Cuba’s Economy and Cures for Fear

By Rogelio Manuel Diaz Moreno

Photo: Michael Schoelzel

HAVANA TIMES — Last week, we learned about an unexpected meeting of our highest powers. Certain documents were being discussed for some time now, which didn’t seem to bring about change in the lives of us ordinary mortals very quickly. The Cuban Government has written out its Guidelines and Concepts, destined to define the path our country takes and its future development plans; but very few changes were immediately created as a result.

According to the latest news, it seems that some steps have been made along this path. A select, stealthy and occult group was immersed in perfecting these plans in secret laboratories. They analyzed popular opinions and defined what was right and wrong. In the end, they put their results up for approval by the Cuban Parliament – which was approved unanimously – in a meeting last week.

The final versions of these documents have yet to be published, which will allow us to make more precise analyses and conclusions. Even so, there seems to be a point that has particularly caught people’s attention, both of those who actively participated in this process as well as us spectators.

An essential part of the Cuban government’s reforms, which are currently underway, is to strengthen the market economy and private property over modes of production. The concentration of capital, which is inherent to these phenomena, is of great concern. Quite a few voices are rising up, demanding that barriers be put in place and whatever other limitations they can dream up.

The situation is full of contradictions. The Cuban government controls the economy via property and running companies as well as controlling foreign investment. Unable to reach satisfactory growth and employment levels, it called on citizens to undertake private business ventures at one point. However, some ideological puritans are standing in the way of the absolute unfolding of this private initiative. You can pick up on their dislike of the accumulation of wealth and their stand against the progress of a new corporate social class.

Along this path of inconsistencies, the purposes that were used to call upon private enterprise in the beginning are not looking so favorable now. And they aren’t resolving the economic and social shortcomings of a state-led economy. Curiously enough, government ideologists aren’t picking up on the evils of the private economy in the foreign business sector, but that’s another subject.

Diagonal. Photo: Michael Schoelzel

The thing is that, according to some people, the current level of development of Cuban productive forces needs national private property to participate. Such a thesis hasn’t been completely proved, given the fact that socialist partnerships and state self-managed assets haven’t ever been given complete freedom. In any case, if they are going to recognize a space in the economy and allow private enterprises to participate in this economy, we need to know a little bit about their fundamental laws.

They aren’t the same as they were back in the Renaissance. In order for this sector to become a serious alternative to traditional modes of production here in Cuba, for a million or more people in our society; in order for it to create a steady supply of certain goods and services which the State has given up on, they need to understand and be consistent with basic laws of political economy. It would be necessary to carry out an evaluation of the productive forces and relations of production; of Cuba’s position in regard to the international economy and trade market, in order to provide the necessary clarity for us to be able to rediscover some of Pedro Grullo’s truths and to assimilate them with the much-needed courage we need in order to move forward.

A model like the NEP might not be the worst alternative we have in front of us. In order to be consistent and productive then, the government will need to handle the subject with a scientific basis, and with the gravity of revolutionary Marxism. We have to face the contradictions between an economy, temporarily with “capitalism’s jagged weapons” and the long term purpose of socialism.

Every capitalist class, from the old and new school, tends to lead to growth and the concentration of its possibilities. It’s in its nature and the way it naturally develops. The State can fire barrages of inspectors, tax policies and regulatory requirements; but such tools suffer from serious limitations. Either they disastrously inhibit the development of the aforementioned sector, or they reveal themselves to be incapable of filing down their more difficult problems, the ones that are frightening the Cuban leadership and its official ideologists. We have already seen this kind of firm hand in the past on many occasions: in our agricultural markets, private transport services, etc, always with poor outcomes. I mean to say, poor outcomes for the State which end up being embarrassing.

In order to allow a new – or not so new – capitalist class to participate, this class and its new members must enjoy well-established rights and protections, with constitutional reforms included. And these rights can be contained in certain areas, without giving them a chance to play out in more important socio-political spaces.

Luckily, Marxism itself explains the private sector’s inevitable strength, indentifying the most appropriate resources to tackle it dialectically. And the most frustrating thing is that our enlightened leaders dismiss appealing to these forces, the most progressive and revolutionary forces we have today.

Growth of the capitalist class also implies growth of the wage-earning proletarian force, generally-speaking. The masses of working people have an irreplaceable power, with their capacity to structure organizations of active masses that are aware of the evolution of their lives and society.

Pharmacy. Photo: Michael Schoelzer

In order to counteract the most damaging displays of the concentration of private property, the most powerful weapon is to strengthen the working class’ power. A combination of powerful, democratic and horizontal unions, with a clear political conscience, is the most foolproof cure against the fear that the inevitable activity of capital will bring about.

Of course, today’s government unions aren’t the best starting point for this. To start with, current unions try to integrate both business owners, as well as the people they employ. The boss, along with his/her paid employee. The future organization has to make the classist character, proletarian, clear, because if it doesn’t, it will be unable to face the challenge that the new capitalists pose for them. It wouldn’t be able to tremble at the slight mention of the word “strike”, like it does today. It has to recognize all of the resources and traditions of Cuba and the world’s workers’ struggles, from propaganda, protests, sit ins, calls for solidarity among labor unions and other sectors in society, etc.

Following this basic theory, the Communist party should feel concerned. Obviously, their time will come to take sides in order to be consistent, with the working class. For better or for worse, the Party’s utopian idea of all Cubans isn’t sustainable in a landscape where society is divided up into classes.

Waiting for the Cuban elite to follow this path might seem very difficult. It is up to all of the Leftist, anti-capitalist forces to make an effort in order to not lose the last opportunities.

8 thoughts on “Cuba’s Economy and Cures for Fear

  • Keep reading. …

  • Land redistribution is….wait for it….land redistribution.

  • Not from my read of him.

  • Your comment is incomprehensible. You obviously know little about Frederick Douglass, the consumate capitalist.

  • Rich perhaps but not richer than. . . By the way, I can’t believe you dare to use the image of Frederick Douglass. Shame

  • The administrative political systems in Cuba are similar to would-be chefs. Recipes are produced, but the only actual product from the communist kitchens are pie in the sky.

  • What’s the big deal about wealth accumulation? As is often said, Socialists seek equal outcomes. Capitalists seek equal opportunities. The possibility of getting rich is what motivates. Wealth encourages innovation and ingenuity. Socialists should instead focus on making sure a safety net for children, the elderly, the disabled or infirm exist such that there is no unnecessary suffering.

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