“The present competitive organization of society does a great deal to foster the worst elements in human nature.”  -Bertrand Russell

By Repatriado

Snack shop in Havana. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES – The Thatcher-Reagan era sped up a process of wealth concentration that had never stopped, but it hadn’t been too noteworthy while annual economic growth was high.

As economic growth slowed down (which was to be expected because of the loss of competitive advantages between developed nations), this concentration of wealth has an effect on the large masses by reducing their purchasing power.

However, today, these majorities no longer accept this structural inequality with the same naturalness they did in previous centuries, even though they are unsure of what to do about it.

Democratic, developed countries today are growing at less than 2% per year and great fortunes continue to grow more than wages. Stiglitz, Amartya Sen and Pikkety warn that we are reaching levels of inequality similar to those that existed at the beginning of the 20th century, which were only reduced by world wars, the stock market crash in 1929 that led to the Great Depression and distribution policies of the post-war era, which were experimented in the New Deal.

In relative terms, a super-rich person today is just as wealthy as someone in the 19th century (Carnegie was as rich as Amancio Ortega is today), but workers today are infinitely better off than workers in the 19th century and this has been thanks to the evolution of democratic systems within capitalism.

I believe that the greatest problem with inequality isn’t that a select few have too much, but instead the level of political influence they hold in a representative regime, which will pervert the very essence of democracy, if it continues to grow, like it is today. And if we lose democracy, then social advances won’t continue, there might even be a regression.

The upscale Notre Dame restaurant. Photo: Juan Suarez

Cuba is an example of the dangers of the extreme concentration of national wealth and a good study case of how this concentration eats away at the vitality of society.

Here in Cuba, this hasn’t happened as a result of the systemic route that normally takes several generations and which experts warn us about, but as a result of a micro-faction of no more than 10 people, less than 0.000001% who took over the entire country’s wealth using a shortcut called “Revolution”, without changing capitalist relations of production in the slightest, which were maintained and vigorously defended by this 0.000001%.

However, how this hyper-concentration of wealth came about is irrelevant to us analyzing its consequences for democratic life.

With this polarization of resources, straying from the path of creating a democracy, that we had been building on the island with steps forwards and backwards, was inevitable. No person or group that concentrates such power will hand it over. On the contrary, they become the guardians of a system that they make sacred (the irrevocable and non-negotiable nature of socialism).

In Cuba’s case, the 0.000001% are using Communist ideology, and the totalitarianism that this gives birth to, as their best tool and hypnotic illusion to maintain the status quo, much like the machines did in that famous movie “The Matrix”.

Photo: Juan Suarez

In Cuba’s case, this illusion vanished when the Cuban people understood (even though they might not be able to verbalize it) that social property is in fact the Government and the Government is this untouchable 0.000001%, so they are working for a single and almighty grand owner who takes everything they produce.

The Cuban case ceases to be useful in this regard because even though this reality undermines labor productivity and leads to chaos and widespread poverty, the ruling 0.000001% has prevented absolute material indigence and managed to keep their regime in power, via vital transfusions of resources they received from the USSR and Venezuela with temporary political alliances, but just imagine if the entire world had Cuba’s system… who would save us? Aliens?

Capitalism has proven that it can’t regulate itself, its tendency to concentrate wealth is innate to its functioning, both Ricardo and Marx saw this as clear as the light of day. As Cuba has proven, this concentration ends up stifling democracy and, as a result, the social advances made in the last 150 years by and for humanity.

Up until now, only the combination of democracy and a market economy has worked. This combination might need substantial improvements, but we have to recognize how much life has improved since the time of Balzac or Dickens.

Let’s not let the world become a big Cuba then. Remember, we won’t have anyone to save us.


One thought on “Cuba, an “Example” for the World

  • The accumulation of wealth by a relatively tiny proportion of society has occurred throughout history, but in recent times, the difference in earnings between the executives in business and other employees in the same business has become absurd.
    Frequently those like Carnegie – who was the son of a jute worker in Scotland – and who accumulated extreme wealth, contributed much in return to society. Carnegie for example funded the construction of some 340 libraries in North America (including Canada) to enable others access to information and education. In today’s world, Bill and Melinda Gates have used their wealth to provide tremendous medical aid in Africa.
    But most of the employed executives I referred to appear to do little for society and as CEOs or CFOs award themselves ever increasing salaries – to the disgust frequently of the shareholders in the companies which employ them.
    A similar tendency has crept into the political world, with politicians awarding themselves ever increasing financial rewards (in relative terms), whether they be of left, right or central political persuasion.
    It is self evident that in a world of finite resources, it is impossible for more and more people to receive more and more for ever and ever, the equation cannot work. In Cuba, the answer provided by the Castro communist regime has been to throttle the opportunity for the population at large to improve their incomes and by so doing to enable that 0.000001% to accumulate that “hyper-concentration of wealth” described by Repatriado. In Putin’s autocratic Russia the wealth has accumulated in the oligarchy of which he is the leader. In China it is recognized that the current President Xi’s family are similarly accumulating vast wealth. One only needs to see the fawning courtiers of North Korea to know that in addition to having dictatorial power, Kim Jung Un has enormous wealth.
    So communism is demonstratively worse than capitalism. That does not excuse those in the free capitalist societies who are siphoning off more than a reasonable proportion of the total wealth of society. Adjustment is necessary, but in the capitalist societies “life has improved since the time of Balzac and Dickens” – which is relative to the 19th century world in which Karl Marx wrote Das Kapital.

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