Saturday, August 22, 2015

1985. Seven Years of Struggle for Participative and Democratic Socialism in Cuba

By Pedro Compas and other comrades, Havana Times, August 18, 2015
Pedro Compas
The Movement for Participative and Democratic Socialism (SPD) came into being on August 16, 2008, when we published the article titled “Cuba Needs a Participative and Democratic Form of Socialism.”

First advanced by a small group of people from the rank and file of the Cuban Communist Party and by former government officials, these ideas are today shared by many Cubans across the spectrum of our society.

Official government supporters such as Mariela Castro and Silvio Rodriguez, Catholic priests such as Monsignor Carlos Manuel de Cespedes and many intellectual, professionals, workers, self-employed persons, home keepers and no shortage of Cubans living abroad (including traditional “anti-Castro” activists) have declared themselves supporters and sympathizers of a participative and democratic socialist system.

Our only aim at the time was to contribute to the debate called by Fidel and Raul Castro themselves. Though the latter turned down our proposal, in his subsequent address and the proposals advanced during the 6th Congress of the Communist Party, he had no choice but to include some of our most important suggestions in the “reform” program, albeit in a skewed and limited fashion, when the so-called Party Guidelines were set down. The ideas advanced by SPD are nothing other than demands having to do with the country’s social, economic and political sectors.

The essential tenets of democratic socialism predate the October Revolution and were sketched out by Marx, Engels and other founders of modern socialism in many of their writings. Marx’s group in Switzerland called itself the “democratic communists.” These ideas emerged in the Soviet Union itself in reaction to Stalinist policies and were in a way present in Germany in 1953, Hungary in 1956, Yugoslavia under Tito, during the Prague Spring of 1968, in Poland during the 80s and at the time of Perestroika in the former USSR.

Different versions of democratic socialism can be found across Cuban history, starting in the 1930s and as a direct response to the neo-Stalinism that began to take root on the island after 1959, when different groups of communists clashed with the authoritarian leadership and no few revolutionaries ended up in prison or banished after openly confronting the Communist Party, an organization that did and continues to do everything possible to divide, ignore and crush the democratic socialist current that has always been present within the revolutionary process.

Today, the basic concepts exposed in that document are handled and openly manipulated by the official discourse. No matter how much the authoritarian leadership of the Cuban Communist Party seeks to ignore them, the ideas of a participative and democratic form of socialism have gradually won over the hearts and minds of Cubans and people elsewhere in the world.

We have been witness to the solidarity shown by many Latin American, Caribbean, Canadian and US comrades. European revolutionaries and even people from Taipei, China, have traveled to Cuba to get to know our proposals – proposals which are ultimately not ours, but adaptions of the essential ideas of the founders of socialism to our concrete reality, ideas that have nothing to do with so-called “Marxism-Leninism.”

Currently, Cuba’s authoritarian government, which maintains the State monopoly capitalism imposed on the island in the name of socialism, tries to ensure continued control over the country’s politics and economy – as the lives of the historical leaders come to an end – through an alliance between State capitalism and foreign (particularly US) capital.

In these circumstances, those of us who support the SPD platform have declared that the struggle to democratize society must be brought to the foreground and have decided that other demands in our program should be made when the conditions to publicly struggle for these and implement them are in place.

That is why we call for the unity of the democratic Left and for joint actions with democratic and moderate movements within the peaceful opposition who have also made the struggle for democracy a priority.

Today, seven years since we published that document, we again call on the government, on its more progressive forces, to put an end to the growing repression against the peaceful opposition, and to take part in a nationwide debate with all actors, in an atmosphere of democracy that will allow all tendencies and political groups to openly advance their proposals for a democratic future all of us can support, aimed at establishing a new constitution, the rule of law and a new electoral law that is supported by the majority of the people.

We welcome the United States’ new policy towards Cuba and we hope the US Executive will continue to work to lift the restrictions of the embargo-blockade and to insist that Congress eliminate all existing sanctions, sanctions which, more than cause economic damage, politically affect the democratic currents within Cuban society and the longings for freedom of the Cuban people.

 We also condemn the Cuban government’s intentions of secretly debating issues of democracy and human rights with other governments, as these are issues that ought to be addressed in a free, inclusive and horizontal debate among Cubans of all tendencies, both at home and abroad.

The policy of aggression and blockade pursued by the United States for half a century failed of its own nature, as did the “State socialism” they tried to impose on the Cuban people. Nothing sustainable can ever be built from the top down.

It’s time to put the military camp mentality behind us and to create the republic Marti spoke of, for everyone and for the good of everyone. Cuba can no longer stand to be controlled by the military. We do not want anyone to be defeated and hurt in the process, but that depends mainly on the willingness of the government-Party-State to accept a democratic resolution.

The opposition has taken on peaceful methods. The US government traded its policy of aggression and blockade for cooperation and rapprochement. The Cuban government has taken some steps to make its failed economic model more efficient and has changed its repressive methods somewhat, but it has not been able to advance towards the democratization of its politics.

The government must acknowledge the failure of its arbitrary form of socialism and State wage labor system, and must hand over power to the people – the very reason the revolution of 1959 was undertaken in the first place. Then it will create the conditions needed for Cuban society to advance towards democracy, justice and full freedom.

The ideas of participative and democratic socialism are spreading, no matter how much they seek to ignore them, how much mud is flung at them or how many people oppose them here and there, and for a very simple reason: they are not a straitjacket, they are not someone’s whimsical invention and they do not seek to impose themselves on anyone. They merely respond to the social and economic needs of the era we are living in.

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