Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Granma letter: Objective and subjective factors

Here is another letter from Granma. In my last post I said that a non-dogmatic application of the Marxist method is a striking feature of many such contributions. This is a good example. Here, the author responds to a previous contribution to the debate which I'll also translate and post so that readers can get a feel for the two poles in this debate. 

The letter below is representative of what could be called the critical renovationist current within the Cuban Revolution, which represents one pole in the national debate on the future of Cuba's socialist project. It is almost certainly written by a Communist Party member judging by its political clarity, but by no means all party members are part of this current of opinion (see Cuba's Socialist Renewal, p.10). It is interesting to note that the authors of such letters who are Communist Party members rarely identify themselves as such and that their official positions, if any, are only made explicit if this is relevant to the content of their contribution.   

Granma letter: The objective and subjective factors

April 16, 2010

Translation: Marce Cameron

I write this on the basis of the abundant opinions of compañeros that with the best intentions, and with the logical fear of losing our conquests and our socialism, propose subjective solutions, of proven ineffectiveness during the past 20 years, to objective problems which confront our economy and our socialism. I single out in particular the opinion of F. Hernandez Gonzalez: "We are affected more by subjective than objective questions”, published on April 9, in which a direct reference is made to the balance of these factors in the economy.

Firstly, I would like to explain that the objective factors are independent of people's consciousness, and the the subjective are inherent in the objective. I remember my political economy university professor stressing that in every moment the objective factors condition the subjective ones, in other words, “man thinks as he lives and does not live as he thinks”. This can be understood better with a practical example of a pharmacy or a workers dining hall that does not work as it should, or with a cadre that doesn't insist that they do what they are supposed to, or with the corrupt inspector who doesn't do his job; if we see these people superficially we see only the subjective factors inherent in each of them, their lack of morality and discipline, and we can form the impression that the solution involves only being demanding and asserting control, but then we would be ignoring the fact that all these people (and above all those that we must call to account) are affected by the same objective factors that condition their behaviour (the salary does not cover all necessities, the high prices, the house in which they live may be crumbling, the kids need shoes for school, etc).

In the present conditions we are all prone to fall into these weaknesses, or to not say anything when confronted with them, and those of us who do not feel the same way often swim against the current, and we do so because the objective factors favour precisely the contrary of what we propose and would wish for ourselves. This may not be a problem if this situation had not extended for the past 20 years [of the post-Soviet Special Period]. During all this time things have got worse, the negative phenomena have become more mainstream and people's consciousness has become accustomed to harbouring ideas contrary to the principles of socialism. Egotism has spread like the marabu weed [a thorny tropical shrub that infests vast areas of Cuba's agricultural lands], and every day political work or appeals to conscience lose more force. In other words, the objective factors are imposing themselves for the worse with regard to our social process, and only by confronting them directly will we save our socialism.

Only our state can influence these factors, counting on our support. The state must stimulate the productive forces, free itself from excessive responsibilities that it cannot bear [and] eliminate egalitarianism, among other things. None of these things will be able to be achieved solely with slogans and appeals to conscience. We must invigorate our economic model to save our social model.    

We are not talking about concessions to capitalism. The state must preserve its ownership of the fundamental means of production, the basic premise of socialism, but it must also allow an opening to the cooperative sector and small-scale private initiative. It will have to restore the role of wages, reduce [inflated] payrolls (which could be used to augment salaries), it must better distribute the productive forces towards the more productive sectors. Only afterwards, with the advances flowing from these measures, must it carry out a just redistribution via subsidies, such as the ration book, to those who really need them. After this the monetary duality [i.e. the existence of two currencies in Cuba] can be diminished gradually, along with economic growth (which is how it will be eliminated, and not by decree as some believe).

Lastly, speaking once again of subjective factors, I ask all the compañeros who fear these changes to support our government in this decisive epoch of our history. The committed revolutionaries must all be in the same trench and abandon all the fears and reservations which can be used to divide us and put the brakes on our process. The Revolution needs all of us.

A. Orama Munero

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