How to visit a socialist country by Richard Levins

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How to visit a socialist country by Richard Levins

Richard Levins writes about How to Visit a Socialist Country. The example he gives is of Cuba.


Levins wrote:
Sympathizers with the Cuban process, as well as anticommunist leftists, sometimes carry a clipboard and grade sheet so that they can grade Cuba for health care, sexism, racism, pollution, homophobia, elections, number of political parties, a free press, strikes, or whatever else is on their minds. In the end, depending on the grade point average Cuba accumulates, they can decide if Cuba "is"or "is not" socialist (or whether socialism is or is not a good thing). Then they write praise or denunciations when they get home.

In the course of addressing the errors of the "grade sheet approach" Levins notes the following:

  Socialism is not a thing but a process, the process by which the working classes of the city and countryside and their allies seize the reins of society to satisfy their shared needs. Through a telescope, we get a glimpse of the world-historic significance of the first efforts to replace not only capitalism but also all class society by a more generous, just, and sustainable way of life. That is, we are trying to overcome a ten-thousand-year detour during which our species adopted agriculture, deforested much of the planet, grew in numbers, and extended our life span and knowledge and destructive capacity, divided into classes so that we were no longer a "we," and expanded our productive capacity to the point where we can dispense with classes and become a "we" again.

The author evaluates:

The "Logic" of Socialist Development



in a society that isolates people from each other, the remedy for despair is shopping. People who have experienced poverty sometimes find safety in accumulating things. And the capitalist imperative to expand leads to gigantic sales efforts to promote those feelings while inventing new ways for people to get into debt. All of these dimensions feed into consumerism.

But for socialism, a rising standard of living is not unlimited consumption of energy and matter. Rather, it centers on a rising quality of life. Therefore, we see a large fraction of the national product in Cuba going into social consumption, health, education, culture, sports, and the environment, even though, in the short run, this may slow down growth and prolong frustrating shortages.

The Gap (between proclaimed ideals and practice)

This is one of the inevitable contradictions revolutionaries face. Building socialism is far more complicated and sometimes painful than we imagined, and often a frustrating as well as an inspiring process. The art of it all is to recognize the defects of socialism as both inevitable and unacceptable, to analyze their sources, and to discover ways to struggle against them as part of the revolutionary process, rather than as the justification for abandoning that struggle.


There is plenty of detailed review  of Cuban political and social life here. And there is also this:

Liberal critics of Cuba, on the grounds of human rights, are very selective as to which articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights they refer. They usually acknowledge, but pass quickly over, such things as the rights to have elementary needs met, including food, water, education, health care, gender equality, mass access to culture, sports, and security in old age, but downgrade these as unimportant compared to political rights. And their criticism of lack of political rights takes our own formal rights as the only legitimate measure of democracy.

and this:

If we do not see workers picketing the National Assembly, it is for the same reason that we do not see bankers or CEO's picketing Congress or sitting in at the White House: it is theirs already, and even if they are dissatisfied with particular decisions, they know they share a common interest.

Revolutionary Criticism


As the author says, Bon voyage!





Long but good article. Thank you N.beltov