Cuba today (was Soviet statistics)

Jose G. Perez jgperez at SPAMfreepcmail.com
Wed Aug 25 22:19:39 MDT 1999



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<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=""><FONT
face="Book Antiqua">Tahir,</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=""><FONT face="Book Antiqua"></FONT></FONT><FONT
face="Book Antiqua"></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>    <FONT
face="Book Antiqua" size=3>There is a world of difference between between a
socialist revolution adopting some capitalist measures and even allowing certain
investments, and a prolonged "capitalist stage" of a revolution. The
difference is qualitative.</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Book Antiqua"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>    <FONT
face="Book Antiqua" size=3>First on the nature of "socialism," as this
term has come to be used. We should all be clear that "really existing
socialism" is, so to speak, a phenomenon of <EM>bourgeois </EM>society, it
is not as advanced a socialism as Marx and Engels imagined, which was a world
system of (at least) the more advanced countries.</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Book Antiqua"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>    <FONT
face="Book Antiqua" size=3>That is why Trotsky insisted on talking about a
"worker's state" rather than a "socialist country." The
Cubans too, for a while, tended to stress they were a society "building
socialism" (rather than a socialist society). The terminology need not
concern us overmuch, <EM>provided </EM>we understand what we're talking about.
These socialist countries exist in the midst of, and to a certain extent even
form part of, the world <EM>capitalist</EM> system. As for applying the label
"socialism" to them, I believe it is perfectly legitimate, for
socialism is precisely the <EM>transition</EM>  from capitalism to
communism, thus it's perfectly orthodox to call societies that have embarked on
this transition "socialist." </FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Book Antiqua"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>    <FONT
face="Book Antiqua" size=3>However, a</FONT><FONT face="Book Antiqua" size=3>ny
idea of socialist "purity" is entirely misplaced. Indeed, the very
idea of socialism is precisely impurity. Cuba's Silvio Rodríguez got it
right:</FONT></FONT><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2></FONT></DIV>
<BLOCKQUOTE>
    <DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>absurdo suponer que el
    paraiso</FONT></DIV>
    <DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>es solo la igualdad las buenas
    leyes</FONT></DIV>
    <DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>el sueño se hace a mano y
    sin permiso</FONT></DIV>
    <DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>arando el porvenir con viejos
    bueyes</FONT></DIV>
    <DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>viejos bueyes.</FONT></DIV>
    <DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2></FONT> </DIV>
    <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>Its absurd to think that paradise</FONT></DIV>
    <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>Is just equality and good laws.</FONT></DIV>
    <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>The dream is made by hand and without
    permission</FONT></DIV>
    <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>Plowing the future with good oxen</FONT></DIV>
    <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>Good oxen</FONT></DIV></BLOCKQUOTE>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Book Antiqua"
size=3></FONT></FONT><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>   
</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>    <FONT
color=#000000 face="Bookman Old Style" size=3>"Arando el porvenir con
viejos bueyes," is precisely what Cuba is doing. BUT -- and this is the
point -- they're plowing the future. Such capitalist measures, and even (to a
certain limited degree) the penetration of Capital itself, are subordinate to a
society where the capitalist market has been smashed, where production takes
place through an entirely different logic. (There is, obviously, a great tension
between such a domestic economy and its insertion into the world capitalist
market. It is a real contradiction that has been qualitatively sharpened by the
demise of he socialist block, which is exactly the premise of this
discussion)</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>    <FONT
face="Bookman Old Style" size=3>The situation is radically different where a
working-class party seeks to administer a capitalist society. It's not a
question of plowing the future, for the economy doesn't yet point to the future,
it is still rooted in the past. All experience shows that a victorious popular
revolution that comes to power in our epoch is inherently unstable until and
unless it smashes the internal capitalist market. And indeed, from very early
on, the logic of the class struggle forces the revolution's leaders to take
measures that make no sense from the point of view of capitalist economics, and
in many cases tend to put the economy, insofar as it is capitalist, into a
profound crisis.</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>    <FONT
face="Bookman Old Style" size=3>That's because in the ongoing tussles and
battles over the division of the value produced by labor, the workers now stand
in a transformed position. Most likely, they will not only have a union now, but
also the government's armed forces on its side (as likely as not a militia made
up of the self-same workers). The revolutionary leadership must, of course,
shape and channel the aspirations of working people beyond immediate economic
gains, but there are strict limits to this. Even when playing the part of the
fire hose, the revolutionary government finds itself in the awkward position on
not trying to put out the fire, for if it does, it will soon be overthrown. In
many ways the easiest tactic for the revolutionaries is the one followed by
Fidel and his comrades, who basically told the Cuban working class, hey, why
fight to take one more nickel from these s.o.b.'s, let's take it all, and they
did in fairly short order. (The expropriation of the capitalists in Cuba was
largely completed by October, 1960, less than two years after the seizure of
power.)</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>    <FONT
face="Bookman Old Style" size=3>Let me be clear that above all at that moment in
the development of a revolutionary struggle, when workers have seized political
power and begun to use it to achieve not just their own economic liberation, but
the liberation of all society, there are no schemas, formulas or recipes that
can be followed. The actual class combat itself, now being waged openly as a
political struggle by the workers, will determine what happens and how
quickly.</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>    <FONT
face="Bookman Old Style" size=3>But that should not obscure the logic of the
situation. I've now been privileged to live through this phase in two
revolutions, first as a child in Cuba, later as a foreign correspondent in
Nicaragua. The situation that results when the working class takes power in a
capitalist society is a total mess. Worse, even with BOTH sides seeking a
compromise and acting in good faith, the position of each side leads it to
betray (or be perceived as betraying) its promises to the other.
</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3>    Once the workers seize power you still have
capitalism, but you get a totally dysfunctional capitalism. Most capitalists
are, as rapidly as they can, decapitalizing their enterprises, liquidating their
holdings, sending their money to safe havens, refusing to invest or even buy raw
materials. Insofar as the working class isn't yet strong enough to expropriate
them, the state finds itself in the incredibly awkward position of having to
subsidize the operation of these folks through credits and so on. Typically the
revolution will propose a compromise to the capitalists: if they do not
decapitalize, if they keep their factories running and so on, they will be
allowed to continue functioning and even making a profit. While one or another
individual bourgeois will accept the offer, the local capitalist class as a
whole will reject it, and this quite independently of whether they're mostly
intermediaries for imperialist companies, producers for the world market, or
strictly industrial concerns producing for the home market, the prototypical
"national" bourgeois. </FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3>    Even those capitalists who WANT to will find it
impossible to do "business as usual." Their distributors will stop
placing orders, or paying bills. Credits for needed imports are unavailable.
Input suppliers fail to make delivery. </FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3>    But Even if ALL the capitalists accept the deal, and
even if the revolution's leaders succeed in convincing workers to limit their
immediate material aspirations so as not to make the companies unprofitable, the
fact is that society will no longer be governed by the logic of the capitalist
market and capitalist accumulation. If the revolution is a true one, people will
come before profits, and when that happens in the real world, all deals with the
bourgeoisie are off.</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3>    For example, suppose the revolution decides to
subsidize free milk for poor children, basic foodstuffs, medical care. It can
pay for this by taxing those who have money --the rich-- or by printing money,
which creates inflation, and which means those who have large stocks of liquid
capital will see it eaten up by this indirect tax. </FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3>    Or the revolution faces a threatened direct or
mercenary aggression from imperialism. The workers march off to militia practice
three days a week -- on the clock. Worse, a third of your workforce goes off to
the border in a militia unit. Are you going to cut them off from the payroll
when they're putting their lives on the line for the country? But even if the
government pays them, it makes no difference, the money is coming from your
capitalist wealth, either directly or indirectly.</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3>    The point is when there's a revolution, stuff happens,
and the capitalist class will be expected to pay because they've got all the
money. Worse, the whole pie of socially produced wealth is up for grabs, and it
isn't a question of a quiet, dignified bargaining session between your lawyer
and his brother, the lawyer representing the union. It's a mess, and one group
of workers in one town forces their boss to set up a school for all their
children out of his profits (or, what's the same, only indirectly, gets the
government to do it), tenant farmers somewhere else take over the landowners
property, poor people take over the half of the units in your apartment building
that are empty from all the people that moved to Miami, or set up a shanty town
on the prime real estate you just spent a million dollars buying to put up that
new shopping center and the cops won't evict them.</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3>    Sooner rather than later, the capitalists, at least
some of them, and perhaps very reasonably, because they were severely impacted
by one or another measure more or less by accident, will decide to cut their
losses, salvage what they can, in other words, decapitalize, or at least insist
they not be made to pay for militia practice or the former employee who is now
the schoolteacher.</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT face="Bookman Old Style">    The working people
--quite logically-- perceive even the "innocent" resistance of the
capitalists to "anti-economic" measures as sabotage, and demand that
the government take measures. In the most egregious cases, it certainly is
conscious, political sabotage by the capitalists. But even if nothing more than
self-preservation by the capitalists is involved, the government's counter
measures can only make things worse, from the point of view of a capitalist
economy. One way or another, the government must take control of the enterprise
away from its owner. You know how diplomats talk about "confidence building
measures"? Well, the government is faced with having to take
"confidence wrecking measures." Confidence wrecking, of course, for
the bourgeoisie. </FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT face="Bookman Old Style">    Here you are, an honest,
national bourgeois, trying to keep up production, and every time you turn around
the government has taken over the business of another one of your friends. You
WANT to cooperate, but then again, you've got a family and children and perhaps
you'll be forced to emigrate. Pretty soon you, too, will be decapitalizing and
trying to build a nest egg abroad. </FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>    <FONT
face="Bookman Old Style" size=3>When Fidel took power, he had overwhelming
popular support, and even many sympathizers, contributors and collaborators in
capitalist families. Those that didn't support him were largely unworried. Two
years later ALL the (mostly ex-) capitalists in Miami were clinking glasses on
New Year's eve to the toast of "Next Year in Cuba." Fidel, Che and
some of their closest collaborators were perhaps conscious of the inherent logic
of the situation, but the overwhelming majority of Cuban barbudos and working
people were not. The implicit and explicit promises made to the capitalists in
countless ways that the revolution would not go "too far" were
sincerely meant, but were totally utopian. And it was precisely the experience
of seeing the capitalists decapitalize and, in effect, sabotage the economy that
convinced working people that they ALL should be expropriated.
</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"></FONT><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial
size=2>    </FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>    <FONT
face="Bookman Old Style" size=3>This takes place topsy turvey, with
improvisation and happenstance playing a big role. F</FONT><FONT
face="Bookman Old Style" size=3>or the working people, each intervention and
expropriation only emboldens them. More and more elements of worker's control
get established in all workplaces, whether or not the particular owner is
recalcitrant or cooperative. </FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3>    (One very small example from the Cuban revolution: the
"coletilla" or shirttail. In print journalism it has now virtually
disappeared, but in the old days, when resetting type took time and a lot of
effort, often a story would be updated in its details with a
"shirt-tail", a small additional body of copy separated by a line from
the main body of the story and appended at the end of the story. In 1959,
typesetters at Cuban newspapers started to insert their OWN
"coletillas" to particularly offensive and lying articles, telling the
truth of the matter as <EM>they</EM> say it. Attempts to fire or discipline the
typesetters were rebuffed by the unions and the revolutionary government.
</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT face="Bookman Old Style">    (The most important
principle to remember about <EM>bourgeois </EM>freedom of the press is that
freedom of the press belongs to those who own one. The "coletilla" was
a devastating blow to the prerogatives of the bourgeois owners of Cuban
newspapers, even though if anything, it increased the sales of their papers. If
the revolution was going to force them to print the communist ravings of mere
typesetters, they reasoned, they could soon be expropriated altogether. Better
to cancel that newsprint order, and just keep the money in a bank account in
Miami.)</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>    <FONT
face="Bookman Old Style" size=3>Now, it may be true that in the future, say,
once the U.S. goes socialist, capitalists, upon seeing the workers coming to
power, will reconcile themselves to their fate, and, in exchange for a
comfortable living, may well accept being progressively reduced, in effect, to
administrators of what might still be technically "their" companies.
This would certainly be a much smoother way of beginning the transition to
socialism. But no revolution yet has faced this circumstance of a capitalist
class, or even a significant section of it, willing to negotiate, so to speak,
the terms of its own surrender and liquidation as a class. </FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>    <FONT
face="Bookman Old Style" size=3>That's not a situation anyone has faced yet in
the real world, and if even a small section of the capitalists refuse to play
ball, the disruption is such you HAVE to take over their companies, and when you
do, you've dynamited the very foundation of capitalist society AND of your
compact with the rest of the bourgeoisie, the sanctity of bourgeois
property.</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>    <FONT
face="Bookman Old Style" size=3>It may be possible in some Marxist professor's
book, but in the real world, with a popular revolution in power, there's no way
to get the capitalist class to "play ball" with the exploited classes,
because the fundamentally irreconcilable nature of the interests of each side
has been brought front and center of that society's life by the revolution.
Either the masses get defeated, demoralized, beaten back, bled to submission or
betrayed, or they will make one inroad after another against capitalists
property and privilege so that the capitalists have no choice (as they see it)
but to act in self-preservation. Once the capitalists do that the society will
be plunged into a monster economic crisis and --barring defeat of the
revolution-- it will only deepen as long as the capitalist market continues to
dominate. Only the expropriation of the capitalists as a class --or the defeat
of the revolution-- can lay a basis for society to get out of the
ditch.</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>    <FONT
face="Bookman Old Style" size=3>Given all this, the question naturally arises,
how do you prevent the same logic of the class struggle from short-circuiting a
strategy of using elements of capitalism, and even capital as such, to help the
revolution survive economically?</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>    <FONT
face="Bookman Old Style" size=3>I've found how the Cubans have handled it to be
extremely instructive.</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>    <FONT
face="Bookman Old Style" size=3>First, Cuba does not allow domestic capital. For
example, self-employment is allowed, and even co-ops, but not private employers.
Yes, some of it does happen, but it is a marginal phenomenon. Even certain
performers who have made tons of money abroad have been told that they can
invest it in New York, but not in any Cuban mixed enterprises. These artists are
good comrades who raised the issue strictly from motives of
<EM>contributing</EM> to the economy, and as <EM>passive</EM>
"investors." The policy, I was told, is iron-clad: no Cuban resident
on the island can have capital in Cuba. </FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>    <FONT
face="Bookman Old Style" size=3>On the face of it, the policy seems almost
anti-national. If some good, patriotic Cuban won the Lotto and wants to use the
money to move back to and invest in Cuba, why not let him, instead of giving the
investment opportunity to some Italian company with strictly mercenary motives?
The answer is that 5 domestic Cuban capitalists are a plague 100 times worse
than 500 foreign investors, from the point of view of building a society based
on human solidarity. </FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>    <FONT
face="Bookman Old Style" size=3>Cuba already went through this experience with
the farmers markets of the early 80s, and the emergence of peso-millionaire
intermediaries. It is a fox in the chicken coop, impossible to
contain.</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3>    Foreign capital, precisely because it is foreign, is
much easier to contain. In Cuba it is strictly "quarantined," so to
speak. And it is an interesting quarantine, in that it seeks, above ALL, 
to limit Capital as a force within Cuban society, to keep it
"foreign," to keep it outside. And the relations of that capital with
Cuban society are all mediated by the state.</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>    <FONT
face="Bookman Old Style" size=3>First, Cuba has not made a fetish of the degree
of foreign versus domestic capital in the enterprise, nor of the nationality of
the top executives of a given enterprise. On this, they are very flexible. Where
they do draw a line is the relations between these capitalists mixed enterprises
and "their" workers. They do NOT allow mixed enterprises to hire
workers directly. The Cuban state and the Cuban union movement run what is in
effect a hiring hall. They also do not allow payment in foreign currency, which
must be converted to pesos to pay the workers. (Tips are a different matter, but
the unions have strict rules about these being shared among all the workers of a
restaurant or whatever.)</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>    <FONT
face="Bookman Old Style" size=3>There are very important reasons for wages being
paid in pesos. The state is actively trying to combat the creation of a
relatively privileged layer of the working class whose station in life is tied
to the foreign capitalist and his money. The insistence on payment in pesos is
an important principle, for in a certain sense, the Cuban currency is a currency
that has ALREADY BEGUN to wither away, it is the token that economic market
Value does not rule, because the peso in a certain sense is no longer money, not
fully.</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>    <FONT
face="Bookman Old Style" size=3>It is common to see in the bourgeois press Cuban
peso salaries translated to dollars at the parallel market exchange rate.
"A doctor makes the equivalent of $30 a month," for example. In doing
this, the bourgeois reporters show that they have no inkling of how Cuban
society actually works, because one of the most important things one notices is
that the peso's value is no longer a fixed quantity. Ten pesos might be worth
fifty dollars in one context and fifty cents in another.</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>    <FONT
face="Bookman Old Style" size=3>Ten pesos, for example, might well be the rent
or mortgage payment of a relatively low-income family (the amount is 10% of the
family's income for a period of, if I remember right, 20 years). Does this mean
houses in Cuba are worth next to nothing? Kind of. Housing has been
de-commodityized, new housing is not produced at all for the market, for its
exchange value, but directly for its use value. The monetary transactions that
may surround and accompany them are mostly hangovers from the past, at most they
form a very minor part of the actual social relations of production and use of
what is produced. (At the same time the fact that such monetary transactions
exist show that Cuba is in the midst of transitioning from capitalism to
communism.)</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>    <FONT
face="Bookman Old Style" size=3>Next come foodstuffs and other necessities. In
many cases, these prices remain fixed where they were in 1959, when the
revolution came to power and the Cuban peso and American dollar were
interchangeable (and used that way). </FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3></FONT></FONT>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3>    (So ingrained was this 1-1 parity that Cubans in Miami
almost invariably will speak of things costing so many pesos, meaning dollars.
Some coins also retain the name of their pre-revolution Cuban equivalents
(centavo=cent, real=dime) while others, which had no Cuban counterpart, are
called by their American name, like the quarter. People from other Latin
American countries where their own national "pesos" had widely varying
exchange rates with the dollar are often surprised and find it hard to adopt
this interchangeable use of peso for dollar.)</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3>    Now, these 1959 "prices" are arbitrary and
almost symbolic, and in reality are not bourgeois prices at all, for access to
these goods at these price levels requires the use of "la libreta",
the ration book. Unlike in capitalist society, simply having the money does not
give you the "right" to those goods. But it does mean that every Cuban
family has access to at least a good portion of the bare necessities for a
handful of pesos.</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>    <FONT
face="Bookman Old Style" size=3>I do not know if this has changed, but until the
mid-90s, at least, the same was true of utilities like water, gas, electricity
and telephone service. All education and all medical care is absolutely free,
and, partly to make sure it remains this way, the government has put both these
fields off limits to foreign capital.</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>    <FONT
face="Bookman Old Style" size=3>The point is that, even in the midst of the
great difficulties and tremendous economic crisis of the "special
period," and the admixture of capitalist elements, Cuban society and the
Cuban economy are not ruled by the laws of the market. What gets produced and
how much gets produced are <EM>political </EM> decisions, as are what
"price" to charge for things.</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>    <FONT
face="Bookman Old Style" size=3>In explaining this, I like to say something like
that the first hundred pesos or so of a Cuban family's income is worth many
times that number in dollars. But the next hundred pesos are worth that same
multiplier in cents, i.e., next to nothing. Obviously the Cuban peso is an
extremely odd economic phenomenon. In theory, as money, it should be the very
distilled essence of Value, the universal equivalent, the mirror in which all
goods see their true worth. But the peso is a funhouse mirror, making towering
giants of some things and puny insects of others. Such a mirror may be great
entertainment, but definitely not to be trusted when it shows you you've lost 30
pounds.</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>    <FONT
face="Bookman Old Style" size=3>To get back to foreign Capital, the point of
payment in pesos is to keep workers at, for example, the nickel mines tied to
the national <EM>socialist</EM> economy for their well-being, to keep Cuban
society from being split with the creation of a labor aristocracy tied to
imperialism. You <EM>could</EM> do it otherwise, for example, taxing
foreign-currency income to recoup in this way the costs of the "social
wage" everyone receives in the form of free education, health care and so
on, or even charge such workers for these things. Those other methods establish
a more direct nexus, however, between the Cuban worker and foreign
Capital.</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2>    <FONT
face="Bookman Old Style" size=3>I'm sorry to saddle everyone with such an overly
long post, but I think the question raised, of the difference between socialists
administering a capitalist economy, and socialists using capitalist mechanisms
and even Capital in a socialist economy, is a very important one. And if we're
to avoid simply repeating pre-1990 formulas, I think the best way to see that it
is a difference in principle, in the whole logic and dynamic of the class
struggle, is to deal with it at some level of detail. </FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 face=Arial size=2><FONT face="Bookman Old Style"
size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT face="Bookman Old Style">Jose</FONT></DIV>
<BLOCKQUOTE
style="BORDER-LEFT: #000000 solid 2px; MARGIN-LEFT: 5px; PADDING-LEFT: 5px">
    <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2><B>-----Original Message-----</B><BR><B>From:
    </B>TAHIR WOOD <<A
    href="mailto:TWOOD at adfin.uwc.ac.za">TWOOD at adfin.uwc.ac.za</A>><BR><B>To:
    </B><A href="mailto:mstainsby at hotmail.com">mstainsby at hotmail.com</A> <<A
    href="mailto:mstainsby at hotmail.com">mstainsby at hotmail.com</A>>; <A
    href="mailto:marxism at lists.panix.com">marxism at lists.panix.com</A> <<A
    href="mailto:marxism at lists.panix.com">marxism at lists.panix.com</A>><BR><B>Date:
    </B>Tuesday, August 24, 1999 9:33 AM<BR><B>Subject: </B>Cuba today (was
    Soviet statistics)<BR><BR></DIV></FONT>>>> "Macdonald
    Stainsby" <<A
    href="mailto:mstainsby at hotmail.com">mstainsby at hotmail.com</A>> 08/23
    11:17<BR>PM >>><BR><BR>This may be a purely semantic statement, but
    this was not<BR>"pulling back from <BR>socialism". In fact, it was
    defending it. I see you can tell<BR>it was <BR>neccessary. Let us try to
    avoid a purist declaration, for<BR>such an <BR>interpretation would have
    destroyed the revolution. The<BR>"ordinary Cubans" <BR>you speak
    of (almost a contradiction in terms!) tend to<BR>realise this.<BR><BR>There
    is so much that can be said in response to this sort<BR>of argument, but I
    have been focussing on one (important)<BR>semantic question, namely around
    the usage of the word<BR>'socialism', and especially some of the ambiguities
    that<BR>arise in connection with the debate about stages. I am<BR>genuinely
    trying to understand the 'anti-stagist' arguments<BR>that have been put
    forward on this list and have tried to<BR>show that there may be compelling
    reasons for breaking the<BR>development of socialism up into stages, but
    precisely NOT<BR>simply bourgeois democracy followed by
    proletarian<BR>socialism. Your post above demonstrates very
    interestingly<BR>an aspect of this. You rightly say that the
    current<BR>capitalist measures in Cuba are necessary. Or do you not<BR>think
    that entrepreneurship and the market are capitalist?<BR>Because there is
    entrepreneurship and a market in in Cuba<BR>today (even many foreign
    entrepreneurs) as well as plenty of<BR>street hustling. I hope that you are
    right about these<BR>trends not being irreversible, believe me. But you
    have<BR>shown quite clearly that capitalist measures can be a way
    of<BR>saving a socialist revolution, and that this is paralleled<BR>by the
    NEP in the USSR. Is the more general debate about a<BR>capitalist stage
    under the hegemony of a communist party<BR>really different to this? Now
    imagine that the Soviet Union,<BR>whose existence as an ally enabled the
    rapid socialist<BR>transformation that took place in Cuba, had not existed
    at<BR>the time of the Cuban revolution. Are you following me (and<BR>are you
    listening Louis)?. What does this say about what<BR>would have been possible
    then? Wouldn't we have seen what we<BR>are only seeing now, some 40 years
    later, namely a degree of<BR>capitalism in the service of the socialist
    revolutionary<BR>project? I think it must be only a Trotskyist education
    that<BR>creates the kind of blind spot that leads to a refusal to<BR>concede
    this point. But there you go, the capitalist<BR>measures were necessary, as
    you say to DEFEND the<BR>(socialist) revolution. Isn't there a more general
    point<BR>lurking in all this that the 'anti-stagists' won't see? Cuba<BR>is
    having to go through a kind of capitalist STAGE in its<BR>history precisely
    to save the revolution, i.e. to make<BR>further stages of that same
    revolution possible, rather than<BR>an imperialist coup. In a way, I can't
    think of a better<BR>illustration of the whole principle than
    this.<BR><BR>But they really should have sussed out the nature of
    the<BR>Soviet Union and the way it was going a little bit earlier<BR>than
    1991, don't you

think?<BR><BR>Tahir<BR>                                                           


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