Conceiving Cuba’s Social and Economic Model

It’s more of a contextualization really

By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez  (Photos: Caridad)

HAVANA TIMES — It’s been a few days now since the 32-page tabloid detailing the conceptualization of Cuba’s social and economic model and the National Plan for Economic and Social Development through 2030 has been on sale at Correos de Cuba stands. I bought it straight away and read it whilst waiting in a boring queue at the Bank of Credit and Commerce. At first glance, I thought it was over the top and repetitive. It was hard to find something new.

To summarize, it talks about Cuban socialism as the continuation of the radical orthodoxy model, that is to say the Marxist-Leninist model, which has supposedly been enriched with the ideas of Marti and of our other national heroes. It’s the same old ideology in whole, repeated word for word as it appears in the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba, or in the ancient documents which govern the Party, or in any Marxist philosophy book written by Jose Luis Rodriguez in the 80s or 90s.

We’ve known what the new changes would be for quite some time now, but amidst all the mystery and its delayed release, I thought it might have held some surprises.

  • Legalization of private property, (within limits and of course subject to Party interests);
  • Legalization of small and medium-sized private businesses and micro companies, (within limits and of course subject to Party interests);
  • Recognition of free markets as a complement, still on a minor scale, to the official planned centralized economy, (within limits and of course subject to Party interests);
  • Legalization of private property, (within limits and of course subject to Party interests);
  • And the impact on the Cuban economy as it enters an international economic context.

However, what struck me the most was the amount of intransigence, isolation, lack of insight, dogmatism and anti-dialectic spirit of those who commissioned this document as well as those who wrote it. It uses the same language and details the same idea which has already failed. It’s the same political philosophy which remains incompatible with our modern human reality. It’s exactly the same thing which has brought us here and now has us stuck in a rut. If a similar proposal wasn’t successful with people from the 20th century, it’s definitely not going to work with people from the 21st century.

Of course, there are a few new things, but these only account for 0.01% of the text. Maybe they’re looking for an important leap forward like occurred with the human genome, which with a similar difference to and compared to all the other animals, led to many amazing things we’ve managed to accomplish. But if that was the case, they should study how many hundreds of thousands of years first had to pass in order for there to be a visible change, especially as they’re hoping to make progress by 2030.

The “new” isn’t envisaged on a different or updated take on socialism nor as anything concrete. It’s simply a necessary evil which they’ve been forced to make in a hostile context in order to achieve their radical communist utopia.

Don’t any of you be fooled into thinking that as of now Cubans will be able to open a small business. It’s nothing like that. This still remains a privilege granted and restricted by the Cuban government at the highest level. Nobody will be able to go to a notary’s office and register a company like you can in the rest of the world. Just like you can’t form a cooperative freely.

First you have to go to the municipal office, then it has to be approved by the Municipal Council which then takes it to the Provincial Council. If they approve it, it’s then taken to the Council of Ministers. The latter slowly go through each of these requests from all over the country and only approve those they feel will be the most important for the government’s interests. This process takes years. I know people who have been waiting two years already and have luckily passed the first two stages.

This is just an example so that nobody is fooled into thinking that there are now possibilities to grow freely with private enterprise. Protagonists of the Cuban political scene are still our biggest obstacles and productive forces still have their hands tied. The “knot” hasn’t been undone; it’s just been “loosened” a little.

That’s why I say that it seems to be more of a contextualization rather than a conceptualizion of the Cuban model. It’s still the same old dog with the same collar on. The only thing they’ve done is recognize in writing that the dog has fleas and that the fleas must live on the dog’s body until the situation changes and they can get rid of them with good old bug spray.



26 thoughts on “Conceiving Cuba’s Social and Economic Model

  • Firstly, by references to “our own history”, I take it that you are talking about the US a constant interjection on these pages.
    You speak of ‘socialist technocrats’ but as you probably know, Raul Castro has appointed Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez to be his successor and who will presumably be annointed in 2018. He will have as his main support and fellow members of the ‘Troika’ Bruno Rodriguez Carilles and the ever expanding Marino Murillo.
    But where does the economic and social power lie? That is undoubtedly in the hands of Raul Castro’s own family, with his son-in-law controlling GAESA (80% + of Cuba’s economy) and his son being in control of security including the CDR. Both of them are generals. So who would the military support if there is a fracas? In a dictatorship, only one person eventually holds power – who will that be?

  • Admired the alliteration and regret that I cannot instantly match it. But as a member of your cacaphonous chorus, I think I hear far too often, the barking dogs of communist dictatorship fervour.

  • I pray that you are correct!
    Freedom will continue to beckon.

  • That is amusing! Thanks!

  • Do you guys ever give it a rest?! You keep harping on “the Castros!” Now the PDRK, THAT is really a family franchise. Cuba hardly is. The next generation, soon to take the reins of power, will be socialist technocrats. I suspect that they will encourage more participation “from below.” (Otherwise, they risk both irrelevance and an end to the one-party state, if that party fails to take into account the needs and aspirations of the people.) Apparently, at least ’til now, that Party has embodied these aspirations, at least to a certain extent and especially during the first three decades of the Revolution, but now something more is required, that being a further democratization and more self-government by the people rather than looking to the diktats by the “responsables.” This further democratization but mirrors our own history, for example, the gradual expansion of the franchise during the administrations of Jefferson and other Virginia aristocracy, the revolutionary changes wrought by Andrew Jackson, and later, Lincoln and Grant under Radical Reconstruction, for Women with the passage of Women’s suffrage in 1920, and the hundred year struggle for civil rights after the demise of Radical Reconstruction, and continuing, open ended, up til our own times.

  • As you are probably aware, Circles, the infamous Cuba King has been thrown off many boards, such as Lonely Planet’s Thorntree, Cuba Branch, the old Cuba Green Screen, etc. etc. Like a recurring nightmare, he keeps coming back, though, under a slightly different name, but always recognizable by his one theme–namely himself!

  • If the future of Cuba is to be decided by Cubans, it will have to be a pre-requisite that the dictatorship step aside and that there be freedom of expression, Currently such is not possible. I am not a critic of Cuba, but a critic of the Castro family regime, the PCC and the power and control which they hold over the people of Cuba.
    You too fall into that trap of continual criticism of the US. Why don’t you as US citizens address those problems rather than burdening others with them?

  • You ask what each of us wants Cuba to become.
    I want Cuba to become a country where the people have freedom of expression, freedom of the media, freedom for alternative political parties and freedom to decide their own future.
    I want to see an end to dictatorship, an end to totalitarian rule and an end to oppression.
    For me and for many others, the continual suggestion predominantly by US citizens, that the only alternative to communism is slavish adherence to the US displays an ignorance of the wider world.
    Why not compare with Australia, or New Zealand, or Holland or Norway? There are plenty of alternative democratic systems which are not bogged down by a US constitution which requires much revision and amendment. One of the repetitive themes in these pages is complaint about US conditions and its political systems by US citizens – reflecting nothing but myopia.
    Finally in Cuba, 100% of the population is on food rations!
    I am not a critic of Cuba, I much admire the country and its people and my home is there. But I detest the shackles of communist dictatorship. As for the US, it is for the citizens of that country to address their internal problems.

  • Unrecognizable would be an improvement.

  • I just want Cuba to be free to decide for themselves what they want to be. Nothing more than that. You can stop wondering.

  • Although Cuba will be unrecognizable in 50 years (both by the cacaphonous chorus of Cuba critics forever quacking here, and also by the supporters of the Revolution, like myself) I suspect that the changes to the Revolution will be pragmatic, and directed by Cubans themselves, and within Cuba, and not by the minions of the Evil Empire to the North. Incidentally, “The Big Short” is one of my favorites. It was held over at the local cinema for several additional weeks. During the two times I saw it the audience was composed mostly of young folks

  • For an example of how quickly beliefs and actions change, in less than fifty years New England transformed from a region where they burned witches to one which was at the vanguard of the Enlightenment, as exemplified by many of our Founding Fathers. If I could somehow come back in fifty years, (unlikely, alas!) I’m sure Cuba would be unrecognizable.

  • I often wonder if all you Cuba critics are wealth gringos or working class “Americans” that dream of becoming wealthy. What do you want Cuba to become? Another U.S.? Private enterprise, unfettered, in the U.S. is what has made Bernie Sanders so popular especially among the young. Would you prefer Cuba to be a country in which 1% controls half the nation’s wealth? Have you seen the movie “The Big Short” about the collapse of the housing bubble in the U.S. because of corporate greed and government neglect. Please. Or maybe you’d like Cuba to become like that bastion of corporate efficiency and wealthy conditions for all–Puerto Rico. Nurtured (and owned) by the U.S. and now bankrupt with 80% of the population eligible for food stamps.

  • I hope one of those joint ventures is toilet paper manufacturing. Granma is rough on the soft parts.

  • Griffin, you have described exactly the reasons why I constantly question views and opinions expressed both in these pages and in the wider international media that undefined ‘change’ is occurring in Cuba. For those living in Cuba, there is absolutely no change and as you correctly point out none is intended to be permitted. The power and control of the Castro regime is absolute.
    As for Venezuela, how can private business make bricks without straw. As disciples of Fidel Castro and following his teachings Chavez and Maduro have brought Venezuela to its knees.

  • Is it correct Gordon that the subject of your 91 research trips to Cuba is obesity?

  • Gordon, alias cubakingone, most Havana Times readers are aware that you have been to Cuba 91 times and that you consider youself a leading expert on the country. We also know that your kids are supposedly related to Juan Ramon Machado Ventura the number two man in the Communist Party. Likewise that you are readying son Michael to be the president of Cuba. OK enough is enough. From now on please stick to the content of the articles you are commenting on, which unfortunately you rarely do.

  • Gordon Robinson, alias Cubakingone, most Havana Times readers are by now all aware you have been to Cuba 91 times, consider yourself a leading expert, that you are optimistic on its future and that your kids are related to Juan Ramon Machado Ventura the number two man in please try to address the articles at hand, something you rarely do.

  • Since 1993 I have made 91 research trips to Cuba and I am well versed on
    Cuba’s future. I feel I know more than many of the writers here. Today
    the government of Cuba is working on over 170 new ventures that involve
    tourism. Over 70 are joint ventures with foreign companies. ” Rome was
    not built in a day but it did burn up in a day !!! “

  • I agree with you but the Castros do not share our perspective. They see the problems in Venezuela as a result of private businesses having the ability to effect if not control the direction and quantity of productive resources. As a result, the Castros will never allow private business to grow to a degree exert this kind of influence.

  • What is happening in Venezuela is the direct consequence of the Castro’s take over of the Chavez/Maduro regimes and the imposition of Cuban “radical orthodoxy” on Venezuela. Far from empowering private business, the chaos and economic collapse in Venezuela was brought about, in part, by the destruction of private business in that country.

    We can see in this document stating the official Castro regime policy that there will be no real political or economic change in Cuba, not now, and not 2030 when these proposed new policies might be phased in. The policies pursued by the Castro regime are designed to preserve the dictatorship, not to change it.

  • It’s good to know that you enjoyed the description of the Castro regime as:
    “It’s still the same old dog with the same collar on.”
    I liked the comment that: “the dog has fleas”!

  • The Cuban people will have to wait a little bit longer for their freedom. Mr Castro and company will never let go of power freely. Mr Castro please just get on a plane or board a ship and depart Cuba, go on prove to the world that you do really care for the real Cuban people and just leave.

  • Human consciousness is the most conservative factor in history. There are very few people who, having espoused a worked-out belief-system all of their lives, are able to say, ‘Hey, I was wrong.’

    Consider the Christians. A few centuries ago, they were burning heretics alive, venerating the bones of saints, and genuinely believed all sorts of nonsense. (Noah’s Ark, Genesis…) Now, your average ‘Christian’ is indistinguishable, in his or her daily life, from any old secular humanist. If you get into a debate on the internet about issues of health, or whether we should send troops against ISIS, or whatever … you almost never hear anyone argue a position because “It’s God’s will.” (I’m not talking about Islamists here, of course.) Put another way: today’s average Christian teleported back five hundred years, and queried by the people of that time about his or her beliefs, would have been put to death by them.

    As a secular humanist, I’m delighted by this change, and don’t really care what people claim to believe with respect to the supernatural, so long as they behave in the same way they would were they secular humanists. “What’s in a name? …”

    I don’t think it will take five centuries for the Cuban elite to change as radically as this, but I do suspect that, just as Christians today would still claim to be absolutely faithful to the Bible, while actually behaving in a way that is enormously different from the way their spiritual ancestors, who also thought they were absolutely faithful to the Bible, behaved, so the Communist faithful will slowly change their actual behavior. Hopefully it won’t take five centuries.

  • I just read it. Did you and I read the same document? This is a great leap forward. Wonderful.

  • The Castros are doing as little as possible to appease those who want to see political progress in Cuba. Every additional new political and economic freedom erodes the absolute authority held by the Castros. The Castros see what is going on in Venezuela and will resist every effort to empower private businesses. However, the die is cast. It is only a matter of when and not if the Cuban economy will be set free.

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