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Socialism in Cuba?

Allan Lichtenstein
December 29, 2015

by Allan Lichtenstein

tumblr_mpp6umTD9v1sz5l25o1_1280I RECENTLY RETURNED from a visit to Cuba more confused, although more knowledgeable, than before I set out. Cuba presents itself not only as enduring constant pressure from an illegitimate and self-defeating American embargo (or blockade, as they call it), but also as an alternative economic and social model to the United States. It considers itself a socialist country.

At the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba in April 2011, the most recent set guidelines of the economic and social policy of the Party and the Revolution were adopted. In all, there are 313 separate guidelines.

At the outset, the document states:

The Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba has discussed and analyzed the final draft of the Guidelines on the Economic and Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution to update the Cuban economic model, aiming at guaranteeing the continuity and irreversibility of Socialism, the economic development of the country and the improvement of the living standards of the people, together with the necessary creation of ethic and political values among our citizens.

These Guidelines state that the economic system that shall prevail will continue to be based on the people’s socialist ownership over the fundamental means of production, governed by the socialist principle of distribution: “from each according to his/her capacity to each according to his/her contribution.”

The Party’s economic policy will follow the principle that only socialism is capable of overcoming every difficulty and preserv[ing] the achievements attained by the Revolution. The updating of the economic model shall be governed by planning, which will take into account the market trends.

...

The economic policy is based on the concept that socialism, rather than egalitarianism, means equal rights and opportunities for all citizens. This policy ratifies the principle whereby, under the Cuban socialist society, no one will be left unprotected.

...

The recommended economic policy is guided by the principle that socialism is about equal rights and opportunities for all citizens, rather than egalitarianism. Work is a right and a duty, as well as a source of motivation for every citizen’s self-accomplishment, and must be remunerated in accordance to its quantity and quality.

IN THE EARLY 1970S, when I immigrated to Israel, I moved to a kibbutz. A graduate of the socialist-Zionist youth movement, Habonim, my living on kibbutz was the realization of the socialist-Zionist paradigm. At the time, the kibbutz was probably one of the best examples of a cooperative. (Unfortunately, the socialist basis of the kibbutz has withered, and its complete demise is not long off.)

I always understood that the socialist principle of distribution is “from each according to her/his ability to each according to his/her need.” I am no expert on socialist theory, but the kibbutz model of the early 70s was quite effective in realizing this principle.

The Cuban principle of socialist distribution as stated above, on the other hand, reads, “from each according to his/her capacity to each according to his/her contribution.” This is very different.

Furthermore, “the recommended economic policy is guided by the principle that socialism is about equal rights and opportunities for all citizens, rather than egalitarianism.”

This seems to me contrary to socialism, although consistent with the Cuban definition. I wonder how different this last sentence is to the underlying ideals of the United States.

Thoughts?

Allan Lichtenstein, a contributing writer to our website and magazine, has a Ph.D in urban planning from Rutgers University and has been working in the field of poverty research for nine years. He grew up in South Africa, lived in Israel for sixteen years, and has lived in the U.S. since 1986.

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