Ignoring Incentives as Buying Power Continues to Drop

Pedro Campos

HAVANA TIMES — In the “Guidelines” document of the Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party, the clearest reference to the need for work incentives can be found in Guideline 170 [appearing as Guideline 156 in the final document].

It reads: “Ensure that wage policies guarantee that everyone is remunerated according to their work; that this policy results in quality products and services; that it results in increased production and productivity; and that a real correspondence is established between wages and the ability to satisfy the basic needs of workers and their families.”

Even this evidences that the party’s main goal is not to incentivize work or to meet the needs of the workers; instead, it is to create “products and services” and “increase production and productivity.”

The ends and means are out of sync. The “Guidelines” rely principally on increased production through technocratic measures. Yet they forgot what’s most important: Without the incentive to work, there will be no increase in production.

The wages of workers — not to mention socialism as the path to the abolition of wage labor exploitation — is not the priority of the bureaucracy.

Now, four years into the “updating of the model,” they have again raised retail prices in the hard-currency stores. This action is a means of offsetting the state’s economic deficits that were created by its own policies.

Again, the inefficiency of the statist system falls on the shoulders of the people…onto the workers.

Unfortunately, the government-party is clinging onto its old neo-Stalinist dogmatic schemes of state-centered wage-labor production, the imposition of workplace discipline, centralized “planning,” state monopoly control over markets and the political system of the “proletarian dictatorship” (meaning absolute control by the state-government-party over the country’s political life).

Our “Leninists” still don’t understand Lenin. He pointed out that socialism was generalized cooperativism, and not even their Marxism allows them to understand that the revolution was a change in the relations of production, one in which cooperatives should be the new mode of production.

They fail to comprehend that wage labor was the mode of existence of capitalism and that workers should abolish it and struggle for the establishment of freely-associated labor [cooperatives] and a democratic republic of the workers.

Prices are rising and output is falling, they say, because of rising international food prices.

Yet they forget that Cuba was always producer-exporter of food and that all of their economic philosophy about the state as a centralizer of the property, life and farms of Cubans has caused the country to go from being a major exporter of food to a major importer of it.

So, where’s the problem? Is it with international food prices or with the government’s philosophy and economic policies?

The bureaucracy is continuing with its state-centric policies and forgetting about work incentives, banking that labor will forget about that.

Later, they won’t be able to pin the blame on imperialism or “counterrevolutionaries” seeking capitalist restoration, already hard to identify.

If they don’t know how to build socialism, let the workers do it.
Pedro Campos: [email protected]

9 thoughts on “Ignoring Incentives as Buying Power Continues to Drop

  • Folks – If the largest economic center on earth cannot figure out how to build a more diverse economy, why do you think Cuba can?
    Cuba imports 65 % of it’s economic activity, that means sales of two products sends all equity out of the country.
    CUBA has a great future selling smiles on toursits faces. You need to make sure your services are at or below the world market prices.
    Hookers at hotels is NOT a good thing. Women around the world decide where the next vacation will be.

  • Perhaps you misunderstand, Luis. By being in favor of a universal, single-payer healthcare system, whether it exists under monopoly capitalist state power, or socialist cooperative republican state power, we insist that all persons be guaranteed immediate and full healthcare at the point of need, regardless of financial status.

    Single-payer healthcare means that the central govt amasses and disburses all–or most–healthcare funds, and everyone in society both pays for and receives full, state-of-the-art care.

    But this does not mean that every single-payer system is the same, or that what we hope to establish in the US is a carbon copy of a UK, French or Canadian system. In our mind, single-payer means that the central government brings into being an insurance agency that would displace the for-profit insurance monopolies, and focus all–or most–of the people’s insurance dollars on healthcare, not on “administrative” costs (i.e., mainly investor profits).

    This does not mean that a government, civil service-type healthcare corps cannot or would not be part of the overall system. Such a corps is probably necessary to ensure that everyone is supplied with the backlog of care festering under the capitalist regime. But we want a system in which most healthcare enterprises are cooperatively owned and managed by working associates, so that bureaucracy and corruption can be eliminated, associates can feel empowered and free, and the people can receive the fullest benefit of modern medical and preventive care.

    This all needs to be part of an ongoing discussion among transformationary socialists, including of course those who are healthcare professionals. You may not be able to understand this, but we should discuss it in good faith, and offer the people a reasonable and workable form of healthcare under the future socialist cooperative government.

    We must try for such a system under the old regime, as part of obligatory minimum program struggle, knowing all the while that representing the maximum program of a socialist cooperative republic in the context of this struggle is the only way to raise the consciousness of the people to a transformationary level and guarantee eventual socialist state power.

  • Grady, I thought you were in favor of public, universal health care, like Canada, UK, France and Cuba. Because to guarantee good sanitary conditions and health care are two pillars of the most fundamental human right: the right to live.

  • It may sound like Sweden to you, because you are not a transformationary socialist, and you don’t understand the distinction between the maximum and minimum programs of the socialist movement.

    Sweden is a capitalist country with a capitalist government. A great deal has been accomplished there by progressive leaders of the three major classes–small bourgeoisie, intelligentsia, proletariat–but these accomplishments are in the realm of minimum program struggles, perspectives and possiblities. The minimum, or tactical program is that which can be, or might be accomplished under a capitalist regime and economic system.

    What can transpire under a socialist cooperative republic, by contrast, is a different matter. This is the maximum, or strategic program. It can only be undertaken when the old capitalist regime has been superseded by a socialist regime led by a transformationary political party or parties. This new republic is able to begin a transformationary process that will, first of all, address the mountain range of problems inherited form the rule of the capitalist parties and banks. (The first order of business is an effort to stop and reverse the ecologic damage of industrialization led by monopoly capitalist states and banks.)

    You, Moses, are similar to those sincere socialists who have been mis-oriented and misdirected by the bogus cult religion of Marxism, in that you are rather obsessed with dealing with the problems lying at hand, but don’t really have a grasp of socialist political theory. You, like they, think you do . . . but you don’t.

    You hear the word “socialist,” and you think “government owns everything.” But this is precisely what the monopoly capitalists and bankers want you to think. Your mind, like theirs, is frozen in time and place by a marination in tasty-but-poisonous ideology. But I understand, and there is little or no hope you turning you, or them, around.

  • Again, thank you very much. Your utopia sounds a lot like Sweden.

  • You ask a lot, but I will try to indulge you, Moses, because our movement has got to “sell” the program of modern cooperative, state co-ownership socialism to the small business class and intelligentsia, in addition to the industrial and commercial working class. You see, we understand socialism as a strategic alliance of these three major social/productive sectors, not as a “dictatorship of the proletariat.”

    This new socialist republic would value and defend private property rights and the market, and would ensure that these two vital institutions were not undercut by monopolies or making a god out of massive profits.

    The salary of a neurosurgeon? In the cooperative republic we envision, most neurosurgeons would be leading members of medical cooperative corporations, and like all coop members, their remuneration would be commensurate with their importance in the corporate mission of public healthcare. Members of the healthcare teams would be recompensed according to their internally-determined rates. Neurosurgeons would be at the top of the remuneration ladder.

    There would most surely be a well-designed single-payer healthcare insurance system, but most healthcare deliver would be by privately owned enterprises, and all such healthcare would be extended at the point of need, not according to ability to pay. Private healthcare insurance companies would be legal, but most people would probably prefer the social system due to its availability and pre-paid insurance coverage. Rich people–and there would be many rich people–could purchase legal healthcare services, but this would most likely be a minority of such service provided.

    There might be a federal government healthcare service, to take care of certain areas of concern, but we would not be in favor of government hospitals and other enterprises because govt entities might not be able to deliver optimum care to the people. In any event, everyone would pay a fair share of the universal, single-payer insurance system, everyone would be fully covered, and the old domination of the industry by monopoly insurance giant would be eliminated.

    If a person should invent, as you posit, a new pizza business, there would be no impediment to going into business and making a profit–as long as certain public health and nutritional guidelines were followed, and she or he could find workers to hire in at the wages offered. The new idea of socialism is to utilize the inventive genius of the special person, the entrepreneur, to pioneer and lead social production, but without the insane and anti-human, anti-community exploitation of unbridled monopoly capitalism.

    As for ownership of the mass media, in general, the monopoly banks that now own and control the media will have been expropriated–with reasonable compensation–and the media would now be owned by both cooperative media working associates and the citizens’ holding preferred stock. Funds would be provided by socialist government–including for newspapers and the whole corps of professional journalists–but government would not control content. Content would be decided by the citizenry, and this would most likely develop constantly over time.

    The cooperative republic–and the world network of such republics that we envision and propose to bring into existence–does not threaten anyone. But it does promise to take hold of the mess that’s been made of the economy, environment and society, and refocus the creative energies of everyone–including even those who formerly opposed cooperative socialism–and establish a post-monopoly-capitalist, sustainable civilization.

    Perhaps this answers at least part of you curiosity and concerns. Just remember that my (our) idea of a socialist republic is not the state monopoly foolishness of Engels, Marx, Fidel and Raul.

  • Grady, in your socialist utopian model, who decides what salary a neurosurgeon earns? If I have a great idea for reinventing pizza sauce, can I start a company to produce the sauce with my own money? Finally, who would own Havana Times in your socialist world, the government or an individual? Thank you in advance for indulging me.

  • Congratulations, comrade Pedro. Although you do not understand it, and although the process is not yet complete, you have entered the political domain of “modern cooperative, state co-ownership” socialism.

    You may maintain your scripturalist approach to proving problems–i.e., needing a “scripture” quote from a dead leader to prove or disprove a point–but as long as you have arrived at the understanding “the revolution was a change in the relations of production, one in which cooperatives should be the new mode of production,” you are no longer a state monopoly socialist. Welcome to the club, as we would say in the US.

    Wage labor cannot be abolished unless and until the workers own their own workplaces and financial institutions, and advance financial capitalist to themselves against quarterly profits.

    To become a “socialist cooperative republican”–a socialist/Leninist who understands that real socialism is a cooperative republic, not a 100% state-owned economy–all you need to do is discard the Utopian fear of private property rights and property, and accept that private property and the market are necessary for a workable socialist republic, and for dynamic, worker-owned cooperative corporations.

    Capitalism is not the existence of private property rights; it is ownership of most private property by capitalists, instead of workers.

    At this point, you should be able to grasp two simple points: (1) the socialist state need not own 100% of things productive, but can get ample revenues from partial, silent co-ownership of the workers’ privately- owned, dynamic coop corporations; and (2) the small bourgeoisie–the peasants, restaurateurs, shopkeepers, small manufacturers, et cetera–is the natural ally of the proletariat against the monopoly bourgeoisie and bankers, and is necessary for successful socialist construction.

    And, yes, your article is stunning! For a Cuban socialist cooperative republic, Grady

  • In Spain, for example, the people borrowed and borrowed forthe last twenty years to maintain a lifestyle beyond their productive means. Those chickens have come home to roost and resulted in the need for an EU bailout to stretch out the indebtedness over a longer period of time and across a larger number of lenders, thus giving Spain a chance to reform consumption habits and restart production. In Cuba, while there is no tangible debt as in government bonds or loans, the Cuban people have incurred a psychological deficit of having been asked to personally sacrifice for the Revolution for the last 54 years. Different roost, same chickens. Cuban debt manifests itself in an unmotivated and larcenous workforce. Cubans who do not receive a wage commensurate with their perceived worth simply steal or embezzle the difference from state supplies or divert their work-time energies toward personal self-employment activities. Either way, the attempt is toward making themselves whole. Unless worker cooperatives can achieve the psychological balance between worker output and income, restaurant and farming and other production cooperatives will achieve no greater productivity results that state-owned operations. Think human beings not static economic models.

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