14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 11 December 2015 — The victory of the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) in Venezuela brings an endless list of implications for Cuba, depending on how events develop there. We will have to wait some time to make a comprehensive assessment of the phenomenon.
According to Maduro’s speech, the blame for his crushing defeat in parliamentary elections last Sunday belongs to imperialism, its internal acolytes, and their economic and media war. We Cubans know this justifying discourse, which is incapable of self-criticism.
“Madurismo” says that the counterrevolution triumphed in an election where the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) lost overwhelmingly, due to its own mistakes. The popular majority who voted for democratic change, according to this version, were counterrevolutionaries, including the forces of the left and the Chavistas who voted for opposition candidates: this is a misreading.
This approach is part of the philosophy of traditional authoritarian populism of a “left” that has seen as revolutionary and socialist centralized state control over the economy and politics, and the Manichaean “with me or against me”… “because the Revolution is me.”
A constructive vision of the future obliges the PSUV, along with the Cuban and international left, to make a calm, deep and dialectic assessment of the MUD’s triumph in the Venezuelan parliamentary elections, which seem to mark the failure, perhaps announced, of the statist experience of Chavism, as it deviated from its initial socialist currents.
To begin with, such a crushing defeat cannot be attributed solely to the “economic and media war waged by imperialism and the opposition,” which undoubtedly did exist. No support could be expected for a broad populist policy of vast government spending, restrictions on domestic investment and support of a huge bureaucracy all paid for by oil revenues, whose prices could not recover for many reasons. In addition, the government – authoritarian and engaged in systematically harassing the opposition – has close ties with and financially contributes to the only non-democratic state in the region.
In recent years, the center of focus of Nicolas Maduro’s government was the violent actions of extreme right groups, to which he linked all opposition — off-center, right or left — forgetting the causes of the phenomenon: the absence of effective policies to tackle the growth in insecurity, government corruption, inflation and shortages.
This, coupled with the abandonment of the initial process of installing socialism, already present in Chavez’s last years, alienated the government from its original base. All very typical of Cuban voluntarism: pay attention to the effects and not the causes.
There was a lot of fanfare about imperialism, a lot of unnecessary repression, and little in the way of political and economic practice to address these problems. Time and resources were dedicated to trying to raise the price of oil, to “international solidarity” in search of friends and supporters, to arbitrarily increasing the salaries of workers in the public and private sector, and little effort was directed to diversify the economy and tap into and make use of national productive capital. A lack of production and liquidity equals inflation. Good Cuban advice!
While the “missions” and general plans focused on social benefits for lower income sectors supported by oil revenues, with prices systematically undervalued in the international market, centralized distribution of resources brokered by the State was prioritized at the expense of making participative local budgets work and of promoting free, private or associated work, initially promoted as the pillars of Chavista socialism.
Those modalities, which many of us viewed with enthusiasm, were drifting to the Cuban approach of state monopoly capitalism, not socialism, where the main role of economic development does not lead to private and social initiative, but rather to employees of state enterprises attempting to violate laws and control the economy, and to an underestimation and even dismissal of forms of private and associated self-management of production, while different types of private capitalism are frankly rejected or only reluctantly accepted.
Instead of the originally democratic, self-managed and socializing Chavismo influenced by authoritarian Fidelismo and state control of labor, the opposite occurred and that is one of the causes of the disaster now facing the PSUV. Here and there, “socialism” has been swept away.
History has demonstrated everywhere that centralized control of labor – where the state is the main employer – along with centralized control of the markets, is contrary to the sustainable development of the economy.
Other Latin American governments, who felt solidarity with Havana, were careful not to fall into the same rut, as in the case with the presidents of Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia.
In Cuba, the authoritarian and undemocratic political system of absolute control of the Communist Party over the state and society prevent the democratic opposition and the socialist left from organizing, publicly disclosing their programs and working for political change from democratic structures, as the PSUV opposition has been able to do.
Cuba’s leaders from the Sierra Maestra, who capitalized on their success of 1959, have never allowed a democratic election and, with what has happened in Venezuela, possibly conclude that the democratic system has nothing to do with their political interests. Sadly, they have not learned the lesson of the “socialist camp”: it is preferable to share and lose power democratically, power that will definitely be lost by other means.
A year after the announcement of the restoration of relations with the United States, and nine years since Raul Castro took the reins of government, improvements for the people come in dribs and drabs and are unstable.
As there are no democratic mechanisms of participation in Cuba that allow the manifestation of forces opposed to and distinct from the Government-Party-State forces, a telluric movement has been building that could erupt like a volcano, with all its consequences. But the people do not want a volcano, they want a channel for their concerns. The sustained exodus of Cubans, recently increased, is the most obvious proof of popular discontent.
But within the Cuban Government-Party-State the predominate forces appear to be those contrary to a process of democratization, due to their fears of losing all the levers of power. The recent statements by the president of the official National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC) demonstrate the dread of the powers-that-be in the face of a democratization growing from below and the lack of political realism on high.
These blind and dark forces are responsible for everything negative they generate.
It’s easier to do things for the good of all: an observance consistent with the main agreements of the 6th Cuban Communist Party Congress – real opening for self-employment, cooperatives, entrepreneurial autonomy, the decentralization of budgets, foreign investment and especially investments by Cubans who are outside the country – along with a clear democratic opening to eliminate repression for political reasons and to expand the freedom of expression and association.
All of this would strengthen the environment for dialog and national accord, support almost immediate growth in the national economy with prosperity for all Cubans, and renew the desire to live in this country for so many young people who leave. In addition, it would be crucial for the United States Congress to begin eliminating all the outstanding restrictions of the blockade/embargo.
A change in this inclusive democratic direction would permit a soft landing in the inevitable denationalization and decentralization of the economy and politics, consistent with a fundamental principle of political science: The power of the state is inversely proportional to the power of the people.