[Marxism] Re: Accounts of Cuban "Socialism"

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Tue Aug 23 12:24:14 MDT 2005

Without keeping the blockade in mind at all times,
it is impossible to understand Cuba's political
system. In the capitalist world, at least in the
US, anyone can stand for any office at any time.

Typically, most are weeded out by an "evaluation
process" which consists of "how much money do you
have". Not enough? You're excluded from "real"
politics. Just as everyone has an equal right to
sleep under the bridge, in the US everyone has an
equal right to call themselves a political party
and declare whatever program they want. I'm glad
that anyone can do that. But it means precious
little if you cannot buy the literature or the
television time and so on, to get attention from
the dominant media, which most people use to get
their information, such as it is.

In my last message I was unclear about what I'd
called a "weeding out process". In fact (I just
asked an actual Cuban who told me what she had
actually done), anyone can run for office at the
local level. The most local level, which we in
the US might call an electoral precinct, and
which Canadians would call "ridings", can get up
and nominate someone. The someone has to accept
nomination. Then someone has to second the nomi-
nation. Those who accept nomination and seconding,
and are put to the vote locally. A majority gets 
them on the ballot at the local level. My friend
says that, the last election, there were nine 
candidates for her local circumscription's delegate. 
If no one gets a majority, they have a runoff. 

Above that, I'm not sure how it works. I think
that they vote upwards to the higher levels via
people from the lower levels, but I don't really
know quite how this works. I can ask next time 
I'm in the area.

You cannot have a declared program. There is only
one program: that of the Communist Party of Cuba
in Cuba. It's written right there in the Cuban
constitution. That's what the rules of the game
in Cuba are. Don't like it? Try to change the
constitution. How easy is it to change the US
constitution? Ask women who wanted a simple
Equal Rights Amendment. (I know that two wrongs
don't make a right, but I haven't time today to
get into this in detail.)

There is a blockade going on, and, as far as I'm
concerned, that trumps everything else.

Imagine there was a strike going on. Would you
want the executive committee's meetings, where
strike strategy is discussed and debated, to be
open to the boss's observers and media? Surely
no serious unionist would want that. Imagine a
strike lasted 46 days. Nearly none last that
long. Then imagine 46 weeks. 46 months? How 
about 46 YEARS??? That is the kind of analogy
you need to keep in mind with Cuba. 

I'm going to leave your questions up so that
the readers of my answer can evaluate it for

There are many things about the Cuban political
system which I barely begin to understand and
I'm sympathetic to the Cuban Revolution's goals.

If I'd cared to, I'm sure I could have designed
a much more interesting, and perhaps much more
democratic political system. Sure, the Cubans
didn't ask me to do that, but what the hell, 
everyone on the planet has a right to their
opinion, don't they? Certainly Sam Farber and
the ISO could write a far more interesting and
far more democratic constitution. Well, we'll
perhaps put "democratic" in quotation marks.
I'd argue that if those of us who are writing
from abroad could - GODDESS FORBID -- get our
wish to re-write Cuba's constitution along the
lines they might like, Cuba's revolution would
have long since been overturned. That is my
opinion. I know others don't agree.

But the Cuban people didn't ask me, they have
one which is the one they have. I think that
they've managed to survive, warts and all for
all these years, by dint of luck, leadership
and stubbornness. I raise questions with my
friends, but I don't feel I'm really informed
enough to make actual "criticisms". People in
the US and other capitalist countries feel all
too free to "criticize" anything which seems
to them "wrong", whether they know anything 
about the actual specifics or not. I no longer
feel any inclination to do that. That's a choice
I freely make. Others on Marxmail do not do that.

Anyway, looking over the three questions which
were posed, the notable thing is that these are
all presented abstractly, and outside of time
and place. And outside of the blockade, which
word is not mentioned. As I said, most of the
Trotskyists who write about Cuba omit mention
of the blockade. To them it's not really such
a big deal. Indeed, like many of the bourgeois
journalists, most Trotskyists think that Cuba's
government likes the blockade, and hides behind
it to justify its repressive nature. I don't 
think that's the case, but I think that's what
the Trotskyists tend to think.

Here in the United States, walking along the
streets of Berkeley, I passed a literature table
with a hundred different bumper stickers attacking
Bush. I like that. In Cuba nothing like that would
be permitted. I think it's a healthy thing that we
can do that here. I regret that such political
humor with an edge against prevailing wisdom is
basically practiced in private, but that's how it
really is. Criticism in Cuba tends to have rather
an abstract character: movies like DEATH OF A
BUREAUCRAT in the sixties. Movies like GUANTANAMERA
in the 90s. Movies like NADA+ in 2001 and so on.

You wonder how results can be judged. I can only
say that the judges who matter are the people of
Cuba. That's first of all. Second, history will be
the judge of results. To my way of thinking, the
Cuban government has only made one really big,
really disastrous mistake: attempting to harvest
ten million tons of sugar in 1970. There are all
sorts of things which have taken place in Cuba
which haven't pleased me. 

I'm from another country, speak another language,
and was formed politically in a completely
different political culture. What I object to in
Trotskyism, of whatever stripe, is that strain
of perfectionistic universalism in which tactics
and approaches are spelled out, applicable to all
countries at all times.

Thanks for your kind words. I try to present as
factual a case to back up my arguments as I can.

No time to discuss this further today.

Walter Lippmann

Thanks for a very informative post. I am indeed lacking in direct
experience, but you provide reliable facts for which I'm grateful. 
Just a few thoughts in reply:

1. If a nominated candidate can get weeded out by "an evaluation process",
then clearly there is no RIGHT to stand for office. If a worker doesn't
have the right to stand, it's not workers' democracy in my book.

2. If you can't have a declared political program, then nobody can judge
what the alternatives are. Which in turn suggests there are no
alternatives, just the party line. The mechanisms you describe sound like a
way for the party to avoid putting itself on the line in the debate.

3. If key decisions are made "internally, inside various government bodies"
without transparency, how can people judge them? If an expert foreign
observer like you can't work out what's happening, are most Cubans likely
to be able to work it out? And if citizens can't make judgements, how can
they democratically govern society?

It still looks like a relatively benevolent one-party dictatorship to me.

I agree, however, that imperialism is the root of the problems. 


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