Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Democratic Alternative for Cuba

The Democratic Alternative for Cuba
July 29, 2015
By Pedro Campos

HAVANA TIMES — Two paths are becoming clear to Cuba after the failure of
"State socialism": the authoritarian-capitalist one offered by the
current "reform process", sustained by an alliance between State
monopoly capitalism (dressed up as socialism) and foreign capital, under
the control of the same old government-State-Party, and the
all-inclusive democratic one, which I will try to summarize here, while
also exploring how we can reach it and what obstacles lie in the way.

The democratic way out, in order to be truly democratic, would have to
be inclusive. It would entail a process aimed at democratizing and
socializing the country's politics and economy which would open these
spheres to the participation of all Cubans on the island and abroad,
impel the development of all forms of production and the creation of the
conditions needed for a new type of democratic constitution, the rule of
law and a new, multi-party electoral law.

This process would need to be sustained by a new social contract, one
that would provide individual and collective undertakings broad
financing possibilities, confront all of the repercussions stemming from
the serious property issues created over more than fifty years of "State
socialism", on the basis of compensation, cooperation and independent
arbitration, eliminate all State monopolies over markets, prohibit the
development of private monopolies and establish fiscal policies to
incentivize production.

It would particularly require the implementation of local, participative
budgets, such that the bulk of taxes collected remain at the lower
levels and can be handled to address community interests, as a guarantee
of development.

The democratic socialist program encompasses very few points but, with a
view to establishing a consensus and pulling society out of its current
stagnation, we are subordinating all remaining points to a general,
democratic strategy that will later allow us to better defend our
positions and make them a reality.

Let it again be made clear that we reject any attempt at arbitrarily
imposing on people the free individual or collective forms of
self-managed production we support. That said, we do not deny we hope
these forms of production will, of their own merit, prove better than
the forms of salaried exploitation now in existence and, as such,
encourage their development and any financial backing offered them.

As we understand that private capital still has plenty of ground to
cover within Cuba's economy and that its most progressive
representatives could contribute to development efforts, we have no
objections to its participation in the process, under laws that
guarantee wages, vacation time and social security benefits, as well as
the creation of independent trade unions and others that will defend the
rights of wage laborers.

This way out of the current crisis only appears possible on the basis of
dialogue, negotiation and an atmosphere of national consensus and
harmony, where everyone can place the interests of the nation in the
foreground, and where the people constitute the one, sovereign
decision-maker. This involves the release of those who have been
detained for political reasons and a number of fundamental, individual

Independent civil society – the one that opts for non-violence and
dialogue –, progressive and nationalist sectors of the bourgeoisie in
Cuba and abroad and the wide democratic Left within Cuban society and
the State will all contribute to this democratic process, to varying
degrees and with no shortages of disagreements among them.

There are points of agreement across their demands that should be
brought to the foreground, without thereby abandoning their respective
identities. These strengths could be used to advance many actions and
policies, to the point, even, of organizing a broad, nationwide
democratic front.

The success of this alternative will depend on the ability of democratic
forces – all democratic forces, regardless of their political leanings,
whether they are in Cuba or abroad or within the government – to make
their programs reach the population, earn its support and create the
needed alliances.

Today, the democratic alternative has the fertile soil it needs to
develop it never had before, precisely because of the change in US
policy which neutralizes all of the stifling philosophy of the besieged
fortress and eliminates pretexts for political repression and the lack
of democracy and liberties of every sort. The United States' new Cuba
policy can eliminate all of the obstacles standing in the way of
international trade, a step required for development.

This is the most important historical juncture since the revolution of
1959, an opportunity to bring about the democratic changes the country
needs and will allow all political tendencies that favor such changes to
work together.

There are no democracy gages we can use to identify how likely these
forces are to prevail, but we could say that, despite how isolated the
different actors are, the lack of means and resources to have an impact
on society and the limitations imposed by the bureaucratic system, these
forces, working together, could became a decisive majority in an
atmosphere of tolerance and fundamental freedoms, through their
identification with the interests of the people.

The prevailing system in Cuba was sustained by two major pillars:
foreign aid and opposition to US imperialism. The first fell by the
wayside with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the "socialist bloc,"
shoes Venezuela never did manage to fill. The US executive has
re-established diplomatic relations with the Cuban government, but many
of the laws that make up the blockade-embargo are still in place and
Cuban-Americans in Congress favor them, giving the forces within Cuba's
military that cling to the past an excuse not to budge. Quite simply,
they play into each other's hands.

The leaders of the Cuban military, government and Communist Party.
The small clique of original revolutionaries that controls the
government opposes this democratic alternative and uses the "reform
process" as the spear-head of the political and military apparatus that
administer the country, to prevent the free development of all non-State
forms of production that do not rely on joint or direct foreign
investment. It gives no signs of being in favor of democratization and
continues to repress dissenting thoughts, sometimes employing violence.

This group knows that its State wage model has failed and is promoting
changes, but it is very much afraid that these will make it lose its
power and that they will later be judged for all the wrong they've done
for over half a century in the name of socialism. They do not realize
that history has already judged them and condemned them to retirement.
This verdict could however change if they stubbornly stick to their
positions and continue to repress alternatives.

In the complex situation we have today, we cannot deny that Raul Castro
and his clique have reacted positively to a rapprochement with the
United States, even though their chief motivation is the lifting of
sanctions that will allow them to tap sources of money and investments
up north. We also cannot deny that his administration, as centralized
and bureaucratic as his brothers, incapable of overcome the serious
problems faced by Cuban society, has at least modified a number of
absurd regulations and opened up a handful of small spaces for economic
activities outside the State.

Everything indicates that, if there are differences at the high echelons
of power regarding the scope of the changes and the policy of
rapprochement with the United States, all of the elite has the same
prejudices with respect to the crucial democratization of society and
agree that repressive policies must be implemented against dissenting
thought, as a means of guaranteeing the power in the hands of the
bureaucratic elite, its descendants and loyal subjects.

The military officials who rule the country and could have more
pragmatic stances could develop other initiatives in a freer context,
without the pressures of the embargo-blockade or from internal groups
that continue to support the old US policies. Such a situation could
lead them to understand that they can be part of the future if they are
able to share power with the workers and the people, in conjunction with
diverse democratic forces.

The democratic alternative also runs into the "vendetta" mentality of
the more radical groups in the émigré community and some on the island
who are opposed to any dialogue with the government, groups that insist
that the "Castroist" elite must first be swept away and that the United
States ought to keep the blockade-embargo in place, place obstacles on
the road to the normalization of relations and seek a regime change
through political and economic stifling.

This, while standing in the way of the methods and aims of the peaceful
and democratic alternative, reaffirms the intransigent sectors of the
Stalinist elite in their stance, and these sectors must be given an
option – otherwise, they will continue to cling to their positions.

Do these groups want democracy for themselves only, and a new
dictatorship for the rest? Democracy, like freedom, is either for
everyone or it is not true democracy. Those who oppose the democratic
path, those who support violence and policies that exclude others, end
up isolating themselves.

Those who ask for "justice first" seem to forget that horrendous crimes
were also perpetrated in the struggle against Castro-communism and that
people demand justice for these actions as well.

Should we try to overcome the problems that weigh on the Cuban people
and keep development and happiness out of reach for them, or do we all
start settling accounts, reliving the past, covering Cuban soil with
blood once again, continuing the interminable cycle of violence?

Should we be driven by a thirst of justice or vengeance? Wouldn't it be
nobler, and entirely possible, to try and work for peace under justice,
hand in hand with forgiveness, through methods such as dialogue and
negotiation, and bury the hatchet and the eye-for-an-eye mentality once
and for all?

That violence stems from the political system based on the "dictatorship
of the proletariat" is not something we put in question. But let us try
not to play into their hand with discourses and policies similar to theirs.

It is time for understanding to reach the core of Cuban society
(including the émigré community), in the same way the governments of
Cuba and the United States have done through dialogue, putting aside
their profound differences. The Pope, who encouraged the rapprochement
between the United States and Cuban government, could contribute to
internal talks.

Espacio Abierto ("Open Space"), a Cuban civil society group, has just
advanced a proposal for a debate to include everyone, including
government authorities. It would be a serious mistake to reject or
ignore this proposal. We hope that, sooner rather than later, the sense
shown by the Cuban government in its talks with the United States will
prevail also within Cuban society.

Source: The Democratic Alternative for Cuba - Havana -

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