The Cuban dictatorship:
From a Socialism à la Henry Ford to a Silicon Valley à la Michel Houellebecq.
Today both a capitalist and a socialist would be uncomfortable to hear that socialism by nature has its origin in capitalism and that its regular ghostly apparitions is not necessarily the result of some anti-capitalist political revolution or radicalization.
Capitalist methods themselves have sometimes been promoters of socialism. And you would naturally wonder, what are the tendencies in capitalism that stimulate the germs of socialism?
Even Marx himself referred to these tendencies, but Marx got too excited about them and instead of seeing them as social vectors with positive results for his cause he believed that they had a character of hopeful inevitability for a proletarian revolution. The Paris commune distorted once and for all his ability to objectively discern capitalism.
The irony? The “proletariat” today has become capitalist and not by definition or necessarily by having become business savvy or entrepreneurs in search of profit.
Marx’s proletariat today is a “gender fluid” social entity that suffers from all kinds of class dysphoria and that has lost all the spirit of irreconcilability with the bourgeoise without being able to make any retro movement that allows it to recover that past more than as something vintage and taxidermic.
If there is something that Marx’s Capital lacks, it is a solid understanding of the vector character of capitalism not only in relation to socialist tendencies but in relation to any tendencies that come to take place in it.
Let us analyze in this sense and with particular interest the implementation of chain assembly that allowed the birth of the Model T in the automotive industry, which in one way or another has represented an exemplary paradise of the capitalist dream.
Henry Ford, his inventor, once expressed:
‘If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said: “Faster horses.”’
The horse and the car are two different paradigms of transport. No one would have imagined that abandoning the horse as a fundamental means of transportation would have been the best answer to our problems with speeding up time.
No one in pre-automobile times would have thought of something cheaper and more efficient as a means of transportation.
If getting off the horse was an enigma that turned into magic with the car, leaving behind a specific type of car that became ubiquitous turned out to be a nightmare for one person in particular, Henry Ford. All things considered, this has been the same nightmare for many Cubans who have not been able to leave Fidel Castro and his revolution behind.
The Model T marked a milestone in history both for its ability to open new opportunities to broader sectors of society and for its stubbornness in insisting on reducing human faculties to a mere mechanical and compartmentalized exercise.
The division of labor itself contributed directly to the gestation of the type of organization that the same workers would later create among themselves; unions. In this way, the Model T assembly fostered the human assembly itself, that is, the relationships between individuals and their collectives.
The Model T enabled chain production, and with it came low car prices and the ease with which America’s middle class could own a car for the first time.
However, every technological advance always brings some problem and the problem that Fordism brought was multifactorial. The first was the unanimity of actions in factories in which the individual was entirely subordinate to the collective assembly of the automobile.
Fordism was in fact one of the first indications within capitalism itself of the “socialist” collective unity, that is, of the impersonal collective unity in defense of the total assembly of dismembered and mechanically united parts. The unity of the workers, at its birth, was and remained a mirror and a specter of the unity between all parts of the automobile or chain production in general.
Capitalism here found a dead end in the same sense that horse merchants found a dead end with horses as a means of transportation.
The most interesting thing about this impasse of Fordism is that it was Henry Ford’s own son, Edsel Ford, who began to oppose his father’s model. After becoming president of Ford, Edsel advocated for the introduction of a more modern car to replace the Model T, but was repeatedly rejected by his father. The market situation finally made the introduction of a new model inevitable: the Model A.
In his well-known book, My Life and Work: An Autobiography of Henry Ford published with Samuel Crowther we can testify not only the great entrepreneurial spirit of Henry Ford but his almost admirable at the same time obnoxious stubbornness and dogmatism in a man of great ideas and humble origins.
Henry Ford stuck with his Model T beyond the fact that it brought him huge profits and turned his company into an automotive empire. Henry was and remained so obsessed with his invention that he was never willing to change, modify or update it. His was an almost fetishistic fixation, not caring that it might cost him his ruin and the ruin of his workers.
Henry Ford was unable to modify even slightly his conception of the Model T, and this contributed not only to the decline of Fordism but to the emergence of an unprecedented collective union of workers in manufacturing factories. Precisely, the ideal conditions for a socialism in which the workers would be united by the same principles of the assembly chain that defined their jobs.
Since Fordism was based on workers having a sufficient minimum of technical skills to perform work based on isolation or compartmentalization of work in a way that was extremely easy to perform while being able to act in unison and unanimously, This type of work structuring directly generated the very structure of a natural ideology not only of work but also of a way of thinking based on mostly unison actions and reinforced almost by absolute unanimity.
These psychological and ideological aspects of Fordism were those that helped to form the most nefarious political and union unity among the workers, that is, a unit based fundamentally on the mechanical assembly of an ideology equally governed by unison and unanimity.
Who would have thought that precisely the most dire aspects of Fordism would be used as a breeding ground to shape communist ideology and at the same time to guarantee a popular unity based on unanimity and unison action?
Marx undoubtedly underestimated the deeply Fordist roots of trade unionism which has never achieved more than a Pyrrhic unity endorsed by the same dogmatic ideology of Henry Ford which was replaced by that of his son without any need for socialism.
The political activism of Marxism and communists have always been able to take advantage of these weak sides of capitalism. However, such an advantage has acted only as a boomerang to the detriment of the communists and their socialist ideals.
What has been disastrous about Fordism cannot be used as a springboard to unite the workers. In other words, working in unison and unanimously as a result of the nature of industrial assembly lines cannot be used to create a workers’ emancipatory ideology.
Acting and thinking in unison and unanimity is an industrial holdover from capitalist Fordism. That is why when we see the unanimity and the unquestionable and irrevocable dogmatism of the anti-capitalist ideology we can, without fear of being wrong, affirm that we are in the presence of a Fordist socialism. And to be strictly clear, all socialism is born and nurtured from the Fordist mentality and operationality.
However, a question becomes necessary: if most of the countries that transitioned to socialism were not industrial and therefore did not have a systematic practice of Fordism, how is it possible that all these countries have developed an ingrained mentality of unison and one culture of unanimity?
It should be remembered that although acting in unison and unanimously has economic origins in Fordism, there are other historical economic conditions that have produced unanimity as well as acting and thinking in coordination in unison.
The great empires like the Chinese empire but also the militarized societies like Sparta in which all citizens, including boys and girls, were educated and trained in military art not as a specialized profession but as a way of life, also developed this mindset of acting and thinking coordinated and unanimously. Violence and military art were one of the pillars of this way of life through which social unity was achieved.
On the other hand, the lack of sufficient social division of labor, the creation of qualified professionals in different sectors, and the existence of class structures with little social and economic mobility also generates unanimity and coordinated but abstract ways of thinking.
Poverty is in fact generated by this lack of social mobility of the different classes. Generating social and economic mobility is a complex task since there are many reactionary and conservative forces that are deeply rooted in the status quo and not all those who have consolidated their wealth are willing to take new risks.
In many instances when success has become too established, many end up monopolizing their achievements and prohibiting competition. This however is not an essential feature of capitalism as Marx and Lenin both insisted. This is a feature of capitalism inherited from feudalism.
This feudal heritage, however, is more ancient and comes from ancient times and the great empires forgotten throughout history. Human beings have always needed symbolic capital and not just productive capital. Productive capital as a decisive element of human progress is in fact a recent phenomenon in capitalist societies. All previous societies, except for hunter-gatherer communities, have been based on mercantilism driven by symbolic capital.
When this symbolic capital is more and more statically concentrated in a few, society tends to become feudal-imperial and becomes less and less capitalist. An example of this is seen in Dune, Denis Villeneuve’s new film adaptation of the novel by Frank Herbert. The novel describes with economic and social precision why capitalism could fail, and misery perpetuate. This is how the lack of social and economic mobility makes the poor class an equally static and separate world.
Once the social structure loses mobility, poverty and misery become states of life to which we can not only adapt but get used to and even “celebrate.”
To adapt to poverty is to find advantages in poverty that allow us to survive in it without any intention of getting out of it. To get used to poverty is to pretend with candor to be happy in it, with its pain and misery, although such candor never becomes a spiritual and cultural value.
Another thing is when poverty of both spirit and material goods becomes a spiritual and cultural value per se, both actively and passively. When material and spiritual poverty are consolidated in time at the same time as material and spiritual wealth are symbolically consolidated, both unhealthy elements of society, consolidated tolerable poverty and accumulated symbolic wealth, does not necessarily mean that objective conditions are in place. given as Marx wanted to anticipate, for a revolution.
The masses or the progeny can adapt and habituate to systemic conditions of “tolerable” poverty to the point of giving poverty an ontological class status. This means that the masses are naturally conditioned to accept adaptive poverty, which is not to say that they would always accept it. The masses, even under their inherent entropy, have become more intelligent and educated throughout history.
They say, however, that the masses are amorphous and irrational. We see it in Psychology of the multitudes by Gustave Le Bon, in The mediocre man by José Ingenieros, in The rebellion of the masses by José Ortega y Gasset, in The work of art at the time of its technical reproducibility by Walter Benjamin, in The one-dimensional man by Herbert Marcuse and in The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil.
When the masses have not been regarded as amorphous in the sense of being defined as mobs or mobs, then in our most recent history since the 20th century the masses have embodied three forms of “self-consciousness.” One was that of National Socialism during fascism in Europe. The other was communism in all socialist countries since the October Revolution of 1917. And finally, consumerism in all capitalist countries in the West. None of these three forms of “self-consciousness” of the masses has survived today in their original forms.
Certain technologies facilitated the sense of unanimity as did Fordism (the talking car, radio and television). Today the internet and social networks have eroded, or rather, considerably fragmented these three means of human communication.
So much so, that none of the three forms of “self-consciousness” of the masses, namely, fascism, communism and consumerism have managed to retain their principles of unanimity. What sustains human communication today is not unanimity but connectivity and the fact that almost all of us are “connected.”
In Cuba, however, unanimity is still preserved, although in a symbolic way, and I say symbolic because the internet and social networks have already begun to erode that real unanimity that is still offered by conventional mass communication media such as television, radio and newspapers. national.
In Cuba, not only do repudiation rallies still work and there is systematic unanimity in all congresses of the communist party, but above all the culture of poverty in ordinary Cubans, not by choice but by habit and adaptability, is like never present.
The natural idiosyncrasy of today’s Cubans on the island is doing very well with the well-known phrase “the soft intolerance of low expectations.” However, this “bland intolerance of low expectations” could no longer even be compared to the concept of “Zef” which originated as a counterculture movement in South Africa in the 1960s and 1970s as a derogatory term for whites. working class.
In the “Zef” culture there was at least a real pride in poverty and low life in contrast to and against the upper and wealthy class. In Cuba poverty as a culture is not an ideology even though it is forced by the government as an ideology. Poverty in Cuba obeys a natural principle of adaptability and the habit of living chronically in scarcity.
In fact, in Cuba a long time ago the communist ideology stopped being an ideology and stopped being communist. So, one wonders, what beliefs do those revolutionary Cubans hold, who with vulgar and rude pride held repudiation rallies on November 15 at the doors of the houses of other Cubans who had clear intentions to demonstrate peacefully and were prohibited from doing so?
What those Cubans champion in their primitive, narrow and criminal rages is robotic customs and political inertia sustained by a revolution and its leader who long ago ceased to exist even as national symbols.
No Cuban revolutionary or communist who is formally and officially aligned with the government and the communist party of Cuba has more than a servile and feudal alliance with that government. The very definition of vassal makes everything clearer, that is, to put oneself at the service of a feudal lord, who gives protection in exchange for certain services.
In Cuba not even those who are communists and/or support the Cuban revolution have freedom of thought or any innovative thinking in relation to Marxism or socialism. Marxist-Leninist theory remains intact as a bible without the slightest question while Stalin, Mao and perestroika are used as a scapegoat to eternalize socialism beyond the impossible.
The attachment that a large part of the Cuban people has to their revolution that began in 1959 is very similar to the attachment that Henry Ford had. Ideas when they exist as solid ideas is because they survive and are updated in the present task. In Cuba there are no battles of ideas between Cubans and their government in a democratic way. In Cuba there are only battles of ideas between ideas that are rejected as criminal and ideas that are accepted as revolutionary.
There are no anti-government ideas that are not criminal. Amid this criminality of thought opposed to the government, the communist party transmits to Cubans the certainty that what the government does is, has always been and will always be in favor of the interests of Cubans.
If this is the case, why ask the Cuban people for written confirmation through the constitution that Cubans will never abandon socialism? If the government is so sure of its loyalty to the people, why make the socialist form of government irrevocable for eternity?
Newton’s laws of physics have naturally become inescapable and yet the scientific community has never had the need to make Newton’s laws of physics irrevocable.
Instead of communist ideas, what exists in Cuba is reactionary and despotic populism. In Cuba the word communist is a mere wild card to refer to wanting more of the same even if it is the misery of every day.
Communists in principle are supposed to be an ideological vanguard with naturally won hegemony in society. Today in Cuba there is the crude political power of an elite that knows how to manage and consolidate the populism that began in 1959.
Let’s say them very clearly. On November 15, 2021, it demonstrated that socialism and the ideology of the Communist Party of Cuba are canonical entities of Cuban culture, its idiosyncrasy and its DNA and therefore should not function as political entities but as monarchical entities of a feudal socialism. archaic and reactionary.
Meanwhile, and beyond the Communist Party of Cuba, Cubans since 2007, when 3G arrived on the island, have begun to create a world or many worlds that have their own lives and that sooner or later will go out of total control. of the government no matter how much military and economic power they have.
Cubans, undoubtedly, will have to move from the form of “self-consciousness” that has been socialism to a form of “self-consciousness” that will be consumerism instead of the old consumerism. Consumerism obeys rules and principles based on responsible consumers and with purchasing intelligence.
Today’s market world is a fragmented, atomized, self-indulgent, narcissistic, and self-referential world yet lavishly connected. Despite all that and even because of all that, it is a more free, interesting and promising world than the world that the communists have been offering Cubans. That will be a world in transition for Cubans, a difficult world but at the same time encouraging and inevitable.
It will be a world between the world of Karl Ove Knausgaard in his novel, My Struggle, and the atomized world of Michel Houellebecq in his novel, The Elementary Particles.
The road will be arduous, long, and above all tortuous, but it is and will be the most promising path for the freedom of many Cubans.