The Cornerstone for Progress in Cuba

By Pedro Campos

Photo: Desyree Valdivieso

HAVANA TIMES — The 2017 Teaching Congress has just kicked off in Havana, under the motto “Education: the cornerstone of progress.” According to the Cuban government’s own statistics as well as those from UNESCO, Cuba is one of the countries with the greatest progress in education in the world, one of the countries that churns out the most doctors and professionals per capita per year, one of the countries with the lowest illiteracy rates, etc.

However, this same government has just admitted that the national GDP dropped last year. We are experiencing a recession and everybody knows that we are in a crisis economically-speaking, just as well as pretty much everything else.

If this praise were true, then logically, Cuba would be at the height of progress. So, the motto is really trying to hide the root causes of this economic crisis and especially hiding the true key to progress.

Government economists continue to speak about the lack of foreign investment and bet that Cuba’s GDP would pick up if there was an increase in this kind of investment, making predictions with these figures, without ever explaining the real reasons why foreign investment is so low or why state-run companies are unproductive. They don’t hit the nail on the head, the key to this crisis.

As the Cuban economy has mistakenly been identified with Socialism and it’s been deduced that the Marxist direction of the economy has failed, very few of our specialists in the field dare to mention Karl Marx and his economic theories to explain the Cuban crisis today.

Furthermore, as it’s become a widespread global trend to blame Marxism for the so-called “Socialist” disaster of the last century, using or quoting his theories to analyze the economy has become a mortal sin which implies being rejected by publishers and specialist publications.

Well, in spite of this, any serious analysis of the Cuban economy, which aims to discover the root causes of this crisis and make realistic proposals in the future, has to, without fail, resort to the basic tools of Marx’s political economy, although it goes against the headstrong Cuban philosophy of State-Party-Government which claims to be socialist and publishers and publications reject you.

Photo: Doug Haight

And getting back on track, once again, the cornerstone on which the progress of any economy is built is that of the correct relationship between productive forces and the relations of production. When these are in harmony, progress comes naturally and the economy grows. When relations, which men create in the process of production (property, change, distribution and consumerism), halt the development of productive forces (means of production and technology and the workforce) then the economy declines, decreases and enters a recession.

Capitalist approaches which are most interested in maintaining exploitation of labor in a salaried system, rather than resolving society’s general problems, look for solutions in the area of circulation, distribution and consumption, rather than in the relations of production. Their measures destroy the means of production and consumerism, reducing all kinds of expenditure, cutting down on job positions and even entire industries, just to partially reduce the crisis’ effects, which workers and the general population normally end up bearing the burden of.

Other more advanced capitalist approaches take action in the sphere of relations of production and try to keep capitalism afloat and developing, but giving growing productive forces room to move. In these cases, they have taken action like introducing new methods, looking to expand other production areas so they absorb some of the workforce which remains available; giving workers a chance to take part in Capitalism, via stocks or encouraging loans to be given out to micro-companies, for example. The list goes on.

In Cuba, neither the government nor its economists analyze the problems we face today basing themselves on Marx’s analysis that there must be an appropriate relationship between productive forces and relations of production and take the easy route blaming external factors such as the disappearance of the USSR and the “Soviet Bloc”, and Imperialism’s blockade.” The most loathsome blame workers and their lack of interest or gratitude to the government and its leaders.

Photo: Doug Haight

And they do this just like that, because if they analyze the situation using Marxist theory, they would have to accept that relations of majority production continue to be salaried, just like in capitalism, only its the State who benefits and that they are the ones who are preventing the country’s productive forces and the national economy on the whole from progressing.

Therefore, in line with a Marxist analysis of the Cuban economy, the country would have to leave behind these State-salaried relations and everything that this implies, such as “centralized planning”, State monopoly control of the market, low wages, corruption, the theft and poor management of resources, price and production control and all of the other patronizing, arbitrary and populist “relations” that the State owner has with its producers and consumers.

And admit the following Marxist analysis which allows us to identify the key problem which is State monopoly capitalism imposed in the name of a non-existent Socialism and accept that we have to change salaried state ownership, via multiple relations of production which now correspond to the development level of Cuba’s productive forces. Private capitalism (small, medium and large) and private free labor (real self-employed workers) and associated work (cooperatives, mutual societies, worker associations of all kinds) with other social relations and economic approaches.

If Cuba makes progress, it will be because it has thrown all of the Stalinist approach to a centralized State-owned economy down the drain of history. If those who are at the top, making decisions, can’t understand this, or don’t want to because it’s not convenient for them, well sooner or later they will become ancient history, because according to Karl Marx in his “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy”:

“In the social production of their life, men enter into definite, necessary relations which are independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real basis on which a legal and political superstructure rises, and to which definite forms of social consciousness correspond. The mode of production conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production, or (and this is simply a legal expression of the same thing), with the property relations within which they have operated up to that time. These relations change from forms of development of the productive forces into their fetters. There then begins an epoch of social revolution.”

4 thoughts on “The Cornerstone for Progress in Cuba

  • The Stalinist model of socialism failed. End it. The means of production needs to be returned to the people. The proper role of Government is as regulator, taxing authority and funding. Direct ownership and management does not work.

  • Good comment Pedro, keep up the pressure as I think you are having some effect on the higher ups. Did you see the article on the experiment in Prensa Latina?

  • In China and Vietnam capitalism is being sneaked into the economy. If workers have no say in production, they naturally become apathetic. We need to espouse co-ops and workers control…or otherwise “socialism” is meaningless

  • Something must have gotten lost in translation going from Spanish to English. I don’t understand the point of this article. Maybe it’s because being an economist in Cuba is probably more like an oxymoron where one tries to make sense of contradictory theories and statements perhaps because they’re being taught Marxist theory and are now told to make it work with capitalism. They are incompatible.

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