Three capitalisms for Cuba
FERNANDO MIRES | Oldenburg | 30 Mar 2016 – 12:51 pm.
If we understand socialism to be what socialists say it is – a mode of
production aimed at promoting equality based on the organized power of
workers – then Cuba has never known socialism.
Based on this premise, the fundamental contradiction that has emerged in
Cuba at this point is not economic in nature – between socialism and
capitalism – but predominantly political, namely: between political
power in the hands of a military dictatorship and a society organized in
a top-down, corporate manner.
The scenario in Cuba is, therefore, completely different from that
arising from the economic matrix harbored in the Marxist and liberal
What these apparently extreme doctrines – Marxism and liberalism – have
in common is that they share the naturalistic principle that the
underlying driving forces driving history are to be found in the
economy, whether as “infrastructure” or as a result of the “natural”
regulation of production and the market.
But, strictly speaking, the economic order that prevails in Cuba is
dependent on its political organization, and not vice versa. And this
has theoretical consequences. Most important among them is that the
island’s economic transformation hinges upon its political transformation.
Now, if we accept the proposition that under the current conditions in
Cuba politics takes precedence over economics, we are led to conclude
that the alternatives for the future are fundamentally three.
The persistence of a rigid State capitalism
A descent into a savage form of capitalism
The establishment of a type of social capitalism (or popular capitalism)
based on interaction between a market economy and a civil and democratic
It is State capitalism that has determined the island’s destiny ever
since Castro came to power. At its core it is equivalent to the
dictatorial military elite that monopolizes all the country’s
institutions. However, this State capitalism, especially after Cuba’s
rapprochement with the US and Europe, has undergone a certain process of
Under Raúl Castro there has been a slow drift away from the Stalinist
scheme (total Statism) embodied by Fidel Castro, in an attempt to move
closer to the Chinese scheme, based on the coexistence of private and
State capitalism, controlled by the Party-State and the military
leadership, structures managed by Castro at the top.
Between the rigid system of domination of the Russian school,
represented by Fidel, and, from an economic point of view, the more
flexible Chinese approach, represented by Raúl, there are certainly
differences – but they are not great enough to merit any confidence that
under the latter a process of democratization (social and economic) will
be initiated. Raúl Castro, is not a Cuban Stalin in the way his brother
was, but he is still far from being a tropical Gorbachev.
To be more precise: the adoption of “Chinese” forms of production by
Raúl points towards the establishment of a capitalism with the State
functioning as a kind of concessionaire (hotel capitalism, say
derisively, some) characterized by the creation of certain areas to be
controlled by private capital, which in Cuba – herein lies the big
difference with China – are to be filled by foreign capital.
Unlike in China, where ever since the days of Mao there was always a
place for an native entrepreneurial class (the so-called “national
bourgeoisie”), in Cuba this class has never existed, which largely
explains why the Cuban State’s dependent nature has remained intact
across different historical periods.
Cuba, after being one of the last Spanish colonies, became an American
colony. And Castroism would transform it into a Soviet one. After the
collapse of international communism, Cuba would be adopted by Hugo
Chávez as part of a pie-in-the-sky project dubbed “21-st Century
Socialism”, already overturned by electoral rejections by the peoples of
Argentina, Bolivia and Venezuela.
If the “Raulist” State were to implode as a result of pressure from a
world market over which the upper echelons of power have no control,
i.e., if a double power vacuum were to occur, an economic and political
one at the same time, the alternative of savage capitalism (Cuba as the
Caribbean’s Big Casino) cannot be entirely ruled out.
That savage capitalism which some also call “Miami capitalism” (as it
proceeds from the Latin American business community, forged in that
city) would open the way for the State being controlled by economic
groups masquerading as political parties, an alternative that should not
be considered unrealistic either. This has been the dominant trend in
many post-Communist countries in Eastern Europe, many of which are
controlled by financial magnates, business consortia, or even mafias. In
this case Cuba’s military State would be replaced by an economic State
and not a political one.
The third alternative, which we might call social capitalism, like the
other two, will depend upon the political development that takes place
during and after Raul’s domination. Its viability depends on the degree
of politicization and civility that political and social organizations
independent of the State can achieve, even acting in connection with
dissident factions from Castro’s formerly dominant block.
Given the fierce state repression, these organizations are still in a
phase that could be called nascent. Only recently, i.e. since Fidel
Castro stepped down, has the opposition, both in Cuba and in exile,
shown a greater degree of unity and coordination.
However, we must not forget what historical experience has demonstrated:
during times of opening up and transition, politics often acquires an
extraordinary dynamic, spawning multiple political organizations and
In other words, the possibility that in Cuba there will emerge a social
market economy, guided by a new, more pluralistic and participatory
State should not be ruled out either.
What is worthy of being underscored at this time is that Cuba’s
political and economic future will not arise from the adoption of a
certain “model,” as the technocrats imagine it will. Rather, the outcome
will depend on the relationships arising from clashes, but also from
dialogues, between various conflicting forces.
Obama’s trip to Cuba can be seen, therefore, as an external push towards
transformation in this direction. But nothing more than that: a simple
push. What follows will depend on Cubans themselves.
Has Cuba’s political transition begun, then?
We lack information to answer that question. We do not know, for
example, what some members of the Party say to each other behind Raúl’s
back. Nor do we know the tone of the talks taking place within the
regime’s ideological apparatus (artists and intellectuals, for example).
And we do not know what some generals mutter on those Sundays perfect
for visiting family and chatting over beers under the beautiful island’s
scorching sun, with children are singing Mick Jagger songs in the garden
– even if they are quite dated.
Source: Three capitalisms for Cuba | Diario de Cuba –