By Pedro Campos
HAVANA TIMES — Using well-known tools that all Cuban Social Sciences university students use, you can identify the great contradictions that the government, its leaders and political/economic/social system (sold off as “Socialism”) are experiencing.
According to Political Economic studies taught at Cuban universities, every society is made up of a base and a superstructure and there is a kind of dialectical relationship between these, in which the base influences the superstructure, but the superstructure also influences the base at the same time.
The base is understood to be made up of established forces and relations of production between people in a given society and the level of development of its productive forces, technology and producers. The superstructure is understood to be the group of political, legal, social and other institutions, alongside the prevailing social order.
In the Castro led Cuban society, the superstructure would be characterized by the existence of a central figure who always defines a country’s politics, economy and society on the whole. A classic dictatorship wrapped up in “socialist” terminology.
The Revolution’s Leader, Commander-in-Chief and then the First Secretary of the Communist Party’s Central Committee and President of State Council and Council of Ministers defined the Constitution and its changes, which made up the executive, legislative and legal powers and he exercised all three roles at the same time for much of the time. He had the final word in important judgements.
He appointed the most important positions within the party, ministries and the government. He decided how the education and public health systems would be, what color school uniforms would be and what citizens could eat and dress according to a rations booklet. He set out every Ministry’s budgets and resources and general plans which he considered important.
When JUCEPLAN (the Central Planning Board), a carbon copy of the USSR’s GOSPLAN, intervened in his control and suggested that he seriously move towards a certain level of decentralization, he made it disappear in a speech, along with all of Cuba’s system of economic management and planning which had been approved at the Communist Party’s (PCC) First Congress.
In reality, he decided over every Cuban’s life and property.
A group of loyal followers with privileges, with high, middle and lower class status in the bureaucracy, was responsible for overseeing the execution of all of his decisions at every level and at every institution that was subordinated to this center.
No. I’m not describing a feudal system in Europe’s Medieval Ages, nor a period of Pharaonic power. This is what still exists today in Cuba, created in the late leader’s image and likeness, for and so that he could rule, he who managed to concentrate and exercise power like no King or Pharoah ever did.
The economic base of this society, the relations of production, property, change, distribution and consumption, was all characterized by state ownership, exploited in a way that resembled Mesopotamia’s widespread slavery, wrapped up in wages, like in Capitalism, with sums that he decided. At one point, state ownership covered 90% of land and all of the country’s industry and companies of every kind, large, medium and small, even fried snack stalls.
Every worker had healthcare and education guaranteed that the paternalistic State was responsible for, who looked after and set up everything to exploit them even more, like slaves with their provisions.
Cuba’s Apostle (Marti) described this “socialism” in his work “The Coming Slavery” (1884).
Thus, a relationship existed between an economic base that was defined by the relations of production based on widespread slavery, disguised as fake wages and the political structure that came from a feudal reign of a Pharaonic class system.
According to Political Economy studies, if the base or superstructure changed, the other needed to change too and, with the development of productive forces, technology and training of workers and professionals, if the country’s relations of production don’t also change, contradictions between them could lead to social unrest.
However, today, over ten years after the Leader’s poor health, when he passed on his power to his brother/heir and one year after his death, the superstructure’s political system with its centralized decisions, conceived by and for him, continue to be the same in essence, as if nothing had happened.
This partially explains the complex phenomena that the government/Party is facing today, the product of its constant stagnation in the post-Castro era.
Plus, for more than 20 years, they have been forced, albeit grudgingly, to carry out changes (namely foreign investment, the private sector and lastly the non-agricultural cooperative movement) with relation to its economic base due to the disaster state centralization created, accelerated by the collapse of the USSR, the so-called “Special Period”, the decline in Venezuelan aid and the need to open up spaces which could absorb the unemployment that “updating” the current system, under Raul and his military men’s control, would create.
Following these same lines, exchanges with the West also opened up, especially family relationships with Cuban-Americans, which had been blocked for decades. Hundreds of thousands of Cubans began to live off remittances and the private market that travelers (mules) created. Modern modes of production started arriving, and the US way of life, which had always been attractive to the Cuban people, because of their closeness and empathy, became more well-known and people began traveling outside of Cuba.
New information technologies entered the country in spite of all the obstacles placed by Cuban authorities; information and knowledge are filtering in from everywhere.
While the Leader of the Revolution was still alive (and with his apparent disagreement), a detente began with the US government to see if “Imperialism’s money would solve the problems created by Socialism”. This until the fear of “the necessary evil” and Obama’s policies to encourage reforms, provoked the historic Comandante’s reaction who was still alive and so the detente was rolled back again and the fight against “corruption in the private sector and cooperatives” began.
With several movements in the base’s productive forces and relations of production, property exchanges, etc., the government continues to wager on and makes laws in favor of excessive centralization of property and appropriation, alongside the State’s retail trade monopoly. The private sector, cooperatives and foreign investments are subject to a huge number of regulations which limit their development and they still lack a legal framework which ensures they can work.
Other aspects of awareness and social relationships change, but the political system of control and decision-making is upheld. Neither the Party, nor the Constitution, nor laws in general, have undergone democratization which would reflect the real changes that are occurring at the base.
Ever since Raul took power, he has revved up the State’s control over the rest of the superstructure and the economy’s institutions. In this desperate race which began in 1989, with the trials against Generals Ochoa and Abrantes, he replaced thousands of government and party members with his own guards by way of “perestroikas” and removed his brother’s collaborators from power.
The reforms process has meant concentrating control in the hands of militarymen in the hard-currency financial sector, and the same thing has happened in Cuban politics. State-led companies and the whole national market which operate using the national currency, are regulated by the old ultra-centralized statist system.
More than enough pieces of advice have been given about the need to change mechanisms, to eliminate controls and monopolies, to democratize the economy and the political system, to break old centralized frameworks, to allow different modes of production which fit in the Socialist model and to fully develop free, private or associated labor. But, every proposal that is different is seen as “enemy activity”. Repression has got worse and been extended to other sectors that go beyond the traditional opposition.
Raul and his team have been unable to adjust the superstructure and facilitate the much-needed changes in relations of production. He rushed, with his militarymen, to control everything, using fidelista guidelines. Today, the Cuban economy is in ruins.
Raul has said he will step down and leave office. But, will he remain behind the scenes to make it look like things are changing or will he really give up his power? Who will he leave this power to, who will become responsible for this “horse head”, this string of unresolved contradictions between the base and superstructure, between productive forces and relations of production, between libertarian spirits and semi-slave labor, between financial backwardness and the number the of skilled technicians and professionals, between the Castrista dark age and the powerful light of the internet, alongside the assignment of not changing any of the things that need to be changed?
Didn’t they learn what they studied about the Classics?
Only fresh blood which isn’t linked with so much corruption can take on the changes needed in the base and superstructure in order to put these in alignment and in tune with modern times. Anything else and an implosion seems inevitable, like what happened in the USSR and “socialist countries”.
Time’s up. Last warning.