Rogelio Manuel Diaz Moreno
HAVANA TIMES — Much has been discussed and written recently about the Conceptualization of Cuba’s social and economic model. Official spokespersons pay tribute to the fantastic program and praise just how democratic the Cuban government is that we are able to discuss the document. On the other side, the text is being labeled another form of authoritarianism and any public debate it invites is a mere illusion.
As always in these kinds of situations, I’m unable to just sit back and have to interrupt with my scandalous observations. The problem is that, in order to make any kind of weighted analysis of this document, you have to go a little beyond what they recommend us to. On the Observatorio Critico website, I’ve left some of my criticism, which takes up the same amount of pages as the nearly 15 tabloid pages that the Conceptualization is written on.
For now though, I only want to talk about a small fragment of this document, which I find to be particularly interesting. As I see it, Paragraph 169 is the most meaningful out of all the conceptual changes made, as it establishes that a person of Cuban nationality, of a private nature, will have the power to invest in a mixed ownership enterprise for the first time in 50 something years of our “socialist” system.
Against the backdrop of our indescribable authorities’ logical and systemic contradictions, this clause stands out like a sore thumb. Later, we can examine the change’s “minor” issues of justice, nature and transcendence.
The Cuban Constitution and other governing principles which outline our socialism, including this lovely Conceptualization, have established that the large means of production belong to us, the Cuban people. For example, it belongs to me as well as I form part of this society. And the State manages this, in my name and on my behalf. Now it just so happens that, if I have a certain amount of money to my name, I could propose to the State – my representative in what belongs to me in all enterprises – to make one of them, a joint venture; making me co-owner of something which already belonged to me in the first place.
While I was the owner of a socialist State company, running and managing this enterprise was in the hands of my representative. And I wouldn’t be able to interfere much. At best, if it was where I worked, I would be able to express my approval from time to time about how things were going. And even my disapproval if I wasn’t afraid that the manager would declare me “not suitable” and I would lose my job. I would have no kind of power over this management, the representatives of my representative.
If I were to become co-owner of a mixed ownership enterprise, everything would change. I’d invest some money and I could change the managers as I pleased. I could lay out changes in management, in work organization and production lines. In short, as co-owner, I would be able to exercise more of my rights than I could as an owner beforehand, when my rights were ignored.
Let’s look at what this implies for everyone else involved. The rest of the Cuban people of this hypothetical enterprise which has now become a joint venture, who were all owners in their own right via the State, logically, will all become co-owners like me. However, they won’t receive the same powers as me; in fact, they’d lose them. Given the fact that I had invested in the business like any other respectable capitalist, I’d squeeze as much as I could out of the business in order to increase my takings. The law would allow me to cut back on staff. I could demand longer working days, weaken labor rights and lay off whoever doesn’t increase their output as I’d like them to. And of course, in spite of everything, if I don’t receive satisfactory profits, I’d pull out my investment, without worrying about the disaster that would ensue in my wake.
A lot of people argue that foreign investments have enjoyed these privileges already for a long time now. And therefore, in not recognizing these “rights” for the Cuban population, we are being discriminated against and it doesn’t make a lot of practical sense. Those supporting the Conceptualization of Cuba’s social and economic model document as is share this line of argument.
These arguments reveal how bourgeouis and capitalist “common sense” has permeated throughout our society and how natural these kinds of things are assimilated in our “socialist” Cuba. The US President Barack Obama’s visit wasn’t anything more than a postcard, as our society has been rubbing heads and hearts with US capitalism for quite some time now. State bureaucracy is more than well known for its lack of dexterity in business management. However, their inability to run the economy and manage businesses shouldn’t be resolved with dressed up privatization measures.
Production management rights and playing out the material and revolutionary life which we discuss shouldn’t be the privileges of a few well off people. Let’s not get confused. We shouldn’t believe that society’s freedom and prosperity depends on a minute percentage of the population who have the right to enjoy such privileges. Not via administrative mechanisms, like state bureaucracy, and not via capitalist property deeds. Management and administration need to be socialized; the working class needs to take it into their own hands, with their natural and developed intelligence which they’ve acquired through their experience and studies.
The only coherent socialist thought in all of this involves defending the right for administration and management of state-owned property, mainly by having medium-sized and large enterprises remain in the working class’ power. This, so that all people who actually work and contribute to society in a useful way, can progress without supposed intermediaries who in reality take over their sovereignty. The current ruling class, which wants to attract investment as soon as possible, wants to sell the rights to practice these privileges. They’re so desperate that they’ve looked for buyers in the only market they have left to explore, the Cuban people. Let’s defend the real rights of the 99% not the alleged rights of the 1%, who have taken away the rights of the rest of us 99%.
Those at different workplaces can appreciate the need for investment. They have an unchallengeable sovereignty. Hence, they could negotiate loans with the rest of Cuban society, or with foreign capital that accepts the risks involved, in line with the regulations in place.
In conclusion, let’s put forward the following tricky question to the clever people who read us: Who do you believe the real beneficiaries will be of these pioneering and better investment options, in semi-privately owned enterprises of the Cuban State?