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Chapter 1

This paper will analyze the achievements and failures of socialist political and economic development in the Third World. I will use the cases of Cuba and Mozambique for the purpose of assessing this particular model of development in the periphery. My hypothesis is that the socialist system as applied was not riven with inherent flaws and thus an inappropriate model, but that external factors are to be considered far more accountable for the current unfavorable economic and political conditions in these two countries. The key external factors that appear to have subverted the socialist development plans of Cuba and Mozambique are; difficulties presented by colonial and neo-colonial neglect; the pressures applied by the capitalist world economy; and, most importantly, the interference of a regional superpower using various methods to undermine development.

This introductory chapter will serve to define what is meant by "socialist development in the periphery" as it is a vague concept whose roots and aims are not self-evident, even to one schooled in traditional Marxist theory. I will include the definitions and insights of respected scholars in this field, as well as to show why it was seen as appropriate by the major actors of the socialist development project in Cuba and Mozambique; Fidel Castro, Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, Eduardo Mondlane, and Samora Machel. This will allow me to analyze the specifics and patterns in these two very similar, but also often differing, development paths. Also included is a discussion on the concepts of human rights, as they differ in the socialist and the bourgeois individualist sense. This explanation is crucial to legitimate the viability and desirability of the socialist system of development in the Third World, where vast disparities of income exist and the satisfaction of basic human needs is not always guaranteed.

The second chapter focuses on the case of Cuba. Here the history of struggle against the colonial and neo-colonial whims of Spain and the United States will be noted in order to understand the foundations upon which the socialist and nationalist project of Fidel Castro's M-26-7 movement built its development plan. Social indicators reflecting the improvement in the standard of living of the majority of Cubans will be analyzed, and attention will also be paid how internal and external factors led to the abrogation of much of what the Revolution stood for.

The third chapter will look at the socialist development process in Mozambique. The level of development, and the neglect of the Portuguese in building an infrastructure will be key to the analysis of the conditions under which the socialist development project of FRELIMO had to take place. Important also are the roles of South Africa and Rhodesia whose instigation of civil war in Mozambique by the creation of RENAMO did much to damage further the already impoverished country and undermine its social and economic structures.

I will conclude in chapter four that sufficient evidence exists to allow us to commend, rather than vilify, the socialist development project in the periphery by presenting important data distilled from these two case studies. This will shed light on why socialism was chosen in these two cases, what it has done to uplift these countries, and what potential it may have had. I will also support my assertion that the development path taken by Cuba and Mozambique fared less than optimally mainly due to the role of external actors, rather than severe flaws inherent in the model of socialist development in the Third World.

Socialist Development Explained
It is fair to say that Karl Marx would be shocked if he were alive to witness the phenomenon described as "socialist development in the Third World" during the second half of the twentieth century. Indeed, the very ideas of Marx that are constantly invoked by Third World revolutionaries look to be absolutely incompatible with the economic conditions and social structures that exist in those nations. Marx felt that the transition to socialism and onward to communism would take place as the logical successor to a failed class-based capitalist system in the already industrialized and proletarianized North. Instead, the communist project took root most dramatically in the agrarian based czarship of Russia at the turn of the century, then later in undeveloped China at mid-century. Therefore, "in consequence, rather than being an historical successor to capitalism, socialism ha[d] become an historical substitute."1

So, what to we are referring when we speak of socialist states in the underdeveloped Third World? What exactly were they trying to achieve, and how does this differ from capitalist development? Gordon White and others in his compendium acknowledge that this phenomenon is very vague and hard to pin down, especially as it has become the "bastard offspring" of the socialism envisaged by 19th and 20th century political theorists. Here I feel it is appropriate to quote White himself at length to show what type of Third World states were considered socialist-oriented:

First, they have broken - in most cases decisively - the autonomous power of private capital over politics, production and distribution, abrogated the dominance of the law of value in its capitalist form, and embarked upon a development path which does not rely on the dynamic of private ownership and entrepreneurship. Second, they have brought about (or are bringing about) certain fundamental transformations - in the economic, political and social realms - which reflect the long-standing aspirations of revolutionary socialist movements everywhere, and the basic principles of the founding fathers of "scientific socialism": most notably, the nationalisation of industry, socialisation of agriculture, abolition or limitation of markets, and the establishment of a comprehensive planning structure and a politico-ideological system bent on the transition to an ultimate communist society.2

Dean Forbes and Nigel Thrift take this definition a bit further. They stress that White's demarcation shows more the theoretical underpinnings of the project that developing countries are attempting. Within White's definition, they fear, non-socialist developing states may be included who, as part of their industrialization processes, have needed to maintain a high degree of state ownership of industry and/or have extensively centralized planning. They note that many of these countries are far from committed to socialism and may actually be reactionary. Socialism is defined instead by a set of indicators, Forbes and Thrift suggest, including; one party rule, socialist goals in the constitution, a high and increasing degree of state ownership of industry and agriculture, the beginnings of a centralized command economy, and a certain direction of associations with other [known socialist] states.3

A step further towards specific identification of nation-states that can be labelled as socialist is facilitated by using the "Wiles Classification," which is an indicator of socialist status by inclusion in one of four groups. The data in the following chart show the micro-spectrum state of Third World socialism in 1985. The Wiles Classification system breaks down socialist nations as defined by White et al. and Forbes and Thrift into four divisions:

Group I countries are full member States of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA) or Comecon. Group II countries are all well-established communist or socialist States, but outside the CMEA and strong Soviet influence. Group III is composed of countries with self-proclaimed hard-line socialist governments, generally closely aligned with the USSR or its allies. Finally Group IV contains the marginal cases, many of which are one-party socialist States. This category includes countries which are unstable and liable to significant shifts in ideology.4

Group I Full Member of CMEA Group II Non-CMEA Group III Marxist-Leninist Group IV Selected Marginal Cases
North Korea
Afghanistan, Angola, Ethiopia, Kampuchea, Laos, Mozambique, PDR of Yemen Algeria, Benin, Congo, Libya, Nicaragua, Syria, Tanzania, Zimbabwe

Although the Wiles indicator is no longer of use to us in the post-Soviet era, it remains an important definition of who was a socialist country in the Third World in the mid-eighties. This time period is particularly important to the present paper because it is the time at which the fate of Cuban and Mozambican socialism encountered a crossroads between adaptation or abandonment of their chosen development model. It is also at this period that fundamental aspects of socialism had to be scuttled in both of these countries, leading the ultimate failure of socialism in both Cuba and Mozambique.

The Desirability of Socialist Development in the Third World as a Continuation of the Liberation Struggle
Throughout the global South, the groups that implemented and were characterized by socialist policies were generally also the national liberation groups who, after overthrowing their colonial oppressor, had to adapt their liberation rhetoric to the reality of the development project in the post-independence period. In the periphery, this liberation discourse usually meant the subversion of a hated colonial order which could only be exorcised, regardless of political orientation, through land reform and social programs to offset years of colonial neglect, such as literacy campaigns and aggressive measures to increase health care availability, and industrialization to accumulate wealth in the global market so as to fund these reforms. Hence, despite the aims by development scholars to define the phenomenon, it is sometimes difficult to see where "socialist development" and the development policies of non-aligned nations intending only to increase the standard of living of the population diverge.5 This serves to show us how intertwined the aims of liberation movements and the policies of their resultant national administrations are. In this sense, following the socialist development path has become a way to articulate the aspirations of the newly independent. While the socialist development project seems appropriate for the Third World as a whole, this process of liberation followed by administration is molded further by unique quirks in formula and conceptualizations by the major actors within the individual development projects in Latin America and Africa. In the end, the liberation-socialist framework is adopted and then tweaked to national goals as needed, making it a system desired by and adapted to the Third World reality.

Cuba and Mozambique have certainly had their share of socialist thinkers who earned positions of leadership and forged their ideas in the fire of the liberation struggle. Furthermore, who could doubt that Fidel Castro and Ernesto 'Che' Guevara have been as inspirational as anyone in the role of catalyzing revolution elsewhere in the Third World? Also influential, particularly in southern Africa, were Eduardo Mondlane and Samora Machel of Mozambique. These men were all, unquestionably, hard-line socialists in their respective apices of influence and fame, but they were not always so, nor was the communist project their first love.

In order to understand these individuals and their respective political projects, it is of fundamental importance to realize that their goals were ever-changing, particularly in regard to the task at hand. For all of them the main focus was on liberation first, then administration with its ensuing policies:

Mozambique follow[ed] what Fred Halliday calls the "Cuban path" to revolutionary power, viz. the transition from a radical nationalist movement bent on expelling the occupying power to a revolutionary socialist régime bent on internal class transformation.6

With the exception of Che, who embraced internationalism more warmly, all of these actors were above all avowed nationalists. Castro was a restless and proud Cuban who looked to set things right in his nation by overthrowing the government headed by Fulgencio Batista, widely perceived on the island to be an American pawn. Fidel's national and social goals can be seen as early as six years before the eventual triumph of his revolution in his defense after a failed attack on the Moncada army barracks. At his trial in 1953, he promulgated the "Revolutionary Laws" of his movement, which, if the rebellion were successful at Moncada and triumphant in sparking a national revolution under his control, he would focus on realizing.7 These laws would, in essence, grant Cuba to all Cubans, as opposed to lying prostrate to the wishes of a rich American controlling class. He was also quite fond of quoting José Martí, the irrefutable patriot and national hero of all Cubans, regardless of ideological alignment. Thus his aims were liberationist, yet needed socialist development to achieve them.

As were the aspirations of Mozambique's Eduardo Mondlane: "Liberation is to us not simply a matter of expelling the Portuguese, its means reorganizing the life of the country and setting it on the road to sound national development...The point of the war is to build a new Mozambique, not just destroy the colonial regime."8 Herbert Shore recollects the facets of Mondlane's yearnings for liberation and his commitment to socialism:

There is no doubt he was a socialist, but he resisted borrowing or applying full-blown systems from other places, other times and other conditions...Revolutionary theory had constantly to be re-examined and re-thought to meet the conditions of Mozambique...If he was stubborn and adamant about anything, it was that this would be a movement of the Mozambican people, shaped by Mozambicans and led by Mozambicans.9

Samora Machel, in a leadership position within FRELIMO, The Front for the Liberation of Mozambique, once replied during an interview shortly before his death in 1986 when asked when he first espoused Marxism: "during the liberation struggle, somebody gave me a copy of a book by Marx. As I read it, I realized that I was "reading" Marx for the second time."10 He later remarked that during the course of his liberation insurgency:

We learned so much, we made mistakes and saw how to correct them. In doing so, we evolved a theory out of practice; and we found that this theory of ours, evolving out of our practice, had already acquired a theorization under different circumstances, elsewhere, in different times and places. This theory and theorization is Marxism-Leninism.11

Thus we see an interesting aspect of that which separates Third World socialism from that of its Northern brethren, the mobilization through nationalism as a cohesive element, and therefrom, the adoption of socialist policies to rectify colonial wrongs and to aid in the disposal of the chains of global oppression. The two often occur together, and because they do, socialism's pertinence as a model for the Third World must be recognized.

The key aspect, Gordon White has pointed out, is that in order "to understand the basic features and dynamics of Third World socialism, it is crucial to view it as a radical response to both international subordination and dependence on the one hand, and internal backwardness and social oppression on the other."12

The Conception of Human Rights in the Socialist World View
The acceptance of socialism as a plan for the Third World is also contingent upon a different conception of human rights than the one espoused by the West. Peter Schwab, in his very recent book chronicling the United States embargo of Cuba, and as a result of trying to temper American opinion to the irrationality, illegality, and cruelty of the United States' policies regarding Cuba and third party economic partners, notes perhaps the quintessential differentiation of the conceptions that Western and Southern nation-states have of human rights. This disagreement has been the fundamental filter through which most debates between the merits of socialism and the benefits of the market separate, and as such, conceptions of human rights legitimate or become the criteria for rejection of the communist or capitalist system for many observers.

Schwab points out that the standard used by the United Nations, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is essentially a Western creation seen by many to impose Western values on the rest of the world and, in so doing, disacknowledges cultural deviations in the periphery. It is also perceived to value the political/civil rights of the individual above the economic/social rights of the community even though the latter have an equal place within the document.13 The socialist path taken by the Third World reorganizes these priorities, and realizes that in attempting to establish a legitimate state from where the rule of law, provision of health, social and education opportunities and guarantees stem and take root, the centralized actions of the state must take priority over the hegemony of capital and its vagrant, unaccountable, self-interest. Schwab goes on to note why this decision was taken in the Cuban case:

The Cuban revolution rejected the political/civil rights philosophy so lauded in the West. A commitment to economic/social rights became the hallmark of the new government. The Western concept of human rights had historically implicated Cuba in poverty, oppression, intolerance, and class bias, and it had caused its economy to be dependent upon and controlled by the United States...In rejecting capitalism as the foundation for Cuba's economy Fidel Castro denied the validity of the Western concept of human rights, since the one was directly tied to the other.14

Therefore, a major rift exists between what should or should not be considered a human right and from this, which rights should be honored at the expense of others when they conflict or must be prioritized. It is the reconceptualization and understanding that socialist systems have of human rights, valuing social ones such as the right to food and shelter (Article 25) above those such as the freedom to disseminate information (Article 19) and the freedom to own property (Article 17) that must be understood in order to see the validity of the socialist system through a lens that does not damn or employ a double standard when viewed from a narrow Western view.15

Fundamentally, the socialist viewpoint reflects what Cuban vice president Carlos Lage recently proclaimed at the 55th session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission in March of 1999 held in Geneva: "Human rights mean social justice, real equality, and a fair distribution of wealth." Furthermore, he added that they are defended by a society which shares "unconditionally what [it] has and is needed." Lage had earlier stated at this session that "Many representatives present here will find it difficult to stand in favor of a text that condemns Cuba, for they are not foreign to all that has been done in Cuba in favor of the human rights of its people."16

It is on this note that this chapter concludes. I have tried to chronicle here the aims and characteristics of the socialist development path which include the aims of socialism of gaining autonomy in the world system and setting right the internal problems left by colonialism. Both of these, in turn, are integrally linked to, and grow from, the national liberation projects of many Third World leaders, particularly in Cuba and Mozambique. I have also provided a crucial redefinition/reconceptualization of human rights and how they differ between the West and the Third and socialist worlds, so as to further strengthen the argument for the validity of a socialist development path in the global South. Now that an overview of the socialist development project has been sketched, let us see how this model was implemented in Cuba and Mozambique, in order to analyze where it failed and why.

Chapter 1: Notes

1. Gordon White, Robin Murray, & Christina White eds. Revolutionary Socialist Development (1983), 3.
2. White et al., 1.
3. Dean Forbes & Nigel Thrift, The Socialist Third World (1987), 3.
4. Forbes & Thrift, 3.
5. Helen Desfosses & Jacques Levesque eds., Socialism in the Third World (1975), v-viii.
6. White et al., 4-5.
7. See "History Will Absolve Me," by Fidel Castro (1953) as translated by Andrew Paul Booth (1997).
8. Eduardo Mondlane as interviewed by Herbert Shore, The Struggle for Mozambique (1983), xxix.
9. Shore, in Mondlane, xxix-xxx.
10. Iain Christie, Samora Machel: A Biography (1989), 123.
11. Christie, 121.
12. White et al., 4.
13. Peter Schwab, Cuba: Confronting the US Embargo (1999), 2-7.
14. Schwab, 58-59.
15. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
16. Carlos Lage, in Granma International, 28 March 1999, 12-13.

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» Carlos Lage
(1952- )
Secretary of the Executive Committee of the Council of Ministers. Also a member of the Cuban Communist Party politburo, vice president of the Council of State.