We are living a moment in our history that contains many “decision making”, at the collective and individual level; and it is essential that these decisions are guided by a vision of the future that we want and also of the alternative futures that we do not want.
Ethics is precisely that, the commitment to the future consequences of our decisions, much more than to the immediate conveniences or inconveniences, and for that we must always know how to identify what is essential, and avoid the bombardment of images and information of different colors ( that we know well where they come from), lead us to focus our attention on the side currents of reality.
In a sermon delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. in the difficult 1960s (Luther King was assassinated in 1968), he said: “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. The future is already here and we must face the stark urgency of now. In this constant puzzle involving life and history, the possibility of being late exists ”.
Today’s tasks are worth depending on how much they contribute to distal goals, and how quickly we achieve them.
The past is only one, because it has already happened, and what we need is to interpret it well. But the possible futures are several and we also have to understand them well, since each of the positions that we assume in the face of concrete problems, whether we realize it or not, adds a small force vector in the direction of one or the other of the alternative futures, and the accumulation of apparently tactical decisions in the face of concrete problems can generate amplification loops and create irreversible bifurcations.
Capitalism does not contain answers to humanity’s most urgent problems: The market economy needs constant growth in production and consumption, but it cannot continue to grow without amplifying explosive social inequalities. Nor can it decline or stagnate without causing an economic and social crisis. There is no way out within the capitalist system, and it is urgent to explore alternatives.
Cuba builds, from its historical roots and its culture, its own alternative of a sovereign, independent, socialist, democratic, prosperous and sustainable nation, with an economy oriented to the material and spiritual happiness of the people; and defends their right to continue building and improving their social project.
We defended it successfully in the decades of the revolutionary awakening of the Third World in the 1960s, then in the decades of the Cold War, and then in the unipolar world of the 1990s and in the Special Period.
It is a collective work with achievements that are undeniable, recognized by friends and enemies. But it is a threatened work. It has always been threatened for more than two centuries, because the Cuban social project was born in opposition to the capitalist, individualistic, competitive and predatory model that emerged almost at the same time in the industrial countries of the north.
Now, in the historical conjuncture of Cubans at the beginning of the 21st century, it can be appreciated three possible paths through which our future could pass, which, accepting the necessary simplification for a brief and concentrated exposition on the main thing, we can describe as:
- The path of naivety, which would take us through successive concessions, towards the republic reconquered by our historical adversaries and towards new dependencies.
- The path of stagnation, which would sacrifice development and participation objectives for the sake of rigidity of controls, and would lead us to exclude ourselves from the world system of relationships.
- The way of culture, which is the only one that can take us to the possible country that we Cubans want.
You have to know them well, to decide for us Cubans, and not let anyone try to decide for us.
The path of naivety
In the historical conjuncture of Cubans at the beginning of the 21st century, three possible paths can be seen through which our future could travel:
● The path of naivety.
● The path of stagnation.
● The way of culture.
As we promised, we are now going to expand the explanation on the first of them:
The path of naivety: towards the reconquered Republic and dependency.
Our adversaries in today’s battles of ideas (perhaps forever) fall into two categories:
- Conscious enemies who know that their actions lead to a country fragmented between a minority of rich annexationists and a great majority of poor people, and who press towards it in a perverse way, assuming that, if they succeed, they will fall on the side of the rich. Our arguments are not directed towards this group. The political attitudes of these people will be resistant to any logic, because they do not start from reasoning, but from selfish interests. They have been the social base – tiny but real and dangerous – of terrorism against Cuba. With this group it is not possible to have a “battle of ideas”, but simply a “battle”, without surnames.
- The naive, who are led to confuse economic initiative with private property, to confuse human rights with tolerance to act against the interests of the country and at the service of another, to confuse open debate of ideas with open doors for the massive influence of the industry of disinformation, and to ignore the impact of the historical dispute with the United States and the blockade on the analysis of Cuban affairs. With these we can reason and explain to them where naivety can lead us. This category is more numerous, and has different roots but similar consequences.
The Constitution of the Republic of Cuba establishes in Article 27 that “The socialist state enterprise is the main subject of the national economy”, although it recognizes private property “that is exercised over certain means of production by Cuban or foreign natural or legal persons. , with a complementary role in the economy ”. And it clarifies in Article 30 that “The concentration of property in non-state natural or legal persons is regulated by the State, which also guarantees an increasingly just redistribution of wealth, in order to preserve compatible limits with the socialist values of equity and social justice ”.
What would our future look like if we allow apparently efficient and rational decisions in the short term and in local contexts to gradually expand the space of private property until eroding the central role of social property? Obviously, there would be a concentration of wealth in a few hands. No one should be surprised: that is what the laws of the market and the private appropriation of socially constructed wealth have always and everywhere produced. Furthermore, a kind of “culture of inequality” would be reinstated in collective thinking that legitimizes it as something permanent and perpetuates it through educational inequality.
The 8th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, reinforced this idea by stating in the Central Report that: “The expansion of the activities of non-state forms of management should not lead to a privatization process, which would sweep away the foundations and essences of socialist society built over more than six decades […] it can never be forgotten that the ownership of the entire people over the fundamental means of production constitutes the basis of the real power of the workers ”.
What would the future look like if a class of private owners had economic power in their hands? Wouldn’t it at some point claim increasing shares of political power? Wouldn’t an eventual political power linked to wealth act against national sovereignty? This is what history teaches us: Cuba in dependent capitalism never had a truly national great bourgeoisie. It was always for the most part an annexationist bourgeoisie. It would be again if we give it the chance.
We have and will have an open economy, because we are a small country that must value the wealth created in international economic transactions; but the main economic actors in the outside capitalist world are private companies. Wouldn’t these actors privilege their relationships with an internal private sector? That was what US President Barak Obama said loud and clear during his visit to Cuba in 2016.
This option is equivalent to moving towards a private economy, concentrating wealth, that surpasses and marginalizes the socialist state economy, which is the one that distributes wealth.
An important component of the external pressures that the Cuban economy receives consists of inducing us to allow the widening of inequalities. Wasn’t that exactly what happened in Russia in 1992, when the abandonment of socialism and the avalanche of privatizations put the economy in the hands of oligarchs and gangsters?
As comrade José Luis Rodríguez explains in his book The Collapse of Socialism in Europe (Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, Havana, 2014), it is estimated that in Russia 30% of the initial capital of the private sector had a criminal origin. 122 thousand companies were privatized in 2 years; between 50 and 100 billion dollars escaped abroad. The weight of the private sector in GDP went from 5% in 1990 to 70% in 1998. GDP decreased 23%. The real wage fell 68.3%. Industrial production fell 54%. Life expectancy for men fell from 65.5 to 57.3 years. The murder rate tripled.
That process had roots in the economic and political history of the USSR, but it was not a completely endogenous process. It included the work of American and European advisers, and of international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. In the transition, unsurprisingly, a few new rich and super millionaires emerged, and obviously many “new poor” as well.
The first steps towards privatization and a market economy were taken in Eastern European countries in the name of economic rationality and efficiency; But this is a rationale aimed at maximizing the profits of the owners and limited to increasing the productivity of the “effectively employed” population, not of the entire population. The excluded (unemployed or in precarious work) are not in the denominator with which the productivity of companies is calculated. There can be no guarantee of the right to work, much less of social equity, without a systematic intervention of the State in economic relations.
The dangers of naivety are also in the ideological sphere, education, culture and the media.
What would our future be like if, within the framework of the essential (and desirable) diversity of opinions and criticisms in the media, a crack were opened to devalue our history, delegitimize our sovereignty, justify social inequalities, and promote banality and individualism? Would this be a debate of ideas within our country or would it be influenced and financed in a biased way by the immense power of the American information industry? How would these powers shape the social conscience of future generations of Cubans? Would it be a debate of ideas that appeals to reason or a war of images that appeals to the primitive reflections of the human being?
All this could happen in Cuba if an immense collective naivety were to induce us to move in that direction. In this way we would perhaps achieve some prosperity for some, but we could not maintain social equity or national sovereignty. It is one of the possible futures and Cubans, for the most part, do not want that future. We are not going to allow it either.
Of course, and we know it, there are also naiveties and great dangers at the other extreme of attitudes, leading to stagnation and isolation of our economy. But we are going to expose those in next week’s note.