State Capitalism in Cuba Embodied

Yenisel Rodriguez Perez

Offices of the Public Health Business Support Group.

HAVANA TIMES, 18 abr — A few days ago I was walking through the always surprising streets of Havana’s Vedado district, where each block constitute its own micro-world environment with trees and shadows.

While looking for a friend’s house, I came upon one of those mansions that were confiscated from some bourgeois owner by the new revolutionary government back in the 1960s and converted into the headquarters of some government institution or office.

Behind a well maintained fence, what hit my eyes was a brightly lit sign that read: GEASP, el Grupo Empresarial de Apoyo a la Salud Pública (Public Health Business Support Group).

“What the hell is this?” I wondered, surprised.

Like the trees in that district, the lush local bureaucratic imagination has continued to sprout self-perpetuating conditions over time (what could be called the “expanded reproduction of administrative capital”) to the extent they have quashed our ability to understand what they’re doing with our lives and the implications of their actions.

So what is the “Public Health Business Support Group”?

As I was reaching 26th Street, it had already occurred to me that I wasn’t going to be able to have an answer to this question to write this post. I wasn’t going to have the time or obtain the authorization to interview the staff at that place.

I wasn’t going to be able to do what they call “investigative journalism,” what journalists themselves — here and everywhere else — know is something difficult to do.

This is because after any investigation comes “ideological normalization,” a fundamental part of the standardized production and mass reproduction of (mis)information by those rapscallions of the news industry, those who are committed to the global status quo, one in which our country is like so many others.

Nevertheless when I got to my friend’s house, I asked him for the telephone book, the 2009-2010 Havana directory, which was the most up-to-date one he had. I searched under “P” for Public Health Business Support Group, but I didn’t find it. However to my surprise, I counted 76 “business groups” listed in the Cuban capital.

Within this corporate matrix I found entities like the “Ministry of Higher Education Business Group,” the “Capital Goods Business Group,” the “State Activities Attention Group of the Ministry of Agriculture,” the “Mountain Agriculture Business Group,” the “Science, Technology and Environment Business Group,” the “Local Industries Business Group of Havana,” “Fruit Growing Business Group,” the “Marlin Nautical and Marine Business Group Ltd.,” the “Electronic, Computer Science, Automation and Communications Business Group,” and so on.

After leafing through the directory and taking mental notes, I began to feel like I was sharpening the initial idea I had for this article, and at the same time I felt surer of the utility of writing it. It could contribute to making understandable this dark hole, one as immense and expansive as those in the cosmos.

It was understandable that “my” Public Health Business Support Group wasn’t listed. With this sweeping institutional reorganization that the commanders of the revolution are carrying out — from their air-conditioned offices, and without informing anyone — it’s hard to find out anything that’s going on.

Beyond the concrete existence of the Business Group, what the telephone book showed me was something that I was already sensing the moment I saw the solitary light of the GEASP sign: these are the concrete and materially existing institutions that make up what only a few people today understand as Cuban state capitalism.

They are a conglomerate of companies that have no direct relationship with any social institutions, with any municipality, with any People’s Council or any Zone Committee or community initiative.

In exchange, the socialist state sucks from these any possible chance of functioning like proper businesses in order to fill its coffers while making itself appear in the aura of a manna-giving God. Miraculously, a small part of these resources are provided to society, for which we’re convinced we should be grateful – like eternally incapacitated children.

This is what the “socialist order” means for the commanders of the Cuban revolution: a great work of philanthropy that allows them to live comfortably like eccentric millionaires and intellectually exhaust four generations in the moral quagmire of the “freebies of the revolution.”

Perhaps others can research and investigate this in more detail and greater depth, but broadly speaking, what else could the Public Health Business Support Group be?

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.


8 thoughts on “State Capitalism in Cuba Embodied

  • April 24, 2012 at 11:46 am
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    ERROR- Bad translation:
    Instead of Public Health Business Support Group “GEASP, el Grupo Empresarial de Apoyo a la Salud Pública” would be more accurately translates as Business Group in Support of Public Health…which is DIFFERENT. It’s not a privitization of health but using the market to supply the welfare system. I’m pretty sure that this is a wing of the Ministry of Public Health that does imports for public health sector and the same with the other “business groups”

    Ministry of Higher Education Business Group,” the “Capital Goods Business Group,” the “State Activities Attention Group of the Ministry of Agriculture,” the “Mountain Agriculture Business Group,” the “Science, Technology and Environment Business Group,” the “Local Industries Business Group of Havana,” “Fruit Growing Business Group,” the “Marlin Nautical and Marine Business Group Ltd.,” the “Electronic, Computer Science, Automation and Communications Business Group,”

  • April 22, 2012 at 12:16 pm
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    Freud, thanks for your thoughtful reply. You make some good points.

    The bottom line however is that world monopoly capitalism–which has been allowed to survive and flourish long beyond its natural life span due to Marxism and its covertly bourgeois content–has brought human civilization to the brink of collapse. By monopoly capitalism’s destruction of the oceans and environment, we have only a few decades left to maybe change the world political system and save the coming generations.

    This “modern cooperative, state co-ownership” form of socialism is a sincere attempt to create a world network of cooperative republics, and thereby to reverse the damage and impending catastrophe of the old system. Good luck with your dream and ideal of European socialism, but it simply is not relevant at this ominous point.

  • April 19, 2012 at 6:30 pm
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    Dear Mr. Ross, we maybe talking of 2 different things. I am talking about Cuba and what is going on there right now Cooperatives and Mondragon experiment are very interesting things but you know very well I am not talking about no Mondragon thing but the corporative capitalism of state going on in Cuba with 50% support of international capital and capitalists plus a police state that call itself “socialist” just because they don’t allow nationals to be part of the owning and profiting of country’s natural resources and business…… that is fascism dear Ross….. look how similar is Wikipedia definition of Fascism to this thing going on in Cuba right now:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism

    I don’t see any “Modern cooperative, state co-ownership socialism” in practice right now in Cuba.
    But retaking the post –capitalism theme……. As long the humans have needs there will be demand and as long demand exists there will be offer….. and as long offer and demand exist there will be capitalism…… anything else is utopia.
    Socialism, Conservationism, Liberalism, Neo-liberalism, Communism, Maoism, Laborism, Social Democracy, Christian Democracy, Fascism, Falangism, Anarchism, are political doctrines more or less grounded in different philosophical streams. By other side Capitalism is the name given, to the only (THE ONLY) existing economical system in this imperfect world, by the writer William Makepeace Thackeray and later used by Carl Marx to design this economical system nowadays known as market economy.
    In other words, there is only an economical system: Market Economy or Capitalism.
    Cooperative enterprises are just a manifestation of the variety of solutions capitalism can find to solve human’s needs. There is no more economical system in this world despite the effort of some philosophers and politician in order of making you and me believe they found a new economical system that will make us all happy for ever. If you try to find another economical system you will find nothing but political doctrines.
    All those above named political doctrines has to use capitalism as its economical system because no of them has an own economical system to sustain them. Some of the politician and philosopher that have tried to make us believe their found a new economical system has used a lot of tricks to disguise capitalism and present it to us as a new thing. They has tried to abort capitalism, change it, destroy it or redesign it but at the end they have to get back and resuscitate the capitalism because if not the grotesque being they created would die economically and of course would die as doctrine, as political system. That’s why we see the former Soviet Union, China, Vietnam and Cuba get married with the international capital and foment a wild capitalism in their countries in order of surviving.
    Capitalism has to be tamed. You can’t let it drive itself freely because you will create a monster like the primitive capitalism of XIX century Europe or you will create a inefficient been like Haiti or most of Africa or Latin America countries . However, you get to grab a political doctrine in order to tame capitalism….. which one is better?….. it is something that have to be found yet. The history teaches that Communism, Fascism, Anarchism, Falangism, Maoism and most extreme political doctrines are not a good option………. I prefer the European socialism, German or English style.
    Anyway, and in spite how clever and functional cooperative projects can be, it not means the death of capitalism but just another form it takes…… a form that will die the day politicians and ideologists pretend to make of it a flag and convert it into another political ideological doctrine.

  • April 19, 2012 at 4:13 pm
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    Moses, in my “idealized view of socialism” the socialist bridge is based on the retention of private productive property rights and a conditioned but price fluctuating trading market. The difference between it and the present Cuban model is basically in who or what owns the major means of production.

    In the Cuban model the state owns them in the name of working people. In a cooperative republic, the working people–be they workers, managers, small business people, farmers and ranchers–would own them directly. We feel that the best remedy for corruption is direct ownership by those who do the work of society. Will you argue against that?

    As for the socialist “bridge” to a classless, prosperous society, the Marxian idea was to make the state the temporary owner of everything. It hasn’t worked, and it doesn’t even make sense.

    Our idea is that, through broad, democratic direct ownership of property, the proletariat, small bourgeoisie and intelligentsia can merge together culturally over perhaps several generations, thereby diminishing and finally eliminating class distinctions. It’s up to individuals to decide which process makes the most sense.

  • April 19, 2012 at 3:59 pm
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    If you believe, Freud, that small business families owning their businesses directly in a tax-free cooperative republic, plus most workers of larger industry and commerce owning their work enterprises as cooperative corporate shareholders on the Mondragon, Spain model, is “fascism,” then may I suggest that you take another look. What is suggested is actually free enterprise, in which all sectors of the economy are protected from the threat of monopoly predation, either by the big capitalists and banks, or a socialist state power.

    Fascism is a most brutal form of capitalism. Modern cooperative, state co-ownership socialism is a democratic, non-Marxian form of post-capitalism based on two centuries of successful worker-owned cooperative enterprise. It is the only way to have socialism and abolish the wage and salary serfdom system of both capitalism and state monopoly (Marxian) socialism.

    You may be the one who is confused.

  • April 19, 2012 at 12:33 pm
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    What Mr. Gardy Ross describes in his comment 2 first paragraphs (more I could not suffer and I renounce to read) is simply fascism……. that’s why many people has change the way they see and understand actual Cuba regime and started to call it ” Castrofascism”……… Castro supporter always will find a way to sweet this disastrous regime including new and bizarre “theories” ……. capitalism is an economic system and socialism an ideological-politic doctrine, so, socialism can’t be post-capitalism dear Ross….. you are very confused about what is what in the economic and ideological world.

  • April 18, 2012 at 1:55 pm
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    In pure capitalism, there is no such thing as corruption because alll is fair in love, war and capitalism. In your idealized view of socialism, there is likewise no corruption. Not because it does not exist, but because it can not exist. Therein lies the problem with your model. Once corruption is introduced into your socialist model, your “bridge” becomes unstable and not everyone is permitted thusly to cross over to communism. The more corruption, the weaker and less accomodating the bridge. The fog to which you refer above is corruption.

  • April 18, 2012 at 12:11 pm
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    What confuses everyone regarding the “state capitalism” of present-day Cuba, from the average person on the street to the socialist intellectual, is a fundamental lack of understanding of what “real” socialism truly is.

    Socialism is “post-capitalism.” That is, it is a society in which the capitalist state that existed formerly has now been replaced by a “post-capitalist” state power, which is called a “socialist” state. This state is led typically by a vanguard political party that has as its objective the building of a “bridge” society over which the people, as a whole, are able to cross over, thru several generations, to a classless, stateless, ideal society called communism.

    The problem is that post-capitalism, which must have a socialist state power, can have one of tow possible “modes of production” for building and crossing the socialist bridge to a classless society.

    One such mode is full state ownership (monopoly) of all the means of production, including the land, a mode which automatically abolishes private productive property rights and the price-fluctuating trading market.

    This is the Marxian mode, and it needs a vast bureaucratic army, in both the government and the economy, to administer. This is the mode that has prevailed in Cuba, up to the present. It is this mode that converts everyone into employees of the state, and seems to function like one big capitalistic corporation, with all the alienation and growing corruption to be expected.

    The other mode, which is as yet a theoretical construct, is a modern cooperative, state co-ownership form of socialism, in which the state is still post-capitalist and led by a sincere vanguard party, but in which private productive property rights and the price-fluctuating market are retained and utilized adroitly by the leading party for the socialist bridge-building project.

    In this mode the state owns some things 100%, but co-owns most significant industry and commerce partially and silently, letting working associates be the primary, cooperative owners–on the Mondragon, Spain model.
    In this mode the wage and salary labor serfdom system, that prevails in both capitalist and state monopoly socialist modes of production, is abolished

    The optical illusion that is bedeviling Yenisel, and sincere revolutionaries like Pedro Campos, is that they cannot understand that it is the socialist state that is the essence of socialism, and not the particular mode of production that prevails. To them, the monster of the bureaucratic state means state capitalism. Their Marxian-induced mis-concept of socialism does not allow them to see the theoretical pathway out of the fog.

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