14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, September 2, 2020 — According to the Communist Manifesto, capitalism was destined to be buried by the proletariat. The principle behind this claim was that workers could live without capitalists but capitalists could not live without workers.
The last vestiges of private property in Cuba were abolished by decree fifty-two years ago. Now, in the early 21st century, the government that dismantled even shoe shine stands has announced that it will allow the formation of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The logical conclusion is that the socialist system cannot live without entrepreneurs, who in 1968 were described as speculators and the last bastions of capitalism.
It boils down to the issue of ownership of property, especially property that is the means of production — operated by salaried workers — which provides its owner with added value, known as capital gains. Communists not only saw this exploitation of the work of others as a crime, from a moral standpoint, but also believed it amounted to a contradiction of economic science. For the capitalist mode of production to be rendered inoperative, socialism had to be imposed.
But there was a problem with this reasoning. Defenders of the theory argue that it was applied incorrectly, forgetting another Marxist axiom: results are the evaluative criteria for truth.
The return to economic reality as represented by the owners of the means of production, whether they be self-employed workers or entrepreneurs, could be a topic of debate between two opposing sides. One side could accuse them of being accomplices of the regime (of the system, of the dictatorship, of Castro-ism, of the government, or whatever one might call it) while the other could praise them as the most dynamic engine for change.
Those who accuse them of complicity say entrepreneurs submit to paying unfair taxes in order to enrich themselves. The argument is that these businesspeople, by meekly accepting the plundering of a pack of inspectors and making peace with the corrupt network of state-owned companies, allow the government to use them as evidence that changes are being made in the right direction. Their political docility, evidenced by their silence in the face of repression and the uncritical applause at marches through the the Plaza of the Revolution on May Day, help keep their businesses alive.
Those who see private entrepreneurs as the gravediggers of the system are thinking longterm. They believe that the acceptance of their contradictory existence will gradually lead to the acceptance of a market economy over the centrally planned one. They assume that, to the extent that there are more people opting for “private work” over employment at socialist state-owned companies, legislation will be necessary to empower entrepreneurs, give them legal status and grant them the rights they demand to achieve a sustainable economy. The assumption is that, over time, they will acquire more rights, including — and why not? — political rights.
At this point almost no one can make the claim that the proletariat is the most revolutionary class. In most developed countries, the working class is supportive of nationalist groups who oppose immigration and are often against environmental efforts aimed at reducing industrial pollution. Could it be that the proletariat has become an accomplice of capitalism rather than its undertaker?
It is well known that the labor union to which Cuban workers belong does not protect them from abuses by the state. And businesspeople do not even have an organization that represents them. Even after the announcement that SMEs will be legalized, police raids were carried out against farmers who plant onions or make cheese as if they were already operating small and medium sized businesses.
Perhaps, we have to start thinking about everything differently and abandon schemes that have not been shown to produce results.
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