Cuba: The Possible, Impossible, Desirable & Undesirable

Erasmo Calzadilla

HAVANA TIMES — The Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (based in Miami) recently ended its annual event. The first subject they dealt with this year was the shortage of foreign exchange and energy in our country due to the collapse of the Venezuelan economy.

The idea that was deduced from this and past meetings can be summarized in the following recommendation: Cuba should make haste and establish open economic policies so that it can insert itself into the global market economy.

The different paths of Cuba. Illustration by Carlos

Is this the only option?

Of course it isn’t. The crisis we’re experiencing has opened up a range of different possibilities, some worn out to death, others completely new.

I’ve spent my whole life hearing about Capitalism’s imminent and definitive collapse. I’m suspicious of alarmists but I have the feeling that this time they might be right. After having grown so much, the hyper-productive machine is hitting a brick wall with the biophysicial limits of our planet and it’s started to drown in its own shit. Because of this small problem, development has come to a halt and the system will have metamorphosize or die.

Senile Capitalism is the backdrop against which we must situate Cuba’s possible destinies. Elites on both sides of the Florida Strait have managed to spread the cheerful hope that we will become a “normal” prosperous country. Supposing that this was what we wanted, we’re already out of time because the global economy isn’t picking up and it’s about to face very difficult times.

Let’s ignore this mental masturbation and consider Cuba’s future more seriously. What are our real options?

I’m going to divide them into “Known Evils” and “Good Ideas yet to know”

Among the known evils, there are two picturesque ones that stand out, which are the following:

  • Returning to what we once were socially and politically speaking before the 20th century: A colony with all of the evil ways that this implied.
  • Communism’s extremist gridlock. Clear signs were given at the last PCC Congress that the upper echelons were considering this fate. Or were they just acting?

These Known Evils are unwanted attractors to the ones we want to return to in the worst case scenario: if we put all of our eggs in the same rotten basket; if we direct our resources to fanciful development projects which only put us in more debt and ruin us financially; if our politicians’ stubbornness and narrow-mindedness results in social chaos…

Now let’s take a look at the “Good Ideas yet to know”

Seeing where this suspended development route is taking us and considering how terrible it would be to return to a Communist or colonial past, we don’t have any other choice but to think, debate, discuss and create in the face of the big question:

“How do we want to pass the storm?”

Crouching down under a rock; in the shadow of our Godfather to the north; or making the most of this chaos to try and organize a sound human society?

I’m ambitious, I want this latter option. Focussing all of our efforts on achieving this would bring out the best in the Cuban people.

Castro and his followers have been swindling all of Cuba’s riches and have kidnapped the country. However, they’ve also proven that the miracle of keeping this boat afloat is possible (and even, achieving amazing social feats) without giving in to the pressures of Capital too much. I think it’s a good starting point to try and do something truly different, while the Titanic sinks.

13 thoughts on “Cuba: The Possible, Impossible, Desirable & Undesirable

  • If you are writing an essay about the coming collapse of capitalism and the deceleration of the global economic system, then yes, you really do have to prove these things are happening. To declare them as facts which do not require evidence is the act of a totalitarian mind raised in an authoritarian intellectual culture.

    Break free.

    Rational thinking requires evidence, arguments and reason. There should be no room for another orthodoxy to replace the old one you have outgrown.

  • Yes Erasmo, climate change & environmentalism are common topics covered in US & Canadian high school socialist science classes.

    Have you paused to reflect on why you chose to believe in a coming apocalyptic crisis? People have believed the end is near for several centuries, but it never seems to come. I am not asking about opinions, papers or studies you have read on specific topics, but about your fundamental belief system, your character and your psychological make-up which predisposes you toward belief in impending doom and which blinds you to any alternative interpretation or forecast for the future.

    Food for thought.

  • What Erasmo doesn’t understand is that capitalism” is not a fixed ideology, a system like Marxism to be imposed on a state in a rigid program. Capitalism is a way of living based on free markets and free people. Although from time to time, capitalist countries have run into various problems, these countries have managed to sort it out, adapt to new circumstances and move on. It is undeniable that capitalism and democracy have resulted in the largest creation of wealth in human history, lifting the standard of living for billions of humans around the world.

    China’s current economic problems are due to the rulers of that country insisting on maintaining a high level of state ownership and control of the economy, along with a single-party communist political system and all the corrupt that entails. China has adopted some elements of capitalism, but not the free markets and free people. Sadly, the Chinese model is the one Raul Castro has chosen for Cuba: state-run corporations but no political or economic freedom for the Cuban people.

  • Cuba lacks the three basic ingredients to growth. A vibrant workforce, access to capital, an expanding market. Until these three return to a measurable degree, Cuba, at BEST, will continue to just survive. The global economy is facing different challenges. Some players will indeed improve and even accelerate while others will continue to decline. Overall, worldwide growth will continue, albeit sluggishly. There is a REAL analysis to support this theory. This is no the place to present it.

  • It would be interesting if Erasmo included the figures for Cuba’s contribution to world trade.

  • I am not trying to prove that capitalism’s collapse is coming.
    I take the deceleration of the global economic system as a fact, and I follow those that think it will not recover but will get worse. And, of course, I know it is impossible to prove such a difficult matter even with the help of the full library.

    But it is a solid theory and is my starting point. The challenge is to think the Cuban’s destiny in the middle of declining world (in the economic, energetic, environmental and other areas).

    Most of Cuban economic and social thinkers believe the global economy will improve and will accelerate again. And they think it by inertia, without a real analysis that supports their ideas. Do you?

  • Read my comment again. I’m not trying to prove anything. That was his job. I’m critical of Erasmo’s lack of proof. His biases are obvious and therefore not necessary to “prove”. His conclusions, born of his biases and not of fact, are therefore unsubstantiated.

  • Erasmo is well within his right to think. As I am within my right to criticize that thinking or the lack thereof.

  • Of course Erasmo, if Cuban high schools had air-conditioning in the classrooms and high speed computers connected to the internet, you would have heard of it too. Your attempt to cover serious topics in so few words left me wanting. ….for the facts! If you are going to write about the the decline of western civilization, for grown-ups, think about a 3-part series.

  • By the way, have you heard of a high school paper about energy declination, ecology destruction, climate change…? ¡Don’t believe it, they are trying to fool you!

  • On the other hand, Moses, perhaps you should permit other people to think. The freedom to think, even out of the box or even politically incorrect, is still a precious commodity, I think.

  • Moses,

    Since 2009 we’ve been at 0 or even negative interest rates on government securities. Since we’re now approaching the end of 2016, that’s an interesting lingering effect of the recession, and it began before China’s economy slowed and before Brexit. Capitalism is not collapsing but what does capitalism do next? Erasmo’s invocation of biophysical limits is not taken lightly in the bond markets as absent a war, they know they’re the bull’s eye for capital destruction if massive new investment outlets are not found pretty soon. Already there is a lot of concern over what to tell the retired and the beneficiaries of endowments. If you’re trying to prove this writer’s perspective is limited by bias, I think you’ve picked the wrong example to make your case.

  • Erasmo’s post is written like a high school term paper. His political biases are clear and his facts are few. Capitalism is far from collapsing. The lingering effects of the previous worldwide recession offer no proof of his doomsday claims. Armchair economists, particularly one from Cuba, should take care in taking on such heady tasks as the end of civilization as we know it.

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