Author Archives: Campos Pedro


Original here: HavanaTimes

By Pedro Campos

Victor Fowler Victor Fowler

HAVANA TIMES — Another gathering sponsored by the Cuban journal Espacio Laical (“Secular Space”) was recently held at the habitual venue in Havana’s Felix Varela Cultural Center, formerly the San Carlos Seminary. On this occasion, participants addressed the racial question in Cuba. The panel was made up by academics and experts Rodrigo Espina, Mayra Espina, Victor Fowler, Tato Quiñones and Antonio Martinez (from the Aponte Commission).

The speakers described the current state of the problem and delved into the ways it expresses itself and possible solutions. They also referred to a number of initiatives that are currently underway, aiming to advance local and State solutions.

No one who attended the gathering could have left with any doubts on this matter: racial discrimination continues to exist in Cuba. The country has not been able to overcome the problem. In fact, it seems to have become worse as a result of the social differences accentuated by the Special Period and the recent reform measures: black people continue to be among the poorest sectors of society.

The issue has not reached public awareness or received the attention from the press and government that it deserves. There is also no concerted official effort addressing the problem, even though there is an official commission (the Aponte Commission) that has convened and presented Vice President Diaz-Canel with their work on the matter.

Espacio Laical will publish the lectures offered by the panelists and the comments made by the public.

In this post, I will touch on the basic premises behind the brief and improvised comments I made as a member of the audience, with more or less these words:

After congratulating the journal for reopening this space for debate, I mentioned that, if Mayra, Victor and Tato were parliamentary representatives, these problems and proposals would surely be debated at parliament and solutions would likely be found within that context.

If the writings of Mayra, Victor and Tato were published by the official press, the issues addressed would be broadly known and debated on by the population.

If the lectures offered by Mayra, Victor and Tato at the venu were quoted by the news or addressed in a television program, people would have no doubt that they are current and relevant issues and people would offer their comments and push for solutions.

For this to happen, however, many changes to our current conception of government, State and country would have to take place. To begin with, we would have to have freedom of expression and association, and to elect our government representatives, and this would require a change in the current political system, Constitution and electoral law. We would especially need to change Article 5 of the constitution, which establishes that the Cuban Communist Party is the guiding entity of Cuban society, something which has served to justify Party control over elections, grassroots organizations, People’s Power organizations, the printed press, radio, television, companies, industry, tourism, agriculture and the whole of the economy in general.

We would also need to change the economic conception which continues to view the State as the main owner of the means of production, and the centralized and monopolistic control over markets, part of a model that discriminates against and stands in the way of the economic empowerment of citizens, which, needless to say, includes black people.

These are the basic changes to our current, centralized political and economic system that could create the conditions needed to overcome the serious problems of racial discrimination that we still face.

I stated that I believe that, if we do not empower citizens politically and economically, we will not overcome the racial discrimination problems we have – nor will we solve the issue of poverty that also affects whites, women, people from Cuba’s eastern (and less privileged) regions or elderly pensioners, who are forced to sell cigarettes at street corners to survive.

We won’t be able to empower citizens if we do not democratize the country’s politics and socialize its economy, such that everyone can participate in and make decisions about political and economic issues at different levels of government, particularly if working people continue to be denied the right to own, administer and manage the incomes generated by businesses, be these small, medium-sized or large.

It’s not that the racial problem doesn’t have its own, particular characteristics and shouldn’t be treated in a special and delicate manner (owing to its impact on human life) or shouldn’t be addressed through race-specific policies, quite the contrary.

The point is that, in order to truly arrive at such policies and come up with a comprehensive solution, we would have to change the whole of the statist philosophy we currently have, which, to date, in the course of more than fifty years, has limited itself to eliminating the phenomenon of racism by decree, appointing a handful of black and mixed-race people to high government positions, and, more recently, tasking a commission with studying the matter and advancing proposals – proposals that will later be applied by those who have never understood the problem to begin with.

We will begin to solve the problem when the most important thing and the goal of all policies are human beings and not the State, as is the case in this distorted philosophy which has made us understand socialism as a form of State monopoly capitalism.

If this group of government officials had been appointed not on the basis of their skin color (allegedly to represent the interests of black people) but because they understand these issues, because they feel part of the problem and wish to represent those who suffer and those who have assessed the causes behind it and sincerely thought of solutions to it, then everything would be quite different.

In view of this, I believe that all who are interested in this issue ought to think about a solution to this general, political problem that colors all other specific problems faced by society, be them social, economic or cultural.

I didn’t mention this during the debate, but I wish to remind the “Leninists” in government that the Bolshevik leader once wisely said that, in order to solve specific problems, the general problems first needed to be solved. We still have to solve the general, basic problems that affect Cuban society: the democratization of politics and socialization of the economy, such that everyone, without any kind of discrimination, can realize themselves fully and develop their individual faculties to the fullest.

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The Changing Slogans of Cuba’s Leadership

pedro_campos1December 17, 2013 |  “Down with Capital, Long Live Capital!” Pedro Campos HAVANA TIMES

Those in Cuba who once bet on the complete expropriation and nationalization of foreign capital today beseech foreign capital to come in their aid, offering investors every imaginable guarantee. The Cuban State economy is in crisis, but not as a result of the imperialist blockade or the collapse of the Soviet Union, as the defenders of “State socialism” often say. The main reasons for the crisis must be looked for in more than fifty years of nearly-absolute state control, in the extreme centralization of decisions regarding how and how much of the billions of rubles received as subsidies from the former Soviet Union and the billions of Cuban pesos and hard currency produced by the working class were spent over this period of time, in the all-encompassing intervention of the State in the economy through domestic and foreign trade monopolies. It is to be found, also, in the State’s almost complete control over the means of production, in the nationalization of international capital, the capital of Cuba’s high and petite bourgeoisie, of free, individual and family workers – recall the “revolutionary offensive” of 1968 – of cooperatives and worker associations. The low salaries of workers, the maintenance of wage labor for the State, the financial imbalances generated by high spending in gigantic State institutions – such as the Armed Forces, State Security, the Party’s political and grassroots apparatuses, propaganda networks entirely subordinated to the State / Party / government, the country’s unwieldy foreign service – and international campaigns aimed at securing support for the government are some of the other causes behind the crisis. All of this could be summed up as the catastrophic result of that series of aberrant, archaic and dogmatic conceptions that Stalinism developed under the banner of Marxism-Leninism. According to the Stalinist logic, a political and military elite is to determine and regulate a society’s laws, economy, way of life and just about everything else in the name of the communist Party, the revolution, socialism and the working class – so-called “real socialism”, whose only real characteristics have been the absence of democracy and the refusal to socialize political and economic power. I have insisted on this elsewhere: unless the economic, political and social failure of this false socialism is acknowledged, the mistakes made will never truly be rectified. Those who defend this unjust system and now unscrupulously try to “update” it mistakenly identify the Cuban revolution with the Cuban government/State/Party that has made and continues to make every absurd mistake, “validating” the claims of right-wingers worldwide regarding the “unviability of socialism” (perhaps the best help global capitalism could hope for). Today, Cuba’s State economy can no longer rely on massive subsidies from the Soviet Union, Venezuela is experiencing a serious economic crisis and cannot continue to provide the aid Chavez offered the island. Likewise, the governments of powerful allies such as Russia, China and Brazil only offer credits that must be repaid. The bureaucratic apparatus of Cuba’s government/Party/State has refused to consider the truly socialist option: it has refused to share the country’s economic power with the people, with Cubans at home and abroad, with the workers. It has refused to allow workers to participate in the administration, management and revenue-collection of State companies and to grant full freedom to the self-employed and cooperatives, instead subjecting these to regulations, experiments and all manner of toing-and-froing. Naturally, workers identify less and less with a State that only caters to the interests of an elitist, bureaucratic caste which continues to determine the country’s laws, investments, estates and the lives of people. Faced with this complex situation, torn apart by its own contradictions and flip-flopping, the Cuban government/State/Party has now decided to contract legal matrimony with international capital, in order to be able to continue exploiting Cuban workers with its aid. The ironies of history! The “revolutionary leadership”, thirsty for foreign capital, today assures us it will not nationalize foreign investments made at El Mariel, the immense commercial project dependent on the end of the US blockade / embargo. The same government that blamed international capital – and US capital in particular – of all the world’s evils, that once boasted of having nationalized (placed under State control, to be more accurate) all foreign properties, today swears blind that it will respect international capital and begs, beseeches its powerful northern neighbor to lift the restrictions that prevent US millionaires from showering Cuba with dollars. They are not concerned about the risk that big, transnational companies – particularly US companies – will take possession of the resources and wealth of the “Pearl of the Antilles”, the “Key to the Gulf”, the “World’s Cruise Ship”, offering foreign investors the sweat of Cuban laborers on a silver platter, in order to share with them the surplus value they can squeeze out of workers together. This is typical of the annexationist stance that Cuba’s new Right – which has taken power in “socialist” Cuba – cannot conceal. We are dealing with the same people whose slogan once was “down with Capital”, those who today yell: “long live Capital!” The traditional Cuban Right based in the United States does not conceal its intentions of restoring capitalism on the island. The new Right offers us a pig in a poke, painting itself a “socialist” red while acquiescing to Yankee capital, allegedly excluding the old, “imperialist” capitalists (no, the new ones are “anti-imperialists”), so that the nouveaux riches and bureau-bourgeoisie, allied to and financially dependent on international capital, can survive the inevitable collapse. This comes as no surprise. Many of us in Cuba’s democratic and socialist left have been saying for many years that the bureaucratic State has only two options: coming to an agreement with the Cuban workers and people or with foreign capital. The second alternative has been the one chosen in all places where “State socialism” was essayed, where the powerful, authoritarian elite re-converted back to capitalism and became a new type of bourgeoisie. We are not against foreign investment. The question is who these investments benefit and what type of economy they are to serve, whether they are aimed at overcoming the economic and financial problems of the bureau-bourgeoisie and Cuba’s new Right or at developing the mid-sized and small companies and cooperatives of a socialist economy. During a fund-raising campaign in Miami, President Barack Obama assured Cuban dissidents he would not negotiate with the Cuban government in what is left of his term in office, while speaking of the need to change the United States’ long-standing foreign policy towards Cuba. The Democrats are already scrambling to secure votes from the Cuban and Hispanic communities, in view of the fact that there is a good chance the Republicans will put forth a Cuban-born senator as presidential candidate in the coming elections. If that were to happen and the Republicans won… Many concerns, questions and disagreements must exist in the high echelons of Cuba’s leadership. What did the US president mean? If there are to be no negotiations, the blockade will not be lifted and American investments will not come. What will they do with the Mariel project, its three million containers and their debt to Brazil? What steps could be taken to ensure the inflow of US capital, without putting their political power at risk? If this US president doesn’t lift the blockade, is that possibility to be discarded by Cuba’s current leaders? If the Republicans were to win the coming elections and a man of Cuban origin were to take office, what would they do? Now, has anyone in Cuba’s distinguished government of generals asked the Cuban people what they want? With every new development, what becomes clearer and clearer is that Cuba needs to democratize society, allow all Cubans to freely express our thoughts and to peacefully and democratically fight for their realization, allow for freedom of expression and association, the free and democratic election of all public officials and full access to the Internet. This process of democratization would allow all Cubans of good will to take part in the building of a democratic future of peace, justice and harmony, with everyone and for everyone’s benefit, regardless of their political views, religion, skin color or sexual orientation. Let’s hope open debate and the interests of the people prevail over the petty interests of extremists. Socialism in defense of life.


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