Cuba, the Party Congress and the Future Development Model
HAVANA TIMES — The big news following the 7th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) is that the new social model discussed there behind closed doors was not approved. This way, the model leaves the space accessed exclusively by the 1,000 government representatives who attended the gathering to be debated by all PCC members, the Young Communists League (UJC) and the population in general.
To take the debate about the nation’s future design to common folk is to pull it out of the theretico-ideological ambit of Party officials and place it in the hands of average Cubans, who are more pragmatic and, above all, in more urgent need to see changes that will improve their lives.
Raul Castro’s speech revealed some features of the proposed model. For the first time, he compared the changes taking place in Cuba to “China’s reform processes and the renewal of Vietnam, as they call it. We’ve called the process an updating.”
He also set all euphemisms aside and spoke clearly of the “existence of mid-scaled, small and micro private companies that operate today outside a proper legal framework.” This way, Castro legitimates a form of property that had hitherto been prohibited in Cuba.
He went a bit further than this, saying that “cooperatives, self-employment and mid-scale, small and micro businesses are not in essence anti-socialist or counterrevolutionary and that the immense majority of those who work in these are revolutionary and patriotic.”
That said, he made it clear that “the concentration of private property would not be permitted, and, as such, neither will the accumulation of wealth. Private companies will therefore operate within well-defined limits.” This was a warning to private entrepreneurs in the process of expanding.
They appear to fear the inequities of pre-revolution Cuba, when 90% of agricultural workers didn’t even have milk to drink, less than 1% ate fish, 2% ate eggs and only 4% had any meat all (1), while others made fortunes, lived in palaces, bought furs in Europe and jewels in New York.
The “fundamental means of production” will continue in the hands of the State and this will be the main form of ownership in the economy. However, the president failed to mention exactly what means of production fall under this category. Apparently, it is one of those issues they haven’t fully agreed on.
Raul Castro acknowledged that “certain controversy” was stirred up in connection with “property relations, and this is only natural, as it is the predominance of a form of property over others that determines the social model of a country.”
“The economy continues to be our main pending task and politico-ideological work is a permanent task that is intimately linked to the battle for the economy,” he said, and he is probably right, as they aren’t likely to secure the support of the people with speeches and study circles.
Politically, the most important change is the “regulated” generational change in command, as the calls for “voluntary retirement” have not been well taken. The new 60-year maximum for membership in the Central Committee and 70-year top for the Politburo has already allowed the government to “rejuvenate” these entities.
The new model ratifies the “irrevocable nature of the (socialist) political and social system that is described in the current constitution, which envisages the Cuban Communist Party as the leader of our society.”
A multi-party system is completely off the table: “if they managed to tear us apart one day, it would be the beginning of the end for our homeland, the revolution, socialism and the nation’s independence, forged through the endurance and sacrifice of several generations of Cubans since 1868.”
The 7th Congress appeared to reflect the political debate taking place behind the scenes between those communists who wish to preserve a Soviet-styled form of socialism and the other communists who wish to move forward towards a model that is closer to China’s and Vietnam’s.
Implementing reforms in Cuba is however a more complex process because its point of departure is different. The quality of life of the average Cuban is much higher than that of the Chinese or Vietnamese when the reform or renewal process started in those countries.
The Cuban government is forced to make headway while maintaining the “achievements of socialism,” such as universal access to education and public health and financing for culture and sports, all of which involves high State spending.
Now, the PCC base membership and the rest of society will have the opportunity to debate Cuba’s future development model. Every Cuban should come to understand the importance of having their voice heard, but that will only prove useful if they express their genuine points of view.
Some are confident their opinions will be taken into consideration, while others think it is a strict formality but that is better to take advantage of the opportunity than to regret not doing anything later, particularly when the future of the nation, our children and grandchildren is at stake.
4 thoughts on “Cuba, the Party Congress and the Future Development Model”
As Fernando points out, the Cuban government is basically doing nothing. The reason is they are powerless to do anything proactively supporting the government managed economy in the face of market driven economic activity. The best they can do at this point is to drag their feet and then reactively legitimize everything that is happening in spite of them in an attempt to keep the government from losing any more credibility than they already have.
The government was forced to legalize real estate and automobile private transfers because they happening at an increasing rate in spite of the government. The government was forced to legalize many small private businesses because they were so prevalent although illegal. One has to only look at the size of the unofficial “street” market vs. the official market to realize how much free market forces are influencing the government’s desire for a centrally managed economy.
Raul and the PCC realize they continue to lose respect and credibility in their old economic model when much of citizens lives are driven by economics. These citizens may be earning 5000 CUP or $20 a month at their official full time state jobs while earning 2X-3X that in a part time technically illegal entrepreneurial effort. Or maybe, just have a relative in Miami send them an extra $100 a month just to help out.
Raul is quite intelligent. He and his lieutenants realize they losing a long term battle to economic forces. They are just trying to delay the inevitable, hold on to power as long as possible, and try to orchestrate a soft crash of their eventual demise.
In other words, your version of socialism/communism has never existed. It is wholly theoretical and given human nature, likely will never exist.
The Cuba communist party has no idea they are not socialist. They keep insisting that socialism will be at core of the society lead by the current communist party. Authorizing small business is step in right direction what ever it is called.
An excellent contribution to a better understanding
Fernando, Thank you.
One point though; Soviet style “socialism” was not socialism in that the essence of socialism is a bottom-up democratically -run workers state and absent democracy it is beyond incorrect to call it socialism and/or communism it is disinformative ( deliberate misinformation) as has been the imperial propaganda message since 1918, the beginning of the present U.S. foreign policy against any and all alternatives to free enterprise capitalism.
Since all power in the Cuban society runs from the top down, including in its economy, the only accurate description of this autochthonous economic system is “state capitalist”.
Under free-enterprise (U.S. type) capitalism, private individuals call all the shots.
Under Cuba’s state capitalism, government officials call all the shots .
Both are entirely totalitarian .
Socialism and communism are democratic at their core.
Capitalism (in both forms) both forms= totalitarianism
socialism, communism =democracy
We have to arrive at agreed upon terminology that accurately reflects reality and not just repeat the common ignorance of socialism as what the Soviets, Cuba etc CLAIM it is to justify their totalitarian nature to the public in those countries.
Noam Chomsky does a good piece on what socialism is at You Tube ( Chomsky on socialism ) and as the man voted top intellectual in the world a number of years ago, you can believe him even if you choose to not believe me.
The answers to all the problems of free enterprise capitalism and state capitalism in Cuba is
democracy not more state capitalism.
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