Notes on the Revolution / Column #58
January 17, 2020
Reflections on the Cuban Revolution
By Charles McKelvey
In four recent episodes of Notes on the Revolution, we have been reviewing essays found in the collection Cuba en Revolución (Cuba in Revolution), edited by Luis Suárez, and published by CLACSO (The Latin American Council of the Social Sciences), in commemoration of the Cuban Revolution and its six decades in political power.
On January 3, we looked at an essay by Georgina Alfonso, Director of the Institute of Philosophy of the Cuban Ministry of Science, Technology, and Environment, entitled “Democracy in Cuba.” The article maintains that the Cuban Revolution in power has been creating for the last six decades a process of people’s democracy, which, on the one hand, ensures the active participation of the people in the political process, and on the other hand, is integral to the construction of a socialist society and the full emancipation of the people.
On January 6, we reviewed an article by José Luis Rodríguez, who was Minister of Economy and Planning of the Cuban government from 1995 to 2009. He shows that Cuba from 1959 to 2017, with a flexible socialist approach to economic and social development, had more advancement, with respect to social indicators such as life expectancy, illiteracy, and poverty, than did Latin American countries during the same period, which were implementing strategies in accordance with the prevailing norms of the capitalist world-economy.
On January 8, we looked at the principled foreign policy of Cuba, based on the principle of the right of all nations to sovereignty, free of interference by imperialist powers. In accordance with the principle, Cuban foreign policy has supported and defended Third World governments in their common struggle against colonialism, neocolonialism, and imperialism, and for self-determination, true sovereignty, and a more just and democratic world.
On January 15, we looked at the commitment of the Cuban Revolution to the development of science, as the foundation for its economic and social development. This orientation was present from the beginning, as indicated by Fidel’s January 15, 1960 address to the Cuban scientific community.
These essays present evidence for significant achievements of the Cuban Revolution in four areas that are central to modern nations and to the problems that they presently confront. First, Cuba has developed political structures that ensure that political power is in the hands of the people, and not the representatives of owners of large capitalist enterprises, thus promoting popular consensus and political stability. Secondly, Cuba has arrived to understand that diverse forms of property are necessary for economic development; but the economy has to be under the strong direction and regulation of the state, and not ruled by the market. Thirdly, Cuba exemplifies the principle of defending interests in the context of a commitment to the sovereignty of all nations and to cooperation among sovereign nations, always seeking mutually beneficial relations. And Cuba demonstrates the importance of a national commitment to education and knowledge in advancing the economic and social development of the society.
In these gains, revolutionary Cuba has developed alternatives to the prevailing structures of the world-system. An alternative to representative democracy and its campaign financing, its manipulative discourses, and its distortion of the political process by wealthy actors. An alternative to the rule of the economy by corporate interests. An alternative to an international system in which nations defend their interests without regard for the consequences for humanity. An alternative to attempts to discredit scientific knowledge in defense of corporate interests.
Cuba has been modeling these alternative structures in a historic moment of sustained structural crisis of the modern world-system, in which its contradictions and limitations are increasingly evident, that is, at a time in which humanity needs an alternative road. Through its example, Cuba is indicating that necessary road. Indeed, it could be said that Cuba is pointing the necessary road of humanity toward a more advanced stage in human history, a stage more advanced than that of capitalism, or more precisely, global, imperialist, neocolonial, and neoliberal capitalism.
Cuba, therefore, can be understood as a vanguard nation, and it does not stand alone. It is accompanied by and allied with such nations as China, Vietnam, Venezuela, Nicaragua, among others, which are constructing alternative structures in theory and practice, and they are cooperating with one another in a quest for a more just, democratic, and sustainable world-system.
Cuba is especially important among the vanguard nations, because of its intimate historic relation with the declining hegemonic power, which has become, as a result of its confusions and contradictions, a danger to all of humanity.
How much could that confused and declining superpower learn from Cuban experiences in seeking to construct a just and stable society? And how can it be that the important example of Cuba is so completely unknown by the people of the United States?
In addressing the question of the limited political education and limited global, historical, and social consciousness of the people of the United States, it is difficult to avoid condemnation of the universities and the news media, whose function ought to be the education of the people. It is hard to avoid the thought that both have failed, because they have not been faithful to their mission, which they have betrayed for profits, money, and narrow interests.
In the case of the universities, funding by the capitalist Robber Barons of the nineteenth century encouraged the academy to not ask certain questions. Epistemological assumptions emerged that undermined the quest for knowledge, including the supposed separation of facts from values, of philosophy from science, as well as the fragmentation of knowledge into distinct disciplines. Such assumptions negated the possibility for the forming of a comprehensive, integral, historical, and global understanding of the modern world, precisely the kind of understanding that the evolving world-system required, if its fundamental truths were to be discerned and its fundamental contradictions addressed.
Journalists are freed from the imposed discipline of the academic disciplines, giving them much greater possibilities to explore the unknown in distant horizons. However, as the contradictions of the modern world-system arrived to their fullest expression, the world of journalism became more and more distorted by profits as measured by ratings, so that news was fabricated and presented in a form that attracted the attention of the people, but undermined their political education.
Given the enormous power that the United States of America exercises in the world, the limited political education of the people has to be overcome. But how? In reflecting on the possibilities for the political education of the people of the United States, it is difficult to avoid falling into “the despair of the impossible,” against which politically active Cuban poets like Martí and Martínez Villena warned.
In my view, the Cuban Revolution should be more proactively involved in the question of the political education of the people of the United States, given its experience of the last six decades, and its role as a vanguard nation, to which it has been assigned by history. The CLACSO book on the Cuban Revolution educates, but what will be its reach? There are countless examples of Cuba receiving groups of friendship and solidarity from the United States, but do these interchanges include serious attention to the alternative theory and practice that Cuba offers to a world-system in sustained structural crisis?
I believe that the Cuban Revolution ought to involve itself in the political education of the people of the United States, and to creatively search for effective strategies in this difficult, but not impossible, task.
This is Charles McKelvey, reflecting on the unfolding global popular socialist revolution forged by our peoples in defense of humanity.
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