More and More Capitalist Cracks in Cuba
More and More Capitalist Cracks in Cuba
January 20, 2016
Rogelio Manuel Diaz Moreno
HAVANA TIMES — At the close of 2015, a journalist for Cuba’s Juventud
Rebelde newspaper reported that a slight decrease in food product prices
had been seen the previous year. The regular contributors and readers of
Havana Times then expressed their bewilderment, what with all of the
evidence against such a claim.
Many media sites – with greater or lesser candor, depending on their
nature – continue to address Cuba’s soaring living costs. Concerns have
reached such extremes that a decision to adopt emergency measures was
made at the last parliamentary session. This was done when Cuba’s
official media sought to deliver the good news that the island’s GDP had
grown by 4 %.
Readers will likely recall the oft-repeated government promise that
increased production would bring about a drop in prices. No few of us
have criticized such claims for their total lack of objectivity.
Personally, I find most statements on the subject made in the news, and
the attitude of members of parliament, rather depressing. The reason is
simple: the fact they beat around the bush on this matter and show no
willingness to acknowledge its true nature. We are encouraged not to
become informed about or study the issue, which, to be sure, isn’t that
complicated. It’s capitalism, plain and simple.
Though lacking in the talents of the great experts in political economy,
we have pointed to a number of basic truths about this situation in
previous posts. Those who boast of being Marxists ought to know these
well, and they have been confirmed time and time again. As long as such
realities aren’t acknowledged, the tired spiels of politicians, the
beating of chests by leaders and the appeal to the conscience of workers
will be for naught.
I don’t question the growth figures offered by the authorities. Given
certain, positive external conditions, an economy based on liberal
market mechanisms can indeed grow in macroeconomic terms. And that’s
what we’ve had here: cheap imported raw materials, financial
arrangements and favorable credit and a considerable softening of the US
embargo/blockade. In the case of tourism, this is reflected in the 30%
rise in number of visitors. Throw a domestic policy of deregulation into
the mix and you’ve got an excellent recipe for growth…capitalist growth,
Because of its very nature, the benefits afforded by this type of growth
cannot reach working people, which make up the majority of the
population. This is the first point we’ve drawn attention to.
Production has grown and supply has grown with it. They have grown
because the policies implemented have lifted certain restrictions that
had hitherto been applied. These same policies, however, have produced a
specific type of supply side growth, the type that accompanies the
growth of demand. More money has flowed into Cuba and a privileged class
capable of paying higher prices (and thus raising the standard of
living) has flourished.
Have a look, for instance, at Havana’s neighborhood of Miramar. The
nouveaux riches have taken up all vacant spaces with their bourgeoning
mansions. A good many restaurants have been established, where a single
meal costs everything I make in a month (which is twice the average
salary). Those restaurants aren’t aimed at people like me, but they have
The products and services offered by the State also do not favor a
decrease in prices. An employee of ETECSA – Cuba’s telecommunications
monopoly – told a journalist that many customers, particularly young
ones, ask for cutting-edge equipment, those that cost eight or ten Cuban
salaries put together. I walk by these people in public outdoor Internet
navigation areas. Despite the many shortcomings of the service, they pay
two to three days of my wages to use it. Other basic products have
circulation and added value taxes that prove prohibitive.
There’s more money in circulation thanks to remittances, foreign
investment, tourism and the new entrepreneurial class. The State itself
now has more resources, but its control mechanisms are as inadequate as
always – in other words, there’s more to be misappropriated. There isn’t
more social justice, there’s just more solvency.
To remain objective and avoid neglecting the positive side to this, the
health sector carried out wage adjustments (mostly nullified by
inflation). I am also aware of other investments aimed at improving
medical services, albeit with many internal deficiencies. These
measures, however, are far from satisfying all of the people’s needs,
and most people do not spend their entire week at the hospital. As
another Havana Times contributor reports, there are other, parallel
measures aimed at cutting back on activities, spending and wages.
Thus, within the space of the private economy, the law of supply and
demand simply establishes a price balance. We are flooded with
complaints about the hoarding of goods, speculation, and monopolistic
maneuvers by entrepreneurs to optimize profits at the expense of
customers. These are all natural mechanisms inherent to the market and
the blessed supply and demand system. We must set aside naivety. Quite
simply, that is the explanation offered us by the whole range of
political economy theories. You don’t play “nice” in capitalism.
In this context, to say that “Cuba is a socialist country and cannot
function that way” constitutes a naive abstraction. What determines the
functioning of a socio-economic system are its productive forces and its
relations of production, not mere words. “The State has to intervene,
regulate prices and fine infractions” – these are calls to return to
measures that have been proven to be ineffective time and time again.
Popular discontent has again bubbled up to the surface and politicians
have revisited the demagogic attitudes of claiming to protect them from
the demon they have set lose with their reforms.
What were the consequences of the lastest attempt to regulate food
prices? Understocking, which is music to the ears of the black market.
If there’s something that’s worse than the “free” market, it is
intervention by a bureaucratic apparatus and corruptible officials
(inspectors and their underlings).
In short, Cuba’s growth is visible, but this growth is not for everyone,
not even the majority. The new game has new rules and the winners walk
away with everything. The most painful thing will be the growth of
inequality and the impoverishment of the working majorities without
access to the new sources of wealth.
Source: More and More Capitalist Cracks in Cuba – Havana Times.org –