Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Exodus, 'revision' and doublespeak

Exodus, 'revision' and doublespeak
ROBERTO ÁLVAREZ QUIÑONES | Los Ángeles | 23 Nov 2015 - 8:50 pm.

The unstoppable wave of Cubans leaving the island, the largest migratory
stampede since the Mariel Boatlift in 1980, is the most vivid
illustration of the failure of the "revision of the socialist economic
model," dramatically discrediting those who praise Raúl Castro's reform

A total of 43,159 Cubans, according to official figures, emigrated to
the United States in the last fiscal year, ending September 30, up 77%
compared with the preceding period (24,278), surpassing the 1994 exodus
during the Boatlift (32,362). There is currently a humanitarian crisis,
with almost 2,000 Cubans trapped in Costa Rican territory because the
pro-Castro regime in Nicaragua will not allow them to continue on to the US.

All those who have reached the US recently report the same thing: they
had to leave Cuba because nothing has really changed there, nor will it
so long as the Castro family and its generals are in power.

How can Cuba be benefitting from reform when the desire to emigrate by
any means possible is only growing? Some argue that fears that the Cuban
Adjustment Act will be repealed have triggered the stampede. This may be
a factor, but frankly this many people do not abandon their country,
family and friends, customs, historical environment and culture if they
have any hope of a better life in their homeland.

It seems that Cuba is the only country in the world where the government
is not measured by the results it achieves, but rather the (empty)
promises its political leaders make. This peculiar style of government
was introduced by Fidel Castro in January of 1959. Back then he promised
elections for the President of the Republic, and several weeks later
asked: "Elections? What for?"

After replacing Fidel at the head of the government, Raúl Castro
promised a daily glass of milk for all Cubans, and announced profound
structural changes because workers' wages were insufficient to cover
basic needs. Today even less milk is produced than back in 2007, and the
salary (24 dollars) is half that in Haiti (59 dollars) and the lowest in
the West. And the structural reforms?

With preparations underway for the Seventh Communist Party Congress
(PCC), scheduled for next April, Castro's leadership does not even
mention the economic "Guidelines" issued by the Sixth Congress (2011),
which constituted their latest litany of promises. In a threatening tone
(his style) the new dictator announced the restructuring of the State's
economic apparatus to augment industrial production, deliver services of
the quality "that the people deserve," and to support the self-employed
engaged in authorized trades (exclusively for the rendering of
precarious services typical of medieval times).

Raúl's gatopardismo

It was all a lie. General Castro and his military regime practice
doublespeak, or gatopardismo, a term used in political life stemming
from the novel El gatopardo (The Leopard), by the Italian Giuseppe di
Lampedusa (1896-1957), in which the author presents the paradox of
making changes, but in such a way that everything remains exactly the same.

Raúl's gatopardismo was summed up Colonel Marino Murillo, Deputy Prime
Minister, at a meeting with the National Association of Economists in
October of 2013: "The revision must be understood as a modernization of
management that makes state ownership more efficient and facilitates the
extensive development of our productive forces, but this should not be
understood as a change to the structure, based on state ownership. This
should be made clear. "

In other words, the PCC ordered a reshuffling of the bureaucracy, but no
real freedom for workers. None of the economists on hand pointed out to
the Vice-President that state ownership is precisely what prevents the
Cuban people from producing wealth.

Moreover, there is nothing modern at all about this "modernization."
It's an old formula, applied in the Soviet Union after Stalin's death,
termed "socialist economic calculation" - an absurd contradiction
according to Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek and the whole Austrian
school of Economics, who showed that this is not possible in an economy
that suppresses the market and private property.

Soviet businesses had more autonomy. They received a percentage of
profits, and their workers could double or triple their income if they
surpassed centrally-set goals. The same was done in all of Eastern
Europe, with even more daring versions in Hungary, Poland, Romania, and
especially in Germany, with its industrial combines. But these stopgap
solutions did not prevent European socialism from crashing down.

In Cuba half a century ago a "revision" could have been viable; that is,
Soviet economic calculation. But it was blocked by the visceral
opposition of Che Guevara, supported by his pupil, Fidel Castro, as they
clung to their shared Stalinist principles. What was established was a
fully centralized budgetary system, typical of the Stalin era, despite
the recommendations of Carlos Rafael Rodríguez, the only competent
economist in Castro's leadership at the time, and a proponent of
economic calculation.

Of course, Rodriguez threw in the towel when he saw the Castro-Guevara
(who knew nothing of economics) duo describe material incentives (money)
as a "betrayal of socialism," instead giving them "little flags" and
moral incentives in the Socialist Emulation to form the "Communist
consciousness of the new man."

Since April 2014, half a century late, the post-Stalinist Soviet
revision is being implemented on the island. It is one of Raúls
"achievements" that Cuban state companies are now doing what they could
have begun doing 54 years ago: sell certain surplus production at prices
dictated by the market, take half the revenues, and establish higher
wages for their employees if there are profits. The central government
decides what is produced and how much.

But, as Von Mises noted, economic calculation cannot be totally applied
in Cuba (neither was it possible in the USSR) in the pursuit of
efficiency, which is impossible under socialism, due to its intrinsic
inefficiency. Above all, the astronomical costs of production must be
reduced, for which the excessive number of State workers must be
reduced. This is unworkable if there are no private capitalist forces to
employ this painfully squandered productive force.

The regime estimates that redundant workers represent over 40% of the
total workforce at State companies, or about 4.2 million employees. In a
hypothetical private sector, if each of the 1.6 million state workers
who do practically nothing produced $25,000 a year in value, the
country's Gross Domestic Product could be virtually doubled.

Clearly, there is no reform underway in Cuba. The chronic economic
crisis will continue to degenerate if the country's productive forces
are not unleashed and a vibrant private sector does not emerge in the
areas of industry, trade, agriculture, and throughout its economic
activity. The PCC is far from what Lenin did in 1921 when he launched
his New Economic Policy (NEP), the capitalistic reform measure that
ended a terrible famine devastating Russia.

The migratory drain, taking its toll on the most valuable asset of any
economy, its human capital, is a historic crime of doublespeak,
perpetrated by the dictator and his military junta.

Source: Exodus, 'revision' and doublespeak | Diario de Cuba -

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