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 Post subject: Is cuba socialist?
PostPosted: Sat Mar 26, 2016 6:03 am 
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NOTE: If this is the wrong forum for this subject then feel free to move it (thanks mods ;) )

I recently started reading a book titled Work and Democracy in Socialist Cuba by Linda Fuller and was surprised to find that far from the authoritarian cuba that we all hear about in the US discourse that cuba actually has a fairly democratic structure it seems. Or potentially had, the book is somewhat old, but I imagine a similar system follows through today given what little I've read about modern cuba. To clarify, the time period after the revolution was certainly authoritarian in ensuring the success of the revolution and workers were less involved in the decision making process, but afterwards (in the early '70s I believe) efforts were made from there to democratize production more and involve workers in the decision making process.

So basically my question is, does the Cuban model constitute some form of socialism? While I'm aware that life on the island is far from ideal, this is largely a result of trade embargos more than anything as I understand it. While not a perfect model of socialism that would represent our end goal, production certainly seems to be carried out from a perspective of meeting human need as opposed to profit motive for individual capital accumulation. For those who are unfamiliar with the cuban model of production/politics, or want some context, this article describes my understanding of the cuban model: http://www.ratb.org.uk/130-news/ratb-wr ... -community

Commie propaganda wrote:
The CDR structure was established in September 1960 to promote vigilance and defence against imperialism’s internal campaigns of counter revolution. The CDR slogan reflects this, 'Con la guardia en alto', which translates as 'at the forefront is safety'. CDRs are the smallest democratic unit in Cuba with each committee consisting of sixty to a hundred residents. Membership is voluntary and open to all residents over the age of 14 years. Nationally 88% of Cuban people are in the CDRs. They meet a minimum of once every three months to plan the running of the community; including the organisation of public health campaigns to promote good health and prevent disease; the upkeep of the area in terms of waste and recycling; the running of voluntary work brigades and providing the adequate support to members of the community who are in need of help (for example in the case of domestic disputes etc). The CDR’s discuss nation wide issues and legislation and crucially, feed back their proposals to the National Assembly and other organs of popular democracy.

Essentially the CDR’s deal with the bread and butter issues which the working class in Britain can only dream about having a say in. Although only one person of the group of residents we met was a member of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) everyone present; of different ages and occupations; identified themselves as revolutionaries fighting for a better world.

Participatory democracy is also transmitted into the workplace as Manuel Montero of the Cuban Workers Confederation (CTC) described to us. The CTC is organised across 18 occupational sectors holding 3.4million members, with the aim of involving Cuban workers to have input in directing their society. While membership is voluntary, workers who do not join up enjoy the same work place rights as union members. Manuel Montero explained that membership payments to the union are voluntary and organised within each workplace. This helps to protecting members democratic rights as if the workers feel they haven’t been represented adequately they can withdraw or reduce the amount they pay to the union while remaining union members. Furthermore CTC officials are elected by the workers and continue earning the wage they received before being elected or the median wage of workers depending on the level of responsibility held. The General Secretary of the CTC, who only earns a small amount above the median wage of workers[ii], can hold office for no longer then 2 terms of 5 years and the CTC has a conference every 5 years. Like all political representatives of the Cuban people these officials are subject to the right of recall if the majority of the workers see fit.

Describing the state repression meted out against trade unionists before the revolution, Montero pointed out how this contrasted with today’s situation where ‘any law presented to the National Assembly has to be discussed with the CTC first.’ For example the CTC led a survey of 8 million Cubans to discuss and identify any potential violations of workers rights resulting from new guidelines to update the Cuban economy. The guidelines include the redeployment of 500,000 people from unproductive areas of the state sector to cooperatives and self-employment, setting out self-employment as a legal activity with union representation. The CTC then fed-back proposals and concerns to the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) the body which formulated the guidelines. The feedback from the CTC was in addition to proposals from CDR’s, municipal and provincial assemblies, and organisations across the nation. It is testament to the democratic values and sincerity of Cuba’s revolutionaries that after these national consultations, 80% of guidelines were changed to reflect the views of the Cuban people. This was not just a rubber stamping exercise...


So what do you guys think? Does cuba constitute some form of socialism?


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 Post subject: Re: Is cuba socialist?
PostPosted: Sun Mar 27, 2016 4:48 pm 
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For starters, I'd imagine no one here, or who has previously posted here, would say Cuba was ever socialist. Though frankly I'm fairly ignorant to that history.

I can say that it seems like you're making pretty common mistakes of confusing form and content, most pointedly at referring to Cuba as authoritarian or democratic.

More directly.

Whether any given capitalist nation has a dictator at its head making all the laws, has a constitutional monarchy of some kind, or has a parliamentary democracy the nation is still a capitalist nation. All of these different forms of organization are simply different forms for directing control of capitalist society. What they all have in common is that they are class dictatorships. This is the sense in which Marx means a dictatorship of the proletariat. To be certain, within a dictatorship or constitutional monarchy there is a dictatorship within the bourgeois as well you could say, one specific faction of the bourgeois retains control of the entirety of bourgeois society. This can be contrasted with bourgeois democracy where each section of the bourgeois can represent their interests and pursue them through the State.

The proletarian State should be contrasted to the bourgeois State as an entirely different State that seeks to confront the bourgeois State and usurp it of its power via revolution. The means of usurpation will necessarily appear authoritarian to the members of the bourgeois State, but the organization of this proletarian State could be along all sorts of different lines whether they be more or less democratic or authoritarian is not of terribly much interest compared to the concern that they are genuinely working class organs. Of course, the content of the proletarian (and bourgeois) State also dictates which form of organization would be better than others, and certain forms of organization allow the contents of the proletarian and bourgeois State to express themselves more fully.

I would be interested to see if Arty has any history background to drop on the Cuban 'revolution' and its significance given that my knowledge of that subject is essentially 0.

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 Post subject: Re: Is cuba socialist?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 28, 2016 4:24 am 
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If you're bored and want to read more about how the economy is ran in Cuba then I would recommend the book I mentioned. I've admittedly only read the first 5 chapters (or up until the one where it talks about the party itself, after that it I had my fill and I'm pretty sure it just gets into some really nitty gritty **** that I ain't got time for right now lmao).

Much like those unfamiliar with the model, I just assumed "yup state capitalism lol cuba isn't socialist", but from what I've read though it seems that Cuba is operating production in a way that is so qualitatively different from the profit-driven model of capitalism, at least here in the states, that positing it as something else seems fair and merits more investigation and discussion. Sure it might not fight some perfect model for "this is socialism 100%", but could it represent the best attempt that an island placed under embargos and trade sactions could materially be expected to muster?

From what I understand the cuban revolution was never socialist in origin, but through the development of the struggle and trying to create a system that coincided with the ideals of the revolution resulted in developing a socialist consciousness (and by extension state) and have taken measures to foster its development. The government now has a large control over production (with recent reforms to allow some private industry, but with strict state supervision afaik, but take that with a grain of salt), and the union among other institutions allow for workers to have a respectable amount of input in the decision making process (far more than here in the states anyway), such that it is actually possible to represent proletarian interests or at least seems to be the case.

Honestly some day I'd like to visit just to see **** first hand so I can actually get a real look at how it all works, but rumors and obscure studies will have to satiate my desires for now.

EDIT: Another article I found if you don't really feel like reading the .pdf that goes over some of Cuba's achievements here: http://www.invent-the-future.org/2013/0 ... port-cuba/

Not a difinitive article, but perhaps allows you to gain more context with which to make a better decision about how to analyze Cuba.


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 Post subject: Re: Is cuba socialist?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 29, 2016 12:39 pm 
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I think on the whole you're still not quite understanding that Capitalism can exist in several different forms. If the direct producers of society owned all the means of production i.e. if workers owned all the means of production and everyone was a worker, and thus all production was directed by the working class, it would still be capitalism if their products confronted one another as commodities.

Regardless of whether the 'private' or 'public' sphere (a distinction that is pretty hard to maintain given our understanding of the State merely as an organ for class rule, and in this case the bourgeois such that the bourgeois control both the 'private' and 'public' sphere) directs production, production is still done to create commodities.

I think you've said perhaps the most damning point against the case of Cuba being socialist, namely your reference to proletarian interests. If proletarian interests even exist then the proletariat class must exist, and thus a specifically capitalist mode of production also exists.

There is a whole line of arguments against the existence of socialism in one state. To very crudely summarize them, because capitalism can only really exist as global capitalism, if any socialism were to exist in one state then capitalism would be forced to eliminate this socialism, so the success of one socialist state hinges upon the overthrow of global capitalism.

You could make the argument then that this is precisely what Cuba is and capitalism is trying to destroy Cuba, but I would disagree. America isn't capitalism, other countries DO trade with Cuba. The existence of trade with Cuba implies at the very least that Cuba is creating products for trade i.e. commodities. So Cuba is at least formally subjected to the capitalist mode of production since it is making products for circulation within that mode of production. This formal subjection to capital will inevitably lead to the real subjection to capital of course.

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 Post subject: Re: Is cuba socialist?
PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2016 7:51 am 
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Broletariat wrote:
If proletarian interests even exist then the proletariat class must exist, and thus a specifically capitalist mode of production also exists.


I don't actually know if there are proletariat in Cuba or not (most likely I'd assume, but I still don't understand all that well the relationship of the public to the means of production to say for certain), so use of the word was more to do with expressing interests that would align more closely to those of someone who is working class as opposed to the exploitative interests of someone who is a capitalist. Just to clarify.

Broletariat wrote:
I think on the whole you're still not quite understanding that Capitalism can exist in several different forms. If the direct producers of society owned all the means of production i.e. if workers owned all the means of production and everyone was a worker, and thus all production was directed by the working class, it would still be capitalism if their products confronted one another as commodities.


Fair enough. So basically what you're saying is that if workers produce goods for general exchange that it's capitalism, or rather when goods are produced for their value to be exchanged with instead of directly for their uses. What might an alternative system look like though? Surely under socialism there will be producers making goods that they do not directly use (that perhaps yes, other producers *would* directly use), so at what point does this not become capitalism? Obviously we're not trying to construct the future, but I'd just like to see where you draw the line.

Broletariat wrote:
There is a whole line of arguments against the existence of socialism in one state. To very crudely summarize them, because capitalism can only really exist as global capitalism, if any socialism were to exist in one state then capitalism would be forced to eliminate this socialism, so the success of one socialist state hinges upon the overthrow of global capitalism.


Well stated.

Broletariat wrote:
The existence of trade with Cuba implies at the very least that Cuba is creating products for trade i.e. commodities. So Cuba is at least formally subjected to the capitalist mode of production since it is making products for circulation within that mode of production. This formal subjection to capital will inevitably lead to the real subjection to capital of course.


This helps to clarify some of your arguments in the above quotes, but I'd still be interested in seeing how Socialism would exist globally without also engaging in some form of trade between partners who have abundance of one good and a shortage of another.


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 Post subject: Re: Is cuba socialist?
PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2016 6:39 pm 
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This is perhaps my favourite illustration to make about Socialism actually.

Just as the embryonic form of capitalism existed under feudalism in the form of guilds and merchant capital, the embryonic form of socialism exists under capitalism.

What makes capitalism explicitly capitalist is the fact that production is done according to a division of labour. But this is not enough. The divided spheres of production are owned and operated in private. Their products confront each other as commodities, this is the way that such a society enables circulation of these products so that the sphere of production making food can get food to the other spheres in exchange for other stuff.

Contrast this with how the factory itself functions. Worker A makes widget A, worker B makes sprocket B, worker C makes spring C, worker D makes plug D, they all then pass their products on to worker E who assembles them into semi-finished product who passes his semi-finished product on to etc. etc.

The idea being that each individual worker 'controls' their own 'sphere' of production and that each subsequent worker requires the products from that 'sphere' of production. Here we have a division of labour. On the other hand, their products do NOT confront each other as commodities. You could say that each creates according to ability and receives according to need. Their products are simply passed along to the next worker in the line that needs them. There is, of course, a logical distribution to these products in each capitalist factory because the capitalists want maximal efficiency and will tolerate no waste, thus demonstrating that production can be planned and coordinated internationally as many productive capitals span across several nations.

This should perhaps also make it apparent why socialism in one state/country would work as well. There exists a geographical division of labour as well, one which we as a species are fairly reliant on at this point. Socialism would need to encompass most or all of the world in order to have access to all the products we would want/need for our lives.

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 Post subject: Re: Is cuba socialist?
PostPosted: Thu Mar 31, 2016 2:21 pm 
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I think that maybe clarifies things more. Basically you're saying that under socialism we might produce something without expecting something in return from that "trade partner", but simply because they need said good?


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 Post subject: Re: Is cuba socialist?
PostPosted: Thu Mar 31, 2016 2:55 pm 
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Whoa, very good posts Broletariat. Nice to finally see some marxists around, I think I would have appreciated this forum.

I think production would be planned accordingly to the general, developing needs of the society, in a manner that reproduces the existence of such socialist society. So yes, each one would produce accordingly to someone else's needs (And would participate in various tasks - administration, industrial, cultural, intelectual production, etc... as long as such is necessary for the reproduction of a classless society) but macroeconomically all production should be planned accordingly to the whatever such society has the need for in the moment.

Broletariat is free to criticize it though as I am not a fully-developed Marxist.


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 Post subject: Re: Is cuba socialist?
PostPosted: Thu Mar 31, 2016 5:42 pm 
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ScientificSocialist wrote:
I think that maybe clarifies things more. Basically you're saying that under socialism we might produce something without expecting something in return from that "trade partner", but simply because they need said good?


To put it a bit more technically you would say that production would be directly for consumption, although not necessarily individual consumption as in the case of a peasant farmer that produces and consumes in kind (in kind means that he consumes what he produces. Instead production would not only be social but it would also be with the purpose of social consumption.

I'd also like to take this moment to expand upon what was meant when I contrasted the formal domination of capital to the real domination of capital.

One can produce products and bring them to a capitalist marketplace without actually having your production be organized according to the capitalist mode of production. In this way your production is merely formally subjected to capital. Examples of this would include uneven and combined development in general (as far as I understand it at least), and slavery in the American south at the later portions of its existence. Slavery is not generally intended to produce for exchange, but merely for consumption in kind, once slavery becomes formally subjected to the capitalist marketplace however, slavery becomes much more intolerable because capitalist production is essentially production for production's sake thus driving the slaves muuuuuch harder than under slavery proper.

The real domination of capital on the other hand consists in the formally dominated sphere of production (formal domination, as far as I know, always precedes real domination) switching to the capitalist mode of production proper, i.e. industrial manufacture.

Guardia Rossa wrote:
Whoa, very good posts Broletariat. Nice to finally see some marxists around, I think I would have appreciated this forum.

I think production would be planned accordingly to the general, developing needs of the society, in a manner that reproduces the existence of such socialist society. So yes, each one would produce accordingly to someone else's needs (And would participate in various tasks - administration, industrial, cultural, intelectual production, etc... as long as such is necessary for the reproduction of a classless society) but macroeconomically all production should be planned accordingly to the whatever such society has the need for in the moment.

Broletariat is free to criticize it though as I am not a fully-developed Marxist.


Thank you, feel free to stick around and contribute as you see fit!

Essentially you are correct. Working out all the nitty-gritty would be just that however. Reserves of some kind would be necessary for disasters unplanned needs in general etc. etc. I think perhaps you are implying simple reproduction of society, I tend to imagine a socialist society would do more than simply reproduce itself but also grow, maybe I'm wrong though.

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 Post subject: Re: Is cuba socialist?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 11, 2016 8:49 am 
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Update, I'm currently on the chapter about production at the enterprise level. It's increasingly clear that Cuba's production takes place within the framework of capitalism. However it's much more state driven than in the western world.

I'm on mobile and somewhat sleepy so my analysis won't be too detailed, but essentially from what I'm understanding the supraworksite bodies (I.e. the state) make plans for production. From there they check with individual enterprises to make sure that these are realistic goals. Enterprises are allowed some autonomy and the goal is that they are self-sufficient in terms of input/output (whether or not operations can be sustained over a long period of time), and creating a surplus is encouraged, however more importance is placed on efficiency and sustainability it appears than profit for profit's sake.

Enterprises can also request capital from the state, and receive it if conditions are deemed acceptable (good track record, sustainable/efficient, does it make sense perhaps, but this is speculation on my part as I haven't finished the entire chapter yet). Lower interest rates are given to enterprises in industries where the state wants to incentivize production. The state also subsidizes them if they fail to turn a profit, but the ultimate goal is self-sufficiency. Enterprises are not allowed to make loans to each other, but they can make contracts for trade. There are also two types of contracts, those which are planned and unplanned, planned being production goals set by the state. Not quite sure what unplanned entails yet, but I imagine perhaps luxury goods, "non-essential" goods, or something of that nature. Basically something the state hasn't set as a production goal though. In short, everything goes through the state, but as I mentioned earlier, there is a (relatively) significant connection between workers' input, planning, and state functions giving workers/enterprises some level of autonomy while also planning production centrally. It is a state that is far different in character than in traditional free market societies while still being capitalist in nature.

It's a bit more detailed than that and goes into greater depth, but essentially what I'm getting out of it is that there's a back and forth between industry and the state to ensure quality production and investing in projects that the communities need/want. Or put simply, publically managed capital.

EDIT: I feel that it's perhaps also worth noting that there has been a gradual shift from a top-down approach with the state mandating most production to more autonomy slowly being given to enterprises over time. Will this lead to a shift to complete liberalization at some point in the future leaving cuba indistinguishable from the rest of global capitalism? Perhaps.

However I believe at this point my original question of "Is Cuba socialist?" has been answered with more or less "not really", but as/if I learn more I will continue to update with more info as I think that the cuban model is still certainly worth studying given its uniqueness.

Added some more detail in the original post too.


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