Pedro Campos (photos: Juan Suarez)
HAVANA TIMES — The predominant way in which the workforce is exploited is what characterizes a given economy. Capitalism is characterized by wage exploitation. When private companies that exploit wage laborers predominate in a given economy, we have classic private enterprise capitalism. When State-owned companies predominate, were are dealing with a form of State capitalism.
When these State companies constitute the overwhelming majority, the State monopolizes domestic and foreign trade and establishes regulations to favor its companies over and above private or mixed capital companies, and then we are looking at State monopoly capitalism.
It is the case of so-called State or real socialism, the kind of Stalinist (or “Marxist-Leninist”) socialism that has failed everywhere it was tried and which subsists in Cuba.
To a greater or lesser extent, forms of self-managed, free associated or individual labor – authentically socialist forms of labor, that is – have commonly existed within capitalist economies. Cooperatives, credit unions, economic associations of different sorts, family businesses and the self-employed, which do not generally exploit wage workers (though they may do so occasionally or exceptionally), all have existed in capitalism.
If we are talking about political economy and not pipe-dreams, socialism is the economic and social movement towards a post-capitalist society, based on progress towards the relative predominance of these other relations of production, which are different and superior to capitalism’s typical wage relations, characterized by free associated or self-managed labor.
In Cuba, the government that emerged from the popular revolution of 1959, whose aim was restoring the democratic system dismantled by Batista’s coup d’état in 1952, instead of re-establishing democratic institutions, followed a “Marxist-Leninist” social justice script which involved the rapid placement of all property under State control.
This way, practically all large, mid-sized and small foreign and domestic capitalist companies, cooperatives, credit unions and individual properties were placed in State hands and, in this way, instead of advancing towards the socialization of property and the fruits of labor, towards the gradual expansion of free associated or individual labor, property was concentrated in the hands of a politico-military-administrative State bureaucracy which maintained wage exploitation in an arbitrary fashion.
“Socialism” came to be understood as the State, salaried production system, while free associated and individual labor was gradually eliminated under the law, save in exceptional cases and under State control, as with sugar-cane cooperatives, an experiment which lasted merely two years, as did the quasi-forceful agricultural cooperatives on the lands of the few individual farmers who managed to survive the two agrarian reform laws passed at the beginning of the revolution.
Facing an irreversible crisis following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the “socialist bloc”, plagued by contradictions between its discourse and its actual practices, the exhausted political model of the “dictatorship of the proletariat” and the State wage economy, once thought immutable, has been attempting to “update” the system, without changing its essence, since Raul Castro took office.
Without any changes to the hyper-centralized political system that is devoid of the democratic values acknowledged in the Democratic Republic by the classics of socialism, the government has opened up some spaces for self-employment and cooperatives outside the farm sector, all the while maintaining innumerable and well-known restrictions, centralized planning, “State socialist companies” (and the State regulations that privilege these), and State market monopolies as the main axes of the economy.
By contrast and paradoxically, the capitalist system that predominates in today’s world, owing to its own internal contradictions and its need to survive, not only permits but, in many countries, favors the development of free associated or individual labor, which has been given much impetus by the irreverent progress of new information and communication technologies that make it possible for us to socialize knowledge and access markets of all manner of companies.
Parallel to this, in these societies, the classical, liberal, democratic institutions that the bourgeoisie established and used to confront the feudal nobility, have also been used by workers in general to demand their rights as citizens and confront the neo-liberal avalanche that attempts to save classical capitalism at the expense of reducing employment, salaries and social benefits secured through the worker struggles of the last century and a half.
The democratic values and rights secured by workers and their trade unions and political organizations were, in contrast, underestimated and trampled on by State monopoly capitalism (called “socialism”), which considered them “unnecessary and obsolete” in the “dictatorship of the proletariat.”
It is from this contempt towards such values and the essence of Marxist socialism that the Cuban Communist Party attempts to ignore the positions of the socialist Left and do not accept any kind of exchange with dissenting views, repressing, dismissing and excluding such positions.
From this point of view, what has been the main obstacle to the development of authentically socialist forms of production, characterized by free associated and individual labor, in Cuba?
The answer is very simple: it has been the State wage model, the State monopoly capitalism imposed on Cuba in the name of socialism, the system which, with some changes and improvements, the so-called “reform process” seeks to perpetuate.
Hence our demand for the elimination of all obstacles to free associated or individual labor, the decriminalization of dissenting opinion, the establishment of freedom of expression and association, the free and democratic election of all public officials and the opening of a space for a nationwide exchange that excludes no one, with a view to creating a new, fully democratic constitution.