Economic Transition in Cuba – A Brief Analysis
Economic Transition in Cuba: A Brief Analysis / Somos+, Gretther Yedra
Somos+, Gretther Yedra, 1 June 2016 — When addressing the need for a
“transition” of Cuban society, Cuban leaders respond that such a process
already took place, starting in 1959, when the Revolutionary government
seized farms, factories, shops, banks and other industries which had
hitherto been in private hands.
But when the traditional opposition-in-exile speaks of transition, it
almost always means a return to the political and economic order that
existed before 1959, which in essence means returning confiscated
property to its former owners. In other words, to turn back the clock,
retracing the path that the Revolution took in the years immediately
following the triumph of the insurrection. This is, from a revolutionary
point of view, counter-revolutionary.
One might think that it all boils down to a choice between two
diametrically opposed options, with each alternative amounting to
nothing more than a reverse of the other. One option proscribes absolute
collectivization; the other calls for complete privatization. When the
first agrarian reform was carried out and large estates were seized, the
government spoke of giving the land to the peasants. A frequently heard
phrase at the time was “The land should belong to those who work it.”
And when factories, businesses and banks were seized, it was said to
have been done on behalf of the proletariat in order to make workers the
“owners of the means of production.” The Revolutionary government was,
therefore, conceived as a means for transferring wealth from one class
to another. This was supposed to take place in two stages. First, the
assets of the bourgeoisie were to be expropriated and, second, they were
to become the property of the workers.
No one can seriously claim that the first step in this transition was
not carried to the fullest extent possible — all property belonging to
capitalists and landowners was expropriated — but what remains an open
question is whether or not the second stage was ever realized.
These two extremes are not altogether unalike, with both sharing a
common denominator. Both involve transforming the way monopolies are
controlled, with one approach precluding the other. Whether a large
plantation is run privately or by the state, its essence remains
unchanged; it is still a plantation. Instead of dividing the land among
the peasants, collective farms were created. Workers in factories, shops
and banks could not democratically elect their directors and
administrators; they were appointed by higher-ups.
As noted by sociologists both inside and outside the island, the model
adopted by state-run agriculture tended to conflate state property with
socialist property, which also affected non-state socialist enterprises
such as CPAs (agricultural production cooperatives). One result is that
a farm worker’s position more closely resembles that of salaried
employee in a capitalist enterprise than that of a socialist owner.
In neither case has the radical rethinking necessary for a real solution
been realized. Neither addresses the essential dilemma: the monopolistic
control of property, the absence of worker participation in management
decisions and the marginalization of much of the population.
While the first step was taken in the early years, the second was
indefinitely postponed. Companies came under state control, which became
an end unto itself. To say that the transition has already been carried
out is only half true. It is a transition that was interrupted, one that
never came to fruition, and as a result the revolutionary process
What is significant is the term “state-owned” rather than “social”
property as the official terminology used to describe the essential
nature of a socialist society. But statism is not socialism. It is a
form of centralization that precludes civil society and is incompatible
with the original concept of socialism, which might better be called
socialization or, in other words, the free participation of all sectors
of society in economic activities without bureaucratic intermediaries.
Since classic Marxism predicted the eventual abolition of even
state-owned property during the most advanced phase of socialism, how
can it be argued that state ownership is the ideal form of social
property given that it was the inefficiency of such a system that led to
failure of the Soviet Union itself?
Democracy should be a pathway, one in which we are free to choose our
leaders and remove them from power if they prove to be corrupt or if
they betray us. It is essential that our economy be guided by experts in
this area, not by the military. Political ideology cannot be the
determining factor in our country’s economic growth.
Therefore, our goal must be to eliminate centralism, which we consider
to be a hindrance to the development of the kind of society we want to
build. Learning from our own and others’ mistakes is a first step in the
right direction. The change lies within us.
Source: Economic Transition in Cuba: A Brief Analysis / Somos+, Gretther
Yedra – Translating Cuba –