In this sharp commentary, Jose Alejandro ("Pepe") Rodriguez, a popular and fearless critic, explains the relationship between the decentralisation of economic decision-making foreshadowed in the Draft Economic and Social Policy Guidelines and widening the scope of Cuba's socialist democracy.
He argues that granting more powers to state enterprises and municipalities — within the framework of the national economic and social plan — will put an end to the hyper-centralised decision making that stifles local creativity and initiative. His reference to the need for a harmonious co-existence of the vertical (central planning) and the horizontal (empowering state enterprises, local governments and other economic actors that operate at the local level such as cooperatives, small businesses and the self-employed) echoes Luis Sexto's The Geometry of Democracy.
Importantly, he says that immature socialist-oriented societies, such as Cuba, have confused necessary planning with excessive centralisation. Here we see the Cuban Revolution, two decades after the collapse of Soviet bureaucratic "socialism", coming to terms with the historical dead-end of Stalinism and striving to complete the task — begun with the "Rectification of errors and negative tendencies" in the late 1980s — of purging the Revolution of its pernicious influence.
Country in miniature
By Jose Alejandro ("Pepe") Rodriguez
Juventud Rebelde, November 20, 2010
Translation: Marce Cameron
It is said that the barrio is the country because the people live reality on the edge of the curb and the gutter, even when their actions are directed and prescribed. It is said that in the municipality the virtues and defects of our society are put to the test under a magnifying glass held low. And it's true.
Since the country has been highly centralised economically, as in other aspects of life, what happens in three or four city blocks, that which daily infects or cleanses me as a citizen even though it may not always correspond with the designs of society, is logically connected with the system, the state. To the Revolution, which in the end must pick up the bill for the broken plates.
Nevertheless, on the threshold of a national debate on the eve of the 6th Communist Party Congress [in April 2011], one discovers that the Draft Economic and Social Policy Guidelines that will be subjected to the reflective judgement of all Cubans, propose a decentralisation of Cuban society, both in the powers to be ceded to state enterprises and to those of the territories [i.e. municipalities].
In an effort to negate the individualism and anarchism of capitalism, and the competition engendered by this system during so many centuries, the young socialism from the Leninism of 1917 has confused necessary planning with excessive centralisation of all the scaffolding of the economy and society. The understanding of noble socialism has been very dogmatic. In the Cuba that survived the debacle of the USSR and the socialist camp, the productive forces must be unleashed, the state enterprises need to become self-financing and must be given more powers, as must the territories — referring to local government — and certain barriers, that until now have been untouched, must be dismantled.
Among the proposals being considered, and that can benefit the country, is the widening of the powers of the state enterprises such that, from their earnings, they would be able to create funds for development, investments and worker incentive payments, without immobilising egalitarianism. In such a way that not everything would have to be handed down from above, and in which the audacity and horizontality of decision-making would be promoted. The enterprises will have to take more responsibility.
At the same time these entities, which will be cut loose from the ropes that bind them, will stop looking up at the clouds all the time, also because they'll have to contribute to the development of the locality in which they are based with a territorial tax. Until now everything has come from state coffers; now some earnings will remain in the locality.
And the local governments, in a coupling of the vertical and the horizontal, will have more powers flowing from taxes levied to decide how to allocate these resources according to their priorities. To not have to wait like helpless nestlings for a central decision from above, about what cannot be known nor weighed [by higher-level decision makers].
Inevitably, the state enterprise and territorial decentralisation, without ignoring the preponderance and strategic importance of the national economic and social plan, will open channels in our society and will widen the scope of socialist democracy. The enterprise, the barrio and the municipality must leave behind the monotonous formalism of waiting for everything from above, and must be the essential protagonists of their own destinies. Without altarpiece puppets. This is what Cuba awaits.