The Comparisons Game
By Manuel Yepe*
Recently, comparing the Cuban revolutionary process with other leftist socio-political processes has become a favorite pastime to sow doubt and disunity among progressives both on the continent and throughout the world.
Since events have discredited arguments like Cuba being a satellite nation, isolated and in need of the costly support of other revolutions, the death of Marxism, the unviability of socialism, and more recently the dependence of Cuba’s political process on a ‘caudillo’, reactionary forces have made comparisons with other revolutions fashionable.
The fact that China, a socialist nation, has become a world leader with a sustained rate of economic, technological and scientific development based on socialist concepts, has awakened a tendency to emphasize the differences between our process and that of the great Asian nation.
The rise of China as a driving force of global development leaves no room to doubt the predictions for Cuba’s revolutionary process having a dismal future, considering the similarities between its goals and those of socialist China when China was slandered by the empire’s propaganda machine as being a technologically-backward failed state with a hungry, discontented people devoid of hope.
China’s success, having emerged from its sad state of underdevelopment lies entirely with its people and the wisdom of its communist leaders who mobilized and guided the people, not without errors, in its struggle to emerge from feudal backwardness and the incoherence of a bourgeois order despite the historic, geopolitical, social, cultural and economic peculiarities of this most populous
nation on the planet.
In Cuba there was a contemplative and political process with similar characteristics, but a very different background. While both systems were led toward socialism by Marxist-Leninists and while there were many similarities, there were many differences, as well.
Both processes are taking place at a time in history when humanity is meeting the challenge of advancing to a new stage of development, since capitalism, having lost the progressive nature shown during the industrial revolution, has brought the world to a chaos of contrasts, injustice, inequities, violence and environmental destruction.
Since there are different situations in both countries, the solutions and the means to achieve them must be different, as are different needs concerning the endogenous nature of the processes and the priority given social objectives.
China, for example, has adopted a "socialist market economy" mixed with some of the mechanisms characteristic of early capitalism more so than Cuba because, among other reasons, the development of bourgeois society in each country was very different when revolutionary changes were begun.
The U.S. companies on the Island had introduced elements of the socialization of production, commerce and services, allowing the process to skip stages – not without difficulties and insufficiencies – in the development of pre-socialist basic capitalist production relations.
Because of its size and potential, and the priority given to macro-economic development owing to its lack of technological and economic growth, China’s approach was different: it opted to take greater advantage of low-level market relations.
Similarly, but also differently, where brutal capitalism had existed briefly in a society with a very primitive economy, and whose development was stalled by constant aggression against its national independence, Vietnam had to face the enormous task of rebuilding its country with its most important resource: its extraordinary, hardworking people.
Lacking any financial resources of its own, and with no other option, Vietnam chose to take full advantage of market relations to facilitate the effective development of its socialist goals, following its victory over the richest, most powerful and aggressive power humanity has ever known.
The recent leftist trend seen in Latin America is now the rule while just a few years ago such a thing would have been unimaginable: popular leaders, who are opposed to a policy of economic neo-liberalism imposed by a superpower, are being elected to power, and who are not imposed, supported or “acceptable” to the United States government. This is unprecedented in the region.
Obviously, each newly-elected leader has an agenda, one that has generally not been promoted by the traditional political parties whose programs, and above all the methods used to impose them, follow rules dictated by the interests of the oligarchies and the empire who have structured the electoral systems in their own image.
The agendas of the new popular leaders have many things in common. But there are also notable differences.
The reaffirmation of national identity and the defense of sovereignty are similar objectives, as are the paths toward social justice. Differences may be large or small because they stem from different factors. They can also differ in the capacity to resist pressure and temptation.
For nearly half a century, the Latin American oligarchies and the U.S. superpower have waged an enormous worldwide campaign of propaganda and lies against the Cuban Revolution, using it as an excuse to attack any popular aspiration or patriotic measure any government in the region attempts, accusing it of being "just like Cuba".
It has been the systematic practice that any revolutionary move toward independence or social justice on the continent will feel the power of the media resources of the oligarchies and the empire that will draw parallels to the Cuban model, feeding the scare tactics that for years the media has tried to inculcate.
Despite all that, the Cuban model, represented by its leader Fidel Castro, far from losing the sympathy of the ordinary people throughout the continent, has remained and grown among the new generations in Latin America who see it as a banner in the struggle for their demands.
The Cuban revolutionary process obtained power via armed struggle. The new popular leaders in Latin America have achieved power via the electoral process. The ways that revolutionary changes are made may vary greatly.
However, the popular leaders now winning office through elections, seek to implement programs ranging from well-structured, self-activating revolutionary programs to declared nationalist platforms based on honest administration, understanding that the underlying factors toward unity has become a process which must not be interrupted.
And that serves reaction’s campaign to make comparisons that lead to confusion.
They recommend that Cuba use or expand elements of the market economy, including privatization, as a solution to any economic problem, like other countries undertaking recent revolutionary processes and are being maligned for applying solutions "a lo Cubano".
The moment of national sovereignty in our Latin America which we are currently experiencing is part of an evolution ruled by laws of social development in which we must find our self-activating roots in each of our countries. The process will be more complete and authentic to the extent that the characteristics inherent in each nation are considered.
Each one’s experiences must be shared to avoid inevitable error. Never again should pre-established models be imposed like a straightjacket.
*Manuel E. Yepe is a lawyer,
economist and social scientist. He is
a professor at the Raul Roa Higher
Institute of International Relations in
Havana. He served as Ambassador,
Director General of the Prensa
Latina News Agency, Vice President
of the Cuban Institute of Radio
and Television, founding National
Director of UNDP’s Technological
Information Pilot System (TIPS) in
Cuba and Secretary of the Cuban
Havana, March 2007.
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