Friday, February 27, 2015

1749. The Cuban Revolution and the Decline of the American Empire: Opportunities and Challenges, Part 2

By Kamran Nayeri, February 27, 2015

"Permaculture is Practiced Here” – sign on an organoponico in Sancti Spiritus, Cuba.


1. The historical context
In Part 1, I provided a historical methodology for understanding and appreciating the Cuban revolution.  In this concluding part, I will use the same methodology to underscore opportunities and challenges facing Cuban revolutionaries in the twentieth first century.  

The rise of industrial capitalist economies in the West and with them the capitalist world market at the end of the nineteenth century shaped the world in crucial ways.  Let’s note some of the key environmental and ecological, social, economic and political features of these changes that matter to the future of the Cuban revolution. 

The rise of labor aristocracy and reformism in the capitalist centers:  As Marx and Engels recognized toward the end of their lives, their vision of socialist self-organization and self-activity of the industrial working class in the West was undermined by the rise of labor aristocracy and bureaucracy. Material changes in the conditions of a significant section of the industrial working class formed the basis for reformism in the major parties of the Second International.  Instead of Marx's vision that economic struggles lead to class consciousness and class struggle opening the way for socialist revolution in the West a significant section of the working class supported their “own bourgeoise” in their colonial conquest of the globe as well as in their imperialist wars that followed.  

Detour of the world revolution: These material changes in the capitalist centers forced the world revolution to take a detour. The first victorious socialist revolution in the twentieth century happened in Russia, imperialism’s weakest link as Lenin observed.  However, capitalist governments and firms in the West forged an alliance with the pre-capitalist ruling classes in the periphery and the nascent indigenous bourgeoise.     

In the aftermath of the 1905 revolution, Leon Trotsky (Results and Prospects, 1906) formulated his theory of Permanent Revolution.  In this theory, the coming Russian revolution had to take the socialist road because its historical democratic tasks could not be resolved under the Russian bourgeoise.  Only the proletariat, argued Trotsky, could fulfill that role but it will proceed to act for its self-emancipation through opening the epoch of socialist revolution.  The October 1917 revolution validated Trotsky’s theory (and Lenin’s as formulated in his famous April 1917 Theses).  The Bolsheviks came to power at the head of the Soviets and by summer of 1918 Russia had to embark on the road to socialism.  The Mensheviks and Right Social Revolutionaries who supported Kerensky’s bourgeois government opposed the October revolution.  Based on the Russian experience, Trotsky extended his theory of Permanent Revolution to the rest of the capitalist periphery.  As we saw in Part 1, the Cuban 1959 revolution had to follow a similar pattern validating Trotsky’s theory.  Trotsky’s theory was negatively confirmed when national democratic revolutions failed to bring to power a workers and peasant government and were defeated. 

Lenin, Trotsky and the Bolshevik leadership in 1917 had no illusion that it was possible to build socialism in the backward Russia without an extension of the socialist revolution, in particular to the industrialized Western Europe.  In the midst of the civil war they quickly moved to establish the Communist International in 1919 to encourage and support such development.

The rise of the vanguard party:  Exuberant with the October 1917 victory, parties of the Communist International attempted to emulate Lenin’s theory of the vanguard party.  Lenin’s theory was predicated upon somewhat new propositions (see, Lenin What Is To Be Done? 1902; One Step Forward, Two Steps Back,1904). It was proposed that the proletariat left to itself cannot attain anything more than a trade union consciousness, that “socialist consciousness” must be brought to the proletariat from the outside, that a centralized party composed of “professional revolutionaries” directed by a Central Committee is necessary for this purpose and for leading the proletariat not only to the conquest of the political power but also to socialism. Of course, others before Lenin had proposed some of these elements already. But Lenin pulled them together to make an altogether new proposition.  In Marx’s theory socialism is the result of the self-activity and self-organization of the proletariat.  To argue, as Lenin did, that the proletariat is incapable of arriving at a socialist consciousness much less organize and lead the struggle for socialism is to revise Marx’s theory of socialism.  In 1917, when the Russian proletariat organized itself in soviets, Lenin returned to Marx’s vision of socialism in his The State and Revolution where the soviets are everything and there is no mention of the party. However, he had to return to his earlier of the primacy of the vanguard party as the revolution began to degenerate. 

Degeneration of the Russian socialist revolution and the rise of Stalinism: The much hoped for European revolutions ended in defeated in no small part due to betrayal of Social Democratic parties.  The Russian revolution was isolated and encircled facing desperate economic conditions after the destruction brought about by the World War I, the civil war, and imperialist aggression.  The relatively small and recently formed industrial working class was dispersed and exhausted and some of its best fighters killed defending the revolution.  Their mass organizations weakened or disbanded. The perspective of the workers state Lenin defended in The State and Revolution (1917) was no longer possible and increasingly the Bolshevik party substituted itself for the working class’ self-organization and self-activity.  As Trotsky explained in The Revolution Betrayed: What Is the Soviet Union and Where Is It Going? (1936, Chapter 5), in the condition of extreme scarcity, a conservative bureaucracy grew inside the Bolshevik Party and the state apparatus and began to revise the Bolshevik program.  Lenin himself was aware of this danger and prepared a fight against it enlisting Trotsky as his collaborator. (see, Lenin’s Final Fight, 2010)  With Lenin’s death in January 1924, Trotsky continued this common struggle to preserve the Bolshevik program, strategy and tactics.  Subsequent events showed how advanced the rise of bureaucracy was in Lenin’s time and how fast it spread within the party.  The decisions of the Tenth Party Congress of the Bolshevik party (March 1921)—on Lenin’s initiative—to temporarily suspend internal party democracy proved a costly mistake as it aided the bureaucracy in stifling opposition in the party.  By the 1928 Sixth Congress of the Communist International, Stalin’s faction repressing the entrenched bureaucracy had already defeated its opponents within the party and moved to consolidate its hold on the international movement by expelling all revolutionary currents.  Thus the Stalinist one-party system came into existence.  While Stalin’s Great Purges of 1936-1940 have received much attention, Stalinist repression began in the 1920s and was directed at the workers and peasant masses as well as the leading cadre of the Bolshevik party.  It was also directed against revolutionary currents within the Communist International—many who took refuge from anti-communist repression in the Soviet Union were executed, sent to labor camps or internal exile. 

The collapse of Stalinism: The rise of world Stalinism was a significant blow to the world socialist revolution. In his  Stalinist Betrayal and the World Revolution (The New International, June 10, 1935), Trotsky states: “…the Communist International…has today become the principal obstacle on the historic road of the working class.”  In The Revolution Betrayed, Trotsky who had characterized the Soviet Union as a degenerated workers state, argued that capitalism will be restored there unless the working class succeeds in organizing a political revolution to overthrow the bureaucracy.  

Again, Trotsky’s predication came true when the Stalinist regimes in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe collapsed at the end of the 1980s and early 1990s and where they did not—as in China and Vietnam—they embraced the road back to capitalism.  The fact that the working classes of these countries did not put up a massive resistance to the return of capitalism indicated the political defeat they had suffered in the hands of the bureaucracies. 

The long decline of Western imperialism and Social Democratic reformism: the capitalist center entered a long term systemic crisis at the end of its post-World War II Golden Age. Both Keynesian (stagflation of the 1970s and military Keynesianism that followed) and Neoliberal “solutions” to the capitalist crises have created deeper and more widespread crises since. The crisis of accumulation of capital has propelled the capitalist classes and their states to launch a sustained assault on the working classes in the industrial capitalist countries undermining the “middle class”—that is labor aristocracy and bureaucracy that have been the basis of reformism and support for imperialism (Thus the recent interests in the bourgeois “left” in rising income inequality (see, Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty First Century, 2014).  Correspondingly, everywhere the Social Democracy has moved further to the right resulting in increasing grievance of its social base (The rise of SYRIZA in Greece and PODEMOS in Spain are examples of groups to the left of traditional Social Democracy that can come to power because of such crisis). 

The surfacing of the environmental and ecological crisis: Fossil fuel-based capitalist industrialization lifted standard of living in much of the world while dehumanizing workers and destroying the environment and ecological systems on which human life depend.  The problem was in plain sight in England in the nineteenth century and many including Engels (The Condition of the Working Class in England, 1844) and Marx (See, John Bellamy Foster, Marx’s Ecology, 2000) commented on it.  However, the socialist movement was mostly blind to the environmental and ecological crisis until very recently. Trotsky who was the most penetrating critic of Stalinism did not hold it responsible for the environmental crisis it created with its “catching up” industrialization effort perhaps due to his own ignorance of environmental issues (see, Sandy Irvine, "Trotsky, Ecology and Sustainability," 2011).    

One world, one destiny:  Marx’s theory of socialism envisioned a world of free associations of direct producers. “Workers of the World Unite!” was a slogan of the workers movement even before Marx and Engels chose it for the Communist Manifesto.  Never has this vision had more relevance than today. Globalization not only of capital and goods but also of communication and ideas is universalized. The social and planetary crises are indeed one and their ultimate solution can only be found on the world scale (Nayeri, "Economics, Socialism and Ecology: A Critical Outline, Part 2," 2013).

As a living revolution, the Cuban revolution would have come to grips with these historical realities in order to develop and advance.  To do so, it is absolutely necessary to overcome its weaknesses and develop its strengths.

2. The long shadow of Stalinism
The Cuban revolution has suffered under the long shadow of Stalinism.  The first Communist Party of Cuba (Partido Comunista de Cuba) was founded on August 16, 1925 by Carlos Baliño, José Miguel Pérez, Alfonso Bernal del Riesgo and Julio Antonio Mella under the influence of the Communist International and like all Communist parties it had to respond to the rise of Stalinism in the Soviet Union.  Julio Antonio Mella, its young and talented leader who was “probably the most prominent communist in the Caribbean in the late 1920s” represented critical pole in the new party (see, Gary Tennat, “Julio Antonio Mella and the Roots of Dissension in the Partido Comunista de Cuba,” in The Hidden Pear of the Caribbean: Trotskyism in Cuba, 2000). However, like many communist leaders at the time, Mella was assassinated in Mexico City in January 1929. Eventually, the Stalinist current in the new party headed by Blas Roca, Aníbal Escalante, Fabio Grobart prevailed pursuing general policies handed down from Kremlin.  In 1939, the PCC was legalized and by 1944 it had changed its name to Partido Sosialista Popular (PSP) to become acceptable as an electoral party.  Two of its leaders, Juan Marinello and Carlos Rafael Rodríguez held ministerial positions in the first Fulgencio Batista cabinet (1940-1944).  

The July 26 Movement was formed because of the reformism of the PSP and its failure to lead the struggle against Batista’s 1952 coup.  In the last year of the revolutionary war, Carlos Rafael Rodriguez met with Fidel Castro in Sierra Maestra to discuss possible rapprochement, a process that Castro wisely welcomed continued in the interest of unity of all Cuban socialists.  

However, this policy also provided a revolutionary cover for Cuban and world Stalinism. For example, in an interview with L’Unita, the official newspaper of the Italian Communist Party—a mass party at the time—Fidel Castro offered the following view of the PSP:
Q. Comandante, what do you think about the Popular Socialist Party, which is the party of Castro communists?
A. It is the only Cuban party which has consistently called for a radical change of social structures and relations. It is true that at the beginning the communists distrusted me and us rebels. Their distrust was justified, their position was absolutely correct, both ideologically and politically. They were right in being distrustful because we of the Sierra who were conducting the guerrilla were still full of petit bourgeois prejudices and defects, in spite of our Marxist readings. Our ideas were not clear, although we wished to destroy tyranny and privileges with all our strength. Then, we met with each other, we understood one another, and started to work together. The communists have shed much blood and heroism for the Cuban cause. At present, we continue to work together in a loyal and brotherly way.” (Arminio Savioli, “The Nature of Cuban Socialism,”  L’Unita, February 1, 1961)
The problem here is not that Fidel Castro was seeking collaboration with the PSP at the time with a potential for merger if it could have been done on a principled basis.  However, to  state that the PSP had “consistently called for a radical change of social structures and relations” (if we are to understand by this a struggle for socialism) is certainly untrue as PSP participation in the first Bastista cabinet shows.  It is not even true that the PSP was engaged in a radical struggle against Batista’s government in the 1950s.  Stalinist parties in the periphery sought alliances with the “national bourgeoise” to help it to come to power to advance national democratic tasks. Only in a future date when "the objective conditions " were ripe, they claimed it was time to fight for socialism.  The 1959 revolution triumphed because the Fidel Castro’s July 26 Movement waged an uncompromising struggle on the basis of its program as codified in History Will Absolve Me (Marta Harnecker, Fidel Castro's Political Strategy: From Moncada to Victory, 1987and did not step backwards when it required a socialist revolution that commenced in 1961. The PSP was bypassed by Fidel Castro’s movement—that is the historical truth.   

This form of political compromise has left the  Communist Party of Cuba led by Fidel Castro vulnerable to grave political mistakes and paralysis.  Nowhere this has been more evident and important than the inability of the leadership of the PCC to properly explain the world historic implosion of the Soviet Union and collapse of the “Actually Existing Socialisms” and the turn in China and Vietnam back to capitalism. 

In most Stalinist parties around the world, this world historic event has been “explained” in terms of imperialist plots and mistakes or “sellout” of (some in) the leadership in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and other “Actually Existing Socialisms.”  The version offered in Cuban is not substantially different.  Moreover, no serious discussion of this historic event has been organized among the ranks of the PCC in any of the pre-congress discussion and at the congresses held since —in October 1991, October 1997, April 2011. 

There can be no doubt that the Central Committee of the PCC has discussed these events. But the ranks of the party, the Cuban working people and working people of the world are not aware of the substance of these discussions and their conclusions. 

This has forced others in Cuba to take up these questions.  A layer of the Cuban socialist intellectuals did undertake a historical materialist (as opposed to conspiratorial) analysis of these event. For example, the cultural periodical Revista Temas organized public meetings to discuss the collapse of the Soviet Union.  The explanations speakers offered were similar to those provided with much more clarity and greater depth in Trotsky’s The Revolution Betrayed: What Is the Soviet Union and Where Is It going? (1936).  

Others in Cuba went further to actually speak up for a return to the legacy of Lenin and the Bolshevik party defended and extended by Leon Trotsky.  Celia Hart Santamaria, daughter of two historic leaders of the Cuban revolution, Haydée Santamaría and Armando Hart, openly questioned the silence in Cuba about Trotsky and his essential contribution to an understanding of the class nature of the Soviet Union and its ruling strata.  Hart’s interest in Trotsky was prompted by her father Armando Hart who was the Minister of Culture at the time.  After returning from her graduate studies in East Germany, Celia Hart raised with her father that she had become disillusioned with the “Actually Existing Socialism” there.  In response, Hart gave his daughter Trotsky’s autobiography My Life (1930) and Isaac Deutscher’s three-volume biography of Trotsky.  These opened Celia Hart’s eyes to the problem of Stalinism. Without an understanding of Stalinism it is not possible to make sense of the twentieth century history of the labor and socialist movements, including in Cuba (for Ceila Hart’s English language selected works see here).  Celia Hart died in a tragic traffic accident in Havana on September 7, 2008). 

Still, the Cuban people remain in the dark about the foremost leader of the Russian revolution after Lenin, his essential contributions to the socialist theory and his fate and legacy.  We can see an example of that from a young Cuban woman, Daisy Valera: 
... [T]he name Trotsky was not written in the history book that I carried around when I was 14 and 15.   From the classes of that period I can only remember the figure of Lenin, who was glorified by my teacher.
Like the more than 30 other students in my class, I knew of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin as the primary and practically sole leader of the Great October Socialist Revolution.  The only other memory that I retained of those classes was the day we learned about the causes for the collapse of the USSR; for some reason, many of the students in the room looked at each other as if we had been double-crossed.
The history lessons concluded, as did my high school studies, without me ever learning that there had been a Leon Trotsky.  Only a few days before I began my program at the university —and by pure chance— I heard a song by a Cuban folk singer about how Trotsky had been one of the main figures in the Russian Revolution of 1917. (Havana Times, August 17, 2010)
I submit that the Cuban revolution cannot develop and advance by ignoring or even worse, falsifying, socialist history.  Even those who joined the PCC from the PSP and are still alive (some of who I have met at academic conferences and in one case hold as a friend) are all interested in defending and extending the achievements of the Cuban revolution. Is it not best to encourage, in act lead, a critical review of the socialist history in Cuba and in the world and draw lessons from these experiences for the future?  Let me note a number of other strategic instances where this critical review was essential but neglected. 

3. The failure of the Soviet model of socialist development in Cuba
After the failure of the 1970 campaign to harvest 10 million tons of sugar cane for which Fidel Castro assumed responsibility, the Cuban leadership opted for full integration into the Council of Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON) and adoption of an economic model similar to those in “Actually Existing Socialisms.”  Concurrently, Stalinist influence in policy increased leading to a repressive period in the history of the revolution. The most severe were the 1971-76 Grey Years of the Cuban revolution when intellectual and artistic freedom were severely curtailed. 

By early 1980s Raul Castro took notice of marked demoralization among Cuban working people. By 1986, Rectification of Errors became the theme of the Third Congress of the Cuban Communist Party.  In his speeches to the congress, Fidel Castro argued that the path the Cuban revolution was on was leading “to a system worse than capitalism.”  
We also heard of a case in which the enterprise was selling its material and reporting it as delivered. They would report that they had delivered their paint, lumber, tiles, just to mention a few products because there are many more. It seems some enterprises wanted to make a profit by stealing and embezzling from one another. What kind of socialism were we building along those lines? This is a very important ideological matter. What kind of ideology was that? I want to know. I want to know whether those methods were not leading to a system worse than capitalism, when we wanted methods that would lead to socialism and communism. What kind of game was that where anyone could grab anything he wanted. They would take a crane as easily as they would take a truck. This swapping of materials was becoming an everyday thing. [Words indistinct] fighting against this with all our strength, otherwise it is conducive to the skepticism, discouragement, and demoralizing of the masses, and discredits the ideas and objectives of our revolutionary process. (Fidel Castro, "Speech to the Closing Session of the Third Congress of the PCC,” December 2, 1986, my emphasis). 
Of course, Castro as well as anyone else who attended the congress understood where these “methods” came from: the Soviet Union. Why did no one souugested that it was necessary to understand why the epicenter "world socialism" was so gravely wrong in its economic management system?  Why would it be a surprise the Soviet Union and other “Actually Exciting Socialisms” collapsed as they too were "systems worse than capitalism." In fact, one could argue that Fidel Castro was already predicating and explaining the coming collapse of the “Actually Existing Socialisms.” 

Instead of taking up these questions,  Fidel Castro assert the Marxian alternative:
I believe that those who think that socialism can be built only with economic mechanisms and economic estimates are making a terrible ideologic mistake even if they knew by heart Karl Marx's entire three or four volumes of ‘Das Kapital.’ ...  
I believe that a new man, a socialist, communist man has to be created. Ifwe focus too much on material incentives we are never going to shape acommunist man. If we do not develop a fraternal and solidarity spirit inmen we will never shape communist men. (Fidel Castro, Proceedings of Deferred Third Congress, December 1, 1986, my emphasis) 
It seems to me that those sentences emphasized in the previous two quotations from Castro may hint at a reversal in his view of the Stalinist version of socialism which he praised in his interview with  L’Unita in February 1961.   In fact, Castro went even further by returning to Che Guevara’s theory of transition to socialism that was explicitly developed in contrast to those practices in the “Actually Existing Socialisms.”  In his interventions in the Third Congress, Castro focused on the idea of developing communist consciousness as the goal of the revolution and economic and social policies it adopted.  The years immediately after the Third Congress were marked with national and local mass mobilizations based on volunteer labor to develop the infrastructure of the country and its economy.  As a sign of the new orientation in Cuba, Carlos Tablada’s extensive study of Guevara’s theory of transition to socialism, El pensamiento econòmico de Ernesto Che Guevara, was published in 1987 and received the prestigious Ernesto Che Guevara special prize by Casa de las Americas and the Center for the Study of the Americas (Pathfinder English translation of 1989 has a more appropriate title: Ernesto  Che Guevara: Economics and Politics in Transition to Socialism).   On the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of Che Guevara’s death Fidel Castro gave a speech in which he asked the audience: 
What I asked for modestly at this twentieth anniversary is that Che’s economic thought be made known; that it be known here, in Latin America, in the world: in the developed capitalist world, in the Third World, and in the socialist world.(Castro, speech on October 8, 1987, English translation printed in Carlos Tablada’s Che Guevara: Economics and Politics of the Transition to Socialism, pp. 32-57). 
However, by 1989 the process of the collapse of the “Actually Existing Socialisms” had already begun and with the collapse of the COMECON Cuba entered the Special Period at the Time of Peace—a depression combined with intensified of U.S. embargo.  The PCC set aside the decisions of the Third Congress to figure out how to reinsert Cuba in the capitalist world economy. That is the course Cuba has followed ever since.  Yet, Guevara’s theory of transition to socialism should still apply to the new situation as all else should be subordinated to the process of developing socialist consciousness. Yet, it has been set aside at least in mass campaigns of the PCC since.  

Let us return to Guevara’s ideas and why they are vital for the Cuban and the world revolution. 

4. From Guevara back to Marx
The idea of a unified Communist Party of Cuba was first discussed between key leaders of the Cuban revolution, including Fidel Castro, Ernesto Che Guevara and Raul Castro.  The proposal was to unify the fighters of July 26 Movement with those of the PSP and the Student Directorate.  The unification process was not smooth. As I have noted earlier, the idea of a unified PCC helped with the stability of the leadership of the Cuban revolution but it came at a heavy political cost of largely undiscussed strategic differences that made for the continued influence of Stalinism in the revolution.  From the beginning there was a theoretical and ideological divide in the PCC that was best expressed  in the Great Debate of 1962-65.  The debate initially opened between leaders of the emerging PCC but drew in prominent international contributors Ernest Mandel and Charles Bettelheim.  The key opposing perspectives were put forward by Ernesto Che Guevara (for his writings translated into English and available online see here) and Carlos Rafael Rodriguez.  

Guevara had served as the President of the National Bank and Minster of Industry.  Rodriguez who was a leader of PSP and had served in first Batista cabinet (1940-44) was the head of the National Institute of Agrarian Reform and Ministry of Foreign Trade.  The core issue was the attitude toward the law of value in transition to socialism.  Like Stalin (see, Joseph Stalin, Economic Problem of USSR, 1951) Rodriguez argued that the law of value should be “mastered” and used to construct socialism. He proposed the Economic Management System (also known as Financial Self-Management System) widely used in the “Actually Existing Socialisms.”  While economic systems in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe varied to some extent they all used material incentives and administrative controls to manage the economy.  Instead of developing socialist consciousness, attention was focused on conformity with the Communist Party tops and with Kremlin (or Beijing after the two split).  Yugoslavia was experimenting with market socialism by decentralizing its economy.  

In contrast, Guevara proposed the Budgetary Finance System (BFS) which he had introduced in the Ministry of Industry. The central goal of the BFS was to develop the Cuban economy and society in such a way to enhance socialist consciousness by gradually increasing moral incentives and reducing material incentives.  The interested reader should consult Bertram Silverman’s Man and Socialism in Cuba: The Great Debate (New York: Atheneum, 1971) for key contributions to the debate. Carlos Tablada’s Che Guevara: Economics and Politics in the Transition to Socialism (Pathfinder: New York, 1989) and Helen Yaffe’s Che Guevara: The Economics of Revolution, (London: Palgrave, 2009) provide detailed studies of Guevara’s theory of transition to socialism (for my review of Yaffe’s book see here).  For the purpose of our discussion here let me note some key features of Guevara’s theory of transition to socialism.

Overcoming alienation as the guiding principle
Guevara’s key contribution was to re-introduced the central idea in Marx that socialism is only possible if an increasingly conscious working class live and work in ways that undermine the law of value and build a society based on solidarity not for personal gain.  .  In Marx’s labor theory of alienation—called “estranged labor” in Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 or “commodity fetishism” in chapter 1 of volume 1 of Capital—the process of capital accumulation essentially subordinates human consciousness to the requirement of capitalist accumulation resulting in social alienation (of product of one’s own labor, of fellow humans, and of oneself) as well as alienation from nature (for discussions of Marx's theory of alienation, see, Eric Fromm, Marx's Concept of Man, 1961; István Mészáros,  Marx's Theory of Alienation, 1970; Bertell Ollman, Marx's Concept of Man in the Capitalist Society, 1976)

Guevara’s re-introduction of the centrality of Marx’s theory of alienation in transition to socialism was a key contribution because it had been missing from major theories of transition to socialism in the Second, Third and Fourth Internationals. (The centrality of the theory of alienation in Marx was rediscovered after the publication of his Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 and Grundrisse in mid-twentieth century by Frankfort School theorists. Some theorists of Fourth International wrote about the problem of alienation but sparingly and as an aside.  I am not aware that Guevara was influenced by any of these writers. It appears that he rediscovered this independently). 

Volunteer work in transition to socialism
Linked to problem of overcoming alienation was Guevara’s proposition that work should become a creative process and a contribution to building the socialist community not an obligation carried out in order to live or for personal gain. Guevara led the way among Cuban leaders to promote volunteer labor through his own participation (see, Carlos Tablada, Ernesto Che Guevara: Economics and Politics of Transition to Socialism, 1989, ch. 8).

Material comforts, not abundance
Guevara’s vision of socialism was a society that support developing human potentials, not one of abundance.  Again, this idea is found in Marx (although the idea of an abundant society is also present in his writing and key socialist theorists based their own views on this strand in Marx’s thought).  Thus Guevara writes in Socialism and Man in Cuba (1965) that socialism is not 

“…a matter of how many kilograms of meat one has to eat, or how many times a year someone can go to the beach, or how many pretty things from abroad you might be able to buy with present-day wages. It is a matter of making the individual feel more complete, with much more inner wealth and much more responsibility.”

Internationalism
Finally, politics as ethics has been central to the Latin American revolutionary thought since Jose Marti and socialism of Fidel Castro, Ernesto Che Guevara, and Raul Castro have been an ethical socialism (I would argue the same is true of Marx’s theory of socialism). 

Fidel Castro, for example, stated:
…We think of our duty to the rest of the world. And to the extent that we have a people strongly educated in internationalist ideas, in solidarity, fully conscious of the problems of today’s world, we will have a people better prepared to fulfill their internationalist duty.
You cannot speak of solidarity among people unless at the same time you are creating that solidarity among all peoples. Otherwise, you fall into the trap of national self—centeredness.
What did the bourgeoisie teach the peoples? Narrow, selfish nationalism. What did it teach the individual? Individual selfishness. 
Bourgeois ideology is the expression of individual selfishness, of national selfishness. Marxist-Leninist ideology is the expression of solidarity among individuals, of solidarity among peoples. (Fidel Castro, speech given in Katowice, Poland, June 7, 1972, in Granma Weekly Review, June 18, 1972, cited in Tablada, 1989, p. 157). 
When in 1965 Guevara went to the Congo at the head of a Cuban internationalist force to help rebels who were fighting the neocolonial regime that ousted and murdered Patrice Lumumba in 1961 he noticed they were fighting bare footed. He asked his comrades to take their boots off so they would not be privileged compared to those they came to help.  It is no wonder the generation of revolutionary youth have upheld Guevara as their role model in Latin America and elsewhere in the world. The Cuban revolution has followed an internationalist course; a source of its strength. 

Critique of “Actually Existing Socialisms”
While Guevara's views on the transition period emphasized common features to all such processes, he allowed for case by case variations.  Still, Guevara offered detailed criticism of the “Actually Existing Socialisms” because:
“A socialist economy without communist moral value does not interest me. We fight poverty but also fight alienation. One of the fundamental aims of Marxism is to eliminate material interest, the factor of ‘individual self-interest’ and profit from man’s psychological motivations. 
“Marx was concerned with both economic facts and their reflection in the mind, which he called a ‘fact of consciousness.’ If communism neglects facts of consciousness, it can serve as method of distribution but it will no longer express revolutionary moral values.  (Guevara’s interview with Jean Daniel in Algeria, 1964, cited in Tablada, p. 77). 
Thus, Guevara developed critical views of the “Actually Existing Socialisms.”  For example, after a six day visit to Yugoslavia in summer of 1959 he wrote up a report that said in part:
All collective bodies in Yugoslavia, whether made up of peasants or industrial workers, are guided by the principle of what they call self-management. In the framework of a plan, well defined in terms of its parameters but not in specific details, the enterprises compete among themselves in the national market as if they were private capitalist entities. 
In broad strokes, with an element of caricature, you could describe Yugoslavia as managerial capitalism with socialist distribution of profits. Each enterprise is viewed not as a group of workers but as a unit functioning more or less in a capitalist manner, obeying laws of supply and demand, and engage in violent struggle with its competitors over prices and quality—engaged in what is called, in economics, free competition…. ( Guevara, “Yugoslavia, un pueblo que lute por sus ideales,” in El Che en la revolucion cabana, vol. 1, pp. 33-35; cited in Tabalada, 1989, pp. 111-112). 
In Guevara’s theory of transition to socialism, Che Guevara: The Economics of Revolution, Yaffe devotes an entire chapter to the discussion of Guevara’s criticism of the Soviet Manual of Political Economy (1954) which became the formal model for “Actually Existing Socialisms.”  Stalin ordered the Soviet Academy of Sciences to develop the manual and after his death it was revised a number of times.  The project was so important to Guevara that he undertook it while on internationalist combat missions away in Africa and Bolivia (1965-66).  Yaffe writes:
The notes were smuggled back into Cuba by Aleida March, Guevara’s wife, who went on a clandestine visit to see him overseas and who passed them on to Orlando Borrego Diaz, Guevara’s young deputy since La Cabaña in January 1959.  For 40 years Borrego kept them under lock and key, out of sight of scholars, political leaders, historians and compañeros alike.  
By 1966 Guevara had sufficient conviction in his theoretical analysis and confidence in his alternative economic management system to initiate a project which would challenge the very status of the Soviet Manual of Political Economy and the position of the Soviet Union as the guiding light of the socialist world.  Had Guevara completed his seminal work, it would have been by implication a major challenge to the Soviet Union’s authority, offering an alternative model of transition for socialist countries and emerging revolutions. (Yaffe, 2009, p. 233, my emphasis)
Yaffe does not dwell on the possible reasons why Guevara’s notes remained "under lock and key" for 40 years (they are presumably still not public) and why no one in Cuba took up Guevara’s unfinished work.   Why did the PCC leadership decided to implement an economic management system in the 1970s that came straight out of the very same Soviet Manual of Political Economy?  Why after the Third Congress of the PCC in 1986 when Fidel Castro appealed from a return to Guevara’s theory of transition to socialism any discussion of it disappear within a few years?  It is true that the collapse of the COMECON and the Special Period required urgent, market oriented actions.  But let us not forget that the crisis was caused by the Cuban reliance on the division of labor within the COMECON and the Soviet-style economic management system.  In the 1960s, Cuba was pursuing endogenous development through import substitution. Also, Guevara’s theory of transition addresses the strategic march of the Cuban revolution.  Thus, market reform policies of the Special Period and those since could have been placed within Guevara’s overall vision, explicitly and consciously.  This would have required an honest and open discussion on all levels about why “Actually Existing Socialisms” failed, including a review of the history of the Russian revolution and how it was destroyed from within by Stalinism in the 1920s.  

Thus, the Cuban revolution needs to return to these and other contributions of Guevara in order to better withstand the constant pressures of the law of value exerted through the capitalist world market.   At the same time, as a living revolution the Cuban revolution must develop beyond what Guevara knew and advocated in the 1960s.  

5. The problem of bureaucracy and urgent need for socialist democracy
The Russian revolution succumbed to the rising bureaucracy in the 1920s and degenerated preparing for the collapse of the Soviet Union and a return to capitalism that came due to historical circumstances seven decades later.  The revolutionary leadership of the Communist Party of Cuba was well aware of the danger of rising bureaucracy since its formation.  Thus, Granma Weekly Review of March 5, 1967 carried an editorial entitled "The Struggle Against Bureaucracy: A Decisive Task."  It is well worth rereading today.  After ascribing the problem of bureaucracy to "individualistic and petty bourgeois ideology" as leftover from the capitalist past, it warns:
If the Party does not win this battle over bureaucracy , if this danger is not eliminated through the formation of the new man and the application of an unyielding policy consequent with Marxist-Leninist principles, the Party will end by bureaucratizing itself. And a Party which stagnates is a party in decomposition. 
...When that occurs, a special stratum consolidates itself in the administration and direction of the State and in the political leadership, a special stratum with aspirations toward self-perpetuation that draws constantly further from the masses, divorced demo fruitful productive labor and from those who perform it, to become a privileged body, incapable of impelling the people toward higher levels. 
And when this occurs the construction of socialism and communism has already been abandoned. (cited in Rolando E. Bonachea and Nelson P. Valdès, eds., Cuba in Revolution, 1972, p.  174)
The editorial then proceeds to discuss a number of ways to combat bureaucracy, mostly administrative.   

Let begin with the recognition that socialist women and men will emerge in the long process of transition to socialism (early phase of communism). But socialism or communism cannot develop in even the most advanced countries taken individually much less in Cuba.  Socialism can emerge only when the law of value and the State are in their twilight.  Simply put the development of the socialist women and men is in inverse relation to the power of the market and State.  Only when working people begin to control and manage the economy and the State such that the sphere of the operation of the law of value diminishes decisively  and the State increasingly become a minimal administrative apparatus for overall  management under the direct control of the working people can socialist women and men emerge.  Thus, the absolute necessity of socialist democracy.

However, the editorial neglected any direct discussion of socialist democracy to keep bureaucracy at bay and to undermine its material basis by increasing labor productivity. To be sure, the problem of bureaucracy has been a recurring concern in the Cuba revolution as expressed its central leaders over the decades.  Problem of corruption not only of the managerial stratum and cliques but also in the PCC and the State apparatus, including the army, have been exposed and punished from time to time.  Theft from State enterprises is a constant problem and  sometimes involves a group of workers as in the theft of gasoline a about a decade ago.  To be sure, the development and institutionalization of mass organizations, especially in workplaces, neighborhoods have helped keeping bureaucracy and its ill-effects at bay. However, there has not been a serious effort to develop, for example, workers control and workers management, in State enterprises  Meanwhile, unions and CTC have not been able to uproot workplace theft and persistent problem of low productivity.  Instead of developing the direct power of working people over the economy and society, the PCC has become the guiding force in the State, economy and society. 

6. Can the vanguard party emancipate humanity? 
As Che Guevara recognized, the goal of the socialist revolution is de-alienation of humans, of human emancipation.  Here is what how Marx envisioned the process of self-emancipation of humans.
All emancipation is a reduction of the human world and relationships to man to himself. 
Political emancipation is the reduction of man, on one hand, to a member of civil society, to an egoistic, independent individual, and, on the other hand, to a citizen, a juridical person.
Only when the real, individual man re-absorbs in himself the abstract citizen, and as an individual human being has become a species-being in his everyday life, in his particular work, and in his particular situation, only when man has recognized and organized his ‘own powers’ as social powers, and, consequently, no longer separates social power from himself in the shape of political power, only then will human emancipation have been accomplished. (Marx, On the Jewish Question, 1843). 
How can "man" "no longer separate social power from himself in the shape of political power?"  It is possible only with withering away of politics and state as well as markets and law of value.  Of course, this process of withering away can only proceed with the self-organization and self-activity of direct producers.  All parties, including the proletariat vanguard parties, must also wither away.  A proletarian vanguard party is one that withers away in the process of transition because increasingly socialist consciousness among wider layers of the working people making it less necessary as an idealogical organization or even as an ideological tendency (see below).  

The notion of the vanguard party originated in the Second International when “Marxism” became a systematic body of knowledge unavailable to the ordinary working people.  In Marx’s own theory of socialist revolution proletariat is the social agency capable of self-emancipation.  Socialist consciousness emerges from class struggle itself resulting from economic struggles forced upon workers by the logic of capital accumulation.  Thus, the prerequisites for socialism emerge inside the capitalist society where the process of withering away of market relations (law of value) and bourgeois institutions begin as working people began to organize and become active for themselves (e.g., in volunteer work or in workers organizations for defend their class interest).   In due time, working class power overthrows the capitalist state—the dictatorship of the bourgeoise—and replace it with its own state (the dictatorship of the proletariat).  However, whereas the capitalist  dictatorship represented the interest of a tiny minority (the one percent) the dictatorship of the proletariat will represent the interest of the great majority (the 99%).  The workers state thus instituted will be the most democratic in history of civilization. It will be an instrument of repression only against capitalist and imperialist counter revolution.  As the transition proceeds and market and other alienated institutions wither away, so would the workers state (this presumes weakening of capitalism and imperialism as the socialist revolution spreads).  Under communism, there will be no economics and no politics because there will be no social classes.

As Marx and Engels discuss in the second part of  The Manifesto of the Communist Party ("Proletarians and Communists") (1848), communist are simply working class fighters with more insight than other workers. As such, for Marx and Engels communists form a tendency in the working class movement.  It is useful quoting them at length:
In what relation do the Communists stand to the proletarians as a whole?
The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to the other working-class parties.
They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole.
They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement.
The Communists are distinguished from the other working-class parties by this only: 1. In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality. 2. In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole.
The Communists, therefore, are on the one hand, practically, the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement.
The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all other proletarian parties: formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat.
The theoretical conclusions of the Communists are in no way based on ideas or principles that have been invented, or discovered, by this or that would-be universal reformer.
They merely express, in general terms, actual relations springing from an existing class struggle, from a historical movement going on under our very eyes. The abolition of existing property relations is not at all a distinctive feature of communism. (Marx and Engels, The Manifesto of the Comminst Party, 1848)
Marx and Engels referred to themselves as "communists" to distinguish themselves from "socialists" who at the time were utopian socialists.  In the quotation above they capitalize "communists" because the text is a program for the Communist League--a specific group of communists.  

With the advent of the idea of the vanguard party and socialism as “Marxism,” that is,  a systematized and growing body of knowledge, a cadre of professional revolutionaries became necessary to master "Marxism" and guide the vanguard party itself.  Too often this need for authority within the vanguard party has led to formation of cults of personality, cliques and party bureaucracies, hence deregulation of the "vanguard party."  Inevitable disagreements that ensued rooted in material conditions but expressed as interpretations of what constitutes "Marxism" have ensured many sectarian divisions.     

Just as the "vanguard parties" were used to promote and defend reformism based on the aristocracy of labor in the Second International, there is also a historical reason for the rise of revolutionary vanguard parties such as the Bolshevik party and the Communist Party of Cuban led by Fidel Castro.  The reformism of the first type prompted the formation of the revolutionary vanguard parties of the second type due to the detour of the world revolution.  The revolutions to resolve historical national democratic radicalized not because conditions were ripe for the socialist revolution but because national democratic tasks could not be achieved by the "national" bourgeoisie.   Of course, the proletariat in Russia in 1917 was far more politically prepared and organized than in Cuba in 1959, thanks in part to the role played by the Bolshevik party.  Still, the tasks placed on the shoulder of the Bolshevik party and the PCC can only be assumed to be temporary; that is, they should have moved as fast as possible to prepare the condition for the self-organziaiton and self-activity of the working people.  Anything else would have result and in the Russian case it did result in the degeneration of the vanguard party and the revolution. 

The July 26 Movement’s conception of revolutionary leadership was  organized around what Régis Debray formalized as Foquismo (Foco) guerrilla movement.  In Guevara’s own words:
Why does the guerrilla fighter fight? We must come to the inevitable conclusion that the guerrilla fighter is a social reformer, that he takes up arms responding to the angry protest of the people against their oppressors, and that he fights in order to change the social system that keeps all his unarmed brothers in ignominy and misery (Ernesto Che Guevara; Guerrilla Warfare: A Method, 1963). 
The July 26 Movement was organized to lead a national democratic revolution, not a socialist revolution.  Thus, Guevara is correct to speak of social reformers and of the guerrilla taking up arms to fight for the people.  

However, the same basic vision was maintained even after the revolution grew over into a socialist revolution, as Guevara explains in his Socialism and Man in Cuba (1965).  In Guevara’s theory that I believe is also the view shared by the historic leaders of the Cuban revolution, the vanguard was originally developed and consolidated in the Revolutionary War as guerrilla fighters fused together based on shared ideology and combat experience.  The same vanguard was key in the process of merger with the PSP and the Student Directorate in the early 1960s to forge the Communist Party of Cuba.  

This view and the process the resulted in the formation of the PCC differ from Lenin’s theory of the vanguard party.  Just recall how the Bolsheviks party was developed as a proletarian party and how it functioned publicly and internally where key theoretical, strategic and programmatic questions were debated and tendencies and factions were formed and resolved in party conferences (congresses) (for a discussion of the function of the Bolshevik party see Paul LeBlanc, Lenin and the Revolutionary Party, 1990).  In 1921, tendencies and factions were banned temporarily in a period of high instability due to external causes (see, Ernest Mandel's "Introduction" to the aforementioned LeBlanc book).  

However, even Lenin whose name is often used to justify formation of all kinds of "vanguard" parties returned to Marx's and Engels's view that self-activity and self-organization of the working people are key to the socialist revolution when the Soviets (councils) of workers, peasants and soldiers emerged and were ready for taking power in the summer of 1917 (see, The State and Revolution). 

Thus, the Cuban socialist revolution requires a decisive turn to socialist democracy.  That means development and institutionalization of self-organization and self-activity from the working people.  As Marx and Engels discuss it in the Manifesto of the Communist Party, the PCC cadre should represent the most radical current within the working class.  But the working class has different political views within it that need to be aired, debated and when necessary put to a vote. The PCC itself should allow differences of opinion within its ranks, allow formation of tendencies and factions to debate questions of program, strategy and tactics and its should be led by its democratic congresses where leadership is elected by the ranks.  Cubans entertain all shades of political views, including various shades of socialist views.  Similarly, there should be freedom of the press, assembly and protests.  While Cuba is a pioneer in education, health care, and many aspects of culture, important aspects of humans rights, democratic rights are also key components of humans rights and absolutely necessary for the transition to socialism.  Repression should be directed only against those who join imperialist and counter revolutionary attacks on the revolution. But the mere expression of bourgeois and petty bourgeois views should simply be challenged--that is the task to PCC cadre and press.  Only a mature, socialist working class in Cuba is capable to withstanding pressures from imperialism and anti-working class ideologies including Stalinism and Social Democracy. Only self-organization and self-activity of working people can ensure transition to socialism proceed ahead. 

7. For an ecological socialist revolution

The Anthropocene
The Anthropocene (New Man) is a term coined in 2000 by the Nobel prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Curtzen and ecologist Eugene F. Stoermer who argued that we live in a new geological epoch in which  one species, Homo sapiens, has come to shape the Earth’s geology in ways that undermine life sustaining environment and ecology, setting off planetary crises. 

Crurzen and Stoermer suggested the invention of the steam engine, hence the advent of the English Industrial Revolution, as the onset of the Anthropocene, although they admit it can be dated to much earlier times.  

It is well known that many civilizations have disappeared because of ecological and environmental destruction (Joseph A. Tainter, The Collapse of Complex Societies, 1990; Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies, 1999; Ronald Wright, A Short History of Progress, 2004; for my review and discussion of wright’s book see here).  In “Economics, Socialism and Ecology: A Critical Outline, Part 2”, I have employed a historical approach using the most up to date archeological knowledge to argue that the Anthropocene originated in the transition from hunter-gatherer bands to early agricultural settlements as ecocentric worldview of the former were replaced by anthropocentric culture of the latter. Instead of viewing ourselves as part of nature and cosmos, we began to view ourselves as separate from them—civilization is essentially organized to control and dominate nature.  Consistent with the view of Marx, I have also argued that alienation from nature (alienation being the false consciousness that we are somehow separate, apart and superior to the rest of existence) became the basis for social alienation.  Marx’s philosophical and social criticism of capitalism is based on his labor theory of alienation.  The socialist revolution in Marx is the process by which we rid human society of alienation. 

If my argument is correct, then present day crisis in not simply a crisis of accumulation. It is also a cultural crisis that has recently manifested itself as the perpetual crises of society and nature.  Surely, no single country or region of the world can rid itself of these crises alone. It is no longer possible to speak of socialism as if human society is disconnected from the rest of nature, that it can have no significant impact on the rest of nature and that it can survive and even thrive as we destroy life-sustaining natural systems with continued "development of forces of production." It is high time to call and fight for a world ecological socialist revolution that goes beyond the idea of ridding ourselves from social alienation to embrace a deep going effort to re-intergate ourselves with the rest of nature and in peace with it.  

Although thoughtful Marxist scholars like John Bellamy Foster (Marx’s Ecology, 2000) and Paul Burkett (Marx and Nature, 1999) have argued that Marx’s writing bespeak of his concerns about nature and that his materialist philosophy (and that of Engels) provide a (the?) framework for analyzing capitalist impact on nature, the fact remains that Marx and Engels did not develop a theory of capitalism that anticipated the Anthropcene and the combined crisis of society and nature.  Marx and Engels were historical figures bound by the best knowledge of their time.  In fact, the interest in ecological and environmental issues among Marxists is fairly recent and was triggered by the rise of the environmental movement in the industrial capitalist countries since the 1970s. Thus, other Marxists scholars such as O’Conner (Natural Causes, 1998) and Kovel (The Enemy of Nature, 2007) have developed other explanations for the crisis of nature tied to the dynamics of capital accumulation. Still, as I noted above what is needed is a theory that explains how all class societies have been at war with nature.  

It is not sufficient to add to socialist program of existing parties planks that favor environmental friendly policies.  It is necessary for the new society to embrace nature and all life as we embrace our home and members of our own family. The relevant revolutionary figure here is not Marx but Darwin (in fact, Marx did not fully appreciate the revolutionary implication of Darwin's evolutionary theory for his own concern with alienation from nature).  A cultural revolution is necessary in which anthropocentric prejudice is replaced with ecocentric worldview just as a consistent policy to undo law of value is required to rid society of alienated labor. No one in the frontline of today’s struggles for radical social change can avoid embracing such an ecological foundation for their theory of socialist revolution, much less the Cuban revolution that needs to advance in order to remain alive.  

Limits to growth and the urgent need to reduce ecological footprint
A bourgeois response to the environmental movement was The Club of Rome.  Founded in 1968 by enlightened bourgeois figures and now include “current and former heads of state, UN bureaucrats, high-level politicians and government officials, diplomats, scientists, economists and business leaders from around the globe” it focused attention on a revolutionary fact—unlimited growth on a planet with limited resources is not possible. In 1972, Donella H. Meadows, Dennis L. Meadows, Jørgen Randers, and William W. Behrens published The Limits to Growth which used the World3 model to simulate the consequence of interactions between the Earth's capacities and human systems. Simulation results provided alternative scenarios for the human society if certain trends continued.  While the authors did not offer predications or prescriptions they made it clear that unlimited growth is not a sustainable option.  At the same time, they avoided any discussion of wether the present day social system—capitalism—has a built in dynamics for unlimited growth.  In fact, they argued that it is possible to moderate growth in the present-day society and avoid catastrophic results of unfettered growth. They issued updates every decade since. 

However, radical thinkers also contributed to the discussion of natural limits to growth.  The Australian ecological anarchist Ted Trainer has been arguing for limits to growth for a long time and social and life style changes that are consistent with this view. In The Conserver Society: Alternatives for Sustainability (1995) he argued that to live sustainably the world needs to produce and consume far less making adjustments to improve the lives of the people in the poor regions.  In The Transition: Getting to a Sustainable and Just Society (2012), Trainer characterizes the crisis as over-consumption and offers a detailed discussion of how to affect a transition to an ecological anarchist future.  Saral Sarkar argues for an ecological socialist society that lives within its means defined by natural limits to growth (Eco-Socialism or Eco-Capitalism, 1999).  While both Sarkar and Trainer are ecologically aware neither has explicitly embraced ecocentrism.  Their ecological sensibilities are defined by scientific arguments not ethical concerns about human treatment of the rest of nature, in particular other species.  The focus of natural limits to growth has come at the expense of neglecting the need for a critical theory of capitalist mode of production. Thus, their proposed utopia is arrived at through a series of rational arguments instead of a theory of social change motivated by the internal contradictions of the capitalist system itself. 

Still, their focus on natural limits to growth and motivating the idea of ecological socialism as Buen Vivir, a society based on happiness not on mass consumption is neglect by almost all ecological socialist theorists.  At the same time, there are ecological socialists and anarchists that embrace ecocentrism.   Socialist William Morris (1834-86) is credited for ideas to protect nature from ravages of industrialization and anarchist Jacques Élisée Reclus (1830-1905) comes closest to an ecocentric worldview among the radical thinkers of the late 19th and early 20th century ( see, Anarchy, Geography, Modernity: Selected Writings of Elisée Reclus, 2013; for a review see here).  My own theory of ecological socialism distinguishes itself in synthesizing Marx’s theory of socialism with an ecocentric view of human history.

Cuba is in a uniquely strong position to lead the intellectual and practical transition from socialism to ecological socialism.  On many occasions, Fidel Castro has spoke about the impossibility of replicating the American mass consumption model and of environmental damages capitalism has caused (but has remained quiet on similar damages caused by the “Actually Existing Socialisms," including the ongoing Chinese industrialization). More significantly, Cuba is a leading country where organic urban gardening, agroecology and permaculture have been thriving.   

8. Concluding remarks
In this essay, I have argued using a historical approach why the recent agreement between United States and Cuba is an immediate and historic victory for the Cuban revolution, putting it in a stronger position to face an array of challenges.  Using the same methodology, I have argued that what has been the unique advantage of the Cuban revolution—that it was led by a revolutionary leadership from outside of the world Stalinism—has also been a source of its weakness.  

A guerrilla movement coming to power at the head of a mostly peasant upsurge had to confront the world’s imperialist super power as it placed itself at the head of the first socialist revolution in the Western hemisphere.  The Castro leadership wisely unified the socialist currents in the PCC and turned to the “Actually Existing Socialisms,” in particular the Soviet Union, for economic, financial and military assistance.  However, there has been a heavy political cost as the long shadow of Stalinism influenced policy. As a result, the idea of endogenous development and import substitution was given up for integration in the COMECON and Guevara’s theory of transition to socialism that marked a return to Marx was given up for the Soviet model of economic management.  While the latter caused political demoralization in the working class, the former caused a vast and sudden crisis of magnitude of Great Depression in the early years of the 1990s. 

As a result, Cuba was forced to pursue transition to socialism while re-integrating its economy in the capitalist world market.  I have argued that a return to Guevara and Marx are critical for the future development of socialism in Cuba. However, in the second decade of the twenty-first century it is essential to go beyond Guevara and Marx to embrace ecological socialism.  Just as the idea of socialism was a worldwide free association of direct producers, ecological socialism demands a worldwide movement not just because of the global nature of the capitalist economy but also because humanity has one home--the Earth-- and it must wisely and ethically share it with all other species that make up the web of life. The Cuban revolution can only thrive if it helps lead the world movement for ecological socialism.  The world needs to transcend no only the world capitalist system but also the anthropocentric civilization that has been with us for thousands of years.

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