Cuba: A New VP & the Same Old Model

Pedro Campos

pc1HAVANA TIMES — The last National Assembly of People’s Power session resulted in a new first vice-president – a traditional party professional who’s 52 years old. Citizens and foreigners see the replacement of Machado Ventura, 82, with Diaz-Canel as an “opening” to younger people.

Nevertheless, the session didn’t approve anything that signifies substantial changes in the economic or political concepts and structures of the state-centric model in Cuba. There’s a new vice president but the old model remains the same.

As long as there’s no recognition of the economic, political and social failure of the centralized wage-labor state-centered model, the neo-Stalinist model, there will not be true socialist renewal.

The current leaders have been elected by the same previously established mechanisms. Through these, the central and provincial apparatuses of the government-party designate the candidates to the National Assembly, the same body responsible for electing those who direct the central government apparatus.

The president is therefore talking about constitutional changes that will be approved by the same candidates designated from above.

The leadership of the party-government continues to decide everything in Cuba. The mass media are still all in the hands of the government apparatus. The Internet remains a desire.

Distinct socialist ideas are confined to limited spheres with little or no dissemination. The settings of the opposition are harassed to varying degrees (though we don’t share their goals, we defend their right to express themselves).

The referenda on laws; the direct election of the presidents and vice presidents of the central, provincial and municipal governments; democratic participatory voting on budgeting at all levels, and the involvement of workers in a part of the earnings of government enterprises do not appear in the official vocabulary. Without this there’s no real democracy or socialism. This is clear.

pc2The opening to self-employment, small and medium private capitalism, and cooperatives in sectors other than agriculture are still hampered by state-monopoly on financing, the market and exports/imports. This private enterprise is conceived of by the party-government as “non-state” forms that function in the interests of the state.

While it’s recognized that immobility has been left behind and some of the measures taken respond to general demands (not only of democratic communists but of all society), these changes certainly haven’t been enough to break with the status quo and to open up the economy and politics to a genuine process of democratization.

This is why it means little to take actions and talk about deepening and accelerating the modest changes resulting from the government’s “updating” of the model. No one can forget the enormously powerful brakes that persist and the bureaucratic resistance to change of any type.

Let’s remember that we have two currencies in circulation. One has been devalued for paying the workers, while the other one — valued at 25 times the former — is used for purchasing the most basic products in hard-currency stores.

This is a means of under-paying workers for the value of their labor, leading many Cubans to choose working outside of the government or seeking their fortunes elsewhere – no matter if it’s in Haiti or Australia, although the majority want to go to the “brutal and turbulent North.”

Proponents of government economic policies insist that the dual currency isn’t a problem for the development of the economy – instead they point to the lack of production.

Those with a basic knowledge of political economy (the cost of goods includes the cost of labor applied in production), and/or people who live on a government salary, know that if a worker has no incentive, if they’re not paid for their work, there will be no production.

pc3The dual currency has served to help balance the government’s finances at the expense of reducing the purchasing power of the general population – but not to stimulate production.

In the meantime, what continues happening is what the workers in the former USSR used to describe: The government pretends to pay us and we pretend to work.

Profound changes in Cuba will have to take place for there to be true democratization of political life and the socialization of productive property and output (through varying means) – but these won’t occur because of a change of this or that official.

This is because the failure of the model demands democratization and socialization along with criticism and peaceful pressure by workers, intellectuals, students, farmers, the self-employed, homemakers and all citizens who feel effected by the continuation of this bureaucratic state-centered injustice.

In all possible settings, availing ourselves of all possible opportunities, we must continue pointing out and demonstrating the social and economic infeasibility of “state socialism,” which conceals a form of monopoly capitalism managed by the state and all its democratic inconsistencies. At the same time, we must present concrete proposals for overcoming the current state of affairs in our country.
To contact Pedro Campos: [email protected]


3 thoughts on “Cuba: A New VP & the Same Old Model

  • Grady: seems to me you read some horror comic -strips and are not really thinking about what you are saying. Never heard of such absurde thesises as yours.

  • Comrade Pedro, you recognize that the system in Cuba is a “centralized wage-labor state-centered model,” but you also say that it is “neo-Stalinist.” You leave out the fact that Stalinism is the natural product of the Marxist, state-monopoly-ownership principle.

    Marx and Engels set forth the state-monopoly principle in 1848, and reaffirmed it a quarter-century later, in 1872. The Marxist movement has revolved around this principle to the present, from Kautsky, Lenin, Trotsky, Mao, Ho, Stalin, Fidel and Raul.

    I’m afraid that, unless you come to terms with the origin of the state-centered recipe for socialist economy, you will never be able to figure out how socialism in your country might be made functional.

    Marxism is inherently state-centered, bureaucratic, and autocratic.

    Why? Because, in putting into practice the formula of concentrating all productive forces in the hands of the state, this prematurely abolishes the historically-evolved institution of private property rights and the price-fluctuating commodity market–i.e., disguised bourgeois Utopianism.

    Having abolished these mechanisms, the only way to make production limp along without them is for the one-big-employer to hire all workers for wages and salaries, and select managers according to bureaucratic, political criteria.

    I feel that you will continue to chase your tail, Pedro, until you have the epiphany that Marxism is Stalinism, and Stalinism is Marxism.

  • There is a saying where I am from: “you can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear”. According to the primary architect of the Cuban economic model, Fidel Castro, it doesn’t work. In fact, it never has. Reforms will never likely be deep enough to make a difference as long as a Castro is involved in the implementation of the reforms. It is simply not reasonable to assume that the same guys who created a latin version of the now-defunct Soviet model, can do what must be done to trash that system for something that will work. Egos aside, the Castros obsession to control everything is a permanent obstacle to moving the economy forward. If Cuba were a sports team, the owners (the Cuban people) would have fired the managers (the Castros) a long time ago.

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