Monday, February 7, 2011

Translation: Assault on the highway

In this provocatively titled commentary, Ricardo Ronquillo Bello notes that within a few years, if all goes according to plan, "almost half of Cuba's GDP will come from non-state forms of management". It should be noted that this refers to management, and not necessarily ownership, of productive property.

For example, a hairdressing salon may be cooperatively or privately managed, but the premises will still belong to the state, i.e. to the municipal People's Power administration. Another example: Cuba's socialist state is leasing, rent free on a long-term basis, idle farmland, an arrangement known as usufruct. The Draft Economic and Social Policy Guidelines explicitly state: "3. In the new forms of non-state management, the concentration of ownership [of productive property] in legal or natural entities shall not be permitted."

While ruling out privatisation, the Cuban Communist Party leadership is proposing to expand the cooperative and small-scale private sectors. Cooperatives, small private businesses and the self-employed will be able to lease state property (land or premises) and will pay taxes. Their expanded contribution to production and services will have to be incorporated into social planning, which will continue to be "the principal means to direct the national economy", according to paragraph 1 of the Guidelines.

Assault on the highway

By Ricardo Ronquillo Bello

Juventud Rebelde, February 5, 2011

Translation: Marce Cameron

There are "assaults" that are welcome. To say this would seem folly according to the traditional conception, but as one traverses the National Freeway and the Central Highway these days, the laudable idiomatic derivations of these words "assault" in an untimely manner: incursion, attack, penetration...

She who undertakes a journey by these roads feels that the updated economic "architecture" that Cuba bets on is sketched in that sequence of small and very Creole farms, and in those people of all genders and colours that rush to the commercial conquest of the travellers [a reference to the petty traders that line Cuban highways].             

There's no doubt that along the edges of the highways and roads and the railways lines one discovers the most intimate depths of any nation. The opacity or splendour of the countryside and of the people that parade past the eyes of the traveller are like a perfect snapshot of its state of health.

Not by chance, the updating impetus of the Revolution had among its first wake-up calls the critical description of the abundance of the marabu bush [a thorny scrub that infests vast areas of Cuba's agricultural lands] along the edges of our highways by General Raul Castro [in a speech in July 2007].

We can then appreciate how national energies previously hidden or surreptitious [a reference to the black market] begin to reveal themselves without shame or atavism [i.e. reversion to defeated capitalism]. Also, how the diverse material forces which the economic reactivation must be based on begin to harmoniously reunite with their moral forces, as called for by Jose Ingenieros, one of the first and greatest Latin American Marxists.

The platform proposed in the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines for the Party and the Revolution, that will enrich the public debates now taking place, opens the ideological space needed to reconcile the interests of the nation with the most diverse forms of channelling these interests, whether via the initiative of [socialist] state, cooperative, family or individual property.

One of Cuba's big challenges is to update an economy with a liberating, social and solidaristic vocation without betting on the hegemonic preponderance of state property. To this end, the Guidelines would have us leave behind the schemas, dogmas or distortions that would obstruct the path of the period of transition towards socialism.

The projection that within a few years almost half of Cuba's GDP will come from non-state forms of management [of state, cooperative or private property] is one of the most audacious structural propositions of the current updating process, and one which will demand profound changes in our economic and ideological conceptions.

One of the unavoidable theoretical and practical implications will be a radical change in the conception of planning, a principle that rescues and assumes an essential role in the socialist updating, so that all economic [i.e. property] forms can converge in the plan without traumas or ruptures.

Including those [petty traders] that are beginning to improve the verges of the National Freeway and the Central Highway, and who indicate to us the challenging though promising roads that the country will have to travel.       

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