from which the Cuban people expect many good things.

This pope could well come to “take stock” of this event with which he will be historically linked. Not by pure chance is he going to the United States by way of Cuba.

The reconciliatory role of the church is undoubtedly clearly expressed there. We would also like his help in our internal reconciliation, that’s true.

Some opponents do not agree with the reestablishment of relations, as they reject all eventual conversation or dialog with the Cuban government. They could not share the reconciliation, the political dialog, the mercy and forgiveness promoted by the Catholic Church as a part of the social harmony. They also have a right to that.

Pope Francisco is in a better position to lobby for democratization in Cuba than are those who criticize him from the opposition

In this context reference should be made to the positions we are defending from a part of the Cuban democratic left. And the first point of a platform — “For a broad democratic movement of the Cuban democratic left” — offered by three groups who made the call, states:

“The creation of an atmosphere of collaboration and harmony leading to the establishment of an inclusive national dialogue and the recognition of fundamental freedoms; a new Constitution which is the fruit of the creation and collective and horizontal discussion of the Cuban people, and then approved in a referendum; a new democratic electoral law, and the establishment of a modern State of Law with full working and informative transparency, under popular control, with autonomous municipalities, participatory budgets at the different levels and laws that affect all citizens and is submitted to a referendum. Finally, a Democratic Republic based in humanism and solidarity, with full social justice, comprehensively governed by the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in which we all have a part.”

From these positions we welcome everyone that supports the creation of this climate.

Does anyone doubt that Cuba today needs an atmosphere of collaboration and harmony that brings us this constructive dialog and the conditions for a broad process of democratization? Or does someone still believe that democratization can be achieved by other unrelated means?

Does anyone not want this process of democratization for Cuba?

And one might wonder who brings better conditions of influence to bring about the realization of this environment that almost all Cubans agree is needed. Figures like Pope Francis in his approach to the Cuban government, or those who, from the opposition, scorn and even try to ridicule the efforts of the Catholic Church and its personalities for trying to help, specifically, in the creation of this indispensable climate?

The answer is obvious, but it should be expressed: Pope Francis is in better position to influence conditions in favor of the democratization in Cuba, with his policy of approach to the government, than are those who criticize from the opposition.

That his action results in support for the continuation of the current authoritarian and intransigent State, or in a positive influence in favor of the gradual changes that the vast majority desire, is a question that in practice has already been demonstrated.

In politics everyone speaks and acts from their own position, but there are positions from which one can talk, discuss, negotiate and get results, and there are others that make that difficult or impossible, that alienate and divide.

“Participatory and democratic socialism contemplates many aspects coincide with the social doctrine of the Catholic Church”

Everyone is free to choose their political position, their actions, which is not the same as ideology, but don’t expect to reap the same fruits. There is not the same fertile ground everywhere, there is not the same irrigation, there is not the same sun and certainly there are not the same cultivators and harvesters.

Everyone can choose how they refer to the pope and his efforts in Cuba: everyone can reap what they sow.

From the positions of a participatory and democratic socialism, which contemplates many aspects that coincide with the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, we hope that the upcoming visit of Pope Francis can continue this climate of détente and harmony in our country that is conducive to other democratic developments for the good of all Cubans.

In fact, his coming is already contributing, with the government’s recent release of more than 3,500 prisoners sentenced for different crimes. Hopefully it will also stimulate changes in the laws will prevent so many imprisonments and so much arbitrariness.

Welcome to the key of the Gulf, Pope Francis. May you have a happy visit and may your expectations meet success.

Cuba’s First Independent Think Tank Forms / 14ymedio

Opening day of the Meeting of Ideas in Cuba (Photo Miriam Celaya)
Opening day of the Meeting of Ideas in Cuba (Photo Miriam Celaya)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pinar del Rio, 12 September 2015 – This weekend the first Encuentro de Pensamiento (Meeting of Ideas) for Cuba is being held, sponsored by the independent think tank Center for Coexistence Studies. This meeting is intended to “think about the national home that we desire, contribute to the reconstruction of the human person and the fabric of civil society,” Dagoberto Valdes Hernandez, one of the event’s organizers, told this newspaper.

The program begins this Saturday with an opening panel that will address the topic, “The Cuban Economy in the Short, Medium and Long Term.” Among the guest panelists are María Caridad Gálvez, Pedro Campos, José A. Quintana and Dimas Castellanos. The discussion is divided into four subthemes: the economic model, property, work, and social security, according to the invitation to the participants. continue reading

The managers of the event also clarified that “in these laboratories of plural thinking it is not strictly necessary to reach consensus.” They added, “in the Cuba of ideas there will always be diversity and nuances,” while emphasizing that this will be “an academic workshop, that is, about studies. It will not be another political group.”

In welcoming remarks, Valdes Hernandez said, “our mission is to concentrate on a systematic workshop, coordinated with citizens, independent of ideologies and creeds, to support the fabric of a plural nation from a peaceful and inclusive vision.”

Founded in 2007, the Coexistence project is supported by its magazine of the same name, which has already published 45 editions, addressing issues ranging from culture to civics. For its part, the Center for Studies that has recently emerged considers itself to be “a continuation of the work started 22 years ago by the now defunct Center for Civic and Religious Training of the diocese of Pinar del Rio.”

The Language in the Struggle for Democratization / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

Graffiti of a tall Christmas tree painted over the initials of the Committee for Defense of the Revolution
Graffiti of a tall Christmas tree painted over the initials of the Committee for Defense of the Revolution

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 1 September 2015 — If for you revolution is taking up arms on a hill and facing the bullets of power, for one of your interlocutors it is an act in which the masses take to the streets to change one government and impose another and for a third participating, it is the process of changes in the relationships of production, you and your other two interlocutors will have a hard time understanding any discussion on the topic.

We can say the same with regards to socialism, capitalism, democracy and another set of basic terms of today’s politics. It will be very necessary for us to agree first on what we mean by each of those words, if we are to reach broader agreements. Achieving this implies opening ourselves to different positions. continue reading

Likewise, we can speak of a positive language and a negative language. When someone shows themselves to be in favor of something it can be heard by someone who doesn’t think the same and can find points of agreement. But if a person or group defines themselves as against such a thing, they may begin by saying, “I totally disagree with you,” “you are completely wrong,” “with you there is nothing to discuss.” In fact, it is assuming an attitude of opposition and confrontation that impedes approaching and interacting directly with regards to that thing or person.

For the anti’s, those who are against it, the solution is generally the elimination of the contrary, the adversary, and not in its assimilation, in its dissolution into something new and everything is subordinated to this elimination, especially the methods to achieve it.

When the goal is to do away with the contrary, the objective itself determines how to do it and compels the methods of suppression, the use of violence. Consequently, almost always it generates a natural force of reaction in the object to be suppressed; force that often is superior to what it is opposing and so send up defeating the anti.

The study of history shows that if indeed many changes were achieved through violence, in practice these changes were already being developed

The study of history shows that if, indeed, many changes were achieved through violence, in practice these changes come already developed and settled; only those interested in rapidly provoking them turn to violence to achieve their objectives and end up with the contrary.

History also teaches us that many of those violent changes were not strong and lasting precisely because they had been precipitated – still not having created the conditions adequate for their full development – and they can only be sustained by continued violence. When violence ceases to be exercised in such conditions, generally the changes are reversed. Ergo: changes imposed, changes reversed.

It is not taking an anti-Castro, anti-communist, counterrevolutionary position – or whatever you want to call it – for those interested in the democratization of Cuban society to pursue it. Between an anti-something position and democracy there are insurmountable contradictions, precisely because anti implies suppression and elimination and democracy is not about suppressions or exclusions, but about a coordination among positions, including contradictory ones, and about inclusions and taking into account the interests of everyone.

One of the great masters of Cuban diplomacy, Professor D’Estefano, who died years ago, in one of his lectures on negotiations back in the seventies, taught us his “theory of ham loaf.” In a negotiation you cannot get everything all at once, just line you can’t eat a ham loaf in one bite, but if you take it slice by slice, you can eat the whole thing.

In this democratization of Cuba, those who have tried to eat the entire ham loaf in one go have always fallen into a grave error that has led to failure. No, gentlemen. This has to be done step by step. Not “with many pauses and no hurry,” but with negotiations, making progress slowly, not imposing positions, much less trying to suppress contrary positions.

In this democratization of Cuba, those who have tried to eat the entire ham loaf in one go have always fallen into a grave error that has led to failure.

Democracy can also be reversible when it is imposed, when it has not been preceded by a process of social and economic education. This is what we have seen in many countries where governments come to power by democratic means and then act like others that came into power through violence and end up hijacking the power of the people for partisan ends or for elites.

It is time for those who consider themselves sincere fighters for democracy in Cuba to begin to act with more consequence, intelligence and wisdom, to think more about the way, the methods, to achieve their objectives, rather than continue to consider themselves opponents, anti’s, enemies of the established power and to seek its elimination, to look for ways to negotiate a process of democratization with it that is inclusive, something everyone can agree on.

But if it is assumed there will be no democracy if the Castro tyranny does not first come to an end, then there will be no negotiation, no agreement, no peace process, no achieving the desired democracy. Why see this objective as a precondition and not as a result, where everything will end up changing?

I offer these ideas not that many of us are trying to come to an agreement about how to advance the process of democratization in Cuba. If everyone interested in democracy on the island doesn’t learn these lessons of history, they may have to resign themselves to standing firm for 50 more years in their “anti-Castro positions.”

From the movement for democratic socialism, I support the idea of a dialog involving all Cubans, and also those interested within the government-party-state, without anyone dominating it, where we all work together for the democratization of Cuban society. And if someone wants to remain outside this process by their own choice, that will their responsibility.

Why see this objective as a precondition and not as a result, where everything will end up changing?

In this struggle for democratization, we subordinate many other parts of our program to this objective that we now consider primary and supreme. We hope that all those sincerely interested in this process consider this elementary principle of coordination.

And I emphasize “coordinate” because it is not the same “to coordinate,” “to come together” — said José Martí — maintaining our identity and seeking points in common, as to fuse homogeneously into something that will later only serve hegemonic groups and over the long term, because the internal contradictions are not adequately developed, and they try to cut it short “for the sake of unity.” Is it necessary to recall recent disappointments of our history in this sense?

For the sake of the efforts being that are being undertaken no one is trying to impose straitjackets; no one is trying to distort the meaning of the words. If we have problems with the language and semiotics, let us first agree on that and then discuss the issues. Negotiate, negotiate and negotiate is what we must do.

Recently the Roundtable of Democratic Action Unit (some of us preferred another name) was established in Havana, and in Puerto Rico an important meeting was held with many Cubans from inside and outside the island who are interested in achieving democracy in Cuba. In order for these coordination efforts to make a positive contribution to the process of democratization, we must take into account all these historical lessons.

For the most positive forces of the government-party-state to not see “the enemy” in these movements and look for ways for their involvement, the first thing is not to present ourselves as such and to take a proactive position.

Let The Government Of Cuba Open Itself To Its People / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

The meeting between Raul Castro and Pope Francisco in Rome. (EFE)
The meeting between Raul Castro and Pope Francisco in Rome. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 31 July 2015 – Pope Francis is coming to Cuba this September and the Cuban people will give him an affectionate welcome, as already happened with the last two visits of his predecessors. Although this time religion here is diverse, there are more than a few atheists, and Catholics and non-Catholics will be present at his activities.

This will be an occasion to greet a Latin American pope who has tried several reforms in the Catholic Church for the poor and the dispossessed, who has called exploitation by its name, and who, in Latin American lands, said that “the rules and the laws, as well as the projects of civil community, have to seek inclusion, open spaces for dialog, for encounter, and thus leave behind the painful memories of any kind of repression, excessive control and loss of freedom.”

Today, as Pope John Pal II wanted, the world is opening itself to Cuba and Cuba is opening itself to the world, and the Latin American pope has played a very important role in this, brokering agreements between the governments of Cuba and the United States, beginning a process of dialog that has already permitted the reopening of embassies and the reestablishment of diplomatic relations. continue reading

The internal situation could be complicated by the resistance of the Government to recognize different thinking and its insistence on repressing its manifestations

And this process has been possible because of the need of the Cuban government to access international sources of financing, and the need of the United States to rebuild its relations with Latin America, affected precisely by the policy of isolating Cuba.

However, what we Cubans need most, we citizens, those below, those of us who could receive no benefit from these governmental rapprochements, is that the government of this country open itself to its people. Pope Francis might also contribute to this, although the force that he commands is more moral and human than economic.

In this regard, the Cuban Civil Society Open Forum wrote a letter to His Holiness, delivered personally to the Nunciature in Havana, in which they solicited his good offices to mediate between the Government and Cuban civil society and facilitate a dialog, as it did between the Cuban authorities and those of the United States.

Cuban society urgently needs this national dialog which different political and social forces have called for in recent years, as there is a difficult internal situation that, unfortunately, could be complicated by the resistance of the Government to recognize different thinking and its insistence on repressing its manifestations.

Today, officialdom continues making speeches and acting like a citadel under siege – “all dissent is treason” – while it is evident that the government politicians themselves are those who are preventing the democratization of society, the advance of the productive forces, and the development of the relations of free production, of a  character of self-management, that characterizes the new post-capitalist society, concomitant with the social doctrine of the Church.

Cuba could emerge strengthened as a nation, or it could lead to the consolidation of authoritarianism.

Cuba is living in a transcendental moment from the coincidence of important factors: the natural decline in the figures who have ruled the country for more than half a century; the failure of the statist wage model; the centralized form of political management; and the policy change toward Cuba of the Obama administration. From the combination of these factors, Cuba could emerge strengthened as a nation, or it could lead to the consolidation of authoritarianism.

Much depends on the people’s ability to achieve self-government and self-reliance, so it is of prime importance that the current Government, now open only to the proposals of the Communist Party, open itself to all ways of political thinking and of economic and social action.

If, as a consequence of the combination of these factors the monopolistic State capitalism emerges stronger, in alliance with foreign capital, the big winner will be the current militaristic authoritarianism, but at the eventual cost of a virtual economic and geopolitical annexation by the great neighbor to the north, which will be guarantor and financial motor of authoritarianism.

If the result is the advance of a process of democratization of politics and the socialization of the economy, the prosperity and well-being of all Cubans – and consequently the future of the nation – it would be guaranteed, aided by the new international situation.

The Pope could now contribute another grain of sand, or perhaps throw in a dose of sediment, to the good road of the Cuban nation and help all of us to understand the need for dialog and the politics of communal well-being supported by the social doctrine of the Church.

Welcome to Havana, Pope Francis.

Restore Sovereignty to the People If You Want To Avoid another Revolution / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

The Moncada Barracks. An attack on the barracks in 1953was the opening move of the Revolution
The Moncada Barracks. An attack on the barracks on 26 July, 62 years ago, was the opening move of the Revolution

A pandemic of freedom floods our senses.
Juan Carlos Cremata

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos and other authors, Havana, 25 July 2015 – It will soon be 62 years since a group of young men headed by Fidel Castro attacked the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba, an event that catapulted that figure to the foreground of national politics and definitively buried the possibility of a peaceful and political outcome to the situation created by Fulgencio Batista’s coup a year before.

The armed struggle prevailed and managed to oust the tyrant from power. But the violent way in which it was achieved marked until today the political fate of Cuba. The Encampment triumphed again over the Republic.

That same character who organized and led that assault and who then headed a rebel military movement capitalized on the popular triumph of the 1959 Revolution, made and supported by the great majority of the Cuban people in order to restore the democratic system. continue reading

The small group close to Fidel and Raul Castro leads, now for more than half a century, an authoritarian Government that never re-established democratic institutions, structured on the basis of the “dictatorship of the proletariat,” according to the principles of Stalinism, which has nothing to do with Marx or with the founders of socialism.

All very well done to keep the little group in power. All very badly done according to the interests of the people and workers.

Injustice today still openly and violently represses different thought, prevents a few women [the Ladies in White] from marching with flowers on an avenue seeking liberty for political prisoners, imposes on the nation its own Communist Party and political economy that they decide and negotiate with the US Government, behind the backs of the Cuban people, an effort to save their monopolistic State capitalism with an alliance with the foreign capital that could lead to the virtual economic and geo-political annexation by the neighbor to the north.

The failure of monopolistic State capitalism imposed on Cuba in the name of socialism, the Revolution and the working class is more than evident in many of its main results:

1-Destroying the country’s economy. 2- Impoverishing workers and Cubans in general. 3- Covering the word socialism in mud. 4-Dividing and scattering the Cuban family. 5-Discouraging the Cuban people from working. 6-Distorting national history and de-nationalizing the Cuban nationality. 7-Retarding for almost half a century revolutionary progress in Latin America with its encouragement of violence.

The constant violation of the civil and political rights of the Cuban people is found today in the most recent absurd attacks by the bureaucratic system against artists of great national and international prestige such as Tania Bruguera and Juan Carlos Cremata

Another recognized achievement is international solidarity, which has been the work of the Cuban people, but some part would have to be celebrated, another part discussed and much re-evaluated as counterproductive and even reprehensible. Education and health in reach of all, with all its deficiencies and limitations, are the little improvement that it has achieved, but both were conceived for the skilled and continuous exploitation of salaried statism.

That is the concrete thing we have today. What happened before 1959 is ancient history for new generations, who are brought up in absolutism around the power established and recognized in an obsolete Constitution, copied from the former USSR, a constitution that the Government itself violates every day.

The constant violation of the civil and political rights of the Cuban people is found today in the most recent absurd attacks by the bureaucratic system against artists of great national and international prestige such as Tania Bruguera and Juan Carlos Cremata, attacks which constitute offenses against the whole national culture and prove that the

Encampment does not back down in its outrage against the Republic.

If different expressions of art and national culture cannot be freely demonstrated, if they cannot creatively represent our contemporary national reality, then the old slogan “Within the Revolution everything, outside the Revolution nothing” has been turned into: The ‘Revolution’ is no longer ‘everything,’ rather it is ‘nothing.’

A nation is its culture and if it is not respected, it is nothing more than a group of empty symbols.

The most sacred thing that a human being has, what permits him to live, to be fulfilled and to build a family, is his work, his creative capacity, his physical and intellectual aptitudes, which are materially translated into remuneration for his efforts and results.

The right to payment for work is perhaps the most important right, which permits in turn the realization of other rights.

And the supposedly socialist State is violating that right since it appropriated and nationalized all the factories, lands, big, medium and small businesses, theaters, cinemas, parks, beaches, cultural and social centers, dance halls, etc., and converted everyone, even artists, into salaried employees of the State. Today they receive miserable salaries and pensions, the same as 50 years ago but devalued 50 times.

That desecration of the value of work, the main basis for any economy, has destroyed the productive forces of the nation, especially the most important, the human workforce, which has been demoralized and corrupted by the high level of exploitation to which it is subjected with extremely low wages. How can they ask people to be productive, to take care of the means of production and to feel master of them?

If they do not respect the workforce, art or the citizens’ civil or political rights, what mess are we facing?

We already told the General [Raul Castro] that it was time to close the Encampment and to open the Republic. But like all our messages to power, this one did not reach receptive ears either. It was ignored.

Do the current rulers really believe they can ignore with impunity the demands of other revolutionaries and citizens with different thinking? Do they believe that I gained this by shooting and by shooting they will have to take it from me? Why were those shots fired? To gain access to power eternally and return to the people trampled dignity and sovereignty? To keep themselves in power by means of violence? Do some still believe that it is preferable to sink the Island in the sea than to lose their power and privilege?

From the democratic left the government has been warned many times: if they continue forgetting the original contents that gave life to this process and continue to violate the rights of Cubans, the unchanneled discontent could overflow.

They go so slowly that they are becoming paralyzed. Everything has its limits. Patience, too.

Today repressive actions against the peaceful opposition do not stop not even with the approach of the pope’s visit. If anything, they increase in number and intensity in an effort to stop the inevitable progress of the democratization demanded by almost all of Cuban society, parts of which are equally inside and outside of Cuba, the worker, the fledgling entrepreneur, the student and the soldier, the communist, the indifferent and the dissident. We are all parts.

I recently demanded an end to the spiral of violence, which is the fault of the repressor State. The opposition no longer places bombs or makes attacks. It assumed the path of peaceful confrontation. The world today is different than that of the Cold War. Not realizing these changes and continuing with violence is good for no one.

As some opponents demand: Judge for yourself the repression’s direct actors.

From the democratic left it has been warned many times: if they continue forgetting the original contents that gave life to this proc overflow.

If they do not want people protesting in the streets or wherever or however they can, they must do things right: stop the repression, free the political prisoners, permit freedom of expression, association, election and economic activities. Start a dialogue with everyone. Move towards a new democratic Constitution, a State of law and a new electoral law.

We do not demand that you surrender or submit, but that you permit the democratization of Cuban society

Set reasonable internet prices. Eliminate obstacles to self-employment, cooperativism and state trading monopolies. Deliver state enterprises to the collective management of the workers. And free yourselves from so much blame.

Without peace, democracy and freedom, there will be no development or any socialism.

This is, once more, a plea from the political forces that emerged from the revolutionary process itself. From people who devoted the best years of their lives to fighting for the socialism in which they believed and who today see their poor families torn apart and their children and grandchildren risking their lives at sea or in the jungles searching for well being. Bringing people to desperation is the worst politics. Prevent violence from growing and spreading.

We do not demand that you surrender or submit, but that you permit the democratization of Cuban society or let others do what you espoused and were incapable of doing: achieving the complete happiness of all the Cuban people.

Do that last service for the Revolution that you began and that long ago you should have put into the hand of the sovereign people, and then no one will bother you. In any case, you would pass into history as those who righted the stray path.

Let the people decide, restore to them their sovereignty. Because of that and for that they supported the Revolution that you lead 62 years ago. Don’t provoke another one.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

US Helps Raul Castro To Maintain Stability In Cuba / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

Barack Obama and Raul Castro shake hands at the opening of the Americas Summit
Barack Obama and Raul Castro shake hands at the opening of the Americas Summit

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 10 June 2015 — Even when senior officials of the Obama administration and the president himself have said the new US policy toward Cuba is not intended to change the regime, the propagandists of the Caribbean Stalinism insist that this remains the real pretension of the United States.

Of course the intention is to say that nothing has changed and continue raising the smoke screen of the blockade of the “enemy’s” plans to continue to try to hide the true causes of the economic disaster and justify the lack of democracy and the repression of difference.

It is elementary that the United States would like a free market economy regime, with a government that helps it to preserve its interests on the Island and in the region. But to accomplish this it can’t subvert the Cuban government.

However, from there to trying to impose a government of its will, in the new international conditions, goes a long way, because they know full well that a deliberate attempt in this sense would be met with great resistance in the country and the region. Besides, why fall into dangerous adventures, if via other “intelligent” ways you can get the same results? continue reading

No. Today the objective of the United States is not to “destroy the Revolution.” The “revolutionaries” in power have been changed with this, as Fidel Castro himself said on 5 November 02005 at the University of Havana. He and his group prevented, first, the triumph of the democratic revolution in 1959-1960 and later, in the name of the Revolution, Socialism and the working class have avoided the Socialist transformations.

In Cuba we’ve had neither a democratic revolution nor a socialist revolution.

In Cuba we’ve had neither a democratic revolution nor a socialist revolution.

The United States watched the transition of the centralized “socialist” economies in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China and Vietnam, to more or less free markets, in the hands of many of their own former leaders. Boris Yeltsin, former member of the Politburo of the USSR Communist Party, or Deng Xiaoping, also a member of the Politburo of the Communist Party in China, and others of a similar style.

With this disaster it became clear that “State Socialism” never ends, because its inconsistencies between socialist ends and capitalist measures (working for wages and the centralization of property), sooner or later, move the economy in a natural way toward private capitalism.

This is the result of not having socialized the economy nor democratized political power, i.e. delivered real power – economic and governance – to the workers and the people.

Previously, the objectives pursued by the United States in Cuba were to avoid the consolidation of a “socialist” regime, its eventual reversal and to avoid its spread in the region. But with the fall of international support the Castro regime fell into crisis, ending the export of the Revolution and no one on the continent is excited about following the Cuban model.

With these goals, without any invasion, and demonstrating the endogenous unviability of the Cuban State socialist model (neither socialist nor Cuban), the United States believed that its implosion would be the matter of a short time. It didn’t understand until today that, despite its inconsistencies and economic deficits, the “confrontation with imperialism,” the support from Venezuela, the hyper-exploitation of those who work for the State, the permanence of the historic leader and some populist measures brought certain reserves of time to the “Castro experiment.”

With the fall of international support the “Castro experiment” fell into crisis, ending the export of the Revolution and no one on the continent is excited about following the Cuban model

In parallel, starting from 1994, concern was growing among the American “establishment” over the complicated internal crisis that was generating another rafter migration crisis, converting Cuba into a failed state, and leading the United States to have to engage in some kind of intervention. This definitely put US strategic interests in the region at risk.

This was no longer defined by the Intelligence Community, as expressed by different representatives, when the transmission of power in Cuba from Fidel Castro to his brother became clear. They then specified that a government in military hands, like those of Raul Castro, suited their purposes of realizing a peaceful economic and political transition in Cuba.

It was at that time that the United States began to understand the political futility of the blockade-embargo and to delineate a new policy. Obama was not yet president.

Once power was transmitted to Raul, and with a different administration in Washington, a new intention became clearer: to help the General’s Government ease the internal economic situation to avoid this dangerous crisis and, of course, to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the “opening” for foreign capital and the established of all the ties and commitments permissible to be as close as possible to the Cuban government

And this is what, in the first instance, explains the policy change that had antecedents even in the Bush administration, when food imports were allowed and talks were held on commitments about migratory problems.

The policy change had a history even in the Bush administration, when food imports are allowed and talks on migration issues and commitments were made

Another key element in this new projection is that the unnecessary extension of the absurd blockade-embargo became a boomerang for US foreign policy, particularly in Latin America. Mending its relations with Cuba would seem to be a precondition to reverse this situation and create a more favorable environment for the expansion of political and economic relations in the region in the face of the Chinese and Russian offensive.

We must not forget that the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), with which the United States tried to create an economic zone on the continent to try to preserve the extra-continental competition, was sabotaged by the initiative of Fidel Castro with the support of Hugo Chavez.

With “normalization,” the United States aims to neutralize the extreme anti-imperialism of the “historic leadership,” which has brought it so many problems around the world.

Part of the new policy is the continuation of the Cuban Adjustment Act, a permanent escape valve for the dissatisfied, now with more opportunities to skip the country with the new migratory law; clearly there is a need to get the growing discontent — generated by the “update” itself — off the Island.

A sign of discontent? An old man in the neighborhood, 80 years old, loyal to Fidel, and upset because the ration book offers almost nothing, and his pension doesn’t stretch far enough, told me, “If Fidel knew that Raul took the food away from the people, he would have him shot. End of story.”

Certainly, a major relief would be political changes that ease the internal tensions. But the United States knows that this part is the responsibility of Cubans.

With the “normalization” US aims to neutralize the extreme anti-imperialism of the “historical leadership” which has brought it so many problems around the world

To the Stalinist extreme, deep in the structures of the Communist Party and for the purposes of its intransigent anti-imperialist image, it is not convenient to accept that the strategic objective of the United States in Cuba is the stability to avoid a crisis, nor that supporting Raul Castro’s government is a part of the tactic to accomplish that.

Such an approach would undermine the “confrontation with imperialism,” the Party’s propaganda and the philosophy of the “citadel under siege” that tries to justify the internal repression of the dissidence and those who think differently, as well as the democratic deficit of the “model” (a model of what should not be done in the name of socialism).

The real purpose of the “update” is no longer to build “socialism,” but to go from the monopolistic capitalism of the State to the restoration of private capitalism, but under the control of the senior bureaucracy in alliance with big foreign capital.

Monopolies? Neither state-run nor foreign-owned are wanted here / Diario de Cuba, Pedro Campos

Opinions of an entrepreneur in view of the new economic scenario.

diariodecubalogoPedro Campos, Havana, 17 March 2015 — Alex Castro, son of Fidel Castro, declared recently that McDonald’s and Coca Cola are welcome in Cuba. Of course, he must have been speaking in a personal or family capacity, being that he does not hold any representative office.

In this regard it is worth noting that, from the viewpoint of participative and democratic socialism, state-run monopolies harm the economy as much as foreign-owned ones. Both block the development of productive forces and, especially, the decline in costs and prices of raw materials and finished products.

In state-run, centralized economies such as the Cuban one, or in more liberal capitalism, such as that of the United States, monopolies that control economic and market niches are also great sources of corruption, and of the destruction of continue reading

consumer goods in order to maintain high prices.

Examples of the consequences of monopolistic control abound in the economic literature dating back from more than century ago, and in particular in the international press, and in Cuba’s own official media.

Having consulted the owners of a restaurant that serves fast food (and of high quality), they told me they agree that relations between the US and Cuba should be normalized, but that, for obvious reasons, they are not so enthusiastic about the eventual arrival of McDonald’s in Cuba.

One of these young entrepreneurs told me, “Obama promised help for small businesses, and for the empowerment of the people – not an invasion of large transnational corporations which, instead of helping the self-employed and cooperatives, would try to monopolize our markets, and consequently sink us.

“We are against the big monopolies on principle. We believe that the essence of imperialism is in the big monopolies. We are anti-imperialists not because of politics, but for our need to survive,” he said.

“This is not from a fear of competition,” he added. “We can compete in terms of quality and price even with McDonald’s itself, whose hamburgers are actually not mainly made of meat. Our hamburger is indeed nutritious, mostly pork, and is not junk food, as McDonald’s offerings have been internationally declared to be.”

He also remarked that his business does not pay salaries to its workers, but rather a fixed share of the profits, for which the employees perform with a sense of ownership, even though they are not owners. They all work enthusiastically, taking care of the small restaurant’s means and resources, and they strive to provide the best quality and service.

This restaurateur surmises that Alex Castro may have had the opportunity to try McDonald’s. “He must have liked it very much, to have given it a welcome in the name of Cuba, without having taken into account the Cuban population, the majority of which has not had that opportunity,” he said.

It is also possible that Alex Castro has not tried the hamburgers made in the private Cuban restaurants which lend prestige to our national cuisine – unlike those inefficient little state-run establishments – with far fewer resources than that transnational corporation, but with much higher quality.

I should add that if those Cubans who are self-employed or in cooperatives could count on half the access McDonald’s has to the market for acquiring raw materials, and if the National Tax Administration Office and the inspectors of the various government agencies wouldn’t interfere with them so much in search of reasons to close them down, any foreign business would be hard-pressed to compete with our native enterprises in terms of quality and prices.

In fact, among the causes of the State’s non-declared war against the self-employed is the bafflement of the government-run businesses by the private enterprises, which greatly exceed them in quality and service.

“The reasons are simple,” says the Cuban restaurant owner. “We are broadly fluent in commercial techniques, in the new digital and communication technologies (even without Internet access), many of us have attended schools and courses for hospitality management and tourism, we are fluent in other languages, and we know how to compete, as has been demonstrated by the majority of the Cuban workers, technicians and professionals who have left and established themselves outside the country.”

“We Cubans, who have been so exploited by the State, have learned to try to get ahead through our own efforts, starting with producing the best quality, the best presentation, and the best services at the lowest cost. When we were salaried government employees, with miserable wages, we did not put in the same effort that we now do in our own businesses, and we know that the worker cannot be mistreated and poorly paid, because that just encourages workplace theft.”

“For that reason,” he continued, “even though our restaurant is not a cooperative, we apply similar principles. There are workers who with their tips earn more than even we owners do, and this does not bother us, in fact we are glad for it.”

In closing, he expressed, “Cuba is for Cubans. We do not like, we do not accept, foreign businesses coming here to do what we know and can do, but have not been able to develop because of all the bureaucratic roadblocks. We find ways to raise capital, we borrow, friends and family within and outside the country help us, and we have sold many of our possessions, confident that we are going to do good business.”

“In the event that the great foreign capital arrives to try to crush us, we will not allow it. Let nobody forget that we are the generations raised in the spirit of Baraguá and Moncada.”

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Take care of politics! / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 4 March 2015 – The political and electoral system put in place in Cuba in the name of a socialism that has never existed, on which bureaucracy placed its bets and with which it has always won, has distinguished itself for its representative and indirect character, like that of the representative democracies that it has always criticized in other countries.

That indirect and representative form, where those at the bottom only count when its time to vote for candidates that have been predetermined by the top – except in the case of district delegates – of whom all that is known is a small biography, has only served to depoliticize constituents and make them lose interest in politics, which is nothing more than a way to manage continue reading

issues that concern everyone, be they political, economic, fiscal, labor, judicial, or social.

Since no one is elected for the policies they would put in place to resolve issues in the community, the region, or the country, people simply don’t discuss politics nor do they vote for a specific policy. Thus far, those elected are the one’s who are “best trained” to make and defend the policies that have already been established by the Government-party. This has been the essence of the “socialist democracy.”

Given that the vast majority of Cubans have left politics in the hands of the same people who have governed this country – under a single party and in a single direction – for over half a century, they have decided and continue to decide all our destinies.

It’s time for Cubans, regardless of our ways of thinking, to begin taking care of politics, making it work for all our interests and pulling it from the stagnation into which it has been plunged. We should do the same with the economy, to extract it from the high levels of centralization that have characterized it. The point is not to be consulted about what should be done; it’s to make ourselves the deciders of what occurs.

No one explains what the Party’s Central Committee’s announced new electoral law proposes

 The last plenary session of the Party’s Central Committee approved the establishment of a new electoral law. There are no doubts that it is necessary, but no one explains what the new legislation proposes or how it will impact citizens, if we will participate in its drafting and if we will vote for it in referendum or not, as it should be due to its importance.

Meanwhile, independent civil society demands a new constitution, rule of law, a multi-party system, and democratic elections, and the left, additionally, urges the delivery of a more direct democracy, increased public control, and more effective forms of participation and decision-making.

How will we Cubans participate in the discussion process regarding the new law so that politics doesn’t continue to take care of us and instead it is us who takes care of politics?

How to reconcile that new law with the demands of a great part of Cuban society? Why link it to the negotiations with the United States when it deals with a topic that is solely the responsibility of the Cuban people? Will a new electoral law be democratic or just a patching up of the previous one aimed at keeping up appearances and prolonging the Party’s time in power? How can a new electoral law be conceived without having previously changed a Constitution that has various antidemocratic articles such as the following?

  1. Article 5: establishes the rule of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) over the society.
  1. Article 53: restricts the freedoms of expression and press insofar as it advances the interests of the socialist society, a socialism that also lacks a precise definition.
  1. Article 54: limits the rights to assembly, protest, and association to existing organizations that are subordinate to the PCC.
  1. Article 74: establishes indirect elections for the offices of President and Vice-President at the hands of the National Assembly of People’s Power.
  1. Article 116: establishes that Provincial and Municipal Assemblies are responsible for indirectly electing mayors and governors.

How can a new electoral law be conceived without having previously changed a Constitution that has various antidemocratic articles?

 How to discuss and approve a new electoral law in a country whose political climate does not allow free expression of different ideas or the right to form political associations to defend them.

Regardless, relative to the electoral system, Chapter XIV of the Constitution is sufficiently ample and imprecise to allow for almost anything, even when it seems to contradict other aspects of the Magna Carta, it would be too hasty to draw conclusions for now, given that there are also many other articles that would justify an electoral law that would be entirely democratic.

Regarding this with an optimistic eye, which would not be supported by the actions of Raul Castro’s government in this area, it would be possible to expect that this announcement could be a prelude to others, essential for the creation of a climate of national dialogue and confidence needed for the longed-for process of democratization to open up.

Consequently, we should practice politics, organize ourselves and continue to demand, through every possible track, the creation of a political atmosphere that will be conducive to a necessary national dialogue without exclusions; the establishment of thorough respect for the freedoms of expression, association, and election; the beginning of the works toward a new democratic Constitution that will be approved in a referendum and will allow for the establishment of a rule of law; and continue to push for the complete liberation of the country’s forces of production from all the bonds, regulations, and monopolies imposed by the salaried state forces.

Take care of politics, or politics will take care of you!

Translated by Fernando Fornaris

Cuban Internationalism and the New External Setting / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

Flags flying at the United Nations
Flags flying at the United Nations

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 6 February 2015 – The Government that emerged from the popular and democratic Revolution of 1959 has been characterized since its inception by its internationalist policies of solidarity, aid and cooperation with revolutionary and national liberation movements in Latin America and almost all other corners of the world.

The practice of internationalism has been a norm in the foreign activities of the government, always as a part of the “Marxist-Leninist” principles that uphold it.

It has its roots in our national history, in the participation of many foreigners continue reading

in our independence battles and even in our last feat against Batista’s tyranny, and also in the participation of Cubans in the struggles for liberation of the Thirteen Colonies of the North from English colonialism. Additionally, in American ventures against Spanish colonialism, in the Spanish Civil War, and in World War II against fascism, to point out some well-known historical occurrences.

The solidarity of the Cuban government never remained in simple declarations. Well-known are many actions of direct support in the form of arms, training, funds and men to many of those movements throughout the history of the last half of the XX century.

It would suffice to recall the actions of Che in Africa and Bolivia and the involvement of Cuban troops in the Arab-Israeli, Algerian-Moroccan, and Ethiopian-Somali conflicts as well as in the southern tip of Africa.

On the other hand, important international events that encouraged the use of violence in their political efforts also took place in Cuba.

The Cuban government encouraged armed struggles in Latin America for many years as a means of liberation from imperialist oppression.

The Cuban government encouraged armed struggles in Latin America for many years as a means of liberation from imperialist oppression.

The Island’s press services, especially Radio Habana Cuba, which broadcasts in all continents and in several languages, has constantly denounced human rights abuses at the hands of governments and reactionary forces throughout the world and has breathed life into communist parties, movements of the left, of workers, antifascists, and practically any popular cause that has developed in the world.

Cuban officials feel a sense of pride from those internationalist activities. Many of us Cubans took part in some way, directly or otherwise, in that great movement of solidarity, because internationalism has been part of our education from the State.

These policies began to revert at the fall of the Soviet Union and the “Eastern Bloc,” principal economic, political, and military supporters of the Cuban government.

In adapting to that new global order, a new foreign policy has been developed and applied throughout the last 15 years: upholding political solidarity for “anti-imperialist and revolutionary” movements without direct aid or involvement in other countries’ conflicts, instead seeking greater diplomatic recognition and the creation of favorable conditions that would diversify the Cuban State’s sources of income.

Cuban leaders reduced internationalist support to verbal solidarity and limited aid to natural disasters and health crises (the sale of medical and professional services is a business of the State, a separate subject matter) and they’ve also been effective in mediating to solve Colombia’s armed conflict.

At the same time, international activities aimed at combatting the embargo-blockade* were increased and, more recently, negotiations to reestablish and normalize diplomatic relations between the government and the United States have also taken place.

The Cuban government hopes for its new conduct of respect for international law to be equally met by the international community and, especially, by the United States in this new era of “normal” relations.

The ample and varied activities of aggression and subversion by all administrations of the United States to oust their Cuban counterpart are well-known.

From its sponsoring of the Bay of Pigs Invasion and support for opposition fighters in the Escambray Mountains, going through direct efforts against the national economy and assassination plots against Cuban leaders, to the U.S. Secret Services’ provision of logistical, economic, and political support to all kinds of armed and political movements against the Cuban government.

One should assume that in a new era of normalized relations, all those policies should cease on both sides.

This government could not accuse others of meddling in its internal affairs through the political and public efforts of other governments in favor of the Cuban people’s rights and liberties.

But, it will be necessary to keep in mind that it is not the same thing to show solidarity for the victims of unjust government policies as it is to conspire with nationals of other countries to topple governments. The right to self-determination does not restrict solidarity with the oppressed or with those whose rights are violated, only the practical and effective action that may be directed at undermining a people’s sovereign right to decide its own future, democratically and by itself.

The right to self-determination was born in the United Nations in 1960, precisely as a consequence of international solidarity with the people of Africa, who suffered beneath the boot of colonialism. Nobody could expect Cuba’s government not to voice solidarity with internationalist movements of the left, or to back them up politically as they sought to reclaim political, economic, and social independence, finally denouncing the violation of other people’s rights.

On that same note, this government could not accuse others of meddling in its internal affairs through the political and public efforts of other governments in favor of the Cuban people’s rights and liberties.

The best way to prevent such involvements would be by thoroughly respecting the political, civil, economic, and social rights of Cubans, especially the freedoms of expression, association, and election, as well as their ability to freely carry out productive and commercial activities. Applying, in short, without prejudice or discrimination, the principles set forth by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its respective agreements, which have been signed by this government.

Human rights are not of right or left, capitalists or socialists, northerners or southerners… they are human.

Whoever travels down these roads should know that they, too, have laws and they cut both ways; they are put in place to be respected and to prevent “accidents.”

The new international scenario that Cuba faces doesn’t only require from it a new focus on its international politics, but also on its internal affairs. A connection between the two should exist; there should be some correspondence.

*Translator’s note: The Cuban government calls the American embargo on Cuba a “blockade.”

Translated by Fernando Fornaris

Internal contradictions, solutions and the new politics of the United States / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 29 January 2015 — The main contradictions in Cuban society lie between the concentration and centralization of property ownership and decision making of all kinds, and the broad cultural, technical and professional training of Cubans, eager to improve their material and spiritual living conditions. The unviable state-dependent employment model has been incapable of satisfying these needs.

Its origin is the conception of socialism inherited from Stalinism, which was based on the concentration of ownership and decision-making, and the system of wage-labor for the State, with everything administered by the Communist Party continue reading

: a State-monopoly capitalism that sharpened all the conflicts of the exploitative wage system.

The lack of a solution to these problems has stalled the productive forces, the development of society, economic progress, modernity and improvements in the living conditions of the great majority of the population.

The solutions move to increase the participation of citizens in property, ownership of the results of their work, and decisions of all kinds: economic, political and social. Democratization of politics and socialization of the economy are also imposed.

But “state socialism” blocked these solutions, almost eliminating the small and medium proprietor, preventing the development of forms of free labor — unionized or otherwise — the free-management of production, the social economy, and restricting the democratic participation of citizens in political matters.

Now, with the normalization of relations with “the enemy,” there is no danger of military aggression, always used as a justification to postpone the empowerment of the people, and the Cuban government should not delay any further moving in this direction.

The solutions move to increase the participation of citizens in property, ownership of the results of their work, and decisions of all kinds

The return to power of groups of oligarchs allied to American capital would not resolve these contradictions – rather it would increase them – newly excluding workers and citizens in general from economic and political power, with concentrated ownership passing from the hands of the State to the huge capitalist entrepreneurs, and political power from the Communist Party to another party that could act at will without submitting itself to democracy.

The proposals made from the positions of Participatory and Democratic Socialism, since 1991 with the 4th Cuban Communist Party Congress, raise the need to advance this process of democratization and socialization of politics and the economy. Traditional opposition sectors have also presented similar demands.

In 2006, networks of the international left published “Urging the Cuban Revolution to Advance Entrepreneurial and Social Self-management” and sent it to the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) and the Government. The following year, they published “15 Concrete Proposals to Revitalize Socialism in Cuba.” In 2008, we publicly presented the document “Cuba Needs A Participative and Democratic Socialism, Programmatic Proposals,” and with the view of the 6th Congress of the PCC and the entire Cuban people, we announced our “Proposals to Advance Socialism In Cuba.” More recently, we published “14 Keys for the Padlocks that Depress the Cuban Economy.”

These and other documents of the broad democratic left argue the need to democratize the party and the society, free up self-employment and cooperatives, and especially to involve employees in the direction, management and profits of state enterprises, without ignoring the necessary spaces for state capital, domestic private capital, and foreign capital.

The neo-Stalinists have tried to prevent the people from having knowledge of these ideas and a part of the traditional opposition has tried to ignore them.

The “update of the model” did not resolve these conflicts — although it introduced dynamics and presented proposals concomitant with participative and democratic socialism — due to its limitations, state-centric origin, biased legislation and its application of the same traditional bureaucracy present in a State willing only to strengthen its total control and never disposed to transparently bend toward the essential.

In this scheme, the “update of the model” has not been able to accomplish substantial modifications in what continues to block the development of a socialized economy directly in the hands of the citizens.

The recent agreements between the governments of the United States and Cuba come when all the problems of Cuban society are aggravated and the insufficient “updating” is exhausted, unable to attenuate those problems.

The inability of the State-Government-Party to understand the urgent need to develop popular autonomous control of the economy and the political life of the country is worrying

Today, with the persistence of a high level of ownership concentration and centralization of decision-making and its respective mechanisms and laws, the economic and political structure of the country appears unprepared to absorb the impact represented by the new US policies.

The inability of the State-Government-Party to understand the urgent need to develop popular autonomous control of the economy and the political life of the country is worrying.

Bureaucratic obstructionism at all levels, at fault for the slow “updating of the model,” seems to be playing the same game with respect to the normalization of relations with the United States.

The democratic left is also concerned that the eventual increase in investment will be directed only to state enterprises, which will not resolve the already exposed internal contradictions of Cuban society and will lead to an alliance between monopolistic State capitalism and huge American capital which, logically, will results in greater exploitation of Cuban workers.

While there are American business sectors whose only interest is to do business in Cuba, the Obama administration is also interested in supporting “non-state” businesses, which they welcome.

The issues of democracy and human rights in the United States and Cuba are a matter for their people, not the governments of both countries, which should respect the Cuban people’s sovereignty and their capacity to decide their future. The role of the governments is to create conditions so that people can exercise their sovereignty.

Cuba should open a process of dialog and negotiations between all the visions and projects, political, social and economic, led by a new constituency, capable of harmonizing in democracy all the interests present in the country.

The enunciated American policies to economically and politically empower the citizens don’t hide their intentions to influence the internal politics of Cuba, which are being manipulated by the new-Stalinist mentality, the official press, the political structure and foreign “leftists,” like the “imperialist [intention] to overthrow the Revolution by other means.”

The US government may be making a mistake by stating that its new policy is designed to achieve the same strategic objectives of the previous failed

The US government could be making a mistake by stating that its new policy is intended to achieve the same strategic objectives as the prior, failed, policy. If the objectives continue to be to provoke political changes in Cuba, the American government should ask itself if it would like Cuba to propose the same objectives in its policies toward the United States.

The objectives of the new policy, if they don’t want it to backfire and be counterproductive, should be to live in peace with Cuba, to support its economic development and to facilitate, with the elimination of pressures on the Cuban government, the Cuban people being in a better condition to decide their destinies, without political changes imposed from outside.

For its part, the Cuban government must consider that methods (policies) must predominate over ends (strategy), so that the fact that the United States has changed its policy – from one of pressures and isolation to one of dialog and rapprochement – should influence what prevails in this latest approach.

There are those in the bureaucracy and in the opposition who believe that the problems of our country can only be resolved with the help of the United States. Those who think this way don’t seem to recognize the character of the internal contradictions nor their solutions, such that it will be difficult to find support for their plans among the great majority.

We appreciate the support of Obama and his administration for respect for the human rights of the Cuban people, and for their offer of assistance to non-state businesses and to facilitate people’s access to the Internet. But the democratization of the Cuban political system, the decision about the form of government, and the democratic election of our representatives, these are our tasks and the more the Cuban government feels that the United States is interfering in Cuba’s internal affairs, the more difficult is the situation of Cubans in Cuba and the more the current government will oppose this process.

The more the Cuban government feels that the United States is interfering in Cuba’s internal affairs, the more difficult is the situation of Cubans in Cuba

 Accelerating all the transformations toward a greater democratization and socialization of political and economic life should be the priority in order to cushion the impact of the new dynamics generated by the “normalization” and to guarantee that internal changes are driven by citizen empowerment and not by external forces. Something that appears to be impossible as long as the go-slow bureaucracy continues to have sufficient power to block the necessary transformations.

The difference between changes being promoted from within versus from outside could mark aspects of the independence and sovereignty that would appear in the future, sooner rather than later.

The current contradictions could exacerbated, rather than resolved, and the call for normalization of relations with the United States could stalemate or fail through not achieving the dynamics a new US policy could generate, and through lack of respect by both governments for the interests of the Cuban people who, in their vast majority welcome the normalization, but who also – for the most part – reject outside interference.

A Better Cuba is More Possible Than Ever / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

Dawn breaks in Havana (14ymedio)
Dawn breaking over Havana (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 16 January 2015 — The resumption of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States and the beginning of the normalization of ties of every kind between both countries, which implies the elimination of the political blockade that the great power of the north sustained against the small Caribbean Island, opens a compass of hope and a new space that, taken good advantage of by all the constructive and democratic Cuban forces, creates — as never before — the conditions for a better Cuba for all Cubans.

Some at the extremes consider that this approach could distance, rather than bring closer, a better future for all citizens. Some because they believe that it will prolong and consolidate the Castro dictatorship, others because the “empire” will appropriate the economy and the hearts of Cubans. continue reading

Apart from the narrow sectarian interests that may be hiding behind these visions, none of them seem to realize the full benefits of this event for the vast majority of the Cuban people, their democratic hopes, their creativity, their productive forces and especially for their sovereignty as authentic decision maker and executor of their own future.

Some time ago I wrote that if the solutions to the problems of the Cuban people are entrusted to the help and benevolence of the powerful northern neighbor it would mean handing over the country for a miserable pittance. To ignore the advantages of a constructive and peaceful relationship with the U.S., would condemn the nation “besieged citadel” to the mercy of nationalist opportunism of all kinds.

Move the country along the path between those positions from a major and growing participation of citizens in decisions of all kinds, in politics and in economics, is the key and, at the same time, the great challenge of the Cuban democratic left .

The “update of the model” promoted by the government of Raul Castro, ceding to cooperatives and self-employment a secondary space in the economy, giving priority to state enterprises and leaving unmet his own assertion that the State should not run enterprises, without understanding the significance of free labor, associated or not for socialism, and forgetting the initial objectives of this Revolution, which does not belong to them but to all the people, about the reestablishment of democracy.

If in parallel with the process of negotiations with the US and its participation in supporting the development of the economy there is not a deepening of the process of socialization of property through the extension of self-employment, small and medium enterprises of all types, cooperatives, and worker participation in management, administration and distribution of the profits of state enterprises, with democratization and diversification of institutions of political participation at all levels, Cuba runs the risk of moving from a monopoly decadent state capitalism, imposed in the name of a socialism that has ever existed, to a form of authoritarian State capitalism, controlled by a political-military elite in association with the great American capital.

We have to recognize the presidents of the United States and Cuba have taken this step to create primary conditions for a country better than has ever been possible. But let this opportunity opens the way to the Cuba “with all and for the good of all” that Martí dreamed of and for which several generations of Cubans fought for nearly two centuries, relying on the citizens themselves and their own intelligence.

This is the time for dialogue and consultation, prudential waiting and popular and democratic alliances working with the interests of the majority.

If Raul and his inner circle want to consolidate their position and bring the upgrade of the model  to fruition, they will have to remove all the obstacles imposed by the heavy burden of the old neo-Stalinist party bureaucracy that controls the mass organizations, electoral processes, local authorities and state enterprises, and seek an alliance with the workers and the middle classes, opening every possible space.

We must avoid foreign companies ending up investing only in cooperation with state enterprises, without real independence to contact for labor, without credit or possibilities to develop small and medium sized businesses, with private or associated capital.

In this sense, the Investment Law will be relaxed and become a simple law of businesses, so that Cuban capital sources of whatever dimension, inside the country and abroad, can deploy their initiatives.

The State has to open the possibilities for external and internal trade, as currently their control remains the main cause of high prices which prevents the lowering of the costs of input and of a wide range popular consumer goods, especially food.

Another aspect to immediately review is the tax law that continues to tax revenues, not profits — a factor limiting the expansion of emerging companies — and to eliminate all the paraphernalia of absurd permissions to open businesses and cooperatives, whether in services or production.

All the constructive and peaceful forces in the country should, within and outside the government, within and outside Cuba, set aside grudges and revenge and engage in a national dialogue that makes possible a shared path of national progress towards a new constitution, democratic in its content, and towards how to achieve it.

The upcoming elections to the National Assembly of People’s Power are moving forward. This is a good opportunity for the government to demonstrate its commitment to democracy, to end the legal repression of of the political activism of those who think differently, to facilitate the expansion of freedom of expression and association, and to make changes to the electoral law that enable more democratic forms of putting forward candidates, and direct elections of mayors, provincial governors and the President of the Republic.

The nation will move forward with everyone it it will never be. None of its parts is entitled to hijack the future for narrow interests.

From the defense of the positions of the Participatory and Democratic Socialism, we advocate consultation, dialogue, meeting, national reconciliation and prosperity for the Cuban people in an atmosphere of peace and democracy.

A better Cuba is more possible than ever. To achieve is it is the responsibility of all Cubans of goodwill.

16 January 2015

Exodus, “Modernization,” Solutions and Demands from Democratic Socialism / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

We democratic socialists have made many proposals for overcoming “State socialism.” We are ignored in spite of our disposition towards dialogue. The past is not the solution for the present, nor for the future.

14ymedio, PEDRO CAMPOS, 4 November 2014 — It is no secret to anyone that in the last year, Cuba has experienced a considerable increase in departures abroad, particularly to the United States, by all possible avenues and, unfortunately, by the most dangerous, in improvised vessels through the Florida Straits and cross-country through Central America, crossing Mexico to arrive at the northern border. Some time ago the topic was broached by the independent and international press. In Cuba…silence.

The problem is, and it must be said loud and clear: The Raulist “modernization,” which offered hope and an interlude of awaiting better times, is not producing the economic, political or social results that it at first awoke among a good number of Cubans. And that is the fundamental cause that is provoking this exodus that threatens to become massive.

Raul Castro’s government itself, without clearly saying it, has recognized it with the announcement of that meager 0.6% growth in the first six months and with the measures taken in the last meeting of the Council of Ministers.

Cuban economists here in Cuba, including some who qualify as official, have publicly manifested their dissatisfaction with the limits and obstacles of the “modernization” measures. This is not about blaming or attacking anyone in particular. But any government, in any part of the world, is responsible for taking necessary measures to guarantee the well-being and contentment of its people.

This silent exodus requires all of us who are interested in the good of the Cuban people to think of solutions, throwing aside all prejudice, mottos, or slogans like that of “without rest but without hurry,” in order to try to find and apply quick, practical and effective solutions.

The Cuban government again blames the imperialist blockade for all ills. But it does nothing even to support the anti-embargo campaign that the New York Times is leading.

The practical measures that it takes do not wind up freeing productive forces, as Raul Castro himself has called for, and they maintain all kinds of obstacles against self-employed work, against the expansion of small business, and especially against autonomous cooperatives, without which post-capitalist society, socialism, is an illusion. continue reading

The State, by various bureaucratic mechanisms, keeps monopolizing internal trade and increasingly restricts the least chance for citizens to import small-scale consumer media that the state-military monopoly TRD* stores are incapable of offering.

Even though opposition politics and thought are peaceful and inoffensive, their repression continues.

The internet continues to be inaccessible for the great majority of the population, unaware of its importance and meaning for the broad development of individual and collective abilities, for the market between different sectors and areas of production, for culture and scientific-technical growth.

The supposed decentralization of state enterprises has been nothing more than a simulation with the creation of the Superior Organization of Entrepreneurial Leadership (OSDE), an intermediate link subordinate to the ministers who neutralize the announced entrepreneurial autonomy and, instead of reducing bureaucracy, increase it.

On the other hand, there is not a single movement in the modernization that points to the direct participation of workers in ownership, leadership, management or profits in the businesses that the State considers most important and productive.

Nevertheless, it organizes “cooperatives” in unprofitable state service workshops that are in crisis, with a series of conditions and dependencies that seem more devoted to demonstrating the failure of cooperative business forms than searching for socialist solutions.

What is the consequence? The entrepreneurs, young technical and professional workers who in some way hope to see positive results from the “modernization,” do not see in practice any real rectification of the statist, bureaucratic, and centralized course and, simply tired, they have decided to undertake the adventure of exile.

Raul said that the mindset had to change. And that is absolutely true. But it is also true that a true process of rectification may be hard to carry out by the same ones who for half a century have been working and living with the mentality that has to change.

That philosophy that continues in force is seen every day in the Party press, where the statements of high leaders continue blaming workers and low-level bureaucrats for the country’s serious problems and low productivity, when we all know that the only thing responsible is that salaried, centralized and bureaucratized state model that pretends to change without changing essentially anything.

If Raul does not want to pass into history as a failed follower of willfully traditional policies, he himself will have to produce a change in his mentality, open himself to new times, forget the worn out “Marxist/Leninist” theories of a single-party leader of a dictatorship of the proletariat and of non-democratic centralism, and end up achieving true changes guided by democratization and socialization of politics and the economy.

This demand does not come from Miami, from the traditional opposition to socialist ideas or from any organization financed by “the enemy.” It comes from the last deprived step of the pyramid—“the low man on the totem pole”—with barely a crust of bread on the table, by the right of having sacrificed and delivered the best years of our lives to a revolutionary process into which we poured the great majority of our hopes.

We do it from that generation that today, courting 60 or 70 years of age, has to invent for itself a means of living because the miserable pensions do not cover food for a week; the generation that did not hesitate to step to the front when called upon for Girón (the Bay of Pigs), El Escambray, the Literacy Campaign or the Militias or when they asked us for the unconditional delivery of thousands of hours of voluntary work in the cane, coffee and tobacco fields.

We do it from the right given us for having completed international missions in which life left us, not occasionally but almost daily, for years and on the enemy field.

How to come out from this?

We democratic socialists from Cuba and all over the world have written quite a lot about how to overcome the model of “State socialism” which masks a monopolistic State capitalism. They have never wanted to hear us, or our proposals have been applied in a skewed and incoherent manner although we have always been open to dialogue. But some cheesy bureaucrats have labeled us even as enemies and agents of imperialism.

For ourselves, old now, many sick, veterans of uncounted battles, we ask for nothing; but we do demand with all the strength of our voices, semi-muffled by the years and by intolerance, that they finally taking practical steps, effective for getting the Cuban people out of this situation, so that our children and grandchildren do not have to keep risking their lives in the waters of the Caribbean or crossing Central American borders and so that we do not have to repent on our death beds for having served causes that have turned out to be ignoble.

We also know that there is more time than life and that the past is not the solution for the present but for the future.

For a society of free workers.

*Translator’s note: The State-run stores selling only in hard currency are called “TRDs” – an acronym for the phrase: Currency Collection Stores. In other words, they are designed to ‘collect’ the income some Cubans receive from remittances sent by their family and friends abroad, by selling products otherwise unavailable at hugely inflated prices.

Translated by MLK