Monday, June 13, 2011

Translation: Notes on socialist democracy 2

Here is Part 2 of my translation of "The Sixth Congress: notes on socialist democracy" by Dario Machado. Part 1 is here. As Machado points out below, "dissent, change, reform, conflict, market, a state based on legality, etc., are words that within a language, a political culture and a socialist ideology such as those of the Cuban Revolution have a totally different meaning to that ascribed to them by the press at the service of the transnational corporations."

The Sixth Congress: notes on socialist democracy Part 2

Cubadebate website, May 7, 2011

Translation: Marce Cameron

By Dario Machado Rodriguez

Unanimity and false unanimity

Unanimity is not impossible, it can be achieved after a certain lapse of time, in specific circumstances and regarding concrete aspects of social life, but unanimity is neither daily nor permanent, it is conjunctural, exceptional.

What occurs daily is differences of opinion and conflict of opinion. One of the indispensable aspects of the change in mentality is rooted in precisely this: the recognition of differences, the diversity of opinions and of their conflict, for which it is necessary to banish triumphalism, the bucolic mentality of accommodation to bureaucratic inertia, intolerance towards different views, even those radically opposed [to our own], and to learn to carry out a dialogue, to resolve differences and conflicts through negotiation, which implies recognising ourselves as equals rather than as superior to others. This is the root of socialist democracy, which in no way harms political unity, nor discipline, nor does it imply making concessions of principle. What's more, everything that happens in Cuban society has to take place within the framework of the country's socialist constitution and according to the laws of the Republic, and the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) must be the guarantor of this, that is precisely its fundamental role as the vanguard organisation of Cuban society.

Whoever is unprepared for this urgent change in mentality will be — as a friend of mine is fond of saying — "waiting for the bus where it doesn't stop". The construction of a socialist state based on legality requires a different emphasis on the relationship between the individual and society.
Steps in this direction have already been taken with the necessary changes in legality that accompany the rectification of the economic model [such as the relaxation of some of the restrictions on self-employment — translator's note], which together with the required changes in methods and styles of political work will allow us to advance in the necessary, efficient articulation of the four fundamental aspects of the socialist transition: the socio-economic, the organisational, the legal and the political-ideological.

This articulation that has its own dynamic must be as harmonious as possible, and given that socialism is a society that is constructed consciously, it is a task that requires the timely adoption of the changes that are needed in each moment, as well as anticipating them as far as possible. This is what is meant by the Cuban President's call to "be alert, keep our feet and ears to the ground".

Fearing neither words nor changes

Only one who is not genuinely revolutionary can fear changes and words. The construction of a socialist state based on legality is the natural political-legal counterpart to the socio-economic changes that involve the recognition of the role of the market and the corresponding changes in the characteristics of the relationship between the individual and society. "The state", said Raul Castro on December 18, 2010 [in the National Assembly], "regulates its relations with the individual, but the state does not have to involve itself in anything to do with regulating the relations between individuals..." 

This is precisely the task of the [PCC's] Legal Working Group of the Permanent Commission for Implementation and development [of the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines adopted by the PCC Congress in April], which as Raul Castro explained in his Main Report to the Congress, "will coordinate with the corresponding entities, with strict adherence to institutionalism, the modifications that are required in the legal sphere to accompany the updating of the economic and social model, simplifying and harmonising the content of hundreds of ministerial resolutions, legislation and decree laws and at the same time will propose, at the appropriate time, the introduction of the pertinent amendments to the Constitution of the Republic." 

The relationship between the above and the individual citizen is evident in the following paragraph: "Without waiting for everything to be worked out, progress has been made in the legal regulations associated with the purchase and sale of housing and cars, the modification of Decree Law No. 259 expanding the limits of fallow land to be awarded in usufruct to those agricultural producers with outstanding results, and the granting of credit to self-employed workers and to the population at large."

Commodity exchange, and the psychology of the exchange of equivalents that it reproduces in society, demands the full recognition of personal property, without the latter being converted into capital — into private property in the means of production and service provision and the exploitation of alienated labour that multiplies itself to the point where it dominates over social property — because this would be the inflection point that would allow free reign to the market. We must hold up a shield against the osmotic pressure of surrounding capitalism without which the healthy development of society in the socialist transition would be compromised, recreating a deep social cleavage followed by the absorption of Cuban society into its capitalist surroundings, and with it the loss of independence, of the social justice conquests and of the ability of the nation to construct its own social project.

This is also the reason why we cannot talk about socialism without a new way of conceiving wellbeing that educates people about healthy consumption [rather than capitalist consumerism — translator's note], solidarity, the internal equilibrium of society and of society with nature, with the environment. The above relates to the indispensable role of education, of values, of ethics in the society in transition to socialism, of socialist ideology as social armour against the continual siege of capitalist ideology, with its psychological weapons, with the consumerist temptation, with individualism and its deceitful freedom that now enjoys a more favourable substrate in a Cuban society with the opening up of a greater space for market relations.

This concept of wellbeing does not at all mean that the enjoyment of all the goods that society produces should be egalitarian, but it does imply essentially a rejection of consumerism and egoism. The society of the socialist transition must recognise the right (unequal, as with all rights) of people with different qualities, aspirations and social contributions to receive individual benefits from society in proportion to their contribution to society, which implies that the limits of individual, personal [i.e. non-capitalist] property cannot be set bureaucratically, but can only be defined by consensus with thee participation of all the citizens, always on the basis of a socialist principle: everything that one receives on the basis of honest work, one's contribution to society, is ethical.

During the transition to socialism it is ethical to receive more if you contribute more. What is not only morally impermissible but also economically non-viable is that one does not receive from society according to one's social contribution, be it more or less. Because of this, those who are more capable, more responsible and who carry out work of greater complexity and that requires more expertise, ability and experience cannot distinguish themselves from the other members of the collective on the basis of a meagre remuneration, bureaucratically defined, that is way below the real importance and value of their contribution, which has only resulted in demoralisation and the erosion of consciousness regarding individual responsibility, as well as discouraging initiative and the desire to advance and develop oneself, not only for purely self-interested reasons but above all in terms of ethics [that is, the desire to develop oneself as a useful member of society — translator's note].
The change in mentality also demands a more conscious approach to individuals exercising their right to participation in all spheres of social, economic, political and cultural life, and the consequent rejection of the authoritarian and dogmatic vision according to which everything that is said or proposed must be "naturally" understood and accepted by the citizen. 

The market still has a positive role to play in the social process, and in my view it will do for a long time to come. It will have an organising role in relation to the prevailing psychology of the exchange of equivalents. In effect, markets are a product of socialism [i.e. of the transitional society], though they have a different content in that they are bound by the framework of the plan and exist within the framework of a vigilant socialist superstructure. The exchange of equivalents that the market involves is still necessary and will continue to be so for a long time, since it lies at the foundation of the existence of the [socialist] state beyond the necessary defence of sovereignty and the national space within which it exists. 

The society in the transition to socialism is a society in which merit plays a decisive role, but in relation to the distribution of what society produces, as in many other respects, this cannot depend on the arbitrary decisions of people [i.e. "the bureaucracy"] who decide what is meritorious and what is not, determining remuneration on this basis. Labour and its results have a dimension that transcends their strictly economic meaning, having also a moral dimension. Whoever achieve better results for having anticipated, organised better, planned better, must be remunerated through the normal functioning of the socio-economic metabolism of the society in transition to socialism, regardless of what anyone may think of this. 

But we cannot acknowledge the role of the market and not have a corresponding legal framework that allows the accumulation of personal [i.e. individual, non-capitalist] property, as long as it is the fruit of efficient and honest work that is carried out within the framework of legality and on the basis of the popular will. 

What is taking place in the country is a profound and necessary reform that is revolutionary in its content and projections because it is aimed maintaining the socialist course, diverging from capitalist inertia.

Dissent, change, reform, conflict, market, a state based on legality, etc., are words that within a language, a political culture and a socialist ideology such as those of the Cuban Revolution have a totally different meaning to that ascribed to them by the press at the service of the transnational corporations, and this prejudices more than a few short-sighted people towards the rejection of these terms, leaving them to be the private property of capitalist ideology. 

The Sixth Congress and national unity

The building of socialism in Cuba does not take place in "laboratory" conditions, nor in conditions of acceptance by the developed capitalist world and the hegemonic north-centric powers of the right of the Cuban people to to have and maintain their chosen political system, enshrined in its constitution. What happens is the exact opposite. Half a century of socialist transition in Cuba has also been a history of repeated propaganda, psychological, political, diplomatic military and sabotage attacks and a genocidal and relentless economic war that has weighed down continually as a colossal brake on the realisation of the socio-economic development potential of the country. The mere fact of sustaining the socialist path in a predominantly capitalist world is a feat that could only be assumed by a dignified and cultured people.

The unity of the nation is and will be the key to being able to confront, with all and for the good of all [a phrase of Jose Marti], these enormous external challenges, but also the powerful internal forces that are embodied in those that have no interest, desire nor ability to carry through the urgent transformations.

"We are convinced" — said Raul Castro — "that the only thing that can cause the failure of the Revolution and socialism in Cuba, putting at risk the future of the nation, is our inability to overcome the errors that we ourselves have committed during more than 50 years, and the new ones that we may fall into."

Clearly, all those who would benefit from the collapse of the Cuban socialist revolution would wish that Cuba wages the political and ideological struggle on their ground and on their terms, with which they themselves do not usually comply, imposing as a standard for Cuban society a pure, idyllic model of democracy that naturally nobody will ever achieve.

The defence of the revolutionary project is a duty for those who have given their own lives generously and for we ourselves, together with all of the people, which have confronted the dangers, privations and scarcities, have passed every test and have won every right, while having strengthened their critical conscience, their political culture and their ability to prevail.

The Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, genuine fruit of the democratic participation of the citizenry, was able to rebuild consensus within Cuban society, strengthening unity within diversity and opening up a new perspective of work and struggle for the future that is well worth the effort. It brought everyone together to work for the proposed objectives, above all the youth that will be able to find a space within which to fuse their individual life-projects with the objectives of society as a whole. This is the power of consensus, the power of socialist democracy.

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