Marxism-Leninism and the New Tax Culture in Cuba

Yenisel Rodriguez Perez 

HAVANA TIMES — Today, as the outmoded bureaucracy opens the way to the most conventional forms of neo-liberalism, we’re seeing how the tiresome highly ideological speeches that date back decades are being tossed in the garbage.

The government is reappearing with longings for pragmatism, with political questions becoming concise and sensationalist: work, consume and pay taxes.

But even like this, the transition is bleeding to death from its own incongruities. The sharks forgot to hide their dorsal fins when masquerading as Mickey Mouse.

They insist on appealing to communist harangues, in the most orthodox style of the Marxism-Leninism, attempting to theoretically justify approved neoliberal policies.

Everything is like part of the same cake, with the tax culture as a virtue of the “Socialism of the 21st century.”

They use arguments that are easily refuted by the most mindless of the opposition, but resonate as great truths in the national media.

Only those who know the atmosphere of political oppression that reigns in the country will be able to understand how the Cuban government is able to sustain such arguments – affirming, for example, that the government’s willingness to provide social protection explains the socialist “essence” of the system. “The State will protect the worker,” they say.

Protect them from what? This is a question that would expose them at once.

Are they being protected from domestic neo-liberalism!

But this is a question that they assure doesn’t belong in their bogus television debates. In the solemn look of their journalists is discovered the fear of King Midas.

Now they say that the socialist politics in the country were strengthened in 2012. Nevertheless, the first non-state production and service cooperatives will have to wait for some time this year, 2013. If cooperative labor is the basis of any form of socialism, then what made us more socialist in 2012?

Perhaps in this same light, Marxism-Leninism is being reconsidered as a socialist contribution to the theory and practice of golf?

Who doubts that in this year the most renowned homegrown golfers will be able to collectivize (among family and friends) the clubs whose strokes will sink Cuban society into the deepest of holes?

Yenisel Rodriguez

Yenisel Rodriguez Perez: I have lived in Cuba my entire life, except for several months in 2013 when I was in Miami with my father. Despite the 90 miles that separate Havana and Miami, I find profound reasons in both for political and community activism. My encounter with socio-cultural anthropology eight years ago prepared me for a commitment of love for cultural diversity.

16 thoughts on “Marxism-Leninism and the New Tax Culture in Cuba

  • Hi Luis, you apparently are better read than I am. I don’t know who Negri is, or who Deleuze is, and frankly I don’t care at this point in my political development.

    I’m a working-class thinker who is gut sick of monopoly capitalism, and gut sick of the victims and vectors of anti-socialist Marxism.

    Yes, comrade, let’s talk latter–e-mail me through Circles–but please do not give me a Marxian reading list. I know what authentic socialist is–direct ownership of the instruments of production, through cooperative and independent enterprise.

  • Yes, much of what you say is true, or semi-true; but as long as post-capitalist state power is maintained, there is the chance that the Marxian personality cult can be discarded and Cuba might become a socialist cooperative republic.

    If this should occur, the socialist Left in the various countries might wake up, come out of the state monopoly ideological cocoon, and world monopoly capitalist would then be discarded in short order.

    The major problem is that Marxism is the best friend capitalism could ever have, and Grady is a little mouse in the corner trying to squeak out the truth to a bunch of well-meaning cult victims.

  • It’s so nice to hear from you. Our transformationary movement will always be grateful to you for making us realize that Marxian socialism is a “state monopoly ownership” form. Once this accurate characterization had been achieved, an important advance in socialist theory had taken place.

    If you should accomplish nothing more in life than this perhaps unintended contribution to the struggle for a just and sustainable world, I believe history will honor and remember your name.

    It is interesting that you believe that I am only now “seeing the light.” This is a mis-perception on your part. I saw the light a long time ago, and have been trying to regroup the socialist Left–including through the pages of HT–around a corrected understanding of what constitutes workable, authentic socialism.

    It is the worldwide socialist movement–as well as many patriotic, good-hearted people like you–who need to wake up and realize that only a world network of socialist cooperative republics, based on retention and utilization of private property rights and a conditioned, price-fluctuating trading market, can democratize and save our fast-vanishing human civilization.

    My very best to you.

  • Hi Grady,

    For the so-called ‘anti-humanists’, like Deleuze, any discussion of a ‘human nature’ is, and has always been, an instrument of ideological domination.

    “If we were not communal and cooperative, we could not have survived as a species and peopled every corner of the globe.”

    Ha, that’s a key word, ‘common’. I think you’ll like Negri (it’s a tip!)

    We’ll talk latter, bye!

  • Dear Grady you are starting to see the light!
    Best to you in this new year.

  • Yes, you disagree, but it is true nevertheless that human beings are naturally communal and cooperative. This is the human nature that is intrinsic and cannot be changed.

    It is when exploitative forms of society put human beings into unnatural conditions that we become unhappy, lonely and sociopathic. Ask any cultural anthropologist.

    If we were not communal and cooperative, we could not have survived as a species and peopled every corner of the globe. To argue the contrary is silly and ignorant. That’s all I have to say on the subject.

  • I disagree that people are naturally co-operative. I have children and can by observation can attest that by instinct people are self-interested. You have to teach co-operation and sharing. It’s not easy.

    In an economic system, the trick is to encourage the creativity, productivity and motivation that comes from self-interest, while limiting the socially destructive excesses of selfishness. Find the balance. I believe the principle of free enterprise does this, even if the ideal is not achievable.

    Totalitarian socialist systems attempt to limit the selfish excesses by brute force. The result is that human selfishness is rechanneled into ruthlessness, corruption and oportunism.

    The quest for the ideal leads to the worst suffering. Hell is found on the road to paradise.

  • True, independent co-operatives would make a positive contribution to Cuba’s economy and move the nation toward real democracy.

    The cautionary note from this report is that the co-op is struggling with powerful forces. The State controls the distribution of products and supply of raw materials, and an underground mafia often headed by corrupt officials, controls the alternative black-market. It’s hard to see how a legitimate business can flourish in such an environment.

    The central inefficiency of the bureaucratic government controlled economy drives people to find alternative channels for business: a black-market. When prices are determined by fiat, not the market, then the alternative market will find an angle to make a profit on that contradiction between the official price and the real costs. Hoarding, diversion, manipulation, theft and corruption are inevitable.

    The corruption becomes institutionalized when bureaucrats realize it’s not in their personal best interest to stop the corruption. Instead they maintain absurd regulations and pricing fiats because it creates demand and profitability in the black market, the channels for which they control. The vicious cycle is compete.

  • Thanks for you comments. Just let me end by saying that “workable socialism” is only a contradiction in your pro-monopoly capitalism mind. Workable socialism is the only hope for humankind, and time is very short.

  • Thanks for the quote, Griffin. I personally am rooting for the new cooperatives. My fear however is that they may turn out to be like the old Yugoslav worker coops. Those were not based on direct, private property worker ownership, and therefore were not “real” worker cooperatives.

    If the state holds primary ownership of a cooperative enterprise, it is not truly a cooperative enterprise.

  • Well, “basic human nature” is communal and cooperative; but this does not rule out the positive attributes of properly conditioned socialist market competition.

    The problem Cuba faces is not in overcoming basic human nature. It is in tweaking the post-capitalist system in such a way that broad, democratic private property ownership is achieved, and productive incentives are resuscitated. This would make socialism jibe with cooperative human nature, not go against it.

    State monopoly socialism goes against the communal and cooperative nature of human beings because it is an unnatural system. Being unnatural, it needs all sorts of artificial, retrograde props to keep the economic ball in the air, so to speak.

    I like your quote that “it is easier to change leadership than it is for leadership to change.” Let’s hope that the PCC can jettison the unscientific Marxian personality cult and state monopoly religion before Cuba again loses its precious independence.

  • Well Grady, I agree with your first paragraph, 100%.

    The 2nd, mostly, but that a real corporation would still be repsonsible to their shareholders to turn a profit. The Castro corporation doesn’t seemed interested int that, only in staying in power no matter how impoverished the country becomes.

    3rd paragraph, I agree again. but I would go further and suggest the scheme involves using the co-ops and self-emplyed to generate hard currency which the state monopoly sucks in by controlling all sources supplies and all import/export channels. The self-employed are there to sweep the crumbs that fall to the floor, but for their pains they are expected to pay a share back to the monopoly.

    4th paragraph, yes taxes…but don’t forget, the regime has always been taxing the workers. It matters not whether they tax them before they hand over the meagre pay, or after. The result is the same and the State keeps the bulk of the money.

    5th: the dream is a delusion.

    6th: Quite right, they were 100% wrong. Dead wrong.

    7th, final paragraph: you asked a question, and the answer is, “All of them.” “Workable socialism” is a contradiction in terms.

  • I love this article. (Thanks, Yenisel.)

    What apparently is happening in Cuba demonstrates how remarkably close Marxian state monopoly socialism is to capitalism. Yes, you have a post-capitalist state power and a screw-ball form of socialist economy; but at the same time, the wage-labor system is kept intact; and capitalist owners and managers are replaced–in order to maintain the semblance of a modern functional economy–by “wise” gov’t and party functionaries.

    This all comes from the fact that a socialist state which owns all the instruments of production is like one big ersatz-capitalistic corporation that owns all, and tries to manage all. One good example of this is how the Cuban leadership is now resorting to a prime attribute of capitalism for its revenues: taxes.

    The bright idea of the bureaucratic mind runs something like this: Our state-owned enterprises are terribly inefficient and corrupt, so, let’s allow the formation of a small bourgeoisie and a whole number of closely-controlled worker cooperatives, get the economic productivity on the upswing, and increase social wealth. Then, we’ll pass all sorts of tax laws and fasten tax-collection bureaucracies onto the people and increase our gov’t revenue stream.

    Here’s a flash: Taxes are appropriate and necessary under capitalism because the people labor through a wage and salary serf system; and the primary way in which the costs of the capitalist state are shifted to the working people is through taxes.

    If the Cuban gov’t is opting for a tax-based system, it means that the dream of a socialist bridge to a higher, classless society has been thrown into the garbage can.

    The moral of the story is that Engels and Marx were 100% wrong, and the socialist state must NOT try to own everything productive.

    How many socialist parties that have gotten hold of state power, seized all productive property, and then crashed and burned in about a half-century, before the transformational socialists of the world wake up and realize it’s time to re-conceptualize the nature of workable, authentic socialism!

  • An interesting report on a Havana based co-operative enterprise for manufacturing bricks, a much needed commodity in Cuba:

    “In the south of Havana, underneath a burning sun, half a dozen men are working in a precarious workshop making blocks using a machine made up out of odd bits and pieces. It’s hard work. For twelve hours a day they put in cement, stones and clay, filling up a mold which the Frankenstein machine then, with tired wheezing noises, coughs up again as blocks for use in construction. In a typical month they earn 1,600 pesos (64 cuc – Cuban Convertible Currency). Four times more than the average Cuban salary.”

  • The fundamental problem Cuba faces is rooted in overcoming basic human nature. If Cuba must overcome the mistakes of the past, doing so will require that those who were in charge when those mistakes were made, at the very least, acknowledge these mistakes. Humans have always struggled admitting they were wrong. Cuban leadership, despite their claims to the contrary, are only human. History shows that it is easier to change leadership than it is for leadership to change. Cuba is no exception.

  • So the State will protect the workers from who knows what.

    But who will protect the workers from the State?

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