Politics, The State, The Market and Civil Society / Dimas Castellanos

As societies are complex systems of interrelated elements, when they face structural crises with harm to all their components, it’s impossible to remedy them with changes limited to one aspect of the system, as is the case with the economy; in its place there needs to be comprehensive approach. Among the elements whose influence is essential and must be taken into account are Politics and political parties, the State, the Market and Civil Society, to which I shall refer briefly.

Politics and political parties

The relationships that various groups establish in the production and appropriation, depending on their position regarding the ownership of the means of production, can serve both to speed and to slow development. Political ideas, one of the ways in which these material relations are reflected in the government and the governed, are an important instrument of change. These ideas are embodied in political parties–which in a State of laws are an expression of pluralism and instrument for the participation of certain groups in politics–but also make an appearance in the State, in the relations between State and society, and among the different States.

Through politics, each social group tries to obtain the greatest advantage and exercise its dominion over the whole society, which has to manage so that that dominion is accepted as legitimate by other groups without the use of force, and for this reason, politics is also defined as the art of making possible what is necessary, without resorting to war, which, according to Klewitz (1) is its continuation.

Because of its supremacy over all other ideological forms of consciousness, politics has a major impact on life and the fate of persons and peoples, which is why Lenin (2) considered its expression concentrated in the economy. Because of its internal dynamics, politics, emerging from relations between classes and parties, has evolved to become field of social participation on a global scale which, surpassing the class-party structure, has become an unavoidable necessity for popular participation.

Hence the importance civil society assumes, which includes the current social movements and social networks in various parts of the world. The best example, independent of the direction taken, are the changes that are taking place currently in North Africa, while in Cuba, the absence of the citizen as a political subject is one of, if not the main, causes of the current crisis.

One manifestation of the interrelatedness of all social phenomena is that the scientific, technological, economic and cultural advances, without any corresponding reflection in social justice, democratization and civil liberties, led to the crisis, whose resolution requires the restoration of this lost correspondence, which comes about through the democratization of society.

In December 2007, the Second Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, said: We have one party, but we must become a more democratic party. Etymologically “party” comes from “part,” and such an intent becomes unrealizable, since the democratization of Cuban society demands can not be overridden by the interests of a party, for the simple reason that with social diversity is impossible to frame everything within one party bounded by an ideology.

Thus, democratizing society, which is what Cuba needs, means that each person or group has the right to associate freely, as an expression of their dignity, their freedom and their interests. Thus, the solution does not lie in the democratization of the party, but of the whole society, imposing a need to replace article five of the current Constitution for the recognition of a multiparty system.

The elections to choose delegates to provincial assemblies and deputies to the National Assembly, held in January 2008, are proof of that need. Despite the campaign being run for the united vote, that unity decreased, while the sum of abstentions, invalid ballots and selective votes, amounted to 1,370,725 voters, 16.13% of the total, a clear signal the existence of a nonconforming sector which eventually will reclaim political space.

Although a multi-party system is not included in the Guidelines to be discussed at the upcoming Communist Party Congress, they have put on the agenda the irreducible diversity and depletion of the current model, since there is no valid argument to challenge it. No basis to suggest that José Martí founded a single party, because others, also, autonomously founded their own.

Martí conceived of the Cuban Revolutionary Party as an institution organizing, controlling and creating awareness to direct the war that would bring the Republic, not to dominate and to prohibit the existence of different parties after the victory, not to work for the predominance, current or future, of any class, but of the group, under democratic methods involving all the forces of the country; for the brotherhood and common action of Cubans living in Cuba and abroad.

Therefore, politics can not be marginalized with regards to the changes being implemented in Cuba, as its impact on social life, affecting everyone, requires the participation of all. From this vision we see some of the influences of politics in the state, market and civil society.

The State

From the city-states in ancient Greece to the multinational states, a distinction is established between rulers and ruled that characterizes all political societies. In them, when sovereignty resides in the people, its members are citizens; when it lies in one person, they are subjects. Among its functions are establishing relationships with other areas and the preservation of internal order.

Under certain conditions the state replaces and controls the lives of citizens. In the cases in which it assumes totalitarian control, there is almost always a dominant party which limits or nullifies freedom for the benefit of a supposed collective, where the person, to be subjected to the State’s will, suffers a considerable diminution in human dignity, which makes the States-Parties into an institution contrary to progress; while in democratic States sovereignty resides in the will of the people who put into the hands of the government the responsibility for certain areas and functions.

In the case of Cuba, the revolutionary movement that took power in 1959 ignored the diversity of opinion and imposed a centralized organization under the supervision of the state, which gradually led to the loss of the established consensus. The reason is that the temporary changes, taken and reported as final, opened the way to totalitarianism and consequently to the conversion of of the State into a single reference point. The consequences are clear: the collapse of Eastern Europe, the deposing of rulers anchored in power for decades in the Middle East, and in Cuba the crisis in which we are now immersed.

The Market

The social division of labor presupposes a diversified and specialized activity that involves the need for the exchange, from which commodity production emerges and is developed to the point it reaches in our time. The ownership of the means of production constitutes the basis of economic relations and, therefore, the market such that it also implies an influence on production and the market because it involves a certain appropriating of the fruits of the work without which they lose interest in the possibility and the meaning of any results. The market, therefore, is a form of social relationship where different people with needs, money, products and services, come together for an exchange. In this sense the market, although it is the result of production, becomes an active element in promoting the production and services that in term are consumed and create new demand.

When the market expands it stimulates production and when it is limited it stops. In this respect the policy outlined by the State is crucial to get one or the other result. The free competition of producers and consumers is a critical factor for production growth, diversification of products and the quality of them. Similarly, as history shows everywhere and at all times, when the state suppresses this freedom, as in Cuba, by eliminating the interest of the people in the outcome, it impacts the quantity, quality and diversity of production until it becomes the caricature it is today where there are products with the quality so-called “of the population”, our old department stores and neighborhood bodegas. The cause of this decline is clear: the economy, if it remains a prisoner of politics, degenerates, and becomes a factor in material and spiritual poverty.

Free trade, an ancient human activity, when it is prevented or suppressed by the politics of party-state, generates the black market, rising prices, the growing number of guards and inspectors and corruption, which shows the very close links between politics, political parties and the State with the market.

However, the Communist Party, while it has recognized mistakes in economic management, which is an important step, is tied to ideology and has decided that the planning and not the free market will be the hallmark of the economy. What is required, faced with the failures which that decision predicted, is to return to the problem and decide between the centrally planned economy, and the economy of the market governed by free price mechanism or the social market economy, where for the sake of social justice the dominance of monopolies is limited while the market remains a place of free competition and a development factor, as centrally and bureaucratically-determined prices, the lack of flexibility in getting information about scarcity or abundance of products, about whom is more effective, and who produces higher quality and lower prices. Why? Because by its passive nature the Cuban model requires the consumer to influence the determination of the quantity and quality of what should occur. This argument requires changes in current policy so that all Cubans participate in deciding what is most appropriate and adapted to our conditions.

This history of humanity and of Cuba shows the need to spread democracy to the economy. This involves the creation of the economic citizen, an active entity with rights to property ownership and effective participation in decision-making and profits. Thus, better management is not just that which contributes to economic growth but that which also achieves the best participation as a basis for the distribution of wealth. The most efficient economic system is one that allows citizen participation, sustainable growth and rising living standards; it deregulates economic life, the institution of various forms of ownership and competition among them.

Civil Society

Civil society emerged in opposition to the feudal state in which there were no civil liberties and legal guarantees for the individual. As the declared objective of liberalism was to ensure individual freedom, it was necessary to remove the tyranny and arbitrariness and replace it by the rule of law, limited by the social control function to ensure freedom of individuals(3), i.e. owners. Civil society was understood then as the space limited to owners to deploy their associativity.

In contemporary conditions, characterized by rapid scientific-technological and economic advances, and claims of popular participation in public life, civil society has claimed a role. What we understand by this is the existence of associations, public spaces, media and property, independent of the State, based on the freedoms and rights legally endorsed, to enable citizens to participate actively in the debate and the decision of the political, economic, social and cultural problems. Due to its characteristics, civil society requires the existence of fundamental freedoms known as Human Rights.

By its nature, civil society is the seat of the plurality and difference, a permanent school of civility and ethics and a solid link between citizens and the nation, its culture, history and development. Its distinguishing feature is independence from the state. Its existence and effective functioning requires the institutionalization of human rights.

Civil and political rights: freedom of conscience, speech, press, assembly, association and the right to vote, are the basis for communication, exchange of opinions, the harmonizing of behaviors, decision making, building partnerships and the multiparty system.

The concept of human rights, being the source of respect, integrity and dignity of persons, is a valuable reference in the struggle of peoples and individuals for material and spiritual improvement. They have a decisive and momentous relationship to quality of life, social life and development. They are expressed in concepts and principles aimed at recognition, respect and observance of legal guarantees to facilitate the participation, integrity and dignity of the human person, and are universal, indivisible, inalienable and sacred….

The advances made in human rights throughout history, at the end of World War II were identified, synthesized, and converted into a Declaration adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization in 1948, and later took shape in International Law. One of those documents came into force between January and March 1976: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, both binding to their signatory states, beyond any moral statement to work for their fulfillment.

In Cuba, those freedom-rights have a long history, their institutional manifestations were early in the nineteenth century constitution of the mambisas, broke into the Constitution of 1901 and expanded in 1940, when they added the right to march and form political organizations against the regime, university autonomy, the statement of punishable acts of prohibiting or restricting citizens’ participation in the political life of the nation, and recognition of the legitimacy of the resistance for the protection of individual rights. Some of those rights, as set out formally in the constitution of 1976, may be used only for the purposes outlined by the ruling party, which indicates that the area of ​​law is closely connected with politics, and must undergo reforms to catch up on a matter so crucial to all peoples and for all Cubans.

What I have tried to present is limited to calling attention to the need to take into account a comprehensive approach to finding out way out of the Cuban crisis, since politics, political parties, the State, Market and Civil Society, together with rights and liberties, among other things, form an inseparable whole the ignorance of which inevitably leads to a worsening of current problems.

Havana, 28 February 2011

(1) Karl Von Klewitz (1780-1831), Prussian military theorist and author of the famous work “On War,” published post-mortem in 1832.

(2) Vadimir Ilyich Lenin, leader of the Russian Revolution of 1917

(3) J. L. AC ANDA. Civil Society and Hegemony, p.109. Havana: Research and Development Center Juan Marinello, 2002

Published in the digital magazine Convivencia, No. 20, March-April 2011

May 6, 2011