Cuba Needs a Civilizing Revolution

When activists, intellectuals, academics, religious figures, artists, students, professionals, and workers rise up and take a step forward, the door will be opened to a future of peace, brotherhood, and prosperity. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, February 28, 2020 — The English Revolution of 1688 was called ’Glorious’. It happened 48 years after the first one broke out in 1640. That one was against the absolute monarchy and was violent, and the king was sent to the gallows. But the second one was peaceful, freedom of the press was declared, and the first declaration of human rights was approved.

The final result was an order so stable that it has lasted until today. “The spirit of this strange revolution was opposite to all revolutionary intent,” the historian G. M. Trevelyan would say. Another historian, Juan Pablo Friso, explains why it is called that: “To be glorious a revolution must bring together this: that it is driven by impulses like moderation, consensus, pragmatism, prudence, and impartiality.”

That is what we Cubans need to put an end to the coven of these 60 years. If in 17th-century England it was to correct the errors of a bourgeois revolution, in 21st-century Cuba it would be to correct those of a supposedly socialist revolution.

The aim of socialism, according to Marx, was “to put an end to the divorce between producers and the means of production,” (in other words, workers should be the masters of the instruments with which they work) and that was a principle shared by other socialist theorists, like the anarchist Proudhon, who imagined a society of artisans and small business owners.

Of course, workers didn’t have the power to expropriate the bourgeoisie and take hold of those means, which is why they needed, according to Marx, to topple first the bourgeois State and raise in its place a revolutionary State responsible for carrying out this task: expropriating capitalists and landlords to then transfer those means to the hands of the workers, that is, two steps or phases: expropriation and empowerment.

But the Russian revolutionaries of 1917 made their own interpretation of socialist revolution, something then copied by their followers everywhere they triumphed: carrying out only the first part, expropriating but not empowering.

They invented the sophism that the revolutionary State, by representing the workers’ interests, should be the one managing those goods in their name. It was a very simple syllogism: “Everything belongs to the people. I represent the people. Therefore, everything belongs to me.”

The leaders of the Cuban Revolution followed that same line, expropriating the bourgeoisie without empowering the workers, and handing over to a new bureaucratic class the properties, which they distributed not based on ability but rather on “political reliability.”

And then they made their own contribution, marching in the opposite direction of the map of the route drawn by Marx, by expropriating as well, in 1968, from those who possessed their own means to make a living for themselves. This they called a “Revolutionary Offensive.”

The result was the most extreme form of monopolist capitalism of the State, with absolute control of the nation: legislative, judiciary, prison, sole owner of the press and all means of communication, of industries, banks, and companies, to which everyone must submit and serve, because not to do so was “antipatriotic,” and the cost could be ostracism or prison.

If revolution is a radical change of the structures of a society, then that revolution ended 52 years ago, with the “Revolutionary Offensive,” the last of the measures that radically transformed the structure of Cuban society. In all that time, at most there have been reforms, and to reform means “to change the form” while the essence remains intact. And if in all that time there has not been revolution, neither have there been “counterrevolutionaries,” but rather people unhappy with an unjust order.

However, when the structural crisis deepens and conditions mature for a new revolution, many of these unhappy persons who until then were adopting attitudes of rebellion, come to form the revolutionary crop of the new times to carry out a radical change of the structures established by the first revolution.

Now it would be a question of expropriating the only great monopoly that still remains, the State, in favor of the workers; that is, taking the second step that was never taken.

If that State has satisfactorily demonstrated its inefficiency in managing the goods that according to the Constitution itself belong to all of society, to the point that a large part of the industries in which Cuba used to excel have been destroyed, it must be removed for incapacity as an administrator of those means and transfer them to grassroots collectives.

Cuba is experiencing the greatest crisis of its entire history due to an order that blocks or checks all the means of productive forces. The Cuban leadership turned its back on a fundamental principle of Marxism mentioned by Engels during Marx’s funeral: “Man needs, first of all, to eat, drink, have shelter and clothing before he can create politics, science, art, religion, etc,” which is why it’s required to stimulate the creativity of human beings.

Cuban liberals, to demonstrate the superiority of capitalism to that socialism imposed on the Island, highlighted the fact that it is not the same when interest in productivity is only held by a small group of the Central Committee, than when that interest is held by thousands of capitalists. Following the same reasoning, the result would be even more significant when millions have that interest.

Individual or family ownership, for example, like the so-called self-employed, must be stimulated by reducing taxes and licensing costs, as well as eliminating the prohibitions intended, disloyally and unfairly, to protect the state-controlled companies from the competition of small owners, something that is paradoxical, since what normally occurs in capitalist countries is that laws are passed to protect small business owners from the voracity of monopolies, like the United States’s Sherman Act of 1890, which forced monopolies to dissolve or divide into various companies, and which even sat Rockefeller himself in the dock of the accused.

In Cuba, on the contrary, the State protects its monopoly with laws that limit the activity of the private sector, as one trying to protect a tiger from the possible aggression of a harmless kitten. This fact is revealing in itself, because if the State sees it as necessary to adopt coercive measures to counteract the competition of small businesses, this clearly demonstrates that state companies are inefficient, and moreover, the high efficiency of workers when they work for themselves.

What to do, then, with those inefficient state businesses? The key question would be why they are not efficient and why are private ones efficient. The answer is obvious: the State’s salaried employees lack incentives, while private employees are indeed stimulated. Thus, the solution is handing over to State workers a part of the utilities they produce, thus giving them a voice and a vote in the direction of the companies and businesses where they work. Is this capitalism? Quite the opposite. It would be a form of labor organization more in accordance with the original conception of socialism.

But this is not an ideological question, but rather the pragmatic search for the most effective methods to get the population out of the deepest crisis that this country has experienced in its entire history and prevent social explosions that will drag the country into total chaos.

And that is not the only danger: given the methods in which the decentralizations have been carried out, it is almost certain that there will be the birth of a business mafia which, without the control of the so-called historical leadership now at a point of disappearing, will have no qualms about making pacts with the big drug cartels needed for new routes to the United States market.

How could this new revolution be carried out in a peaceful manner? First, why does it have to be peaceful? Because a violent revolution would repeat the ways of thinking of the same civilizing paradigm in which was implemented the order that we want to supplant, in this case, the patriarchal thinking of armed violence and executions, which means falling again into the same errors that lead again to the starting point to repeat the same cycle. A glorious revolution need not be only political and economic, but rather, above all, civilizing, that is, in the consciousness of citizens.

Second, is a peaceful revolution to empower workers and restore citizens’ rights and freedoms possible? Carrying it out does not require the power of a revolutionary State, as Marx believed. Starting with the principle that no dictatorship is sustained without the collaboration of the people or part of the people, one concludes that nobody governs without the consent of the governed.

If civil society becomes aware of its responsibility for the salvation of a people on the edge of social explosion and chaos, it will have to act in unity and demand the necessary transformations. It will have to be conscious of its own force, what the leader of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, Vaclav Havel, called “the power of the powerless.”

If, as everything indicates, that leadership does not commit to taking the steps that would avoid the approaching disaster, then it could become essential, before it’s too late, that the most conscious elements of the citizenry come together to make clear that necessity before civil society and call on it to wake up.

And when activists, intellectuals, academics, religious figures, artists, students, professionals, and workers rise up and take a step forward to demand, peacefully, without hatred, but energetically, the door will be opened to a future of peace, brotherhood, and prosperity.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera


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