Socialism: The Only ‘Better World’
By Celia Hart
Caracas is once again the queen of the world’s left. At the Congress of Intellectuals in Defense of Humanity, hundreds of the world’s best representatives of progressive ideas welcomed December together. Representatives of countless tendencies were there, trying to agree on the ethical future of the world. We need them to figure out if, once and for all, we can point the compass in the right direction. I am full of expectations, combined with chronic skepticism. There is so much rhetoric in world summits, conferences and meetings that it has ended my trust in these methods. Perhaps this time it will not remain as mere words denouncing the world’s calamities, human and divine laws, and the cruelty of the enemy. Now is the time to figure out how to implement our struggle, to know which methods offer a categorical end to the intentions of imperialism. If we cannot find specific answers, leaving once and for all the academic ivory tower, our descendants will consider this generation of thinkers a bunch of useless contemplators.
James Petras said, in the Third International Seminar of Teaching recently held in Peru, “Initially, social forums were positive events for meeting, discussing, forming networks, passing resolutions, but they have become almost a kind of ritual, a kind of social affair, where people meet, invite some important figures, have a march, and then everyone goes home. I think they have lost that edge of rebellion and criticism. Looking back, they have not had any results.”
I agree. And among other things, there is a banner that was absent from the world’s leftist conferences, which was not talked about out of fear and is limited to closed discussions within political parties. I mean Socialism. Many comrades are honestly claiming the end of the “isms.” Pathetic. Fascism, militarism, imperialism, are in our lives from dawn to dusk. These tendencies, which are like a “leftist Fukuyama-ism, are openly claiming the tragedy of the current left. The enemy is the owner of the “isms,” and political parties. We will have to limit ourselves to prayers, descriptions and proclamations. I confess that the motto “A better world is possible” sounds to me like resignation. Of course a better world is possible! But so is a worse world. Mottos limit our possibilities. It sounds as if an extraterrestrial had coined the phrase, or worse yet, as if there exists the slight possibility that these tender words might move the enemies in a summer morning, while they are drinking their orange juice. Chavez said it, “It is possible to have a better world.... if we make it possible.” In fact, it seemed ironic that facing this horrific scene of wars, lies and poverty, we could be talking about a better world.
Over a decade ago the Berlin Wall fell, and we have not been able to heal from the psychological trauma caused by “Real Socialism.” We will have to convene all the psychoanalysts of the world to try to free ourselves from this curse. I hope we do not spend another seventy years doing that. While we are going to therapy, the enemy builds many more perverse walls, and covers us with apocalyptic words such as “preventive war”, “axis of evil” and other idiocies. And if that were not enough, that same enemy gets the majority vote in the United States of America.
And I wonder, what banner would be more relevant than the banner of socialism? Now that globalization forces us to treat the world as a single entity, what would be better than going back to Socialist principles, squeezing them, combining them, grouping them, offering the enemy in exchange for capitalism, a true “International”?
“With all and for the good of all,” but really as Jose Marti stated, with everybody who can add firewood to the fire and who sincerely aspires not only for a better world, but a qualitatively different world.
There is only one alternative to barbarism. Frederick Engels said it: socialism. Yes, the very socialism that, in the words of Rosa Luxemburg “is not precisely a knife and fork problem, but a cultural movement, a powerful and great conception of the world.”
Any banner is welcomed, if it is real. Bolivar, Hidalgo, San Martin, Jose Marti and the rest are the proud part of human history in the different continents. We must be consistent, if only for them, in homage to them.
Julio Antonio Mella brought Marti back to life because he adopted him courageously, based on the new scientific experiments of Karl Marx. And somehow, he made Marti into the founder of the first Communist Party in Cuba. Mella said that “in order to make a revolution in this century a new factor will have to be considered, Socialist ideas, that in one form or another, take root in all the corners of the world.”
Fidel Castro and his comrades again saved Jose Marti from the enemy, because they made him the de facto intellectual author of a Socialist revolution. Enough of romantic songs! That’s why Marti still lives, because if he could have talked with Karl Marx, not only would they have agreed from the beginning, but also because Marti would have taught Marx a few things about America. Marti would have had a better understanding of the events in Chicago, and he certainly would have warned Marx about the emergence of imperialism, because he had lived in the belly of the beast. Only with a vision of socialism and class struggle, creatively and heroically adapted for these times and places, as Jose Carlos Mariategui would say, will we be able to assure that Bolivar and so many predecessors have not labored in vain. We have an enormous responsibility. We will not be able to blame Stalin and “real socialism” anymore, for our failures and our prejudices. It is time to draw the sword and the pen, to conquer and win the hearts of the people with the only banner, which will make our world and our children’s world a better place.
It is true that the enemy is in crisis. But if we do not become quickly aware, we will be irreversibly swept away with them.
And how is socialism’s health? I dare to propose a very simplified “measuring” stick.
The revolution is a process. Nature’s processes are measured with variable temporary magnitudes (with the increase or the decrease of some concrete measure in time). In mathematics they call it partial derivatives in respect to time. Let’s try to measure a social process like that.
Let’s do it like this: Let’s call the [Health of Socialism (HOC)] a magnitude, measuring the socialism of a revolution in a determinate time. Let’s take three examples.
First, Cuba’s socialist revolution has shown its permanence in spite of imperialism’s harassment. It proved its strength in the 90s, persisting after the fall of European socialism, and when it had to face the hardening of the U.S. blockade. This concrete fact attests to the health of our socialist revolution. HOC increases considerably.
There is no doubt that the legalization of the dollar, the establishment of trade in that currency, the rapid increase of tourism and joint ventures, which function with capitalist parameters, have been a very bitter step for the revolution. Much more than the so-called special period. Some Cubans started to think with a capitalist mentality. Even though I am not trying to compare it to the NEP that Lenin had to impose in the young Soviet state, his motivations could have been very similar. But this measure decreases our variable. As it happened in the USSR, the magnitude of the HOC variable here decreases.
Then, let’s study the so-called battle of ideas, which started with the campaign to bring Elian Gonzalez back to our homeland. At that time, Fidel started developing an impressive revolution within the first one, the establishment of social workers, emerging teachers, paramedic personnel, the unpublished revolution of education, where in a couple of years the number of students per teacher were reduced to twenty. Not only the quality of education improved but also more important, tens of thousands of students became involved in the revolutionary process, students who had been idle until then. Even many who had been thinking only about dollars, or about emigrating, as a direct result of the legalization of that currency.
I understand that it is a convulsive process and of course not everyone would be with the revolution. The ideological battle has become a revolution as well. Daily roundtables, weekly open forums, university education for all, where even coincidentally you can hear about the history of philosophy, ballet or sciences, the formation of two education channels, which contrast and compete with the traditional channels, and where programming is selected according to cultural, instead of commercial criteria. Fidel’s constant appearances on television, speaking to the people, etc., have contributed to the political level, the culture of debate, and the level of public discourse has been raised, even though we may sometimes fall into unnecessary repetitions or the abuse of slogans, But anyway, this is indeed a decisive increase in the magnitude of HOC.
Fidel and the Cuban revolutionaries cannot build socialism. This is simply because socialism in only one country is impossible. What they can do is to increase the magnitude of HOC within the socialist revolution. That is, to guarantee the necessary forces to counteract possible tendencies toward restoring capitalism, a sickness we knowingly contracted to survive the 1994 legalization of the dollar.
These are two opposing forces within the same revolution.... Fidel gives most of his time and all his efforts to this battle. This new revolution developed from specific projects, where the most revolutionary social strata becomes involved. From the campaign against the mosquito carrier of yellow fever, for example, a new political campaign was built, where high school students had the main role.
Even with the low value of our national currency, there are no layoffs. Sugar workers who were left without work are paid the same salary for studying. Our economic “poverty” has not prevented Cuba from having health, education and sports rates of a developed nation.
We should recall the expression on the face of Fidel Castro the day he won a small battle against the forces restoring capitalism, when the dollar stopped circulating and the peso started again. Although it was only one paper instead of another, the symbolism of the green currency not “touching” young Cuban hands gave him an indelible smile, even with everything going on, including his accident.
And internationalism? Tens of thousands of compatriots are doctors, teachers of technicians in the countries of Latin America. When tragedy hit poor Haiti, international organizations were surprised, because for every doctor of a developed country, there were a hundred Cuban doctors. Those youngsters take (besides their conscience) an exported piece of the Cuban Revolution. Do not think that it is free, either. The amount of personnel helping Venezuela comes from those taking care of the Cuban population. Internationalism “costs,” as it should. We are not giving away what we do not need; we are giving what we love the most.
In the same vein, the Conference of Intellectuals and Artists in Caracas was held in Havana during the VIII Congress of the Union of Communist Youth (UJC). The UJC has been a leader in the battle of ideas, together with Fidel.
The last day of the Conference, Fidel comes out... walking in his traditional green uniform. We could breath in his words, the word Revolution, made with action. The battle of ideas cost the country less than 2 percent of its income in five years. It gave, however, hundreds of thousands of new comrades. An unprecedented revolutionary efficiency.
In his concluding words, Fidel continues inviting us to the struggle. I invite those who criticize the Cuban regime as bureaucratic, to just once hear a President of any country talking about the electricity expense of televisions, about a million of them in Cuban homes, or about school lunches, or about mothers of disabled people, who will have a salary for taking care of their children. No, no one else talks like this, trying to change everything. Of course, with the blessed exception of companero Hugo Chavez.
That is another proof that we are in revolution. Which we will not renounce regardless of how damaged the world becomes. We have prisoners of war. Our five comrades imprisoned in the United States are internationalist fighters, jailed for defending the revolution against imperialism and its scourges in Miami. That is another example of the permanency of our socialist revolution; we have political prisoners precisely in U.S. prisons. Fidel concludes repeating, “Socialism forever!” And at the rhythm of “Arise, ye wretched of the earth!” ... of the International, sung in Cuba, thousands of youngsters raised their hands, attesting to that eternal continuity.
The second example is legendary China, where according to my HOC criteria, exactly the opposite is taking place. The Communist Party of China says it is building Socialism. Socialism in one country? No, and no again! Chinese private property continues increasing, instead of decreasing. As I have read, China is currently the favorite destination of big capitalists: the country has become a tremendous exporting machine. China’s total exports grew eight fold—to over 380 billion dollars between 1990 and 2003. Five hundred of the biggest multinational corporations of the planet have businesses and investments in that country. Besides, in order to mitigate the tension created recently by the massive layoffs by state corporations, 45 million workers in the last five years, Beijing has allowed foreigners to add 450 billion dollars to its economy. Is the socialist market economy a temporary NEP? I don’t think so. If the economic power is so strong, how come 58,000 workers launched a strike and they are illegal? Why is it estimated that unemployment affects 23 percent of the Chinese workforce, about 170 million people affected by privatization, adjustments by State corporations because of their low productivity and population growth? Why is it that the World Health Organization states that seven out of ten of the most polluted cities in the planet are in the People’s Republic of China? Could it be that the means became the end? Do Chinese social indices correspond to its economic power?
And if the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square happen again, whom should we support? China’s Communist Party, just because it is called Communist?
I can understand that these are manifestations of the current economic situation. I have already explained that Cuba is doing it, to some degree. But where is China’s antidote? How many Chinese are teaching schools or taking care of the sick on the Asian continent? Where is their anti-imperialist position? That is how my country is different. In Cuba, these two tendencies are struggling against each other, with socialism clearly in the front. In China, the Communist Party invites business executives to become members of the Party.
China must be recognized, though, for being the most efficient capitalist power in the world. I do not feel like applauding that achievement, though. In China you do not live in a socialist revolution. This is beside the point that it maintains fair relations with developing countries (Or underdeveloped, as they should be called.) But they still are trade relations. I trust that history will not repeat itself in China. Karl Marx would say that events would happen first as tragedy, (we learned that ourselves), and later, as farce.
My third example is Venezuela. Has a socialist revolution triumphed in Venezuela? We will know more in a few years, when the revolutionary process has consolidated. But we must ask the following. Have the positions of the government of Venezuela have become radicalized with time? Yes. Does the government struggle with the scourges of bourgeois society, looking for other types of solutions? Yes. Does the Bolivarian revolution get stronger in its conflicts with Imperialism? Yes. Then, is the Venezuelan revolution a socialist one? We cannot know that, yet. There has not been enough time, and it has yet to overcome many obstacles. All of us will have our yearnings, our hopes, and our doubts, when it comes to this question. What is important is that up to now, every moment is more radical and less capitalist than the one preceding.
In Cuba it was an avalanche, an abrupt change that had been taking form for a long time. We lived in different decades. A lot of things have happened since the miraculous decade of the 60s. Chavez and his process must endure the bad taste of the disappearance of real socialism.
Of course, they have compensations. As a paradigm, only the Cuban socialist revolution emerges, instead of the Stalinist USSR. Also, Bolivar’s precedent is very timely. Bolivar had a hard time because he had the emerging national bourgeoisie working against him. Today, they are the open allies of the Empire. As soon as Hugo Chavez tries to work with the tools the Liberator left him, the process automatically becomes more radical.
When tragedy hit poor Haiti,
international organizations were
surprised, because for every doctor
of a developed country, there were
a hundred Cuban doctors.
The same thing happened in Cuba with Jose Marti. To keep on being Bolivarian to the end, Chavez will not be able to skip Lenin, Trotsky, Che and Fidel’s teachings. He will not be able to make a bridge from the 19th to the 21st centuries without finding their ideas.
If this man truly intends to carry out a Christian task, he will not have any choice, but to increase daily what we call HOC in the Bolivarian Revolution. In this way, some day, as Che said once, “without realizing it,” we will be seeing an authentic socialist international revolution.
On the other hand, the revolution, was designed through many missions, (Robinson, Barrio Adentro, and many more), which gives it a special similarity to the revolution in my country.
The open struggle against landowners shown in the October 31st electoral campaign, added to the open war against bureaucracy, gives HOC, as we previously defined it, a highly technical value.
So then, there is good news. We have two revolutions taking root in Latin America and opening new hopes. We need many more. Two proven revolutionaries head two of them. It is time to call things as they are. We are afraid of a radical vocabulary. Those referring to isms and ists do not say whether socialism or socialist revolution or communist parties are included in their censorship.
Chavez stated in his speech in the Caracas meeting, “You perceive the resurgence of a growing force, every day, everywhere. A human, moral and political resurgence. In Argentina, Brazil, Spain, Libya, Moscow, Iran, things are happening.... They speak Russian, Persian, Spanish, Portuguese, but it has the same luster, the same force....”
What force is Commander Chavez referring to? What is the only force in the world that could be introduced as the common denominator of the poor? The ghost of the Communist Manifesto, that ghost which went throughout Europe in the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, taking flight in this century as the only alternative to the misfortunes humanity is undergoing. President Chavez stated that, with this reality, “it is the duty of all the revolutionaries in the world to form a movement of international offensive, and to create a network of social and political organizations.”
On the other hand, he reflected, “There are no national solutions. They are trying to impose upon us the most savage form of globalization, which is neo-liberalism. It is a world problem, and the solution transcends the borders of a country.”
And he proposed, on that road to the offensive to save humanity, “to organize a network of thinkers and thoughts forming a critical force, creative, transforming, who will raise their torches lighting the new type of ideas that humanity needs.”
Three things! End national borders to understanding the struggle; cohesiveness and maturity of forces on the left (political parties and social movements), and an offensive of radical thought. Enough of the enemy’s ancient phraseology (terrorism, human rights, democracy). In our terminology the words of revolution, socialism... and class struggle must appear with renewed strength. I sincerely dream with the word International. In facing global imperialism only a word of this strength can help us.
Hugo Chavez just launched a historical project in the meeting of Intellectuals. He is inviting us to the American dream, but the real one. In contrast to Bush, who is proposing that the U.S. become a country of owners, Chavez is calling for the formation of the Latin American homeland. A Latin American homeland, which will be the homeland of all the workers of the world. And for today, to start working today. The true goals are those we intend to accomplish, even if we do not achieve them. The Patria (homeland) of Simon Bolivar, the America Nuestra [Our America] of Jose Marti... I tremble when I think of the motto, “the third time is the charm...”
Chavez said, “In this century the truth is with us, in this century we will have a fatherland, and the fatherland is Caribbean Latin America, our America. It is time to think and to do, the battle is today, not tomorrow, let’s not waste time, and let’s use the time well. We have been called to invent it, to create it freely, to finally liberate it for the welfare of our peoples.”
For this enterprise it will not be enough to read American history and to find the ways to mobilize our peoples. We need much more. We need an army of thinkers and fighters. First, we must call upon the [intellectual] heritage of socialist thought. And like Armando Hart has said repeatedly, “Learn from our mistake [En beneficio de Inventario]. Because they also made mistakes, they have the right to say this. But the positive legacy of these men will shake hands with our new president” in the final battle of the Americas.
Then, just for today, and quoting a recent article by Carlos Alberto Montaner, permit me to bring up revolutionaries such as Leon Trotsky in this tribunal of thinkers.
Trotsky is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most defamed revolutionary in history. Many, including Communists, involuntarily state a close relationship with the enemy. Trotsky has been charged with absolutely everything: being a fascist, an imperialist, an assassin, with stopping the revolution, sectarianism..... In the best of cases, Trotsky’s ideas are considered unnecessary, because they are “old.” And now we have to endure Carlos Alberto Montaner, a well-known enemy of the Cuban revolution, accusing him of nothing less than repenting revolution and socialism, in his final days, embracing the market and representative democracy. It is terrible! But it is our fault, for restricting him to the so-called “Trotskyist parties,” as if he were no part of those who made the revolution, as if he was not the Marxist thinker who did the most to alert us to the end of the USSR. More than any other, Trotsky analyzed the mechanisms that can end a revolution and a communist party in power. The fall of real socialism cannot be analyzed and understood without reading Leon Trotsky. And that analysis is not old-fashioned. It is very contemporary. He experienced in his own flesh the excesses of the bureaucracy of a socialist state in power, he designed one of the most vital concepts for revolutionary thought: the permanent revolution. It is not only unfair to hold him apart from the best communists, but it also is a lack in our revolutionary practice.
Internationalism, permanent revolution, and the non-viability of socialism in one country are key aspects of the revolution... Besides, he can be accused of many things, but not with being a revisionist of Marxism. If he is guilty of anything, it is exactly the opposite of being a revisionist. Che and Fidel have followed his steps, even though they did not know it. The slogan “create two, three, many Vietnams” is the materialization in Latin America of the Permanent Revolution and Internationalism.
To consider Trotsky a part of revolutionary thought is a duty of communists, not only Trotskyists. When communism is mentioned, Trotsky must be included. Trotskyism is not a particular branch of Marxism. James P. Cannon, one of the leaders of the Communist Party in the U.S. said in 1942, “Trotskyism is not a new movement, a new doctrine, but the restoration, the rebirth of authentic Marxism, as it was practiced in the Russian Revolution and the first days of the Communist International.”
Montaner states, “In his last days in Mexico, before he was murdered by the son of a crazy Cuban named Ramon Mercader, Trotsky was starting to reject the idea of tyranny and discovering the value of economic and political freedom and the importance of formal democracy.”
And Trotsky had stated in 1932, “Only a powerful growth of the productive forces and a just, planned organization, that is, socialist, of production and distribution, can assure men—all men—a dignified lifestyle, giving them at the same time the indescribable feeling of freedom within their own economy.”
Trotsky is in the
Guinness Book of World Records
as the most defamed revolutionary
Yes! This is the freedom Montaner refers to.... Trotsky considered its relevance long before. Because of that he organized the Red Army, he worked side by side with Lenin, and in the last analysis, in the name of that liberty, he gave his best years and his entire life.
But we know that, no, what he [Montaner] meant, was the freedom and impunity the exploiters enjoy. How far have we gone in our unfair judgments of Leon Trotsky that one of the worst enemies of socialism can talk in those terms! If this continues, we will be giving the true deathblow to this revolutionary thinker, a worse blow than Mercader’s in 1940. And a blow of this type to Trotsky is an irreversible blow to socialist ideas.
Luckily, Hugo Chavez cheered us with the other side of the coin. In the closing session of the Caracas conference, he said the following, referring to a book by Trotsky he bought in Madrid, “The Permanent Revolution,” in which the Bolshevik revolutionary states that the problems in every country do not have national solutions, but include all the peoples,” a thesis he totally supports.
It is said that lies live a hundred years, and truth can catch up in a day. This shows that when the road is honestly sought... All the roads lead to...socialism. A permanent anti-globalization office will open in Caracas. Perhaps this will be the office of the permanent revolution.
Lastly, I must refer to the new article by Carlos Alberto Montaner, because his article completely misses the point. The man also complains because I called him a terrorist. And perhaps he is right. If imperialism calls my Palestinian brothers terrorists as they struggle for their people’s self-determination, if the Iraqi fighters in Fallujah are terrorists, because they courageously face the strongest and most cowardly army in the world, then, Montaner is not a terrorist. If Cuban revolutionaries opposed a criminal, pro-U.S. dictatorship, and in less than seven years achieved power and established an authentic socialist revolution, and are called terrorists, then, Montaner is not that. But this man is an enemy of the Cuban people. He expects that after four decades of knowing what dignity is all about, we’ll go backwards. After we learned the ways of freedom it is impossible for the Cuban people to “peacefully” become a corrupt country, loyal to imperialism. His expectations for my country to go backwards half a century to become again the casino of the U.S. are almost infantile. Fidel has more or less said that a socialist revolution will triumph in the U.S. before there is a counterrevolution in Cuba.
And about myself and my “revisionism,” I’ll tell him the following: I hope that never will that type of formal democracy come to Cuba, as corrupt and vicious as he proposes. But if that were to happen, if for some reason the Cuban revolution should fail, if those regressive forces we mentioned above should triumph over the revolutionary battle of ideas, then all I will have to do is check the bullets in my magazine and the barrel of my rifle, and the only current that we, Cuban and world communists will have, will be the current of air blowing again in Sierra Maestra. And I can assure Mr. Montaner that by my side, besides Fidel, Che, Marx and Lenin, will be the First Soldier, Leon Trotsky.
I very proudly will enter Montaner’s ranks of “terrorists.”
Celia Hart is a member of the Cuban Communist Party. Translated by Maria Montelibre. February 5, 2005.
—Rebelion, December 12, 2004