[Marxism] Yaffe: Cuba's wage changes have nothing to do with return to capitalism

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Fri Jun 20 06:41:20 MDT 2008

Cuba's wage changes have nothing to do with a return to capitalism

Far from 'moribund', the island's economy is thriving and has much to teach
the west, says Helen Yaffe
* Dr Helen Yaffe
* The Guardian,
* Friday June 20, 2008


Your article claimed that "Cuba has abandoned its egalitarian wage system to
try to salvage its moribund economy, marking another step away from Fidel
Castro's socialist dream" (Cuban workers to get bonuses for extra effort,
June 13).

In reality, there has never been an "egalitarian wage system" (ie one where
every worker was paid the same): Che Guevara himself devised a new salary
scale, introduced in 1964, with 24 different basic wage levels, plus a 15%
bonus for over-completion. This scale - which I studied during my research
in Cuba on Che's work as minister of industries - linked wages to
qualifications, creating an incentive to training, which was vital given the
exodus of professionals and low educational level of Cuba's workers.

Like Marx himself, Che recognised the socialist principle: "From each
according to his ability, to each according to his work" - which your
article associates exclusively with Raul. Cuba has never claimed to be
communist and therefore has never embraced the principle "from each
according to his ability, to each according to his need", which expresses
the attainment of communist society.

Your description of the Cuban economy as "moribund" is bizarre, given that
it has grown between 7 and 12% annually since 2005. Pensions and salaries
have been raised several times since 2004, with big investments made in
social infrastructure, transport and communication. Electrical goods in
every Cuban home have been replaced by new energy-efficient equipment.

You say that "the island is impoverished", but how can you dismiss Cuba's
first-world standard, free, universal education and healthcare services -
luxuries gradually being withdrawn in our own country? The Human Development
Report now lists Cuba in the high human development category.

The new pay regulations were introduced to standardise salary policy across
the economy as part of the general implementation of the economic management
system operating in army enterprises since 1987. Capped or not, bonus
payments in Cuba are awarded for outperforming the national plan in the
production of physical goods or services. Your article did not mention the
fact that these payments remain capped at 30% of salary for various
bureaucrats, technicians and economists - a measure to prevent the emergence
of a technocratic elite.

The new salary incentives - to increase internal production and
productivity, particularly in agriculture and exports - reflect Cuba's push
to reduce vulnerability to the global food price crisis, rather than a
return to capitalism.

Your report equates productivity with capitalism - but how efficient is this
economic system which leaves millions unemployed because their work is not
"profitable", while millions of under-5s die every year of malnutrition and
diarrhoea. For 50 years, Cuba commentators have predicted the collapse of
the socialist revolution. Your article repeats the same mistake.

. Dr Helen Yaffe is a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for the Study of
the Americas, and author of Ernesto Che Guevara: The Economics of
Revolution, to be published by Palgrave MacMillan helen.yaffe at sas.ac.uk
About this article
This article appeared in the Guardian on Friday June 20 2008 on p39 of the
Editorials & reply section. It was last updated at 00:08 on June 20 2008.

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