Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Cuba: The Drive for Efficiency within Socialism

Source: Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG)
by Helen Yaffe, 22 September 2010.

Accordingly, the individual producer receives back from society – after deductions have been made – exactly what he gives to it’ (Marx, 1875)

‘wages today are clearly insufficient to satisfy all needs and have thus ceased to play a role in ensuring the socialist principle that each should contribute according to their capacity and receive according to their work…the Party and government have been studying these and other complex and difficult problems in depth, problems which must be addressed comprehensibly and through a differentiated approach in each concrete case.’ (Raul Castro, 2007)

‘[we have] the dream of everyone being able to live on their salary or on their adequate pension…’ (Fidel Castro, 2005)

The announcement by the Cuban Trade Union Confederation on 13 September 2010 about plans to reduce the state sector workforce by half a million was greeted by jeering headlines from journalists outside the island. Cuba is rarely of interest to the bourgeois press unless they believe there is some crisis to celebrate or that new measures can be interpreted as evidence of a shift from socialism to capitalism. Their reports have been based on a set of misleading assertions that:

1) This is an urgent measure to deal with a flailing economy;
2) Workers will be ‘laid off’, abandoned by the Cuban state as it moves from paternalism to market efficiency under Raul Castro;
3) The changes confirm the failure of the socialist ‘model’ under the idealist Fidel Castro.

In reality, workers are not being made unemployed they are being moved from unproductive surplus posts in the state sector to productive ones in the cooperative and self-employed sector as part of the drive for efficiency within the socialist system.

The current measure is part of a process underway since the mid-2000s to improve the efficiency of Cuban socialism, undermined by economic and political pressures generated during the Special Period of economic crisis in the 1990s. This resulted from the collapse of the Soviet bloc, Cuba’s principal trading partner, and leading to the fall of Cuban GDP by one-third. Since material recovery from the early 2000s a number of significant measures have been introduced in this process: the recentralisation of finances, de-dollarisation, the raising of salaries and pensions, an energy efficiency campaign, the nationwide implementation of an enterprise management system to improve efficiency, the distribution of idle land in usufruct (rent-free loan) and the reduction in imports. The type of major adjustment currently proposed in the employment structure could not be risked in a period of vulnerability.

Since 2007, the Cuban government has promoted debate and discussion in the effort to achieve national consensus about the need for such changes. Cuba’s recovery has slowed since 2008, with growth below 2%, reflecting the global economic crisis and the cost of three devastating hurricanes which struck in late 2008. However, rather than a knee-jerk reaction to economic problems, it is likely that employment changes were in fact postponed until the present period in which prospects are improving and certain preconditions have been established.