The left is stuck in the past and cannot free itself from its failures and the wrong thinking that led up to them. You can’t hold up Cuba as a successful model for the future, nor can the thinking of Guevara, despite the charm and romanticism of his personality, lead anywhere close to a resolution of what is needed.
Frankly, no one knows how to create a socialist society that can really work. It is a tricky question and diehards steeped in Marx quotes don’t realize they don’t know what socialism is. But the fantasy that by repeating the term ‘socialism’ or ‘communism’ one has a handle on the issue persists. The left needs to forget bolshevism, forget Lenin, forget Cuba and Guevara and ask what kind of legal, economic, and cultural systems can create a robust socialist outcome. It is not so simple. Keep in mind that not a single success has ever happened with the older left with their marxist/leninist perspective.
The left, to be sure got unlucky and was doomed to a first trial with the Russian case, a misfortune all around. I think Americans, with half a chance, could manage to do better: they have seen democracy, seen its necessity, and yet its bourgeois character, they have seen advanced capitalism, from twinkies to hoola hoops and steel factories they have seen it, and don’t drool in private like the old bolsheviks> It is a toss up who are the bigger idiots, russkies or yankees. I am a patriot I think the americans have a better chance of creating socialism, a very slight edge. The russians had to deal with Tsarism and couldn’t shake its DNA. But a similar fall back for americans would be…democracy, of some such, a funny yet crucial difference. Our idea of ‘democratic market neo-communism’ is an attempt at erector set socialism. You can put this together under a Christmas tree. But it does have a higher level of complexity; you have to deal with all the pieces, which add up: the issue of democracy AND of authority, the issue of economies: markets AND planning, the issue property: expropriation AND economic democracy. This is a four-body problem, just to start. Physicists were defeated by a three-body problem. There are no routine answers: you need to start with something you know works and apply changes in succession until you arrive at a result. I see that Guevara rejcted market socialism. Why? To be sure the idea had many confused fans who discredited it. But the issue won’t go away. If necessary create markets inside socialism. Good idea or bad? It needs to be an option. Central planning and state capitalism aren’t going to work. But there are dozens of far better, simpler, and viable ways to do it.
Markets are not capitalism. Markets have existed since the Neolithic, or maybe even before. If you outlaw markets you must put people in gulags because they have flea markets over the weekend. The issue of market socialism, and at the rate computational planning is developing it may be superfluous, is not the same as the issue of capitalist ideology.
Cuba to a close look could have shot ahead with our idea of the DMNC.
In that model the issues cease to be so controversial but the ‘capital’ factor is in a Commons. With that the question of markets doens much matter one way or the other. The Cubans have agonized for two generations, should we allow markets back in, etc, etc, blah blah. In our approach you can allow markets, but with socialized property in a Commons.
But beyond all that the point that is leftists are stuck because they have never changed, never learned, and repeat nineteenth-century slogans. Marx is overbearing that he has created a cult of personality and, finally, a kind of cult. Since Marx refused to get specific, the result is always the same trainwreck.
In any case, the left must at least renounce its failures, and that includes Cuba and Che Gurevara.
Start over from scratch, what is socialism, without a Marx quote?