Informacion economica sobre Cuba

Bureaucracy in Cuba: between distortion and rigidity

The bureaucracy will oppose anything that seems to limit its interests,
its privileges, its ability to de-legitimize every constructive
decision. Any legitimate freedom will face the bureaucracy's hostility,
in the form of indifference, extremism and distortion.

Bureaucracy in Cuba: between distortion and rigidity

"A basic common sense identifies bureaucracy by the piece of furniture
from which it got its name —the bureau, or desk, the work table—, and by
the material usually used to record its decisions: paper.

"But those metaphors are eminently simplistic. Einstein may have
meditated while leaning over a table and made his calculations on paper,
but we couldn't call him a bureaucrat for that reason. And if we wanted
to extend that description to a doctor who listens to their patient's
complaints while seated at a desk, or a writer who drafts their novel
seated also at a desk, we would be just as mistaken.

"That's because bureaucracy finds its definition in an attitude that is
little related to its palpable attributes. Rather, it is an intangible
evil, almost untouchable because it is tortuous […]"

To begin to understand bureaucracy, we would have to turn to Max Weber,
the author of a voluminous work that carried certain sociological
certainties for the interpretation of that entity that pervades capitalism.

I shall not review its chapters now. This article hopes to present
democracy as a practical problem, although it transcends what's purely
technical and injects itself into the ideological sphere –and, within
it, the political arena. I prefer to turn to another book and tune into
your wavelength without philosophizing too much.

Here, then, I give the three definitions in the Dictionary of the Royal
Academy of Spain: "Bureaucracy: (1) Public servants as a whole. (2) The
excessive influence of functionaries in public affairs. (3) Management
that becomes inefficient because of paperwork, rigidity and superfluous
formalities." The third definition is closest to that which experience
has allowed me to deduce.

My experience is in Cuba, not anywhere else. Because of the role of
bureaucracy in my country I am interested in elucidating and warning
about its dangers to the development of socialism. This is from the
viewpoint of a journalist, who is of course an observer and sometimes
the pained object of bureaucratic attitudes.

The best definition of bureaucracy, or bureaucratic mentality, I read in
a short article by Eduardo Galeano. It was a kind of evangelical
parable. Although our Greco-Latin culture is not as narrative as the
Hebrew culture of Biblical times, sometimes a tale illuminates the
encapsulated concepts of analysts so we may understand them in all their

The author of The Open Veins of Latin America says that, in a military
garrison, the officer of the guard punished a soldier by ordering him to
stand guard next to a bench on the parade grounds. For hours, the
soldier guarded the bench, which did not need any protection.

The officer finished his tour of duty and forgot to revoke his order.
The officer who replaced him, having no knowledge of the circumstances,
relieved the punished soldier and was, in turn, later replaced him with
another. So, the "bench detail" went on for 20 years, until finally
someone asked what its purpose was – but no one could provide an answer.

Therefore, bureaucracy —which is necessary in many aspects of public
administration— becomes dangerous when it loses the sense of its objective.

José Martí, a liberator and thinker for all times, foresaw the dangers
of uncontrolled bureaucracy that would hold the strings of power.
"Bureaucratic life" was to Martí "a danger and a scourge" and he wished
for the Cuban republic to be free of the "plague of bureaucrats."

Evidently, Martí, as a representative of the interests of the people,
suspected that bureaucracy might at one point jettison those interests
and take into account only its own, as a group or caste.

Today, rigidity, paperwork, the inefficient management that the
dictionary attributes to bureaucracy has made the prerogatives of the
Cuban socialist state mediocre while de-contextualizing them.

It has been a sort of Fairy Godmother in reverse: everything that
bureaucracy's magic wand touches becomes a caricature of socialist
aspirations. It mistreats and upsets every creative endeavor that Fidel
Castro's revolution brought to Cuba.

In the words of the sharp-witted Giovanni Papini, bureaucracy —when
turned into a mentality, an ideology— holds the secret of a
"copropherous" alchemy, that is, it can turn gold into excrement.

In this, bureaucracy has become an unwitting or involuntary accomplice
of the US blockade. Maybe, also unconsciously, it is to bureaucracy's
advantage that the blockade continues, as a guarantee to bureaucracy's
interferential and anarchic existence.

In Cuba, vox populi says, bureaucratic attitudes respond to each
solution with a problem; with a "no" to a "yes." And they dilute every
initiative with red tape and meetings. They see reality through their
tinted glasses, or from their balconies, which are usually in high
towers away from the streets and workshops; or through reports that are
usually adulterated by those who do not wish that the truth become known.

I'm not exaggerating. And if I say it here, in this leftist forum. It is
because the Left needs to know about people's experiences, and because I
have often said it in my country's newspapers. Enough with explanations
– if indeed the reader needs a justification for what he is reading.

European socialism dissolved like Alka Seltzer in water thanks to
bureaucratic distortions. Distortions that forced political discourse to
hover in the air while the people's reality became bogged down in the mud.

Let's not invent enemies. The principal causes of the extinction of
20th-century socialism, the socialism that failed, were within it: a
mentality (not to say a caste) was incubated that jettisoned the
dominance of the working class.

Who profited from the ruin of the Soviet Union? Who are the rich in
today's Russia? The bureaucrats, who —long before Gorbachev, Yeltsin and
their ilk— replaced the ground of the socialist state with quicksand.
The bureaucracy, of course, emerged from a society that had been frozen
by its vertical structures, to the detriment of a horizontal, democratic

This should be clear to us: where democracy is missing and centralism
expands, reducing the sides, bureaucracy prospers. With it, dogma and
corruption prosper, too.

Any project to renew and perfect socialism in Cuba will have to face and
quell the resistance of the bureaucracy – not to mention the opposition
of the United States and its permanent war, and the efforts of those
people in our country who try to push Cuba into capitalism, one way or

The bureaucracy will oppose anything that seems to limit its interests,
its privileges, its ability to de-legitimize every constructive
decision. Any legitimate freedom will face the bureaucracy's hostility,
in the form of indifference, extremism and distortion.

There's more than enough facts to confirm this. Why did the Basic Units
of Cooperative Production, a political decision of the Communist Party
in 1993, become paralyzed and failed? The answer is well known by those
mighty business people who held (like generous feudal lords) power over
the farm and cattle production.

They prevented the consolidation of this basic principle of farm
production: the autonomy to utilize the means of production that the
state sold to the workers' collectives and to utilize the land that had
been granted to the workers by the state.

The entrepreneurial structures continued to impose their command,
breaking laws, rules and procedures and limiting the relative
independence of the cooperatives. As Raúl Castro denounced on July 26,
our agriculture has been overcome by the marabú, the almost
indestructible weed that covers and chokes every nearby plant. Many
years earlier, Fidel charged that the countryside had been filled with
office buildings.

Even in stores, bureaucracy introduces its narrowness of vision. Stores
with numerous doors keep only one door open, for entrance and exit.
Inside, depending on the merchandise, the buyers have to pay at
different cash registers, thereby wasting their time.

And what about legal paperwork, particular the paperwork needed for
housing construction? Or the paperwork needed to become self-employed?
An image comes to mind: the Stations of the Cross, with Pontius Pilate
dispensing red tape at every stop. In a word: incomprehensibility,
immobility, and sometimes, corruption.

The same (or worse) may occur in other countries. But such ideological
and political confrontation in Cuba seems to me to be inexcusable,
unthinkable. The survival of the Revolution is at stake. Because
bureaucratic actions are time-consuming, limiting and infuriating, they
tend to extinguish the cause of socialism in the hearts of the people.

The antidote is the people. By expanding the democratic activity,
opportunities and controls, and by making economic structures more
flexible, we can reduce bureaucracy to its first definition in the
dictionary: public servants as a whole. That is its ideal status.

However, shall we be brave enough to order the bureaucrats —like the
tamer orders the lions— to slink, heads down, to the corner of the stage
where they belong?

Source: By Luis Sexto, Juventud Rebelde
Submitted by editor on Sun, 2007-09-16 07:07.

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