Saturday, December 17, 2011

Being Left in 21st Century Cuba

By Pedro Campos
Havana Times
December 17, 2011

The revolutionary experience of the twentieth century showed, once again, the failure of trying to fit revolution or socialism into a narrow box, beyond the dialectical and classical generalizations of the socialization and democratization of economic and political power.

This process will always have particularities in conformity with the level of the development of the productive forces, national distinctiveness, culture, history and other peculiarities of each country.

In this direction, one can largely agree with the ideas presented by our Brazilian comrade Boaventura de Sousa Santos for a left movement in the 21st Century(1). It is based on the origin of the political concept of leftism that was born from the French Revolution as an expression of the followers of the Republic, as opposed to the monarchy, and its subsequent progression as a movement that would always tends toward “equality, liberty and fraternity” – though, unfortunately, some do just the opposite in its name.

Presently, given the political experience of the Cuban Revolution and the evolution that this process is now suffering, for a wide revolutionary sector in Cuba today, to be left entails supporting and fighting for:

1) Distributing and sharing, humanizing, socializing and democratizing political and economic power, always in a transparent manner, through real and effective participation of all citizens in the discussions and decisions that affect them as well as in local level participatory budgets and through national referendums.

2) Full freedom of each individual, which makes everyone free as a group, with no other restriction than respect for the rights of others. True freedom is only possible when human beings have the resources that let them interact equitably within society. Therefore, the struggle for freedom involves working to provide all human beings with those means (basically property, culture and health).

3) Democratization of the political system toward direct, participatory, inclusive and nonsectarian democracy; respect for minorities and the individual; where the people and the workers are those who decide everything, without intermediaries, and everywhere where a only a few people — the minimal number essential — are temporarily and rotationally responsible for carrying out the decisions of everyone else, always under the control of labor and social groups.

4) Full respect for all internationally recognized rights of all humans, especially unrestricted freedom of speech, the press and association of any kind, and the recognition of the rights of children.

5) The gradual elimination of all forms of human exploitation, especially wage-labor, which typifies capitalist exploitation and profit, whether by private entities or by the state, as well as the development of new forms of production based on laborers who are free as individuals, in collective associations, in cooperatives or in self-managed operations that tend toward the gradual dominance of equivalent exchange over unequal exchange and monopolies of any nature.

6) The respect and protection of the environment, biodiversity and ecological system, which turns into rational use and consumption, in addition to the recycling of natural resources.

7) Full respect for human diversity in its broadest sense (religious, cultural, racial, sexual, political, age, regional and otherwise), which does not harm the dignity of other human beings, and especially the eradication of the criminalization of differences.

8) The general emancipation of human beings from any kind and system of domination and alienation, be it in the home, family, school, neighborhood, country or between nations.

9) Non-violence and just, peaceful, democratic and political solutions of all disputes between individuals, human groups and nations. Any violence against humans is reactionary, including violence that seeks to oppose violence, simply because it reissues. Violence must be disarmed based on non-violence.

10) The withering away of the state until its extinction, so that the management of people gradually disappears and leaves only the administration of things, asserting that nationalization is not socialization, but one of its antipodes.


By Boaventura de Sousa Santos (HT translation)

Boaventura de Sousa Santos
I have no doubt the future existence of the left, but its future will not be a linear continuation of the past. To define what the left has in common means answering the question: What is left?

The left is a set of political positions that share the ideal that all human beings are equal and are of supreme value. This ideal is questioned whenever there are social relations of unequal power, i.e. when there is domination. In this case, some individuals or groups satisfy some of their needs by turning other individuals or groups into the means to satisfy their ends.

Capitalism is not the only source of domination, although it’s an important one.

The different ways of understanding this ideal has led to various divisions. The main ones have emerged from opposing responses to the following questions:

Can capitalism be reformed in order to improve the condition of those who are dominated or is this only possible beyond capitalism?

Must social struggle be conducted by a class (the working class), or by different classes or social groups?

Must this be carried out within democratic institutions or outside them?

Is the state in itself a relationship of domination, or can it be mobilized to combat relations of domination?

The opposing responses to these questions were at the origin of violent divisions. In the name of the left, atrocities were committed against the left. But overall, the left dominated the 20th century (despite Nazism, fascism and colonialism) and the world became freer and more equal as a result. This short century of all the leftists ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The last thirty years have been characterized, on the one hand, by the administration of ruins and inertia, and on the other, by the emergence of new struggles against domination, and with different actors and languages ??that the left failed to understand.

Meanwhile, free from the left, capitalism returned to demonstrate its anti-societal vocation.

It is again urgent that the left be rebuilt to avoid barbarism. How can it be restarted?

By accepting the following ideas:

1) The world has become more diverse and diversity has emerged within each country. Understanding the world requires an outlook much broader than the Western understanding of the world. There is no internationalism without inter-culturalism.

2) Capitalism conceives of democracy as an instrument of accumulation. If necessary, it makes it irrelevant, or if it finds another more efficient instrument, it dispenses with democracy (as in the case of China). The defense of a high level of democracy is the great banner of the left.

3) Capitalism is amoral and does not understand the concept of human dignity, whose defense is a struggle against capitalism and never with capitalism. Under capitalism, even charities exist only as public relations contrivances.

4) Experience around the world shows that there are many non-capitalist realities, guided by reciprocity and cooperativism, waiting to be valued as the future within the present.

5) The past century showed that the relationship of humans with nature is one of domination, which we must fight against, and that economic growth is not infinite.

6) Private property is only a social asset if it is one of several forms of ownership and all are protected. There are common assets of humanity (such as water and air).

7) The short century of the left was enough to create an egalitarian spirit among humans, this is indicated in all surveys. That is a heritage that the left themselves are misusing.

8) Capitalism needs other forms of domination to flourish (from sexism to racism and war), and all of these must be combated.

9) The state is a strange animal — half angel, half monster — but without it many other monsters would be on the loose in their insatiable search for helpless angels. A better state, always; a smaller state, never.

With these ideas there will continue being various forms of leftism, though it’s not likely that they’ll kill each other; it’s even possible that they’ll unite to halt the impending barbarism.

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