It Is No Longer Forbidden To Get Rich In Cuba

The MarAdentro paladar (private restaurant) in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 19 July 2017 — The most controversial point of the Conceptualization Of The Economic And Social Model has been changed with discretion and without public announcements. The concentration of property and wealth that was prohibited in its first version, is only regulated in the final document, released after the last session of Parliament.

The change of formulation, which is of major importance, has passed without pain or glory in the national and foreign press. However, that relaxation entails a victory for the reformist forces within the official apparatus. A triumph that paves the way for the mid-sized private company on the island.

The definitive version of the Conceptualization has few essential differences when compared to its first proposal released in May 2016. The “most discussed” document in the nation’s history has become old to the extent that the internal and external reality outstrips it in momentum.

Perhaps the fear its becoming irrelevant led its drafters to prefer the present tense to formulate precepts and principles for future application. A grammatical style that has confused more than one naïf, who took what they dreamed of achieving and projected it as already done.

To avoid pressures, the managers of the document also clarified that it isn’t about a “finished and static template,” but rather an “active and perfectible pattern.” This condition avoids dogmatic interpretations, but it also gives the Conceptualization a very comfortable elasticity for those who implement it.

Despite the vagueness of certain concepts, one of the statements in the text provoked strong arguments from the beginning. Item 104 of the original version read: “The concentration of property and wealth in natural or legal persons is not allowed.” A bucket of cold water for the entrepreneurs.

During the months that the document was discussed at Communist Party headquarters and among other chosen ones, no other matter provoked more debate. Some warned of the dangers of categorically denying this accumulation of wealth, and others pointed to it as the end of the present system. The latter just lost the game.

The new version softens the prohibition and clarifies that the concentration of property and material and financial wealth in non-state natural or legal persons will be regulated. The change in nuance shows that pragmatism prevailed above orthodoxy.

However, there is also no carte blanche so that a citizen can create a restaurant franchise or purchase numerous homes for rent. The Conceptualization is not deprived of the excessive scrupulousness of the official discourse that praises humility and stigmatizes the prosperous, but nor does it allow itself to be owned by those who promote strict egalitarianism.

If in the initial version of a starring element of the text was the absence of the concept of “exploitation of man by man,” whose eradication is the main objective of the socialist system, now it continues to be present through a euphemism.

In Cuba, “ownership by non-state ownership and management of part of the surplus of the work of contracted persons is allowed,” it reads; but immediately clarifies that “socialist relations of production prevail.” Something very different from what happens in “social systems based on the exploitation of the work of others,” according to this new version.

With its patches and changes, the Conceptualization has ended up being a demonstration of the different tendencies of those who participated in its final development. A sequence of ideas to please both reformers and conservatives, to sit well with both dogmatists and innovators. The editors intuited that Thomas More did not get his head cut off for writing Utopia, but for being disloyal to the King.

The concept of privatization that is presented in its pages is a good example of these contradictions. It talks of “temporary transfer of ownership or management of certain means of production owned by all the people to non-state economic actors” and goes on to warn immediately that such a transfer should not “compromise the principles of our socialism.”

To calm those who fear the distribution of the pie, the document pointed out in its first version that the state retains the capacity for strategic decision or domination over these means. Something softened in the final version, where it “maintains the exercise of the principal powers that correspond to him by virtue of the status of representative of the owner.”

The changes in the text show the fluctuations in the coming course and also its anchors in the past. The current Conceptualization presents as “particularly relevant antecedents” the Programmatic Platform born from the First Congress of the Communist Party and the Program of the Cuban Communist Party that was issued in 1986. At first, however, the document only recognized as precedent “History Will Absolve Me.”

The nuances introduced in the new version are the result of what has happened in the last year: the death of former President Fidel Castro, the crisis of the leftist governments in Latin America and the coming to power of an unpredictable actor in the United States. The document that was born to be letters chiseled in marble now looks like an elastic canvas full of patches and gaps.