[Marxism] Is Cuba Done With Equality? (was "Cuba's wage changes not a return to capitalism")

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Fri Jun 20 17:49:13 MDT 2008


Louis quoted Moshe Adler, a bourgeois-economics educated left or right
radical from Counterpunch (you often can't be sure which without individual
biographies) as follows:

The Communist Party of Cuba has seen the light; it has just announced 
that from now on wages in Cuba will not be determined by the government, 
which kept them nearly equal, but by workers' productivity. Of course, 
since it was the Party itself that made this change, ideologically this 
is as momentous as the fall of the Berlin Wall.

That this is an ideological defeat for equality and for communism there 
can be no doubt.  As economist David Ricardo explained some two hundred 
years ago, the very idea of "worker productivity" is a hollow concept. 
Not only can a worker's productivity not be measured, it cannot even be 
defined.

Ricardo pointed out that production is normally performed by workers who 
work not with their bare hands but with machines, producing not a whole 
product but instead performing only one step in a production process 
that has many. Therefore, Ricardo explained, a worker's productivity 
cannot be separated either from the productivity of the machine that she 
works with, or from the productivity of the rest of the workers in the 
production process. When a skyscraper goes up, how much of a building 
would there be with only a crane operator but no crane, or with only a 
crane and operator but no workers to pour the concrete? The workers and 
machines together form a team, and measuring the productivity of the 
team is easy.

Fred comments:
Louis, do you really believe this claptrap?  Is this a test for the rest of
us, to see if we have read ANY Capital, or have any serious revolutionary
experience? I admit that I have only read Vol. 1 and am currently about half
way through volume III which has taught me that I have to read volume II.
Well, better late than never, of course.

First of all the Cuban government (not the Communist Party) has not
surrendered all control of wages: the law itself sets the ratios for meeting
higher productivity standards, which the state ultimately sets in one form
or another.

The law can be changed at any time, of course. 

Secondly, the purpose is an elementary one -- to inspire workers by the
modest, uncorrupting (in my opinion) incentive to intensify their labor,
take better care of their machines, and move away from the "they pretend to
pay us, we pretend to work" mentality that characterizes workers' states
with bureaucratic deformations  or also workers' states grinding away at a
low purely subsistence level.

Why are material incentives a necessary component of planning for such a
society? Because the working people, even though the capitalists have been
thrown out, still MUST live by the sweat of their brow. And I might add, in
a well ordered society, intensified labor can be recognized as having higher
costs of production.

None of this proves or even indicates that an automatic corruption factor
has been set in motion that will guarantee automatically that this acorn
grows into a great oak of capitalism.

Secondly, a defeat for equality and communism? If you believe that you may
need antidepressants, for there is no reason to draw this radical conclusion
from the so modest evidence available.

Adler argues that worker productivity cannot be measured because in
production, human beings work as team members with other beings called
machines. Who can tell what the human produces and what the machine
produces. As the King of Siam says in the great musical, "Tis a puzzlement."



Except in Marx, of course. He explains it almost from the get-go. And his
argument, in this case, should even meet the requirements of elementary
common sense and natural materialism, which other arguments -- usually
equally correct -- often challenge.
 

Machines are not beings, but simply products of human labor-- in many ways
the central, most indispensable products of human labor today. They are
produced by workers, laboring farmers, artisans just as everything that is
not produced by nature (including by the non-human animal world) is produced
by human beings.

Machines PRODUCE nothing as machines, only as tools created and utilized by
human beings for the purpose of enabling human beings to produce use values
as commodities. A part of their power enters into the making of the product.
An equivalent`	 part, as Marx liked to say, of their cost enters into the
cost of the product. And that's that. The machine has no productivity as
such, only as an instrument for human production created by human
production.

The position of Counterpunch's latest bourgeois economic genius that
machines are producers in their own right, independent of the power of
workers, is of course typical of the bourgeoisie's inability to see the
worker as the creative factor in this process -- something aboutwhich the
bourgeois trained intellectuals like Adler have. Who can possibly tell where
the worker ends and the Mind of the Machine begins? Well I can, and so can
lots of other workers.

Of course, if the point ever comes where machines become producers and
creators in their own right, I will be for welcoming R2D2 and C3PO into
unions, explaining our views on McKinney and Obama and more important
things, offering them anticapitalist literature in all its forms, and
enrolling them into a Workers International, but until then I think Marx
works better than this Counterpunch wise guy.

Until then, working people, not machines, carry out labor activities; and
workers, not machines, produce goods or commodities. That is the score.

Adler writes:

Since productivity is not measurable, how is the Communist Party of Cuba 
likely to implement its plan to pay workers according to their 
productivity? Having fallen for the fallacy that the wages in market 
economies are determined by productivity, the Party will probably 
observe the pay differentials that exist in the West and implement them 
at home. What's in store for Cuba is the standard menu that comes with 
wage inequality, including poor public education but first-rate private 
schools, insufficient or no health care for the majority but excellent 
medical care for CEOs and government officials, a substantial increase 
in the length of the working day, with fewer vacations and job 
insecurity to boot.

Does Louis consider this academic primitively Aristotelian schema, in which
B automatically follows from A and C from B. Artesian expresses this logic
in its full mechanical character, but why should you, with a relatively
authentic background, fall for this. None of this flows the slightest bit
automatically, necessarily, or anything else about the current wage increase
measure which accepts nothing about capitalism except that communist norms
are not yet possible. First rate private schools. Medical care for the rich
only. And no doubt, Jim Crow segregation, too (why did the economic genius
ignore this factor?) All flowing automatically and inevitably from this
measure, from this conditional wage increase, from this incitement to
increased effort. The sky is falling!
 
You believe the Raul Castro dynamic is that deeply counterrevolutionary? You
believe that this flows from daring to introduce a reward for introducing
rewards for increased productivity (and if worker cannot increase social
productivity, nothing can!)For your own sake, say it ain't so!

Among a few comrades at least, there seems to me to be a very hurried rush
to judgment taking place. As though the goal was to be the first in your
block to call the restoration of capitalism in Cuba, since we all know this
defeat is really inevitable given all the circumstances (including the
leadership factor), and not to be left behind by any false conception of
loyalty to Cuba, such as motivates the Stalinist-Browderite-Kautskyite
Lippmann.

Also involved in the preconception that the Cuban regime is basically --
whether one likes some of its personnel or not -- a Stalinist,
bureaucratic-caste regime, in some sense. The present turn, presented as
though it were organically aimed at all manifestations of equality and
internationalism -- these are automatically overcome by the dynamics of wage
differentials -- as the last stage of Stalinism, the unfailing (assuming the
workers do not destroy the regime, root and branch) 	restoration of
capitalism.

Fred Feldman

 
	





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