Printer Friendly

Thinking about Cuba.

January 1992. I am in Havana and I Start to think about what is going to happen in the world and in this country. At the moment, I'm naturally more concerned about Cuba, but how can one separate Cuba from the future of the world?

The U.S. government has reaffirmed a decision taken 30 years ago: to reconquer Cuba. Its decision has hardened along with its power. Now that the Soviet Union and the group of countries it led have disappeared, the United States wants the world to carry out its own policies.

The U.S. blockade against Cuba is insane. Is it even conceivable that Belgium could be blockaded for 30 years? No one could imagine such a horror. Just thinking about it makes one see the injustice of U.S. policy toward Cuba. Despite this, the country has achieved notable development. It is not an exaggeration to say that Cuba has developed more than any other Third World country. Indisputable indicators of Cuba's development include its level of industrialization, its new technologies in certain sectors, the population's standard of living, and, above all, the complete elimination of poverty and extreme poverty. To these achievements one can add Cuba's policies of full employment, universal health care, and a level of education that averages 12 years or more. Cuba has not been able to overcome one aspect of underdevelopment: it still lacks the level of self-sufficiency achieved by the most advanced countries in the areas of science, fuel, and industry. Since the 1989 crisis, the government and the people have taken measures to increase food self-sufficiency and to survive even extreme deprivation. Yet what other country, similarly encircled, could have survived so long and under such difficult conditions? Now the U.S. is increasing every kind of demand and pressure on Europe and Japan to join the blockade.

Walking through the streets of Havana or down the roads of Cuba gives one a completely different picture than that painted by much of the media, of a country coming apart at the seams. Normal life continues more or less as it always has, but with more want and certainly some novelties, such as bicycles that multiply monthly, and also a certain preoccupation about how the island will confront and overcome the new offensive.

The Cuban Revolution has undergone several stages due to changes in the country and in the world. The first began in 1959 with a national, popular, and democratic movement that appropriated the ideas of Jose Marti, together with those of liberation and socialism; the axis of its power was the majority of the working people. This first stage was followed by a second, roughly from the mid--1970s to the late 1980s. It was marked by substantial support from the Soviet bloc; during this period, the Cuban Revolution, like so many others, tied its development ever more closely to that of the Soviet Union and the countries of Eastern Europe.

The current stage began with the unravelling of the USSR and the collapse of the Leninist project. It is as difficult, or more so, than the previous stages, and it is very similar to the first, because it has forced Cuba to radically rethink the project that will bring about liberation, social justice, and democracy. This problem confronts not only Cuba, China, or Vietnam, but also all underdeveloped and even developed or semideveloped peoples who are trying to contain the enormous inequalities generated by the world market and to limit the exploitation of human beings and nature that is endangering the survival of humanity. Under these conditions, one asks, what does Cuba mean for the world and what is Cuba doing to defend its right to survive? What is Cuba doing to ensure its sovereignty and to maintain or renew its project of social justice and democracy?

I wish to answer these questions first in a very conjunctural, immediate way, and with the idea that events will confirm my hypotheses. It seems to me that given the world's current conditions, the island has designed several policies that assure and augur well for its survival and expanded growth, its self-sustained and peaceful development. I wish to highlight three of those: foreign policy, economic policy, and democratization.

In foreign policy, Cuba seems to have found a double solidarity, that of the world's nations and that of nations of Iberoamerica. Some people have warned of the need to emphasize and reenforce in the "New World Order" the rights of nonintervention and the free self-determination of peoples, rights codified in the United Nations Charter and in international law. The Persian Gulf War demonstrated a U.S. leadership that could be dangerous for Europe and Japan, let alone for the nations that had been colonies in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The unraveling of the nations of the East, some of which have nuclear arms and armies as unpredictable as those of Saddam Hussein, has created the predictable dangers of intervention taken at the will and pleasure of the U.S. government, which pressured Europe and Japan to participate in -- and pay the costs of -- the Gulf War. In Latin America, entire regions are in the middle of a process of increasing economic integration that has no prospect of ending asymmetries, inequalities, and dependency. They see an even greater danger in a U.S. that reserves the right to intervene against any one of these countries when, according to its infinite wisdom and understanding, the U.S. government considers that one or another country is not respectful of human rights, is infested with drug dealers, or is not democratic -- criteria that correspond less to some coherent logic than to the logic of "national security" as understood by U.S. ruling circles. Resistance to an arbitrary New World Order poses essential problems to the world foreign ministries. Yet from London to Paris, from Bonn to Tokyo, from Madrid to Mexico City, Caracas to Rio, to mention only a few of the world's capitals, everybody proposes as a minimal political logic the need to redefine the theory and practice of the principle of nonintervention in the internal affairs of nations and states. Cuba thus discovers a path that will represent the universal interest if humanity is to survive; far more than a manner of speech, this affirmation corresponds to a policy that ever greater numbers of leaders understand as necessary. Cuba's principal struggle is to break the U.S. blockade and we should not discard the possibility that this will someday likewise become the principal struggle of the United States itself. The people of the U.S. and of many other nations will play a key role. Consequently, Cuban policy is centered on the political support of nation-states and of the heads of state who are most aware of the need to struggle for an order of mutual respect.

On the economic front, Cuba is moving in a direction that would appear very heterodox vis a vis the doctrines of socialism, were it not for two facts: (1) socialist doctrines of the past have included policies such as the Soviet's New Economic Program and, above all, (2) the principal leaders of our time have recognized that rather than adjust ourselves to doctrines, we must adjust doctrines to facts and tendencies of the real world. In accordance with such facts and tendencies, and via a route that necessarily moves so many steps ahead and so many steps back, the people will achieve their immediate objectives of survival, development, social justice, and liberation -- waiting to undertake the final battles (if they should come about) when the universal profundity of these struggles so requires.

Today, Cuba is attracting European capital -- from France, England, Germany, Spain, and Italy -- as well as capital from Japan, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil and other countries that are willing to participate in the formative stages of a mixed economy that, without abandoning the socialist project, has to redefine this project in terms of world time and space and in terms of the state and civil society, or in terms of public, private, and social property. Meanwhile, Cuba is taking on the creative risk of socialism with public, social, and private enterprises in an historical period -- that of today -- and on an island of less than 10 million inhabitants, who are valiant and accustomed to war, heroic when necessary, but also political. Cuba's possibilities are enhanced by the discovery of potentially important oil reserves, and even more by both the exceptionally high educational level of its intellectual and manual workers and an infrastructure that is far superior to that of any other country of the "South," while some sectors of scientific and technological research are comparable to those of the most developed countries.

In terms of democracy, Cuba is following two new and very important roads: the first is related to power and the second to thought. By necessity, I will be schematic. In terms of popular power, there is a growing tendency to go beyond what could be called "transmission belts." The idea is that having a transmission belt from the people to the government is not enough; nor is it sufficient that popular power cease to be simply a transmission belt from the government to the people so as to also be one from the people to the government. Even this is not enough. The participatory democracy being constructed in Cuba must lead to the state becoming a structure of participation of the people. To achieve this goal, it is necessary for the people to have decision-making centers throughout the economy, the territory, and the government: nuclei of economic, cultural, political, social, and democratic decision-making, in which "superior classes," "mafiosi," "bureaucrats," or "fiefs" cannot prevail and in which elected representatives are held accountable by those who participate in each level of power and of the state throughout the entire belt. Possibly not since Montesquieu has anyone thought that a balance of powers, sovereignties, and popular and democratic autonomies could be efficient and possible. Perhaps we will have to wait a little while for a theoretical elaboration of this system and its articulation with other forms of Cuban democracy. Meanwhile, the impression is that changes toward democracy are being made from what was formerly called the "infrastructure"; but they are being made with a new vision of the infrastructure, the mixed economy, of state power and popular powers.

This brings up another equally important change in Cuban thinking. Today, one feels that what is being conceived in Cuba is being expressed with a new air of freedom to think and to write. There is a lightness and it is loosening the rigidity of the common concepts and languages of recent years. Without returning to Marti, or to the first years of the revolution, concepts and languages are taking up again the creative traditions of the founding fathers and of the great revolutionary leaders, with young voices that will surprise humanity. Cuban culture is on the verge of a new historical creation: it is as if the island had the mission of being the pioneer of humanity's tasks. With Cuba, perhaps we will achieve a world that is less unjust in the midst of conflict and negotiation. Without Cuba, we will achieve nothing. A victory against the Cuban people and its government would be the beginning of hell on earth.

Having made these statements, I feel it necessary to delve deeper into the problem of democracy in Cuba. This problem is being approached from a base of very long experiences, characteristics of peoples' liberation movements and of the Cuban people's own struggle for liberation. Solid bases -- real and conceptual -- are also provided by Cuba's situation in the world, the Communist collapse and the increase in the U.S. siege, and the economic, social, and cultural development of Cuba that corresponds to a broad political consciousness and revolutionary morality on the island. These factors are provoking an original current of thought. As in other stages of the revolution, this reflection has not been systematized in theoretical works. Yet it seems to follow a logical-political argument in which several propositions (some explicit and others implicit) appear simultaneously. Of these, the following stand out:

1. The struggle is not only between authoritarianism and democracy, but also between capitalism and socialism. Therefore, the proposal is to struggle simultaneously for both democracy and socialism, and not only against bureaucratic authoritarianism.

2. Any democratization process demands attention to the problems of state security and of political governability; in other words, no democratizing measure can ignore the dangers of destabilization and the circumstances of the U.S. blockade. The struggle for democracy cannot be carried out amid the blockade.

3. One should propose democratization not only of the political system, but also of the state. Of the two, it is safer to begin with the democratization of the state. On the basis of an axis of democratic-popular power that controls the state, changes in the broader political system will be decided.

4. Though reducing the contradictions to unity is unacceptable, as the entire history of peoples proves, there is no doubt that without unity of the popular organizations around a party or a coalition, victory is impossible. Under these conditions, the strengthening of the single party of the people in the face of proposals for a multiparty system has become an ideological and revolutionary position, one that cannot be substituted or modified in the current situation of the world and Cuba.

5. The solution to political-ideological pluralism is to encourage internal discussions in all of the organizations of the people. It also corresponds to a series of measures such as keeping the single party from nominating candidates: it is the people who must nominate the candidates they are going to elect. Since Cuba has more mass organizations than any other country in the world, the fact of "discussing everything" and of demanding that delegates be accountable to the base for each of their actions has a practical significance that doesn't exist in other democracies.

6. In any case, the struggle for democracy requires making way for moral and intellectual "quality" and not losing faith in the possibility of winning the global project for liberation, socialism, and democracy. It is indispensable to maintain and increase the collective confidence, which has produced the Cuban people's victories, from the Sierra Maestra to the present. In this regard, there is very vigorous theorizing about collective will and efficacy, in which values and ideology play decisive roles in historical transformation. The discourse about dignity, honor, shame, and valor is combined with the postulate of "ceding no ideological ground" and of "defending ideas to the end." Such discourse is combined with common hope, which is symbolic of a human hope, and which behooves a breed of people who never abandon the struggle, a "breed of winners." The need to open up to new ideas and not be dogmatic occupies a lesser space in the explicit discourse of the collective will, but it does appear in the reasoning set into motion by the "disgrace of the socialist camp," in which the principal "originality" is to return to the struggle as it was initially, without the support of the "socialist camp," but with much greater strength.

7. The right of the opposition to express and organize itself legally is a part of any democratic proposal. How is this right manifested in Cuba? With enormous difficulties. Anyone who lives there knows this. The organized -- and more superficial -- opposition is reduced at the moment to very small groups supported by the U.S. government, which consequently do not oppose the blockade of Cuba. Yet there is another illegal and much stronger and more threatening opposition, which is corruption, enamored or not of "life styles" in consumer society. There is greater control of corruption in Cuba than in the former Soviet bloc and in China or Vietnam, or in the populist states of Africa, Asia, and Latin America; nonetheless, corruption -- however minimal it may be -- is the most threatening structural opposition for Cuba, as it has been for any leftist or progressive government in which, under the shadow of "popular" or "proletarian" power, private accumulation of capital has appeared.

The struggle against the small interventionist groups and against restorationist corruption appears as the struggle against the principal opposition and against an illegal opposition. Meanwhile, the struggle for democracy of the state and the political system itself is developing, providing growing spaces in the culture and ideology. There is no question that these spaces are still limited and one only hopes that they will increase through the process of ideological and political democratization. What is not acceptable is for the Left to critique Cuba for not democratizing itself. Cuba is becoming ever more democratic. Yet it is constructing a democracy without "destabilization" and one that is "governable"....

I always thought about democratization in Cuba from the perspective of the political system and not from that of state power. I have discovered a democratization program of power that is an historical novelty and I am convinced that the struggle for democratic socialism in the world will pass through Cuba, on the basis of a mixed economy governed by a people that the United States must respect as a people and as a government if it wants to avoid the world's and its own conflagration. To extend the bridges that will allow this to happen will be the best policy for democracy, social justice, and survival.

Truly democratic forces have to persevere so that the United States will lift its blockade and regularize its economic, political, and cultural relations with Cuba in a plan that respects its sovereignty and its security -- which is everyone's security.

Dr. Pablo Gonzalez Casanova, a leading Latin American sociologist, is director of the Centro de Investigaciones Interdisciplinarias at the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico (Torre II de Humanidades, 4 [degrees] Piso, Ciudad Universitaria, C.P. 04510, Mexico, D.F.). Translated by Ed McCaughan.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Crime and Social Justice Associates
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Latin America Faces the 21st Century
Author:Casanova, Pablo Gonzalez
Publication:Social Justice
Date:Dec 22, 1992
Previous Article:Uruguay: the paradoxes and perplexities of an uncommon Left.
Next Article:U.S. militarism in the new world order.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters