FROM MARXISM TO TRANSITION
By: Ricardo E. Calvo MD PHD
We have come to the end of the XX century and Cuba closed it commemorating
almost 100 years of independence from Spain and 41 years of communist party
You have just started reading a few lines of this assay and we could not
agree more on the fact that there is no scarcity of books, articles and
agendas concerning Cuba so it is natural to ask why another one. Simply
because in this one I will attempt to orient our thoughts and resources
towards the future of the island.
I do not plan to create a new political party, there has been too many. It
is not a matter of caudillismo. There has been too many caudillos in our
history. I have no intentions of obtaining material gain at the expense of
the actual or future situation of Cuba or from any group at the expense of
others -- this has been done several times since 1902.
This assay has as a primary goal to expose all Cubans to the future of Cuba
and what we are going to make of it -- of the past up to now ample and
comprehensive amount have been said and done.
The transformation of a Marxist society drowned in political repression and
hopeless economic misery into one of free individual initiative and economic
development will be the most challenging and demanding enterprise that Cuba
and each of its citizens will ever undertake as a nation. It can not be left
to uncertainty or to last minute improvisations.
To expect that the country could go from being under the complete control of
the Communist Party to a full fledge pluralistic democracy without great
sacrifices and pain is an unrealistic expectation. This could represent a
frustration and disappointment to most of the Cuban population but it is a
reality well demonstrated by the events that followed the collapse of
communism in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.
Without doubt, many factors can be alleged against this pessimistic view
including the geographic proximity of the island to a major economic power
but the legacy of long years of socialism is hard to eradicate.
The collapse of communism in Cuba inevitably will come but this is not
enough. If we only dissent and not oppose it clearly there is no question
that the political future of the Island will evolve into a state that could
have all the appeasing appearances of democracy but still remain with strong
We must be ready and must have done the necessary homework developing a
vision and a strategy that addresses the immediate and the long term future
of the country.
For the short term, the most pressing questions are those dealing with the
dislodging of the Marxism from power in Cuba while concomitantly setting the
political and economic bases that eventually will culminate in a
representative government in Cuba.
These undertakings should encompass a reevaluation of the schemes employed
so far in attempting to eradicate the Marxist doctrine off the island and to
formulate the basic principles to string together the long term future of
The destabilization of the communist regime of Cuba has been attempted in
the past by forceful and political means. Painful as it may be, the results
show that Marxism is still in power.
It is important not to argue about all and each of the reasons why they have
not met their goals – it is indispensable to search and implement the policy
that could address the vulnerable flank of the system.
The power of any ruling class is not furnished by any divine or diabolic
intervention -- it is given only by the willingness to tolerate and support
it and the physical capabilities or lack of them to dispose of it. In the
case of Cuba even when we could doubt the former, it is clear that the
latter are absent. This is a natural consequence of the fundamental
mechanism for the exercise of absolute power.
How can we forsee any real change in the internal political climate of the
island when no one is allowed to enjoy the fruit of his own labor?
How surprised may be anyone of the latest repressive political measures when
absolutely all means of production are in the hands of the State?.
It is folly to hope that any internal organized political group will be
remotely successful in Cuba when all vehicles of communications and
dissemination of ideas are the property of the ruling class.
External political opposition has been applied by influential groups in
exile and by some foreign governments. Persistent violations of individual
human rights have been condemned repeatedly by different international
organizations. Neither has produced a significant dent on the political
control of the Communist Party.
The option of forceful intervention against communism belongs to the pages
of history since neither the material resources nor the manpower to remotely
pursue such mode of action exists today. There has been enough violence in
Cuba in this century and we have little to show for it.
Then what alternatives do we have left or is it that we shall wait patiently
for a natural evolution to play its role in handling the future of Cuba?
The immediate future of Cuba poses two issues of constant concern in
political and economic circles among Cubans in exile and of the U.S. : the
economic embargo and the remittances of dollars to Cuba.
The Cuban community in the U. S. spends great amount of energy in debating
the continuation of the commercial embargo imposed and controlled by the
U.S. The merits or lack of them given to this measure are not the crucial
points since the Cubans in the US did not originate it or have direct
control of it – this embargo is in the hands of Congress of the U.S. This
measure is modified by the U.S. according to its political and economic
interest as every sovereign state is entitled to.
In the last few months some members of the legislative branch of the US
Government have either supported or condemned its continuation in public.
However, in some cases they are obliged to carefully balance their position
with the sentiment of their constituency and the interests of the businesses
which could constitute the providers of the economic resources for their
These potential conflicting situations in conjunction with the possible
reversal in their continuation as members of the U.S. Congress leaves no
doubt that these dilemmas undermine potentially the persistence and firmness
of their position with the passage of time.
The Cuban government is fully aware of this situation and may feel that time
is on their side. The economic embargo is already quite porous and will
deteriorate before it becomes more effective in the potential future role
that could play in bringing constructive changes to the island.
Again and at the cost of sounding repetitious, the issue of the embargo is
in the hands of the legislators and economic interests of the U.S. well
beyond the effective reach of the Cubans.
Let us concentrate our efforts and thoughts in a much more practical type of
embargo that is under our direct control : the curtailment of cash
remittances to Cuba.
These remittances in dollars bring to mind consequences some being obvious
and others subtle and many times not observed in short term basis.
There is no question that cash remittances provides the Marxist government
of Cuba with material resources to perpetuate itself in power, to contain
potential devastating uprisings similar to the one in August of 94 in Havana
and to finance the return of exporting its subversive political influence
They also provide the Communist Party endless opportunities to perform
profitable transactions by buying goods at discount in international markets
and then pricing them up for internal consumption. These profits can find
many paths ranging from becoming personal benefits to members of the elite
ruling class to payment of external debts.
They also contribute to accentuate the distortion of prices of all
commodities inside the island leaving those not benefited by receiving
dollars to suffer further shortage of indispensable items for subsistence.
Those receiving dollars are exposed to the dangers of developing a state of
dependency not different from the experienced by welfare recipients outside
Cuba, thus reinforcing an already existing socialist thinking.
Another inescapable consequence of this flow of dollars towards Cuba is the
appearance of "commercial enterprises" devoted to encourage and prepare
"tourist packages" to Cuba, to help left- behind relatives within the Island
to approach the shores of the U.S. and to be involved in the drug traffic
from and through Cuba.
These "enterprises " are in effect nothing more than a “Fifth Column" of the
Cuban Marxists -- collaborators for the continuation of the communist regime
who could become later potentially members of maffia organizations similar
to the ones which made their appearance in Russia following the end of the
No matter under what reasons or how hard we attempt to justify the
continuos remittances of hard currency emanating from the Cuban community,
the action of the participants portrays not only an almost schizophrenic
thinking but it is utilized very effectively by many interests to terminate
the commercial blockade against Cuba.
POST MARXISM COUNTRIES
Strides in any human endeavor have been based on former knowledge and it is
wise to be aware of the experiences of others who have preceded us in the
path to post Marxism reconstruction.
In the last decade Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Estonia have
displayed greater success in dismantling the old Marxist political and
economic structures and building pluralistic democracies than most of the
other ex communist states.
These reformist states counted with a broad based group of leaders who
guided them in developing a dynamic private sector and establishing the
institutional underpinnings of a non state economy. This does not mean that
the democratization and marketing process has been completed.
By contrast, in most of the other members of the soviet bloc the reform
process has been restructured for much of this decade by an entrenched post
communist political stratum. The development of a participatory civic
society and the Rule of Law has been delayed. The former Leninist parties
discarded Marxism while seeking to maintain or regain the most important
levels of power.
They obstructed and exploited the transition process and adopted strategies
to undercut the position of democratic and reformist groups. They ensured
unequal political competition through the their control over important media
outlets such as state owned T.V. and radio. They also retained much of the
old communist party property assets and curtailed the emergence of
independent judicial systems.
Instead of openly opposing the destruction of all vestiges of pluralism they
cleverly opted for selective controls over the most important institutions
to guarantee for themselves positions of power.
The old nomenklatura have tended to buttress collective models of group
obligations to the State rather than supporting the principles of individual
liberty and human rights protected by the government.
Sector of the old elite have benefited directly from limited economic
reforms by conducting what has become known as "nomenklatura privatization".
In this process former state property has been sold cheaply to newly formed
companies controlled by well positioned members of the former communist
Through their control over major media they have continued to exploit the
old fears of free market oriented reforms especially among vulnerable
sectors of the population such as unskilled workers and pensioners.
Through traditional socialist mismanagement they have perpetuated nepotism,
patronage and outright corruption. A growing wave of officially sponsored
criminality has swept most of these countries in Eastern Europe and
One must emphasize that without an effective public educational campaign to
counter arrest the old socialist beliefs along side economic and political
restructuring a pauperized Cuba may become prone to social unrest and
political instability for a long time.
Great efforts have been invested in attempting to explain the divergence in
the paths followed by all former communist countries. Variables ranging from
religion, culture and political environments have been examined. It appears
that a tentative consensus is emerging: the decisive factor has been
sweeping economic changes obtained by the quickest and broadest moves to
individual free enterprise.
An analysis of the transition period for former European Marxist states
indicates that western help has not been necessarily a foolproof formula.
Much western aid was misdirected and in many occasions geared more at
rewarding donor and international financing interests than serving local
needs at the expense of basic reconstruction and the respect for the rule of
As a point of interest, it is worth pondering if it has been any different
in the case of Germany representing the unification of a people sharing the
same language, religion and historical background. This particular situation
presents some similarities with respect to the Cuban exile and the people
living in Cuba.
As this country approaches the 10th year anniversary of the fall of the
Berlin Wall many Germans do not feel like celebrating. The hope for a repeat
of West Germany post WWII economic miracle has not happened although West
Germany has injected around 70 to 100 billion dollars a year into the East.
Today the former E. Germany is tied to the economic fluctuations of W.
Germany and shares its problems of structural rigidity in wage costs, taxes
and social security imposed by socialist tendencies.
Recently younger people have streamed to W. Germany to find jobs in large
numbers. This brings to mind the inescapable possibility that a similar
situation will take place in Cuba if the transition government opts to
perpetuate in any fashion socialist measures from 40 years of Marxism and
fails to eradicate them. Shall we be capable of creating conditions in the
future Cuba to avoid large exodus of the younger generation towards foreign
lands in particular the United States?
The sad truth is that none of the former communist states managed their
unexpected transitions well. None of the states went far enough and fast
enough toward a full market economy. In the long run they have created a
mixed system – part free enterprise, part socialist – that have foundered on
their own internal contradictions.
Even if communism is without its head we should not interpret that this is
the end of it and claim a comfortable victory. We must continue to be on
guard --the end of communism does not mean the end of our opposition to it.
Let us not lose sight of the very powerful rent-seeking groups of advisors,
consultants, investment bankers, auditors and bureaucrats of international
financial organizations which have vested interests in prolonging the
transition for as long as possible. We must not be placed in a position to
waste our resources to pay for useless advice. We must avoid also new traps
such as soft compromises with the old nomenklature or the drifting into