Cuba Needs a Participatory and Democratic Socialism
Presentation for a public discussion with the people, workers, and revolutionary Cubans looking towards the VI Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba.
BY, Pedro Campos and several comrades
“Nothing which leaves standing the capitalist system of exploitation and wage labor can prevent the immiseration of the masses. This makes indispensable a complete transformation of the system of production and distribution.”
Carlos Baliño, Founder of the PRC and the PCC
Introduction. Cuba continues to undergo an economic, political, and social crisis as a result of the stagnation in collectivization, generated by the full bureaucratic state control over society, the means of production and surplus labor and of the permanent and criminal imperialist siege. Nonetheless, great cultural, scientific, and technical transformations have been carried out, which have created conditions to develop new socialist relations of production. The population decrease, its premature aging, the low birth rate, the massive departure of the youth from the country by any route and a generalized dissatisfaction are palpable consequences of this crisis. In the majority, Cubans are frustrated, alienated and hopeless and the new generations—unmotivated—don’t feel the same commitment as the previous ones with this “socialism that is poor and without perspectives” very remote from expectations, all of which is forming a rare kind of “revolutionary situation” which could unexpectedly be unleashed and whose evolution the enemy could capitalize on.
To protect the Revolution requires progressing from statism to socialism. Otherwise, the growing contradiction between the state property schemes, the poorly-paid wage labor and the centralization of decisions and distribution of surplus value (aspects of the relations of production) on one hand, and the scientific, cultural, and technical level reached by Cuban workers and the means of production (fundamental elements of the productive forces) on the other, will deepen; the struggle over the control of surplus value will grow between the workers and the all-owning and deciding bureaucratic state, which appropriates it in order to use it in the ways it sees fit and limits its true control by its real owners; and there will be a deepening of economic difficulties, disinterest and rejection of that “nonsocialism,” with the danger of a full capitalist restoration which for Cuba would be annexation, the absorption of its culture and an incalculable disaster for the nation and for the international revolutionary movement.
In order to save the people, the Country and the Revolution a new participatory and democratic socialism is required, capable of offering constructive solutions to those contradictions, to put human beings—not the state—at the center of the national life, to revitalize the revolutionary spirit of manual and intellectual workers, to reactivate the worker- peasant (or farmer) alliance, to regain the confidence of the people, to win over the youth, to develop the economy, to improve life, to destroy the domestic and foreign basis of the enemy blockade and to make a more effective contribution to the socialist rebirth occurring in Latin America.
The disaster in Europe of that stagnant neocapitalist “state socialism,” based on the centralization of property, of accumulation, of decisions and on wage labor; its evolution in China towards capitalism and the inability of same to move Cuban society forward, have brought many revolutionaries to work in the reformulation of the never-reached socialism, at all times based on the central ideas of the classics and on the universality and ethics of Marti. At the IV Congress of the PCC in 1991, the bases presented ideas for a new Socialist Program; but when the international situation became more difficult due to the fall of the USSR and the Socialist Bloc , when it became more necessary to advance towards a more participatory and democratic socialism, the leadership decided to postpone those demands, it strengthened its traditional centralism and only after the profound crisis of ’94 decided to undertake some reforms—without substantial changes—basically in the economic sphere.
Fidel’s speech of Nov. 17, 2005, recognizing the possible reversal of the revolution and especially Raúl’s July 26, 2007, speech stimulated another debate where, again, the bases declared themselves in favor of a more participatory and democratic socialism. Three years since the first speech and one year since the second, the result of the discussions has not been made public and the leadership has not presented any concrete comprehensive plan to the people to pull the country out of the crisis; it blatantly ignores many analyses and proposals of socialist academics, and political and social scientists, Cuban and foreign; it continues refusing access to the press of unofficial revolutionary thought , it continues using the imperialist siege as justification to hold back the advance of collectivization (which isn’t more development in technology, but in the form of its exploitation) and continues to lay the full weight and responsibility of the crisis on the workers and the people. The severity increases when there is a warning of a dangerous change in U.S. policy towards Cuba for which we aren’t economically or politically prepared. Some, who complicate and hinder everything, seem to want this to collapse.
Comrade Raúl’s government opened a chapter of hopes which we can’t lose, but the natural resistance of the bureaucratic fabric has only allowed him to present isolated measures, some counterproductive, in order to perfect the wage-earning statism, linked to the traditional discourse of more work, sacrifice and discipline, touching on but without confronting the problems in depth. The VI Congress of the PCC has been announced for the end of 2009.
Faced with this situation, several Cuban communists and revolutionaries— from within—have been studying, proposing and exchanging a group of central ideas collected in this document, which is placed before the workers, the people and all revolutionaries of Cuba and the world, so that, assessed [or evaluated] and enriched by everybody, it may be taken into account by everybody and considered as part of the solutions to the crisis.
It is not a finished program, nor is a new scheme or another straitjacket intended, we seek the consensus that the Republic ofMarti needs and harmony in the functioning of society. We suggest the advance from statism to collectivization, replacing the wage-earning method of payment with the distribution of part of the profits; moving the control of the means, the resources, and the decisions from the bureaucracy to the social and labor collectives and to people, exchanging ideas about matters whose solutions cannot be postponed anymore and advancing towards more participation and more democracy.
The enemy takes advantage and works on our mistakes and has plans to destroy the Revolution and seize Cuba. Martí said “Plan against Plan.” In the absence of any other plan that we know of, these programmatic bases are our contribution.
1-To move from “state socialism” to Participatory and Democratic Socialism. To leave behind the failed authoritative, statist-wage-earning and vertically structured from top to bottom centrist system, inherited from Stalinism and to advance to the modern comprehensive, cooperative concept of Socialism in the 21st Century, to a communal-democratic decentralized system, supported in socialist relations of production which horizontally incorporates and reconciles the productive functions of government, justice, and others from the bottom up.
Socialism must be Participatory because in the formulation and making of decisions the masses, workers and the entire affected population participate directly and committedly. Democratic because the important decisions which affect all of the citizens of the country or a social, productive or community group must have the majority approval of those with an interest.. Libertarianbecause they will create for the first time real conditions for the full freedom of the human being and for the practice, by everyone, of all political, civil, and economic rights by those human beings who have struggled. Humanist because human beings and their ethical and spiritual values are put at the center of social life. Self-managing, because work organized in a cooperative-self-managed form will characterize the new system of organization of production and the operation of the entire society. Inclusive because it will not allow any kind of sectarianism, discrimination or arbitrary exclusion for any reason, in participation and in democracy, so that everybody feels interested and committed in the common project. Integrationist because only with the economic, political and social integration of several countries will the triumph of the new system be achieved, for which we need other peoples to advance on this road and we support an effective ALBA, at the bottom, people to people, that advances to similar economies and to a common passport and currency.
2-To resolve the fundamental conflict which originated the current stagnation of socialism in Cuba, existing between the potential reached by the productive forces and the state wage-earning relationships of production. This implies harmonizing the development of human technique and abilities, with the corresponding forms of production and consequently, to gradually advance—as the social phase of the Revolution should— from the state neocapitalist wage-earning relations of production, distribution and consumption, to the new socialist relations of cooperative-self-managed production, until they are the majority and pass on their collectivist, democratic, solidaristic, libertarian, and humanist principals inherent in their forms of ownership, management and distribution, to the operation of the new society, to all the institutions of the superstructure and make way for a new social conscience. Self-management must be in the public and private sectors, organized in each productive entity and in all of society.
The new cooperative-self-managed relations of production are characterized by: 1) the associated workers, owners or collective usufruct users of their means of production, self “exploit” their labor; 2) democratically administrate their productive management (control of expenses, planning and choice of leadership) and 3) control and distribute the surplus labor, after surplus value, one part for the reproduction of the entity, another for contributions to social security, budgetary activities and general development plans and the rest would be shared equitably for direct consumption of the workers. The cooperative is a form of property and association, cooperativism is the way in which the management and distribution in the cooperative are organized. In the Communist Manifesto it states that “wage earning work is capitalism’s means of existence,” so that socialism goes through the overcoming of wage-earning labor.
3-To adapt property to the development of the productive forces: So that the worker’s and the people’s power may be real and make the development and the expansion of the new socialist relations of production effective, it is necessary that the means of production, resources, and finances, now in the hands of the bureaucracy, be scaled and progressively controlled by the various levels of popular power, the nation, the region, the community, the worker collectives and the people. Since property is named in the way in which it exploits, the wage-earning state, needs to be gradually substituted for the socialist property of workers’ and social collectives, upon state, group or individual bases, according to their development, in the following general way:
Cooperative, would include besides voluntarily united small farmers, small industries or services (construction, gastronomy, repair shops) rather of an artisanal type, where the contributed means of production are originally property of the workers. Self-managed for medium and small companies by their level of development (small factories, workshops, restaurants, smaller hotel facilities) where the ownership of the means of production would be directly given to the workers entirely, by means of sale, cash or credit, or by a granting of title by the State. The workers would decide everything in the enterprise in a self-managed way, through their democratically chosen organs. Co-managed (between the state and the workers) For companies of national or strategic interest with a high level of technology, which demand an enormous quantity of resources and highly specialized personnel which only can be provided by the state budget or foreign capital. Several kinds of companies co-managed between the state and the Workers’ Collective can exist, where all property and the administration could be shared or not by the corresponding state level, partially or totally handed over in usufruct or leased out to the workers, and functioning by the principles of democratic collective leadership and the equitable distribution of part of the profits. The specific details would have to be assessed right or wrong between the workers’ collectives and the responsible state party. The shared character of the administration and the ownership between the state and workers, would guarantee that there is no underestimation of the interests of the nation or the rise of harmful local or regional tendencies.
All of these forms of ownership must be seen in development and would have to be integrated in a territorial, sectorial, or branch form, in unions of cooperative and other associations, in order to form greater, more powerful or comprehensive groups, according to when it is suitable and is agreed or democratically decided by the workers and the corresponding state level in the co-managed companies, until all become a large union of self-managed associations, with statutes providing that they are indivisible and unsaleable, and their fusion or union with other companies remaining subject to law.
4-To allow other forms of property and production in socialism. Given that it is a society in transition and the existence of productive forces in low stage of development, other pre-socialist relations of production will have to coexist, such as the simple exchange of goods or services, including professional (doctors, dentists, lawyers, architects, public relations, economic consultants, artists, etc.) in an individual or family form, and others that the very needs of production demand, as well as controlled foreign investment, preferably indirect and in a mixed form. The transition period needs all of that. Self-employment exists because of natural necessity and being private does not exploit other people’s labor, nor does it allow expanded reproduction; it is about an individual-private but at the same time socialized and self-managed form of production and appropriation. Its natural majority tendency in socialism will need to be towards cooperativism. Where there isn’t any exploitation of wage labor there isn’t capitalism.
All entities and productive individuals of goods or services could pay progressives taxes on their profits, which would be the easiest to control the greater the development of banking activities and the spread of virtual money. Public institutions of health, education (university autonomy), culture, recreation, etc., which would be supported from both the national or municipal budgets, as well as from lesser income that could be generated, would operate autonomously in the interest of the nation and all the people. Practice will determine the adjustments. The fundamental cell of socialist society would be the work center, around which community life would turn: schools, child care and social centers, and cultural, sports and recreation centers and more.
5-To create Worker Councils in all work centers, to exercise direct control over all decisions: election and/or ratification of business leaders, planning, management and democratic control of production plans, costs, expenses and investments and replacing the method of wage payment with equitable distribution of part of the profits.
This process should be headed by the Party and the unions, but the working class cannot wait for the bureaucratic apparatus, up until now mostly indecisive about even discussing any movement in this direction, to deepen its Revolution on its own initiative. The emancipation of the workers is the job of the workers themselves. The workers, the dispossessed, the poor members in the Party, the mass organizations and the government, are those called on to lead collectivization with their own actions and proposals at each center, at each place, to educate these, institutions and to radicalize them. It is necessary to learn from the workers, not to try to “educate them.”
6-To apply new concepts of Planning, market and monetary circulation. In order to achieve the new economic-social formation what will be decisive will be the unification of the currency, democratic planning and the gradual transformation of the monetary-commercial relationships and the profitable market into a barter system. . Among the serious errors of “state socialism” which wrongly sought its realization in the sphere of distribution, were the excessive centralization of planning and the absolute control of the internal market.
Democratic planning is a complex process and it will become a reality by combining the general interests of the nation with those of regions, companies, individuals and nature, organized by levels, in accordance with the respective participatory budgets approved in the nation, the municipality or the economic entity, based on income, taxes, allocations and credits themselves. Production by contract.
The market—which is not what characterizes capitalism, but its relations of production—is inherited by socialism and it will be necessary for an indeterminate time, but with anti-monopoly rules that prevent speculation. The state monopoly controls on the internal market which currently exist, must disappear and give way to commercial activity, as one more service, but subject to the forms of social cooperative-self-managed organization. To maintain central control of export licenses.
Real money, ever more virtual, will continue serving as a measure of the value and means of payment as long as necessary, but must quickly advance to a unitary currency to achieve a true integration and harmony of the national economy and to establish an equivalence, the realest possible, in relationship with the international currencies. The subsidies must be maintained only for the needy.
7- To recognize that the government does not run the economy, but guarantees and helps it to function better. A serious error of state socialism has been its aim to administer and run the economy and its laws which exist at the margin of human wishes. It is not about “diminishing” the role of the state in the socialist transition, but of doing it in a different, more effective way: instead of directly being in charge of administration, its role is to make the development of the relations of production in concordance with the advance reached by productive forces viable, to contribute to the best operation of economic mechanisms relating to democratic planning, harmonic and proportional development of branches and regions, the execution of participatory budgets approved at each state level, to anticipate and to make possible the development of investments in the infrastructure, all kinds of transportation and communications, to guarantee the internationalization and social integration with other economically similar countries and to make sure that national laws and agreements with foreign investors are complied with.
The state would make viable and would support the development of socialist cooperative-self-managed system in the entire economy, it would participate in the formulation of legislation which regulates its operation and would ensure its compliance. The government is aided by its credit policy and by the activity of the Central Bank, under its control, in helping the economy to function at its best.
The government at each level controls tax collection for its democratically approved participatory budgets, on which necessary budgeted activities like health, education, the Armed Forces, infrastructure and others will depend. The state, at each level, will have at its disposal groups (ministries) of methodological control, planning and development to make development and the internal and external exchanges viable.
8-To focus on agriculture and food security as matters of survival of the Republic and Cuban culture itself. The problem lies not only in distributing idle land, but in freeing agricultural production from state padlocks on planting, harvesting, prices, transportation and marketing. Without state support, credit, resources, without prioritizing national products and creating cooperative marketing unions, we will never advance in collectivization. The cooperative and self-managed form of agriculture must be prioritized. The land being distributed cannot be a source of capitalism and wage-earning work, which would be a rollback of collectivization. All current investments in external agricultural products need to be aimed to stimulate internal production, except whatever cannot be produced in the country and has a guaranteed market.
To resolve this problem entails strengthening the worker-peasant alliance, to repopulate the Cuban countryside with farmers with all its consequences and to make individual and family agricultural work prestigious. The peasant is one of the principal bases of the Cuban nation. Land which is distributed must belong to the nation and be given in usufruct for life with removal of it only in extraordinary cases for flagrant violations of the law, for abandonment, for keeping it unproductive and for imperative need of the land for social objectives approved by the National Assembly of Popular Power and with right to compensation. It is necessary to study other measures to stimulate permanence in the countryside and peasant production. Because of the urgent need to develop agriculture and given the low level of mechanization, farmers and cooperatives may be permitted to hire helpers for the busiest times of planting and harvesting.
9-To carry out some changes in the structure of the State: The direct revolutionary democratic Republic of workers, is the type of transitory state which seems more to match the current wishes of the Cuban people and which can make viable the realization of Participatory and Democratic Socialism. Because of popular support and the democratic soundness of its structures it would be the strongest state possible. Its skeleton would be that of Popular Power, but full of participatory and democratic content.
All decision-making and fundamental legislative power—constituent—would totally fall on the people for the most important national and international aspects that affect everyone, which should be submitted to a referendum.
To make the power of Popular Power real, at each level, giving full control of all activity in the municipalities to the authorities who should be chosen democratically and directly by the people, with control over part of the taxes that are collected for the organization and carrying out of autonomous budgets adjusted to the real and specific needs of each Municipality and Community.
The central state apparatus will be adapting itself more and more to its true function in participatory socialism, remaining fundamentally for questions of government, of human rights, as well as methodological, of general social planning and of control over indispensible activities, like defense, security, international relations, commerce, national domestic order, finances, legal system, environment and other practical necessities. The role of the Central Bank should grow, diversify, expand and modernize to be able to efficiently respond to the new demands and credit and to supervise its execution.
10-To perfect the democratic election system: To study and apply more participatory, democratic and direct formulas in the electoral process, in the structure and in the operation of the government.
11-To update the penal code in accordance with the recent human rights pacts (Civil and Political, and Economic, Social and Cultural) signed by the government of Cuba. The excessive sentences given to detainees for matters connected to political questions should be reviewed as soon as possible. The “help” of foreign governments directed to subvert the established order in the Constitution, must be declared illegal. Propaganda that defended any form of exploitation of human beings would be illegal and any that instigated any type of violence would be punished, at the same time as racist, fascist and other practices contrary to life would be prohibited and sanctioned. Freedom of expression and association would exist based on these conditions. “Only oppression should fear the full practice of freedoms” the apostle said. Especially promoted would be the defense of nature, the Earth and the environment and the integration of humans in the ecological system and not domination of it.. Science and technology must not be used to destroy nature but to preserve it. Full freedom, equality and social justice are impossible as long as human beings don’t become economic subjects with full rights. These and the rest of the necessary modifications to fundamental and electoral law must be made to accentuate the social and Martiesque spirit of the Constitution in effect and to submit it to a referendum.
12-To perfect the operation of the Party, the Unions and the political and mass organizations. In order to represent the interests of the entire working class and the people, the Communist Party (PC) must be the most democratic and admit the existence of opinions and diverse tendencies as long as they all defend the power of workers and socialism. Otherwise a false unanimity, division and splits are imposed. The PC should lead through its members and not institutionally, to organize its finances and its operation also in a self-managed and would structure itself in a system where democracy always prevails over centralism, the assemblies decide and the elected implement. It doesn’t impose nor promote candidates. The unions will organize to participate in the management of the workers’ centers to defend the interests of the workers where it is necessary. The political and mass organizations will operate with the budget that they achieve from their collections.
13-To pay attention to the following urgent questions about the economy and the Cuban nation.
a-This platform would be gradually but firmly and systematically applied.
b-To closely link the media and higher study centers and scientific research to the production centers, to socially and economically validate the work of the teacher and to make the rules and norms of the operation of the teaching centers more realistic.
c-The concessions in resources of strategic importance to foreign companies, must be, only, after confirming its need and the incapacity of the country to assume it and would be approved by the ANPP
d-To respect private personal property and the decision over it and consequently to free the sale of private objects including cars and housing and the rentals of them among nationals, as well as to facilitate the free work by retired and handicapped and to free all self-employment.
e-To facilitate the creation of cooperatives of builders who undertake construction for companies or individuals, and to allow cooperatives in gastronomy, communal services and a good part of transportation.
f- A new migratory law is urgently needed, which eliminates the absurd measures like exit permissions and invitation letters, the problems created by prolonged exits, guarantees the right to return, as well as discrimination existing with respect to medical, sports and other professionals. To eliminate the siege against youth, blacks, persons from the interior and other Cubans, without justified reasons, as well as decree 217 which limits the movement and settlement of Cubans in the national territory.
g-For modern socialism the development of new technologies in computer science is vital. It will be necessary to prioritize communications, computer science, as well as the Intranet and Internet with access plans, since they are indispensable for democratic planning, the exchange of equivalents and the carrying out of real participatory democracy.
h-Before undertaking a new social security law which extends the retirement age; to solve the population problem, what is needed first is to economically stimulate the youth to work, stay in the country and procreate; to solve the current problems of stimulating productivity, real unemployment and underemployment, income inequalities and dual currencies in circulation. It is necessary to confront this at the root, not in the effects.
i-Any socialist project must think about the recognition of the generations who began, developed and have brought the Revolution to this point. The Association of Combatants of the Cuba Revolution needs to contribute decisively to this proposal.
If we had to link possible future improvements in our way of life principally with the lifting of the blockade and not with the socialist transformations that we ourselves could carry out, we would be handing Cuba to its historic enemy on a silver platter in exchange for a miserable plate of beans.
The leadership of the country must understand that we are an educated people thanks to the Revolution and that their mission is not to impose paradigms, but to take up the people’s interests and convert them into policies and laws: To lead by obeying. Only in this way is it possible to change what must be changed and to guarantee the socialist advance. Continuity is in change.
Havana, August 17, 2008, 83 Anniversary of the Founding of the Communist Party of Cuba and 57th of the death of Eduardo Chibás, leader of the Orthodox Party.
Opinions, criticism and suggestions are accepted. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Pedro Campos Santos.
The contributions will be shared among those interested and periodically published on the pages of the digital magazine kaosenlared.net. A summary will be done with everything sent. Total or partial reproduction of any contribution will be allowed.