CUBA LIBERTARIA Suplemento al n° 22

In Cuba, more of the same under Raul …

As the increasingly cynical spin of its supposed “socialism” in the direction of capitalism picks up speed, the Castroist Party-State has revived its policy of diatribe and intimidation vis a vis the groups and individuals who denounce this spin in the name of a more authentic socialism, a socialism plus freedom, a self-managing socialism.

Not that this has come as a surprise. We knew the real intentions of those who govern in Cuba, what the bureaucratic oligarchy was and is after with the economicist reformism imposed by the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) through the “Economic and Social Policy Guidelines” (Lineamientos de Politica Economica y Social/LPES). One did not need to be clairvoyant: how it conducted itself made it very plain what it was after: justifying flexibility in the labour market (capitalism’s classic response to crisis) so as to “tidy up” the books of the State-Enterprise and cling to a monopoly on power. We knew that: but that does not in any way make us any the less outraged to see, yet again, what lies behind the conceptual ambiguities of the Castroist discourse designed to cover up the harsh reality of its so-called “perfection of socialism.” Or by the cavalier way in which all who dare criticise and expose such brazenly anti-socialist and counter-revolutionary behaviour are disowned and intimidated. PDF and ISSUU

Proof of this is the way in which the Party-State has acted to head off any debate that might – in theory or practice – call into question the anti-socialist trend within the process of socio-economic, political and cultural change imposed through the authoritarian power vested in the hands of that Party-State – questioning that neither an attempt is now being made to discredit through professional writers (“volunteers” or otherwise) who have no scruples about resorting openly to rant and threat.

The surprising thing is that even as currents of libertarian socialist thinking are being rejected and repressed, the Party-State is openly tolerant of debates instigated by anti-socialist forces (with the Catholic Church’s blessing) in an effort to define and facilitate a wishy-washy “Cuban national consensus” based upon the economic freedom to exploit another man’s labour.

Hence the need to expose this campaign of disavowal and intimidation that targets Cuban libertarians, the intent being to silence them with such far-fetched calumnies as referring to them as “anarcho-capitalists” for their refusal to defend “the government that stands for the anti-capitalist alternative”  . . . Not just because this is an insidious way of attempting to silence critical socialist and revolutionary thinking by conjuring up a climate of fear and a sensation of defencelessness when such defamation can be mounted with impunity and in public, but also because its real aim is to excuse the inadmissible ideological deviations by the Party-State which have prompted it, through the LPES, to take yet another step in the direction of restoring capitalism in Cuba.

Consistent with our duty of solidarity, let me now reprint the article-exposé by Julio Tang Zambrana, a member of the Catedra ‘Haydee Santamaria’ and of the ‘Observatorio Critico’ Network, in response to articles [1] from the most belligerent hacks in this campaign of disavowal and intimidation directed at Cuban libertarian comrades.

Octavio Alberola

[1] Articles widely distributed through the pro-Castro media on the blogosphere and which can be read at these links:

For complementary information, see also the link to the article by Erasmo Calzadilla, a member of the Observatorio Critico, cited by the other two:

Answers to the advice and rants from a ‘comrade’

Maybe I should have been quicker, but no, the proper course is to do things calmly. I’ll admit that my blood was boiling and that even as I was reading I could not sit still in my seat. But I always bear in mind my father’s wise words to me and arguing a case: mull things over before you speak. There’s always time to be found for saying nothing in the face of a mistake or a nasty word.

It looks as if Enrique Ubieta and Santos Perez missed out on these lessons as children or youngsters. That’s the only explanation I can come up with for all the bullying and the slurs, even given the views of those who think of themselves as political contenders yet refuse to understand things fully. Having read his writings recently, I note that the former, as well as the latter (this is the first time I’ve read anything of his) delayed long enough before setting down in writing what was on their minds: Erasmo’s views were published a few days ago and obviously they’ve had ample time to reflect .. but apparently the hours invested in that process came to naught.

So, having given myself the requisite time, I assert my right to debate in a punch-up in which I, like a girl friend some days ago, find myself embroiled and besmirched, although I never asked for any of it, but I’m getting involved for two reasons: for one thing, Erasmo is a friend and I care a lot about what happens to him: several years ago I got to know of the ins and outs of (his) difficult life. Secondly, we share opportunities for human and political creativity within the discussions and ranks of the Catedra Haydée Santamaria (CHS) and the Observatorio Critico (OC). So, although not fully conversant with his thinking – although I know enough about it – I stand alongside him as a actor rather than as a mere follower in the tough battlefield of contemporary Cuban politics.

However, I am not about to enter into any argument about those of his works published in Havana Times (HT) nor about what Ubieta has seen fit to say about them, albeit that I would be more than within my rights so to do. I am leaving that to Erasmo himself, knowing his intellectual and human capacity for unravelling the injustices that others take ages to weave. I shall focus my remarks on the broader issues raised by Ubieta and Perez – and thanks to that and here I have a number of thoughts about the Ubieta issue – (…) – which I regard are central to the last two items to have appeared in the Ubieta’s personal blog. And let me underline the word “personal” there for this is the first point I wish to make her today: Ubieta regards this as his blog and beyond any valid sense of belonging it is linked with another term – followers – and out of this comes a crucial issue within the tropical-stalinist weltanschauung (is that the right spelling?). The modernist-rational-statist notion of the privileged, enlightened vanguard with which the entire socio-communist tradition has been wrapped up ever since the 18th century and right up until our own day.

Logically that course leads on to what Ubieta from the outset regards as the high watermark of political practice, the taking of power. I’m not going to get caught up in a philosophical analysis of these matters: lots of writers have done that already and better than I ever could. I merely wish to point something out, the fact that Ubieta’s apparent stance has been comprehensively transcended since the latter half of the last century and over the past twenty years we have come to know political movements linked to a philosophy which is more liberating and which leads to more horizontal positions that what we have just been talking about. Remember the jungle struggles of the Zapatista Army and the tent villages of the Social Forums launched in Davos and, more recently the bedazzling new mobilisation in Spain. Which would bring us to a second notion that ties in with the million dollar question raised by Ubieta: anti-capitalist struggle comes in many forms, of that there can be no doubt: and traditional socialism – of the type that Santos Perez delights in championing – is merely one, which has, however, shown itself to be one of the most conservative forms, precisely because it adds up to a conceptual apparatus that represents no contradiction at all of the capitalist path; both are built upon a verticalist, graduated notion of society, where all of the power residing in that society is vested in the very top. The state therefore being to society what vanguards and leaders are to social groups. Thus political struggle is held to be the efforts of an enlightened faction to capture representation of the masses which follow it, often blindly, and that’s that. I won’t even try to hang a label on Ubieta’s ideas, though he might like me to. I’m not going to say that he is wrong, but I will say to him that he is wearing spectacles .. and refuses to remove them because he is comfortable wearing them. That is what underpins the enlightened position of the man who thinks himself a leader and thinks he has followers. And in the end, that is a hard position to retreat from: hence the pseudo-leader bureaucrats desirous above all else of clinging on to power so as to pursue their plans. But we are not writing about bureaucracy here, not directly at any rate.

So to the million dollar question: what position should we espouse vis-a-vis the Cuban government? First, let us be clear that I prefer the term State since the Government is merely a part of it. So, where do I stand vis a vis the Cuban state? Well, just as I do vis-a-vis any of them: they are the most dangerous and greatest expression of the power within society and, as such, all political struggles should target it, even if its existence is accepted only as a matter of tactics. Let me be clear here: what I just said does not mean that I see eye to eye with the proletarian State fallacy – as only an enlightened-vanguardist-power-wielding-stalinist could come up with the notion that the individual proletarian, bereft of political power, would want to build up another power structure preserving his condition. That could only come from the enlightened one who thinks he holds the only power in all the world . . . folk such as Ubieta and Santos who reckon that the Cuban state has an exclusive patent on the only form of anti-capitalist struggle in the world.

What else is one to believe when the former spits out lines like “ . . .we defend the government that stands for the anti-capitalist alternative”, or “Unseating the Cuban government is no revolution at all, but the quickest route to its annihilation? “ The emphasis is mine and I don’t think I am taking anything out of context as these words speak for themselves, without any help from me. And here’s another line: “I believe the Revolution has a Counter-power in this tiny island: whereas the Counter-revolution holds Power across virtually the rest of the world.” As I have read elsewhere, such political messianism, mistakenly and inevitably traced back to Marti, represents nothing less than the thoughts of those who write the scripts for Cuban Television’s National News, that is, the entire world is against us but we hold the Sword of Power and the very heavens and the lightning know that we are determined to defend it. Let me just ask Ubieta this: who is in a position to state that the unseating or replacement of the Cuban state is equivalent to the death of The Revolution? Who can argue that a socialist or communist state is a guarantee against the accumulation of capital and power (primitive or otherwise), even counter-revolutionary power? Or has the Cuban state maybe been a guarantee of the survival of the revolution or a guarantee against the emergence of anti-worker and anti-people stances?

Let me dwell here on a few of the issues raised by Santos Perez. The HT (Havana Times) is given over to socio-political monitoring of Cuban society, not to the hackneyed psudo-analyses of US and European statist nonsense. Its title is not World Times nor Sands of the Low Countries, so refer, if you will, to the afore-mentioned National TV News. It is an attempt to explain Cuban reality from within Cuba and from without .. there being other forums for the consideration of other matters.

Secondly, I note the alleged “omission” of any anti-capitalist critique from the analyses emanating from both the OC (Observatorio Critico) and its anarcos as featured in HT. I would refer Perez again to the OC’s shared, solidarity-based and self-managed blog – not mine, nor does it belong to any followers nor to any ready-made collectivity – and there he will find all that his heart desires, if need be, in terms of the anti-capitalist and socialist struggle. But is the “anti-capitalist” critique that preaches the advantages of Venezuelan, Bolivian, Ecuadorean and Chinese! Society . . . all led by states of the most unalloyed liberal persuasions and (in the Chinese case) by an anti-worker, counter-revolutionary bureaucratic state . . . perhaps the critique he wants to see featuring in the OC’s analyses? Well, he’s not going to find it, I can guarantee him that.

We all know that that is the sort of critique that busies itself with hiding the blemishes of today’s Cuba. And it’s not that we are actually looking for more shade than light. . . it’s just that there is scarcely any light to be seen in a bright star that saw itself as the sun. “The destructive view of bureaucracy, the raising of a new Cuban revolution for the purpose of unseating it, the calls for popular participation and for democratisation..” these notions of Perez’s are merely inscrutable glimmers designed simply to cause confusion and to divert the workers and working folk of Cuba away from a path that is increasingly being overshadowed by the reality of corrupt officials and an ageing, disenchanted population. What state apparatus and/or bureaucracy allows its own destruction? The Cuban state has been talking about a “new” revolution . . . for how long now? If Perez accepts that the bureaucracy exists, who but the current machineryu of state – the usual suspects – allowed its empowerment? What calls to popular participation and democratisation is he talking about if all of the current changes are being handled at the speed and along the course that the state deems vital. Without its even having asked anybody, the way the whole enlightened vanguard does? Whilst at one point one aspect of the OC’s overall struggle related to the fight to empower news in Cuba – something that goes on whether Perez likes it or not – through the Internet or other tools, that does not mean that that is OC’s essential purpose. Any more than tactical agreement with the practices of Yoani Sanchez, deemed positive to the extent that Cuban society as a whole is the beneficiary despite contingent rightwing positions or poses favouring the US state and policies and their supporters on this island: this does not mean that we agree either with her motives or support her from our locations. Or has Santos Perez somehow missed the OC’s stances vuis a vis “invitations” from the SINA? Besides the editorial style of the note that has been publicised, there can be no mistaking the blunt refusal to allow this space to be turned into a glove puppet or racket by anybody who might like to try. So what does that make of this line directly lifted from Perez, that “the Observatorio rushed out to ask for Internet freedom”, “showing solidarity” with Yoani and hitching itself to purposes that contradict the very basics of the OC’s essence? Can Perez and Ubieta maybe not come up with other grounds on which to attack and misrepresent our viewpoints and struggle than the tired old and seemingly not yet abandoned claptrap about foreign interference? I invite, or rather, demand of Perez that he furnish concrete evidence of a possible flirtation in 2009 or 2010 or whenever it may have been with the viewpoints of Yoani Sanchez or any member of the rightwing “dissent” or institutions in Cuba.

That stance by Santos Perez leads me to have no hesitation in linking him with Ubieta’s messianic line when both take the view that a single form of struggle, that espoused by the historic Cuban state since 1959, is the ideal one or the sole one in the worldwide and Cuban battle against capitalism. The “instruments cherished by the traditional left”, what Perez regards as the war-horses of the Left, are not the ones the OC favours. Much less the anarcos who belong to it: Who ever saw an anarchist championing capitalism and invoking its ideological strongpoints? Perez – because he chooses to, because he is convinced of it – mistakes the struggle against the state, capitalism, bureaucratic socialism and in favour of libertarian or liberating socialism, for alignment with the capitalist route as he regards the “socialist state” as the sole power counterbalancing its “dialectical counterpart”. So, according to him, whatever does not fit the socialist state fits the capitalist one. He fails to see that the state remains the same no matter what gloss is put upon it and its practices will remain the traditional ones, “leftist” or not. Hence his high degree of liturgical brotherhood with Ubieta, the only people equipped to have an opinion on how to position oneself vis a vis the Cuban state and its lonely, global struggle against capitalism’s demons.