Monday, February 25, 2008

Cuba after Fidel: what next?

Published on Workers' Liberty (
Cuba after Fidel: what next?
Created 22 Feb 2008 - 12:45pm

The Chinese road?

Samuel Farber, Cuban "Third Camp" Marxist and author of The Origins of
the Cuban Revolution Reconsidered, was interviewed about the book in US
socialist journal Against the Current (November 2006) [1]. Here we
reprint an extract with his predictions for Cuba without Castro.

More on this site about Cuba [2].

There are many indications of Raúl Castro's outright support for China's
direction. Visiting Shanghai in April 2005, Raúl said: There are people
who are worried about the Chinese model — I'm not; China today proves
another world is possible.

I find this comment obscene, in appropriating the slogan from Seattle
and the global justice movement to promote the Chinese model. But it's
more than statements alone: there's the role of the Cuban army, Raúl's
stronghold, as a big player in joint enterprises, including the tourism

You have a number of army officers who are businessmen in uniform,
deeply involved in transactions with international capitalism through
the Cuban armed forces. The military has also been involved in what they
call "enterprise improvement" [perfeccionamiento empresarial], i.e.
organizational efficiency, the kind of economic experimentation that
would be consistent with the Chinese model.

Raúl of course will not move a finger so long as Fidel is active. The
question will be what kind of forces will exist in Cuba both for and
against this kind of direction. I believe those forces exist in embryo.
So the whole relation with Washington and Miami will be entangled with
the emergence of that kind of "party."

The existing small enterprise sector in Cuba has been sharply reduced
since the concessions of the 1990s. It was never that important; at one
point there were up to 150,000 people licensed to operate very small
independent enterprises (e.g. beauty parlors, small family restaurants,
the so-called "paladares"), but now fewer.

I see it [the impetus toward authoritarian capitalism] coming from
people in the army and outside civilians who are engaged in
joint-venture capitalism. It's interesting here to contrast what Raul
Castro said in Shanghai in April 2005 (cited above) with an interview
with Fidel Castro by Ignacio Ramonet, Spanish-born editor of Le Monde
Diplomatique. When the topic of China came up, Fidel's answer was pure

Politically of course Fidel wasn't about to openly criticize China, but
he certainly didn't praise it. So within the Cuban regime there's
clearly this difference over the Chinese model. But in pointing to
tendencies, one can't predict events that will be brought about by a
combination of internal and external forces.

There will be people in the apparatus who will resist these changes,
people who are called "Talibanes" (i.e. ideological fundamentalists)
such as Felipe Perez Roque, the foreign minister, who was essentially
Fidel Castro's chief of staff and became foreign minister when the
previous one got into trouble. He's young, in his forties.

But I must caution that there are elements of speculation in all these

No solidarity with the regime!

Dan Jakopovich, editor of Novi Plamen [3] (a left-wing magazine on the
territory of ex-Yugoslavia), on Cuba today:

It would be sad to succumb to capitalist propaganda which characterizes
today's Cuba in chiaroscuro technique, where great progress has
nonetheless been made since the fall of the odious dictatorship of
Fulgencio Batista in 1959. Free healthcare, free education (but
completely state controlled), a successful literacy program, a high
degree of ecological protection, interesting (although very limited)
experiments with participation by the population in decision-making at
the local level (in a broad authoritarian context, of course) – are all

Moreover, solidarity is a natural reaction of people who know something
about decades of countless forms of sabotage and terrorism, the
continuing comprehensive blockade/embargo of the US, hundreds of
assassination attempts on Castro etc., etc.

Solidarity with the Cuban people is fully justified – but not with the
Cuban regime. Cuba is enslaved in a system of a one-party dictatorship,
a political and economic monopoly of a small minority – of the
party-state apparatus. Castro greatly consolidated his power through the
execution of thousands of political opponents, court-martials, and
brutal prisons (in which many were held without trials), as well as the
suppression of free unions (which also included the killing of union
organisers) and the suffocation of any type of workers' democracy.
Workers are still supposed to remain silent if they do not agree.

It is less well known that there were still labor concentration camps in
Cuba during the late 1960s for "social deviants" (an Orwellian term)
which included, for example, homosexuals and Jehovah's Witnesses! Like
other non-governmental organisations, associations for homosexual rights
still lack the right to public assembly.

It should also not be forgotten that the Cuban bureaucracy rode the
coattails of the monstrous Soviet Union to the very end. Such a regime,
naturally, could not and cannot be excessively interested in the idea of
democratic socialism and social self-management.

Even today, according to the Human Rights Watch, the regime insures the
obedience of the population through criminal prosecutions, long- and
short-term detentions, mob harassment, police warnings, surveillance,
house arrests, travel restrictions, and politically-motivated dismissals
from employment. The end result is that Cubans are systematically denied
basic rights to free expression, association, assembly, privacy,
movement, and due process of law."

The Cuban regime has criminalized "enemy propaganda", the spreading of
"unauthorized news" and the "defamation of patriotic symbols." Today
Cuba's prisons/torture chambers (Cuba is one of the few countries that
does not permit the Red Cross to inspect) hold dissidents without
charges, solely because they have been denounced as dangerous for state
security. The death penalty has still not been abolished. People are not
permitted to leave and enter the country without official state
permission. Parents are frequently not allowed to take their children
with them on trips out of the country, a measure intended to prevent
them from emigrating.

The victory of bureaucracy and the state marks the death to the
prospects of a new society based on freedom and equality. Authentic
libertarian democratic socialism must be based upon respect for the
broadest human rights and democratic freedoms, for direct economic,
political and social democracy (actual self-management), which also
implies a pluralism of perspectives on the future (as opposed to
party-state paternalism).

Until Cuba achieves this, it will remain – unfortunately – only another
unsuccessful attempt at overcoming capital-relations, an attempt which
drowned in a swamp of violent, authoritarian bureaucratism.

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