In its number 50 (January-June, 2007), Temas published the symposium «On the Socialist Transition in Cuba», where 11 well-known intellectuals and leaders answered a series of conceptual questions. The questionnaire inquired about the stages of the transition, the meaning of consensus and citizen participation, the prospect of changing the socialist model and the role of new generations. In many cases, respondents offered answers that differed from each other.
One of the questions asked by the interviewers (Rafael Hernández and Daybel Pañellas) referred to the concepts of social property and the market.
Given that some of our readers may not have had the opportunity to know this symposium or have forgotten it, after thirteen years, Catalejo publishes today, due to the importance that these concepts continue to have, the answers to that question at that time.
Jorge Luis Acanda González. Professor. Faculty of Philosophy and History, University of Havana.
Aurelio Alonso. Sociologist. House of the Americas.
Narciso Cobo Roura. Judge. President of the Cuban Society of Economic Law.
Alexis Codina Jiménez. Professor. Center for the Study of Management Techniques, University of Havana.
Ramón de la Cruz Ochoa. Jurist. Adjunct Professor of the Faculty of Law, University of Havana.
Enrique Gómez Cabezas. Engineer. Director of the Social Workers Program.
Carlos Lage Codorniu. Economist. President of the University Student Federation.
Osvaldo Martínez. Economist. Director of the Center for Research on the World Economy
Isabel Monal. Philosopher. Director of Marx magazine Now.
Concepción Nieves Ayús. Philosopher. Director of the Institute of Philosophy.
Fernando Rojas Gutiérrez. Essayist. Vice Minister of Culture.
R.H./D.P.: How important are the views on social ownership and market to the current process of change or socialist reorganization?
Jorge Luis Acanda González: The concept of market is in itself so abstract that it’s virtually useless for any important scientific analysis. Its only possible meaning is a space to exchange equivalents, by far an outdated idea. There was market under both feudalism and capitalism, and there will be for some time in a society intent on building communism under a system that we call socialism.
As long as a society fails to overcome the social division of labor, there is reason for the market to exist. Marx dreamed of a communist system where there is no social division of labor, which is not the same as technological division. Since we are still quite a way from that—as it involves the characteristics of labor itself and the development of productive forces—the market must have a place, be it close to the center of the system or on its periphery. The demonization of the market can be in itself largely counterproductive to study the processes of socialist construction.
Why all that talk about the socialization of property? Because real-socialism has been a state-centered model that coupled the elimination of capitalist private property with the collectivization of property, and social ownership with state ownership. Marx and Engels’s analyses made it clear that collectivization of property was not the same as socialization, which means that the whole society owns those means of production. By claiming that collectivizing property equates to the whole society owning it, you are identifying the State with the whole society. After the events in Eastern Europe, it’s clear that the State can’t be confused with society at large any more than state ownership doesn’t have to be synonymous with property of the whole society.
So what can social ownership mean under socialism? It’s about seeking new ways for the employees of an enterprise, a factory or an institution to be the real owners of their workplaces. The cooperativization of property is a socialist strategy. No one knows how it will happen, but that must be the line to follow. Those cooperatives must have a specified relationship with a State, and not just any State, but one whose role tends to be progressively smaller and less important so that it will contribute to its own extinction. The relationship between the State and the cooperative enterprises, as well as the market’s role in this model, should be the object of a more careful consideration when we are faced with such a situation.
Aurelio Alonso: Socialization and State-centered society are not the same. The former has a broader sense. A socialist economy should not be state-owned through and through. The socialist State must keep a regulatory function, act as an investor, and also be the owner of the natural resources and main utilities—electricity, gas, water. But it should also recognize a mixed economy based on foreign and domestic investment alike. It’s necessary to promote, for instance, a family-based economic sector to take care of production and service activities where it can resolve society’s problems more effectively. The State should be sensible and flexible enough to decentralize and privatize that sector. The barbershops and beauty parlors need not to be in the hands of the State; nor should it be in charge of the grocery stores and other minor matters. Private initiative should reach beyond two hundred or so types of self-employment activity. We need to experiment with and facilitate its development insofar as it proves to be more efficient, or establish cooperatives, and if one of them fails in a given field the State would take it back. But only if there is conclusive proof that it’s not functional, not when it gets bogged down in red tape. A perfect example of this need is agriculture: it’s mostly in the hands of cooperatives, but they are under State control for the most part. Small farms account only for 15% of the land yet produces almost 60% of the food that people eat. Our socialism’s agricultural policy has not been successful. Socialist doesn’t mean State-owned; it must respond instead to the post-capitalism interests that we wish to create, one of whose prime needs is to feed people on a large scale. I’m pleased to have heard of late our economists speak of seeking “forms of popular ownership”.
As to the market, it has never really been absent. However, we have made it informal. And I ask: don’t you have to turn to the market when your plumbing breaks down at home? Getting over it can’t come down to demonizing it. Condemning the market will get us nowhere unless we come up with other mechanisms which of necessity arise from it, provided they work from the economic and ethical viewpoints—that is, in accordance with the values of the society that we aim for.
We strengthened the belief that under socialism there is almost automatic agreement between legality and legitimacy. Still, the legal framework is not necessarily the only formula in the social spectrum. Such a distinction between legal and legitimate is also part of the ongoing transition. Not everything that exists has to be solved through confrontation. We can only prevail over the market by creating better mechanisms, right from its midst, which preserve for society the positive things that it has offered throughout history and stop the deformation that it has produced in the last one or two hundred years by posing as an absolute doctrine. Let us not believe that a few laws will suffice to abolish the market. Socialism has risked the resumption of the stratified society and establish a socialist system based on voluntarism and deprived of self-acting mechanisms.
Narciso Cobo Roura: At times both the market and social ownership present themselves to us as conflicting or mutually exclusive. The topic of the market has very often been addressed from extreme viewpoints and at different times, almost “execrated”. I do believe in the need to devise certain spaces of concurrence that impose and encourage production and commercial management in ways different from the current ones so that this transition can take place—and make progress—in the right direction. I don’t see why the prevalence of social ownership and our centrally planned economy should stand against that. There are very serious and sustainable reflections about it.
On the other hand, I think the way we have organized the different kinds of markets is very far from fulfilling or facilitating its true role. On the contrary, it’s rather a misleading element which as a rule tends to develop in a parasitical manner at the expense of social ownership. With neither concurrence nor control. First of all, there is a market of regulated products in Cuban pesos intended to ensure equitable distribution. As I see it, that’s one major trigger for the black market. You buy the same item in the same place for two prices, which also favors corruption. There is a second Cuban-peso market of non-regulated, freely sold products, but its prices are set by the private producer or service provider, and people resent that. There is a third market in foreign currency, deployed in all its finery but totally inconsistent with a salary structure based on Cuban pesos; hence the need to acquire the convertible pesos required to gain access to it.
Beside these markets mentioned as a reference—let alone the black one, which is a fact of life—any family’s expenditures outmatch its income by a great margin. This brings with it a big problem: labor is no longer at the center of the economy. The criteria for compensation change; new terms with a common meaning arise such as “resolver” (solve the problems) and “luchar” (struggle for something). Thus income ends up associated with money remittances, under-the-table moves and the informal economy. Paid jobs proper step aside and other circumstances dictate an individual’s or a family’s purchasing power.
Regarding social ownership, we often hear that the problem about state ownership is that “what belongs to all doesn’t belong to anyone”. Therefore, no one takes responsibility for it, and with good reason to a great extent. However, I don’t think that the neoliberal assertions about the State’s incompetence to “manage” social ownership stand to reason. The State can manage as efficiently as the private sector. But some obstacles tamper with and hinder management which have to do with the organization of the economy rather than with their “fatal” link to the fact that this property belongs to the State. For instance, a baker is said to neither feel nor act as the “owner” of the bakery, so he produces low-quality bread. In all fairness, that baker actually “does what he likes” with the bakery’s resources and acts as if he owns them, except only when they bring him economic benefits. He acts as “the owner” only when he can make a profit and taking no risk whatsoever. The same goes for taxi drivers who never give receipts for the fare they charge. In the last analysis, that driver acts as if he were the true owner of the vehicle. His behavior entails no risk, since the state asset, which is social ownership, is not being “managed” accordingly. Why? Is it so difficult to understand?
Other problems prevent the employees from identifying with their means of production and playing an active role in resource management. The outlines of responsibility are blurred and somehow the burden falls on the State, whose job it is to deal with the consequences of its mismanagement or its poor choice of managers. When an employee faces a customer as a commercial agent of the State, chances are good that the former will disappoint the latter and the State. It happens every day. As customers, users or consumers, we always feel that we never receive what’s due to us or what we pay for. Sometimes we are even led to believe that we get it almost as a favor.
It doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, it’s not like that everywhere. Why in some places and not in others? We are fully capable of organizing our economic activity efficiently and rationally together with our workers. That is the main element of any change we could wish to make. And to that end we must make adjustments.
Of course, there are other forms of social ownership, such as the cooperatives, in our case restricted—so far—to the field of agriculture. The Agricultural Production Cooperatives (CPA) and the Credit & Service Cooperatives (CCS) suffer a high degree of interference by the State agricultural and sugar production officials. And you wonder, what does ownership involve? By definition, a set of rights to handle and make decisions about those assets and resources, in accordance with the good practices. Many factors meddle with the way a cooperative or its member small farmers manage their production. This leads to malfunction issues, which are perfectly preventable and whose negative effects are constantly affecting agriculture and, consequently, the agricultural markets as the ultimate destination of their output.
I remember when the Base Units of Cooperative Production (UBPC) of the 1990s created an atmosphere of great expectation, as if it was a third land reform. But now, more than ten years later, their results are not quite what we expected. What has kept those workers from assuming a cooperative mentality after ten years working there? What elements of subordination and ways of conditioned decision-making prevented them from that awareness and feeling of ownership?
The cooperative members had to take the risk, pay for those means of production, theirs henceforth, to work lands in usufruct. Despite such contributing factors and the time passed since, they have reached neither that state of mind nor the expected production targets. Maybe we need to reconsider and take stock of some of those basic problems, which are not just related to collecting and paying money. To some extent, we need to reorganize our relations of production so that we can relocate and recognize the farmers’ role as producers.
Alexis Codina Jiménez: The preservation of social ownership is essential for the continuance of the socialist model. It’s what guarantees both the use of resources where they are most convenient to the country’s socioeconomic development and, more importantly, the appropriation of the surplus and its allocation to meet our people’s most pressing needs. But the new circumstances following the collapse of the USSR and the socialist bloc and the absence of supplies and foreign markets in our long-term plans, we need a more dynamic management.
The link between the enterprise’s performance and the payments to “direct producers” is no less important than who the owner is. People will not feel like “social proprietors”, nor can they develop a sense of belonging, if they receive the same regardless of whether their enterprise performed well or badly. We have failed to realize the notion of distribution according to labor that Marx laid down in Critique of the Gotha Programme. Things are further complicated with the incentive schemes and the foreign currency shops, which highlight even more the difference between people’s contribution and what they get for it.
Preserving social ownership does not rule out the convenience of making adjustments to our approaches. With the exception of agriculture, state ownership governs each and every activity, from the generation of electric power to shoe repairs. The State is thus forced to take care of, ensure and administer everything, including minor services of a personal nature, with the resulting increase in bureaucracy and dispersion of resources.
In agriculture, which involves the use of a typically state-owned asset like land, we have production, credit & service and other cooperatives, including private farms. You don’t need [TV show CSI: Las Vegas investigator] Grissom’s resources to know that behind the peanut bars, which are the same everywhere, is a small industry, as well as cooperatives and groups of people in charge of all the logistics, production and distribution. That is, those forms of ownership exist in practice, but they are neither legal nor recognized, to say nothing of many clandestine productions that consume raw materials otherwise unavailable, as the media have steadily reported.
Obviously, the market under socialism can’t be an automatic regulator of the production and distribution of resources as it is under capitalism. The main regulator has to be the Plan, but in practice we see the market operating. When the State’s supply of farm produce decreases, there’s a price rise in the farmers’ market. We do it in the convertible currency shops to collect hard currency. Not to mention the black market, where they buy and sell goods that the state market doesn’t have in stock or sells at prices beyond most people’s reach. Objectively speaking, factors like “absence of market”, “undersupplied market”, or markets selling goods at prohibitive prices boost the black market and other related harmful practices. It’s not a question of encouraging consumerism, but the market facilitates the identification of people’s needs and preferences that we must take into account to formulate our plans.
We can also consider the market as a necessary complement of distribution according to labor. The State allocates a considerable amount of resources for subsidies in order to guarantee the provision of regulated products. These subsidized prices are the same for everyone regardless of their income. The market might make it possible to leave the rationed goods to the most vulnerable groups, namely retirees, low-income families, etc. A significant constraint which keeps the market from playing a distinguishing role regarding consumption based on each individual’s contribution is the existence of a dual currency system and, therefore, of Cuban peso and convertible currency markets. This, in practice, makes many goods available only to those who have access to hard currency through various channels. Bridging the real value gap between both currencies and their future merge into a single one is a prerequisite to a successful distribution according to labor and the fulfillment of the functions that we need the market to perform.
Ramón de la Cruz Ochoa: Social ownership, frequently identified with state ownership, is a very important topic. For instance, the cooperative movement, restricted almost exclusively to agriculture, has given results and made gradual improvements. Its social production units, be they a CPA or a CCS, are a non-state form of social ownership. This sector is extremely valuable to a priority as important to the country as agricultural production.
We need a broader perspective on that kind of ownership to make it stronger and extend it to other production and service sectors—for instance, restaurants and cafeterias—that we still have to develop in Cuba. Full state ownership has failed therein. Community ownership has not made progress either, and that’s social ownership. We must stop associating social ownership exclusively with state ownership and afford people the opportunity to be more creative and participative so that they really identify themselves with the former.
The market is essential to any society. History—ours included—has proved so. But it has to be under State control, and that State must have the necessary means to ensure that it serves its social function.
I have long be an advocate of decentralization. Of course, the country’s main economic assets, such as energy and the big and small industry, must remain under strict State control. Decentralizing doesn’t mean “unleashing”, but granting autonomy, executive capacity and managerial rights. The same thing happens in the business sector, also in need of more decentralization and autonomy. Perhaps certain state enterprises were not ready to handle the degree of decision-making power and independence granted to them in the last few years, which had some negative effects that we try to alleviate with more centralization. We must prepare the business sector without putting the decentralization process on hold, as it is vital to the operation of our economy and socialism.
Decentralization requires all kinds of strong controlling bodies such as the Attorney General’s Office or the Ministry of Auditing and Control, and other central State bodies. There is no doubt about the benefits of a more decentralized system. A municipality can receive budget funds and certain powers to use it at a profit in accordance with the law and under the control of the relevant authorities. But as we have seen, a municipality has little room for sufficient creation, innovation and planning to meet the needs of its population. If we centralize everything, both our people and the various State entities will become more passive.
Enrique Gómez Cabezas: State ownership is what makes it possible to use labor output as a function of social development and, also very important, to make rational use of resources. The main goal of the production of goods and services is not the accumulation of capital but social development, so necessary in light of the alarming effects of an increasing predatory capital that is unmindful of the accelerated destruction of the human race’s living conditions and has not solved its serious health, food and education problems.
I’m no expert on the matter, but I think that our economy is subjected to a permanent process of analysis to solve labor discipline, resource mismanagement, squandering, corruption and other problems. Some enterprises have a tendency to put their interests before those of society’s, to the point of losing sight of their corporate purpose. The studies about the potential of saving energy resources and the resulting drop in energy consumption prove that we can achieve higher efficiency ratios in our enterprises and the overall economy.
Carlos Lage Codorniú: Ownership is one of the main objects of transformation in the so-called period of transition to socialism. Although the individuals should feel as the owners of the means of productions—which they supposedly are—they don’t act as such. As far as I know, that contradiction outlived the years of economic boom. I have no idea about a possible alternative, but it’s clear that we need to come up with new formulas to realize ownership within the Cuban model.
State ownership is facing a challenge: how to handle the centralization and decentralization processes. These cycles have seen sudden shifts in the Cuban economy in the course of time with no end to centralizations and decentralizations. The current centralization process responds to the present circumstances. But when the time comes to decentralize again, we’d better do it gradually than in one go. A socialist enterprise often depends on the entrepreneur’s ability to innovate. When too much centralization takes away his decision-making power his initiative and training skills decline, since he doesn’t learn to function in a different way. If we rush from a high level of centralization into decentralization, that entrepreneur will make mistakes because he’s been long used to being told what to do and how to do it.
We have not yet taken the time to prove that a socialist enterprise can be efficient. Sometimes the links with other enterprises, the management procedures and the dual currency system have a considerable influence on this. State enterprises usually move along a curve between control and efficiency. Studies have it that a high level of efficiency equals poor control, whereas centralization entails more control but less efficiency. Centralizing is not the same as regulating. Some regulation methods can help that curve move ahead and reach a point of certain level of control and efficiency. That’s why one of the best policies implemented at that stage was the enterprise improvement process designed to help enterprises find their own way to make progress.
The market—namely that of private producers—will always be a problem, but that doesn’t mean we should dispense with it. The market can take care of certain activities, albeit always with very clear limitations. These market relations are a breeding ground for capitalist relations. Nonetheless, the socialist economy has proved after forty years that not everything has to be planned and controlled; it’s necessary to make room for certain market segments. For instance, coffee shops, food stalls, private restaurants, farmers’ markets… We should check to what extent they have solved or not an essential problem that all Cubans have and what we can do to give them a social space where they can grow.
Even if I don’t think it can be adapted to our situation, the Chinese economic model took wise steps when they defined from the start which fields would be the object of planning and centralization, such as the energy sector; which ones would have some form of regulation, although with their own margin of freedom to operate and even plan; and which ones would not allow for planning because they are governed solely by the market laws. Such a philosophy could somehow be useful for the purpose of defining which fields are strategic; which ones we must keep under less strict control; and which activities can rely on the producer’s personal initiative. By personal I don’t necessarily mean private or individual, but a space where certain socioeconomic segments can solve people’s real problems and meet their needs without undermining the correlation of forces in society.
Osvaldo Martínez: These are unresolved matters that we have spent a long time talking and writing about, and yet they keep defying reason, theoretical and practical knowledge, and professional experience. How to approach the market remains socialism’s unfinished business. It’s an extremely ambivalent phenomenon. Lenin said that commodity relations generate capital every day, every hour, every minute. Their spontaneous operation was the historic basis of the rise of capitalism and has been its main creative and driving force ever since. But the market also acts as an incentive to productivity, innovation and production. Socialism has long struggled to overcome that ambivalence which I would describe as the fight between marketphobia and marketcracy. On one hand, it’s not about fear of an imaginary ghost, but of the real danger that commodity relations, left to themselves or trusted to work in a positive autonomous way, deliver the opposite of what socialism expects. I always remember Che [Guevara]’s words labeling them as «dull instruments of capitalism». On the other hand, there is danger that repressing the market by stifling it completely will have adverse consequences and discourage production. That could be a serious mistake because the big problem is that we have not come up with anything to replace some of its recurrent and permanent functions. We are living face to face with that contradiction, both in Cuba and wherever socialism has tried to lay its foundations, since the market is a sort of spirited horse that threatens to hurl its rider off its back and wound him badly. But then again, there is no other mount available. I certainly have no solution to this problem. I think it should be handled in a very specific manner, on a daily basis and by trial and error. Those who thought that building socialism was just a matter of fostering commodity relations and playing capitalism under a socialist banner had to pay the price that life held for them. We must learn to use the market with moderation so that we don’t overdose, because it’s toxic, but in sufficient doses so that it works as a tonic and a stimulant. It’s also essential that we don’t lose sight of the ideological component and the people’s political attitude, which ultimately lies in their culture inasmuch as it goes beyond art and literature to include political culture.
We are challenged by a consumer society that is constantly bombarding us with its images, myths and cleverly designed publicity targeted on people’s deepest instincts as much as on their insufficiencies and mistakes. That’s why both issues, market and social ownership, call for a new round of tests of and discussions about the situation. Today we would do well to reexamine Che’s theoretical reflections of the early 1960s about commodity relations in socialism, after forty years of experience and the demise of real socialism; now that a new kind of socialism strives to emerge in Latin America and our socialism has already overstepped the survival stage of the 1990s and set itself new goals for development.
Isabel Monal: There is a very serious problem that we must underscore: social ownership of the means of production is not working as we wished. We have tried various ways; we tend to reinforce some of them and modify others. In general, socialism doesn’t seem to find a proper course to follow. One major difficulty is that our workers don’t feel as the owners of their means of production; instead they say, “They belong to the State”. Even if they work for a socialist State which in turn represents the people, they don’t feel as owners, nor do the people at large. The implications of this problem go further away as it has fallout on product quality, the protection and durability of the resources, and the efforts to ensure the safe delivery of the goods. Our workers should feel that the facilities they use belong to all of us. In order to avoid this and other problems, some socialist countries implemented certain self-management measures that gave the factories production-related decision-making power. As a result, however, the employees and employers would only care about the interests of their factory rather than society’s. I think that is a problem that socialism needs to tackle, both in Cuba and elsewhere.
The market question is essential. I’m not an economist, but I think that capitalism invented neither the commodity nor the market; both exist since time immemorial. Marx bequeathed to us an analysis of the fetishism of commodities and the concept of alienation. He said that the phase of transition remains connected to many elements of the old society, whether we like it or not. Socialism has attempted to eliminate the commodity, and wrongly so. I don’t know whether it will disappear under communism, but I’m totally convinced that it can’t disappear just yet under socialism. What we need to establish is the role of the commodity and what purpose the market will serve. Socialism is a dynamic process; maybe in the next decade we must change what worked well in the 1980s or 90s. That doesn’t mean that what we did then was wrong, but it may not be valid anymore because the circumstances are different today.
I disagree with what China is doing because I don’t believe in a market socialism, which seems to be a contradiction. Nevertheless, we need to outline a socialism with market. It sounds ambiguous, since there is room there for dozens of concepts and models. We are learning how to do it Cuba and we need to strike a balance. That’s a feature of socialist transition. We need to structure this transition, not using utopian and abstract models—what Gramsci described as forms of authoritarianism—but based on facts and experience.
As to economic control, no one can question that the execution of a big project, the generation of electric power or the management of water resources should be centralized. But other things should be decentralized even at municipal level, for instance some public health campaigns. Even if there is some centralization at their design stage, their execution could be highly decentralized. Socialism as a historic experience—including our own in Cuba—has been perhaps too fond of centralization. Despite some forms of decentralization implemented now and then, I think we have not really evolved in that respect. For example, at some point the management of hard currency was too decentralized, but I’m not sure it should be as centralized as it is now, and I’m thinking of small daily expenses. Does the model of socialism that we want demand that degree of centralization? No, but is it possible to do otherwise in today’s Cuba? Not possible. What I fear is that we might get used to some forms of centralization even after surmounting the problems that imposed them in the first place.
Concepción Nieves Ayús: Various views on social ownership and the market at the current stage of socialist reorganization in key areas like production, distribution, marketing and services highlight what we lived through during the 1990s, when we had to take a number of measures to diversify our forms of ownership, including joint ventures, corporations and foreign capital economic associations. The diversity introduced in 1993-94 gave rise to a process of action and reaction in Cuban society whose rationale we must study and analyze in light of the ongoing reassessment of the effects of those measures. The topic of ownership is key to socialist theory and practice. It’s essential to reinforce social ownership. Making it efficient involves consolidating a system of relations different from the capitalist ones and bolster socialist transition. However, some actions can’t be reverted overnight, not until their root cause is eliminated. That is, cooperative or mixed property will only disappear when they use up their potential for development. Our strategy is clear, but we need to weigh up all the variables to correct our course.
There’s also the polemic about the definition of social ownership. If we abide by the original postulates of Marxism, we see that it includes this form of ownership but without identifying it with state ownership. All throughout its history, socialism proved the dangers of these mistakes. Social ownership becomes especially manifest in the socialization of the means of production, albeit differently in every country depending on how each process starts and on the external factors that mold the adoption of certain policies. For example, the situation in Cuba was quite different from the current one in other regional processes such as in Venezuela. However, state ownership doesn’t have to be social ownership’s only form of expression either. During the Special Period we had to resort to the creativity of the masses in order to find forms of partnership capable of solving specific problems. It’s possible to channel a social self-management and self-guidance policy into the socialist construction process. We must take into account our present situation, but without overlooking the importance of using the adequate means to reach a given goal. Building a non-capitalist society demands attention to matters such as equality, justice and liberty. It’s necessary for the workers to feel as owners from a political and social viewpoint but also at an economic level. In the words of Che, we need to build the material foundations without neglecting the education of the new human being. In order to succeed, we must work simultaneously and gradually along both lines.
Even if I’m neither an economist nor an expert on the subject, I think that the market can’t be above society, nor should we consider its functions to be absolute. The extreme view of excluding such an important variable to the socialist construction process like the State as a market-regulating mechanism is not viable. We have to coexist with the market not only as a need of our domestic economy but also because we participate in the world market. We must keep our domestic market sufficiently supplied in terms of production and engage those supplies and productions with the international market. But the market-regulating mechanisms in our society can’t be the same as in capitalism. If we speak of socialist transition we must bear in mind that this period is neither purely socialist nor purely capitalist, since we are moving from one form of construction to another but the market variable will be there all along. It’s not a matter of making society a function of the market, but the other way around. There are some variables associated with the market that we need to restructure, reconsider and develop accordingly. We must look at the market from the standpoint of the movement of goods, the employment policy and many other factors.
Fernando Rojas Gutiérrez: That’s an unresolved matter. The Bolsheviks devoted a party congress almost exclusively to the topic of the market even before the emergence of Stalinism. Following the end of the relationship of solidarity with the countries of the so-called socialist bloc and particularly with the Soviet Union, Cuba moved toward the market because we realized that it was vital and required in order to boost development. But we were also aware that, by its very nature and given its congenital bond with capital, the market can be harmful to the conceptual tenets and ideological essence of revolution and socialism. We all have heard the phrase “we had no option but…” which reflects the contradiction, as yet unresolved on a theoretical and political level, between such a need or requirement and its potential to damage our relationship with the market. We can’t manage without the market yet even if we are aware of its dangers. We would have to increase that awareness in the most beneficial way because an excessive demonization of the market would force us to disregard some elements which could prove to be useful, perhaps even indispensable, to conduct and develop our economy. The Bolsheviks started to solve that contradiction by introducing a term largely underused in our economic theory: “accumulation”. Yevgeni Preobrazhensky started to speak of primitive socialist accumulation—evoking the capitalist one—that is, upholding the idea of the instrumental presence in the economy of certain elements of capitalism for the purpose of accumulation. I wonder whether we can speak of accumulation of capital for development, pursuant to the introduction of market elements in the last fifteen years, just like socialist political economy did in the early years of the Russian revolution.
The same thing happens with the forms of ownership. Lenin said that state ownership was not the only way to advance toward socialism; in fact, when he proposed what the Stalinists eventually called “the Leninist cooperative plan” and then used to decree the forced collectivization of the peasants’ lands, he expressed triumph, much like when Archimedes proclaimed Eureka!, because they had finally found a way to put individual and collective interests together with a view to socialist construction. You can achieve social ownership—which is not the same as state ownership, as Lenin stated in his last writings—by means of the free cooperativization of small producers. Lenin-inspired Marxism is not fully and exclusively in favor of state ownership as a forerunner of social ownership—although it is, something that its fierce enemies fail to understand.
We ourselves don’t have a clear understanding either about the scope of non-state ownership with socialist tendencies. I also understand that the establishment of cooperatives in Eastern Europe during the years of its disintegration was by no means handled according to Leninism, which could be cause for concern in our midst. The so-called Process of rectification of errors and negative trends fostered very fruitful discussions.
Generally speaking, we must reflect more about market and ownership. We need more capital resources, and not only the human kind. The revolution has to set itself that goal, maintaining what Lenin referred to as “the command heights”. If need be, we have to make concessions to try to accumulate capital. Although they are right to criticize any excess, the attacks against the New Economic Policy (NEP)—some of them quite respectable, as they alert to dangers such as the authorization to employ wage-earning labor or the unlimited leasing of land—they often forget something: NEP, originally conceived for a relatively long period of certain levels of well-being, justice and equity, emphasized first of all the accumulation of capital as a source of development.
Traducción: Jesús Bran