Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Translation: Who cannot lose?

Cuba's debate on the future of its socialist project often returns, as in this commentary by Juventud Rebelde columnist Ricardo Ronqillo, to the Marxist classics. On the eve of the Sixth Communist Party Congress — which opens on Saturday with a military parade led by Cuban youth to mark the 50th anniversary of the defeat of the US-backed Bay of Pigs invasion and the proclamation of the socialist character of the Revolution — Ronquillo reflects on the all-important question of the revolutionary state.

Who cannot lose?

By Ricardo Ronquillo Bello

Juventud Rebelde, April 10, 2011 

Translation: Marce Cameron

"The only one that cannot lose is the state", says the functionary as if in divine prayer. On the other side of the auditorium the faces can be read like a "poem". These faces project a defiant question: if the only one that cannot lose is the state who, then, will lose — us?

This isn't a made-up story, and neither is the tale of that functionary a fleeting argument in the Cuba that readjusts the course of its socialist vocation.       

There are those who, with the intention of defending the current rectifications and transformations, raise in their speeches a strange wall between the interests of the workers and citizens and that of the state which they chose to represent the sovereignty of their interests and that of their country.

We'll agree that this results in a diffuse and disturbed message in times in which we're adjusting the reach and the role of the state. Our national debate includes, among other dilemmas, what precisely should be the composition and function of this institution, whose origin and attributes were analysed by numerous socialist theoreticians, from Karl Mark and Friedrich Engels — the latter being the author of such a classic work as The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State — to our own times.   

What's certain is that socialist theory and practice with regard to this question have been put to the test for generations. It is agreed that the state is an instrument of domination and power arising in societies with class divisions.    

We revolutionaries would use it during the epoch of transition to communism, at which point it would disappear. In our case, as an instrument of the working majority in the face of bourgeois subversion. Lenin outlined his theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat, while Antonio Gramsci conceived of the complex notion of hegemony, giving the proletarian state educational and ideological superstructural connotations.

The founder of the first workers and peasant's state and the author of such a transcendental text as The State and Revolution dedicated substantial intellectual effort to this question, which he considered decisive.

During a lecture at Sverdlov University on June 11, 1919, Vladimir I. Lenin recognised that the question of the state is one of the most complex and difficult, and perhaps the one about which the most confusion has been sown by the intellectuals, writers and philosophers of the bourgeoisie. "Because it is such a fundamental problem, so basic to all politics, and because not only in such turbulent and revolutionary times as those in which we live but even in the most peaceful, it comes up all the time ... in relation to any economic or political matter ... Every day, for one reason or another, you'll return to the question: What is the state, what is its nature, what is its significance?"  

Similar questions leap over the Russian winter to the Caribbean warmth aboard the tropicalised Cuban Revolution, the first attempt to build socialism in the Western hemisphere.

From its early days this process was pursued by the "ghost" of the question of the state, how it would be structured and how it would relate to the rest of the institutions and the citizens.      

Ernesto Che Guevara gave a response in early 1965 in an essay [Man and Socialism in Cuba] that we regard as one of his most lucid meditations. In a letter to Carlos Quijano, editor of a Uruguayan weekly, Che admitted that the proponents of capitalism often affirm, as an argument in the ideological struggle against socialism, that this social system or the period of socialist construction that we have initiated is characterised by the abolition of the individual for the sake of the state. In his letter he pointed out, among other things, the following:

"This institutionalisation of the Revolution has still not been achieved. We are striving for something new, which would allow the perfect identification between the government and the community as a whole, adjusted to the peculiar conditions of the construction of socialism and avoiding as far as possible the conventions of bourgeois democracy transplanted into the society in formation...We have some experiences aimed at gradually achieving the institutionalisation of the Revolution, but without too much haste. What has held us back most has been the concern that any formal aspect could separate us from the masses and the individual, which would obscure our view of the ultimate and most important revolutionary ambition, which is to see human beings liberated from their alienation."

It's as if Jose Marti were there from beginning to end of this judgement by the Heroic Guerrilla. Because for Marti, "The homeland is for all, everyone's pain, everyone's heaven, and not anybody's fief or chaplaincy..."    

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