REPUDIATION OF THE COMMUNIST PAST
Ricardo E. Calvo MD PhD
The process of transformation in Cuba is not a subject conducive to a brief
and simple treatment as the experience has shown in former communist
It has been said following the collapse of communism that it would take some
months to reform the political system, years to change the economic
structure and several decades to effect a repairing evolution in the hearts
and mind of the people. The latter will constitute the slowest most complex
and elusive component of any process of transforming Cuba out of Marxism.
The norms of human behavior develop and are adopted gradually in an
evolutionary fashion. They do not change overnight. An important factor that
works against change is the length of time the previous rulers were in
effect. The communist regime in Cuba has been in place for almost two
generations and around 70% of the actual population of Cuba was born after
the 1959 revolution. This is a population that has never experienced the
slightest exposure to any other set of societal norms but that of the
In any transformation there is only a certain amount of time to carry out
changes before people wish to settle back down to normal routines.
Therefore, in a paradoxical way, any slow pace of change for rules of
conduct tends to work against any sort of transformation.
If some evil is introduced in the body of politics whether by usurpers of
power or by legitimate leaders acting inmorally, then order in the moral
domain is deranged and the proper balance is only reestablished by removing
the wrongdoers, punish them and reestablishing the previous status. The
reestablishment of a normal situation in society is closely related to the
task of healing the rift between the government and the people who are
alienated from it. This is done by powerfully repudiating the past and not
by compromising with it.
People will develop an allegiance to legal and constitutional principles
when they understand fully that the principles of legality and the rule of
law are part of their own values.
This purification of the Marxist era means that their ideas and the values
have been definitely condemned and banished and the people can see the
political and economic domain as cleansed.
The future government of Cuba must be cleansed of personnel who can not be
trusted to hold power. As a result, the people will feel more confident that
their leaders are not simply mouthing democratic ideas while surreptitiously
We must condemn communism openly and radically without hesitation. Only in
this way we shall be able to avoid seeing many sectors of the population
claiming at some time in the future that some of the communist principles
are somehow compatible with democracy and that socialism is not really that
To exclude known communist from holding political office is indispensable as
integral part of the transition period. It is not an indication of
intransigence or of a new dictatorship. It is based on the simple idea that
they can not be trusted to exercise political power consistent with
democracy. The transition out of Marxism will need ample breathing space and
time during which it can lay down the roots without the danger that the old
Marxists will maneuver to undermine it as they practice the art of using
power. The fundamental change in Cuba must be accompanied by the complete
replacement of the ruling elite without being afraid of being accused of
offending legality or lacking compassion.
We must and need to have principles that "string things together". These
principles consist of individual initiative and private property within a
protective frame of the Rule of Law in an environment of economic freedom.
These principles must not and can not be legislated or invented.
These principles are true and are consistent with the nature of men and
therefore they work. To the extent that these principles of freedom are
ignored or rejected people have suffered poverty, stagnation and tyranny. If
these principles are recognized and practiced people enjoyed abundant
When people ignore principles they are headed for trouble. Those who try to
operate without principles are embarking without a rudder. Principles do
matter. Continuing failure to identify and champion these principles leaves
countries and society vulnerable to assault at any time by the socialists.
The moral legitimacy of anyone's action does not depend on what he does for
others but on his rights as individual to live his own life. We must not
subordinate the individual to the collective interest. Individualism
maintains that the person is justified in pursuing his own self interest and
he is not morally obligated to place welfare of the group above his own.
This does not mean that the individual rejects any sense of obligation to
others. It means that he recognizes as obligations only those which he has
voluntarily assumed. As long as an individual respects the rights of others
he is free to live his own life.
We must recognize that a basic premise of a free society is self interest
and not altruism. Many people think of themselves as altruists. These
individuals consider as a moral obligation to sacrifice his happiness for
others. The doctrine of self sacrifice has entered the political arena and
it has become the legislative "must do" -- it becomes a duty. The
altruistic idea of service within the political framework is the corner
stone of tyranny.
The other crucial and already alluded to principle is the recognition of
intellectual and material private property. Without private ownership no
other right can be assailed -- when property is controlled by the government
all individual human rights are not considered rights at all. When
government controls the private property in any way it is in a position to
control all else. In communism and most socialist states the constitutions
make a great show of guaranteeing all human rights except for the basic
right of private property.
One of the great myths of this century has been that a national economy is
so big and complex that it must be managed and controlled by a central
authority. The perverse influence of these political forces has been
demonstrated in the Third World countries many of which have been ruled by
socialist doctrines since independence from colonial powers. For every
beneficiary of government intervention there is a victim and the most
consistent victims are the poor.
The free economic initiative is also an essential ingredient of a
progressive society. Based on voluntary exchange, it is the only economic
system consistent with human liberty and, by the way, it delivers
efficiently the goods.
THE FORTHCOMING TRANSITION OUT OF MARXISM
In reviewing the literature of the Cuban exile concerning the long term
future of the Island one can not avoid being impressed by the insistence
that we want to obtain liberty and the return of a free society.
Before we embark on the conquest of such goals it is worth considering what
we shall have for freedom and what principles will guide the transition to
construct such society. Many times we rely on distorted simplified knowledge
and lack basic information to form political views and decisions. Nowadays
many of us tend to support documents and agendas of which we do not posses a
clear understanding and the consequences of its contents. But we are not
alone. Widespread unfamiliarity with different political ideologies are well
observed in modern democracies.
This situation is not confined to political information but extends itself
to basic economic principles. The fact is that most economic truths are
counterintuitive and the public endorses appealing policies in any given
instance since in most occasions has little information to go on.
We need to make sense of the sometimes incomprehensible world of politics.
We must be prepared to absorb political information, organize it and at the
same time dismiss conflicting data
We have an imperative duty to become thoroughly familiar and question in
detail the long term implications of the agendas and Declarations signed,
supported and proposed for the future of our land by all and any
organization in exile and inside Cuba. It will be sad to acknowledge in the
non distant future that we were betrayed one more time. Can we afford it?
The forthcoming journey for Cuba out of Marxism will be the most demanding
period of our history as an independent nation. Cuba is not going to be the
first in executing it and hopefully not the last. Abundant optimistic
rhetoric and passionate unrealistic statements will have no place when
confronting such monumental task.
All Cubans must come to the hard realization that the transition out of the
Communist Party ruling will depend on us. Its costs and efforts will not be
born by any other nation or international institution but by us. Do not
expect anybody else in the world to do it.
The transition out of Marxism is not going to be free or painless. It means
relocations, disruptions and dramatic changes. The change of the whole
political, social and economic system has been very costly in former Marxist
countries. Do not expect to be otherwise in Cuba.
It is important not to be tangled in debates of fast versus slow reforms.
Fundamental changes of the system are not made up of a single decision but
of an array with realistic goals.
Some of the most successful transitions in Easter Europe have shown that
there is not a sacred sequence of events which have proven to be optimal but
do not doubt that substantial changes must be made. The imperative need for
substantial and not marginal changes must be undertaken. Cuba does not have
the luxury of long periods of time for a gradual and spontaneous evolution
of institutions and rules.
There is no doubt that the economic and political reforms that will be
needed in Cuba will come with pain and disappointment to many. We must be
prepared to challenge quick fixes and not to abandon long term results in
the name of soft socialism or Third Way approaches.
In the early 1990's the understanding of democracy in Eastern Europe was
equated with the concept of prosperity but now appears to be identified more
with private property, equal rights, currency stability and the ability to
influence the government through elections and freedom of expression.
We must formulate and present to all Cubans a positive and straight forward
vision of a new society. It must motivate and must reach all those who have
spent most of their lives in the spiritually empty and aimless communist
We must sell a vision. For that, we must address all Cubans, we must argue,
explain and defend such vision. It requires more than just information. It
must bring forth dramatic changes in behavior, rules and institutions.
We must tell the truth and not promise things which can not be realized. To
have credible programs and leaders who realize them are absolute
There are some issues and concerns that all Cubans must face at this point
in their long years of living either under communism and/or in exile.
How is it that we have failed to arrive at a common feasible and attractive
goal capable of capturing the imagination and hearts of every Cuban?
Will it be possible for all Cubans to understand that preparing for the
future of Cuba is so much more important than just the overthrow of the
present hierarchy of the Cuban Communist Party?
How come we insist that the United States maintain its economic embargo
towards the Island when the Cuban community in exile fuels the maintenance
of the regime with several millions of dollars in the form of cash?
How come the Cubans have not managed to have funneled all the economic
resources now at their avail towards the aim of eradicating socialism and
all its vestiges from our soil?
I do not claim to have answers to each of these questions. I pose them with
the purpose of possibly firing a spark to reassess where we shall go from
here more than where we have been.
Opportunism and sectarianism in their pursuit of instant gains are willing
to abandon the ultimate goal and focus in minor and short run appealing
aims, sometimes in actual contradiction to the ultimate goal itself.
Beware that in a society ruled by impromptu politics anything goes. When we
believe that everything is relative then the end becomes an ideological
chaos conducive to gradual desintegration of the very fabric of a free
It is at this point in time and not later that we must ask: What kind of
ideology will lead the island of Cuba in the post Marxist period?. Appealing
political slogans and heroic actions by individuals in the past have robbed
the Cuban people of clear thinking leading to deplorable political scenarios
later difficult to change.
Most, if not all agendas and documents formulated by an impressive number
of Cuban organizations do proclaim in a repetitious way that democracy is
the kind of government proposed and favored. Many are not precise enough to
define the type of democracy invoked. One could also ask if we shall be
dealing with a social or liberal democracy. Is it going to be constitutional
democracy or will it carry any other modifying adjective preceding it.? In
more aspects than one, the challenging question is: what will be the
functions that we shall allow the government to perform on our behalf rather
than setting the rules for the government to act upon us?
Not because we are democratic we are going to be free but rather if we own
freedom we shall be democratic. Not because we are democratic we are going
to be prosperous but if we are independent owners of our resources we shall
be democratic. Democracy needs individual economic freedom more than free
enterprise needs democracy. The task of finding democracy and free economic
enterprise still haunts many policy makers and Cuba is not going to be an
The word democracy can be modified in very subtle ways by the appealing and
appeasing adjective of socialism and easily sold to national and
international interests. It is easy for many to talk about democracy but it
is harder to find out what kind of democracy they have in mind. Rather than
modifying democracy with socialism let us precede it with the word
constitutional and set up the rules by which the government will behave.
It is not a matter of being against or in favor of democracy but knowing how
to procure it and more important how to make it durable and to function
Many countries in the world are called democratic and have ended as a
private club governed by a selected group of politicians, military, senior
officials and isolated university professors.
Many countries are called democracies and have had a single party control
their destinies for several decades.
Many countries are called democracies and have had several groups of
politicians control their Central Banks as if they were their own private
Democracy does not guarantee private property or the recognition of human
rights or economic development. In many democracies there are expropriation
of lands, control of rents, violation of human rights, systematic debasing
of the currency and unlimited privileges enjoyed by a powerful elite of
members of the government and their close associates.
The purpose of government must be to protect the individual and not to
restrict him. For centuries there has been a debate concerning the
relationship of individuals to one another and to the State. This debate has
posed the fundamental argument underlying the modern democratic government
and its functions and purposes: to protect life, property and liberty.
Let us learn from the free and economically developed countries and from
those which were unfortunate to have suffered also in their past the ruinous
consequences of socialism in its extreme fashion.
From the former we should adopt respect for our own lives and possessions to
give us freedom and individual rights while governed by the Rule of Law
without fear of fiscal irresponsibility.
From the latter, not to pursue the middle of the road course of democratic
socialism. This is an attempt to combine free enterprise with the "best of
socialism". The trouble with this concept is that there is no "best of
socialism". This is an illusion that the socialists sell to a gullible
public with emotional laden arguments. These forces forecast disaster if
individualism is allow free play without the cement of "social justice" and
if private ownership is not in someway controlled by the State. Democracy
and socialism are not compatible. It has been tried many times in many
countries with the same consistent historical result: misery.
If we are going to have freedom from government coercion then we must have
full respect and recognition for intellectual and material private property.
If we want to enjoy individual human rights inherited as human beings
independent of legislative powers then we need to respect and protect life.
If we expect to be treated equally by the law and not be subject to the rule
of men we must establish and comply with the Rule of Law.
If we want to have long lasting ownership of our own efforts then we must
demand full protection for our currency and responsible use of the national
Have all your questions been answered concerning the transition period? Do
not expected to be so otherwise we could claim to have been granted divine
The intentions are not to fill in all the blanks in detail-- the purpose is
not to go back to social engineering. Its dismal results are well known.
If at this point you have concerns and apprehensions about the future of
Cuba then a major step has been accomplished -- to think, to ponder, to
argue and to comprehend must be part now of this important and unique time
in our history -- great challenges are upon us and it is doubtful we can
afford another failure!.