Tinkering at the Margins

Photo: Rebeca

Several friends, honestly worried about the future of Cuba, firmly declare that they do not want capitalism, but a Swedish-style socialism. First, it is worth clarifying that Sweden is not a socialist but a capitalist country, with a monarchy and a democratic parliament, and with a solid economy and outstanding social services. The tendency of the ruling party at any given time, which sets a certain tone, should not be confused with the socio-economic model of the country. Spain is a capitalist country with a parliamentary monarchy, whether the government is from the Spanish Socialist Workers Party or the Popular Party. So it is in most countries, each with its own distinctive characteristics.

Linking the ruling party with the socio-economic model is unique to socialist countries, where a dogmatic and closed scheme establishes a set of so-called principles, applicable to all of them: one party, invariably communist (when others are allowed to exist, they are small and are controlled by the ruling party); state ownership of the means of production, with a centrally planned economy (if some small private enterprise is allowed, it is in rural areas, or in the service sector); only state health and education systems; only official culture; the justice system fully subordinated to the state; state-run media; government unions and social and other mass organizations, and so on. Those who violate these principles or deviate from them, are accused of revisionism and are isolated (Tito’s Yugoslavia, and the Soviet-Chinese dispute, in which each side accused the other of being revisionists, even to the point of armed confrontation, are good examples). This model is airtight, the same for everyone. That is socialism.

With capitalism, each country applies it according to its own historical, geographic, and national characteristics. Thus, although the general principles (private ownership of the means of production, and a market economy) are the same, the forms of its application differ. France’s capitalism is not like that of the United States, or of Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Canada, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, etc. Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, whatever their governments say, are capitalist countries, even if some are more left-leaning than others. North Korea and Cuba, both in perpetual economic crisis, are the only existing orthodox socialist countries. China and Vietnam, socialist politically, are capitalist economically, in a strange marriage, enabling them to develop, something never achieved with the socialist model.

We should take this seriously, and consider all these facts and alternatives before we propose what Cuba should be in the future. I think it will have its own characteristics, taking the good and positive from the entire accumulated global experience. Not doing so would be a big mistake and a waste of time. What we should not do is try to invent another national monster. One is more than enough!

May 25 2012

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