HAVANA 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.
The 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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org