Cuba seems like an anachronism in today’s world. Other formerly “socialist” states reintroduced capitalism in the upheavals of the 1990s. In Russia, the Communist Party was toppled and its system collapsed. In China and Vietnam, the Communist Parties themselves led a controlled process of reforms to reestablish a market economy. Cuba alone has maintained to this day an economy which is dominated not by the laws of the market but by a plan.
The Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) saved its system by introducing market mechanisms which have increased social inequality and undermined economic planning. Because of this, Cuba is at the crossroads: the “status quo” represents a delicate balance that cannot be maintained indefinitely. Qualitative changes are on the horizon. Will Cuba experience a chaotic reintroduction of capitalism like in Russia? Or a controlled restoration like in China and Vietnam? Will it remain an “anachronism”? Or will it develop in an entirely new direction?
This document will examine the perspectives for Cuba and develop a programmatic response from a revolutionary Marxist perspective. This analysis is partly based to a large extent on work by different Trotskyist currents – we will present our positions on the inner-Trotskyist debate at the end. We believe the development of Cuba will be of great importance for the class struggle in Latin America and worldwide. We want to contribute to the debate about this development, and we invite all leftists to discuss with us.
As of 2008, Cuba remained a poor country with a per capita gross domestic product of US$9,500 – roughly one fifth of the equivalent figure in the USA (US$47,000). Yet in categories like health care and education, Cuba can compete with its neighbor to the North: its infant mortality rate is 5.82 (compared with 6.26 in the USA) and the average life expectancy is 77.45 years (compared with 78.11 in the USA). The literacy rate is 99.8%, just above the US rate. These statistics are even more astounding when they are compared with those of Cuba’s Caribbean neighbors: for example in Haiti, the infant mortality rate is 59.69, ten times higher than in Cuba!
These numbers can only be explained by the planned economy which does not entirely abandon the population to the anarchy of the market (as do all other economies in the hemisphere). Even though reforms in the 1990s allowed market sectors of the economy to expand, 78% of Cuba’s workers are still employed by the state2 (even though in the coming period up to one million state employees will be fired). Private ownership is severely limited – in Cuba there is no social class that owns the means of production, i.e. no bourgeoisie – and most foreign trade is under a state monopoly. Large parts of the economy are excluded from the dictates of the market and the capitalist law of value.
1. North Korea remains another exception, but one that requires a special analysis.
2. All numbers come from a source beyond suspicious of pro-Castro sympathies: Central Intelligence Agency: The World Factbook. 2008.
3. More on this below.