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Revolution is changing everything that must be changed — Fidel Castro

The Cuban Revolution is passing through a critical juncture. For the global solidarity movement, the "battle of ideas" has always been a vital part of our solidarity work, since to defend the Revolution we must first of all understand it.

Today, this demands more of us than at any time since the early 1990s. Many of the Revolution's supporters feel uneasy about the changes underway on the island. This is understandable given that much of what we, and many Cubans, associate with the socialist-oriented society in Cuba — egalitarianism, state ownership and management of almost the entire economy — is now being dismantled in the name of socialism.

Both within and outside Cuba there are misconceptions about what socialism is, thanks in part to the legacy of Soviet bureaucratic "socialism" and its influence on Cuba. Excessive revolutionary idealism and emergency measures extending over two decades of the post-Soviet "Special Period" have also contributed to misconceptions. Raul Castro referred to this in his December 2010 address to Cuba's National Assembly, when he spoke about the need to transform "erroneous and unsustainable conceptions of socialism that have been deeply rooted in broad sectors of the population over the years as a result of the excessively paternalistic, idealistic and egalitarian approach instituted by the Revolution in the interests of social justice."

Back in the 19th century, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels discovered certain fundamental economic laws governing the transition from capitalism to socialism. Cuba's socialist project has suffered the consequences of not applying the cardinal principle of this transition period — "to each according to their work" in the sphere of wages — with sufficient rigour, particularly during the Special Period. It came as a shock to many when it was announced that half a million workers, and eventually some 1.8 million, must be absorbed by an expanded small-scale private and cooperative sector to end the fiction of full employment.

There is also much misunderstanding about what is happening, and what is not happening, in Cuba. For example, we may hear that the ration book is being gradually eliminated, but we may not have heard that those in genuine need of subsidies will continue to receive them, but that the focus will shift from subsidising goods to subsidising people. Finally, imperialism tries to take advantage of the changes — many of which are unpleasant but unavoidable if the Revolution is to endure — to sow doubt and confusion both within and outside Cuba.

So why another blog about Cuba, and why should you follow and participate in this one?

First, let's be clear about what this blog is not. It's not a space for people who are hostile to the Cuban Revolution to express their views. If you're against the Revolution you're entitled to your opinion, of course, but please take it elsewhere. This is blog for supporters of the Cuban Revolution, broadly defined and as critical as you wish.

I hope you share my disdain for the arrogance of Western leftists who, from the comfort of their armchairs in imperialist countries, try to tell the Cubans to do this and do that, imagining (without being aware of it) that they are superior to those Third World revolutionaries over there in the Caribbean, and that there are simplistic solutions ("What Cuba needs is real worker's democracy") to complex problems.

Having said that, criticism offered in the spirit of solidarity is not the same as hostility. Some in the solidarity movement feel that to publicly acknowledge Cuba's errors and weaknesses is in itself a betrayal of solidarity. I do not share this view. As Cuba lifts the veil of excessive official secrecy, censorship and self-censorship as part of the renovation process there is even less reason for the supporters of the Revolution to politely refrain from engaging with this debate.

Cuba's revolutionaries do not, of course, have a monopoly on wisdom. They have made, and will continue to make, mistakes, as they themselves acknowledge. We can learn a great deal from our Cuban comrades but they can also learn a little from us. The Cuban Revolution is internationalist in its essence. To the degree to which we act in solidarity with Cuba and strive towards emulating her revolutionary example in our own countries, a struggle that may take as many forms as there are circumstances, the Cuban Revolution is also our revolution.

There is only one line that should be drawn in the sand: the fate of the Revolution is for Cubans living on the island, and nobody else, to decide, and we aren't going to lecture the Cubans about what they should or shouldn't do. We may only offer an opinion in the spirit of respectful dialogue from the trench of solidarity. This is the spirit in which I believe we should seek to understand, and engage with, the debate that is taking place in Cuba about how — in the words of Fidel — to "change everything that must be changed".

Above all, this blog is what we make of it, and I invite you to contribute to this project. Hopefully, it can develop as a valuable resource and discussion space in the coming months and years. I warmly encourage you to join the discussion and encourage other like-minded people to do the same. If you have any suggestions for how to improve it please let me know.

If you are fluent in Spanish and can help to translate or proof read translations, I'd love to hear from you. I'm studying Spanish and Spanish translation but I'm not yet a qualified translator. There is an abundance of fascinating material coming out of Cuba, way beyond the scope of any one person to translate it all. My dream is a dedicated team of translators working together to bring this material to a wider audience.

Our need to understand the debates and changes taking place in revolutionary Cuba in order to counter the torrent of lies, half-truths and ill-informed judgements — whether from the corporate media or from disillusioned or sectarian leftist critics — is not the only reason to engage with Cuba's debate on the future of its socialist project. What is happening in Cuba today is, I believe, deeply inspiring. What I wrote about my first visit to Cuba in 1996, with the freshness of an impressionable 21 year old, remains true today:

You know when you greet a horse on a cold winter morning; you put your hand to its nose and you feel the warmth of its breath — powerful, reassuring and full of goodness. This is what it's like for a revolutionary to visit Cuba in these difficult times for our movement.

Marce Cameron
December 2010.