Wednesday, July 9, 2014

No ‘Laws’ for the Transition from Capitalism to Socialism

25 years ago this month I joined the U.S. Socialist Workers Party.

A variety of events in world politics confirming the party's perspectives led to the decision:

  • Cuba's rectification process
  • The uptick in the anti-apartheid struggle
  • Eastern Airlines and Pittston Coal Strikes

Each confirmed the "spread of rank and file leadership" in militant working class struggles. 
Because SWP cadre carried out their political assignments as rank and file members of industrial unions, the ability to unite "theory and practic" was a daily challenge.

And a daily pleasure.

It is a decision I celebrate and am grateful I made.


One of the first Pathfinder books I bought after joining was the collection of Castro speeches In Defense of Socialism.  To a young socialist like myself it was particularly useful in differentiating the Cuban proletarian course  from the petty bourgeois rationalizations of Gorbachev era Stalinism.  

Socialism built on consciousness, active solidarity of masses 
(Books of the Month column)

The excerpt reprinted here is from a Jan. 8, 1989, speech by Fidel Castro titled, “The Young Generation Must Improve and Defend Socialism,” which is included in In Defense of Socialism: Four Speeches on the 30th Anniversary of the Cuban Revolution. Castro is speaking about Cuba’s “rectification process,” which began in 1986. That political initiative sought to return to the communist course of the revolution’s earlier years, placing the consciousness and initiatives of working people at the center — as opposed to the administration of workers and farmers and other capitalist-style methods copied from the Soviet Union that were leading away from socialism. Copyright © 1989 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission. 


It would be an illusion to think that the whole difficult period for the revolution and for the nation is over. That would be an illusion that the current generation and the coming generations can never harbor. Imperialism has not renounced the idea of liquidating socialism in Cuba, of liquidating revolutionary ideology in Cuba; imperialism has not renounced the idea of liquidating our revolution. Imperialism might change its tactics, its weapons, but U.S. imperialism is too arrogant, too high-handed, too haughty to renounce the idea of overturning the Cuban revolution, to renounce the idea of liquidating socialism in Cuba. …

We face a tremendous historic challenge. Who will win? Who will prevail? The selfish, chaotic, and inhumane capitalist system? [Shouts of “No!”] Or the more rational and humane socialist system? [Shouts and prolonged applause] This is the challenge that now faces not just Cuban youth and the Cuban people, but the youth and peoples of all the socialist countries.

Of course this is a task for all of us and especially the new generation, which will have to make a special effort to better itself.

We must have a clear understanding of what we face and the battle in which we are involved to improve socialism in our country. And perhaps the greatest challenge is that this is a battle to improve socialism without resorting to the mechanisms and style of capitalism, without playing at capitalism. [Applause] That’s what we are trying to do in the process of rectification.

A few days ago I said that we’re starting to see some results of this process. We have seen some examples; to mention one, the contingents of construction workers. I believe that we have with us a group of the young people working in the Havana contingents. [Applause] In these days we have witnessed great feats: we have seen what the Blas Roca Contingent did, what the Sixth Congress Contingent did, what the contingents that built ExpoCuba did. [Applause] We have seen what the minibrigades did there, we have seen what the contingents in different provinces are doing. And we have seen the principles these groups of workers are applying, which have nothing in common with capitalist methods of motivation nor capitalist methods of organization. [Applause] I am sure there are no groups of workers like that anywhere else.

This shows what man can do; what man can do when there is faith in man, trust in man, when you don’t start from the premise that man is like a little animal who only moves when you dangle a carrot in front of him or whip him with a stick. [Applause] The minibrigades, contingent workers, and hundreds of groups of workers in our country that are now making great efforts, and we could say thousands of groups of workers, don’t act or do what they do because of a carrot or a stick. [Applause] …

What carrot or what stick was used on the Sixth Congress Contingent, which in barely a year has just finished building — and done an excellent job — a big hospital in the capital? [Applause] What carrot or what stick motivated the minibrigade and contingent members who in barely a year — because the bulk of the work was done in a year — have built the tremendous ExpoCuba project? [Applause] What carrot or what stick was used on the citizens who put in 400,000 hours of voluntary work in building the Miguel Enríquez Hospital? [Applause] What carrot or stick led thousands of senior high school and technological students to put in millions of hours of voluntary work on social projects? [Applause]

What carrot or stick led secondary school students in the citrus project in Jagüey to harvest more than 400,000 tons of citrus fruit? [Applause] … What carrot or stick motivates hundreds of thousands of students who work three hours a day in the schools in the countryside? [Applause and shouts of “For sure, Fidel, give the Yankees hell!”]

But in relation to other fields, we could also ask: What carrot or what stick motivated the fighters of the Rebel Army who for two years confronted and defeated the army of the tyranny? [Applause and shouts of “For sure, Fidel, give the Yankees hell!”] What carrot or stick motivated many thousands of teachers, doctors, or workers who have rendered internationalist service? [Applause] What carrot or stick motivated the 50,000 Cuban fighters in Angola who made possible the victory? [Exclamations and prolonged applause]

A final question for the list, which could go on forever: What carrot or what stick motivated the 300,000 Cubans who honorably fulfilled their internationalist missions in Angola over the last thirteen years? [Exclamations and prolonged applause]

So are we or are we not correct in trusting in people, in their consciousness and spirit of solidarity? Are we or are we not right in feeling people can really do what they set out to do; that people can live in a society that is more humane, more just, more generous, and more based on solidarity than is capitalism, where the law of the jungle prevails? Could a society educated in the selfish ideas of capitalism carry out a single one of these things we’ve mentioned? That’s why our confidence in the future of the revolution is so unshakable.

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