The wealth that irks Castroism
Ever since the Conceptualization of Cuba's Socialist Economic and Social Model document was made public, its Section 104, referring to the prohibition against the concentration of property and wealth, was expected to be one of its most debated aspects.
But reality seems to have exceeded expectations. There has been barely a forum at which Section 104 has not come up for discussion. And there is bad news for supporters of reform: in most cases the Government's proposal of impeding non-State actors from accumulating wealth has been supported. At least, this is the impression projected by the official press in reference to the most recent debates of the Conceptualization and the National Plan for Economic and Social Development until 2030.
A meeting of Popular Power delegates in Santa Clara, for example, endorsed "preventing the proliferation of a nouveau riche class in Cuba." In that same city, but in a meeting with pro-Government journalists, the consensus was to inquire as "to what extent we will allow the concentration of wealth, so that no one thinks he is going to get rich at the people's expense."
In other cases the attacks on wealth have been launched from barricades alleging the "virtues" of socialism. The National Hotels and Tourism Union concluded that "it is not permissible for a concentration of wealth to violate the principles of socialism." Meanwhile, workers in the Health sector in Bayamo called for "the State to regulate the concentration of property and wealth in the hands of non-State natural or legal persons in a manner consistent with the principles of our socialism."
The National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC), with Miguel Barnet and Abel Prieto seated in the front row of the assembly, suggested that "self-employment should not allow anyone to get rich."
Those who think this way do not seem to realize that these kinds of threats are likely to curb the desire to produce among the self employed, and usufruct and cooperative workers. Obviously nobody can sleep soundly when they suspect their business might be shut down the next day. Also unnerving is not knowing what kind of mechanism the Government might use to prevent the aforementioned enrichment. Indirect or economic methods could be applied – the least traumatic – but the dreaded direct or administrative measures, like those employed during the Revolutionary Offensive of 1968, are not off the table either.
So long as economic logic is subordinated to ideological logic, and until changes on the Island are wrested from the hands of Raul's hardline henchmen, economic reform will go nowhere. It would behoove us to remind Cuba's rulers of why China remained economically chronically stagnant before Deng Xiaoping came along: just to prevent a handful of Chinese from driving modern cars, the Maoists forced 800 million Chinese to ride bicycles.
As Cuban authorities have yet to abandon their custom of exporting their conceptions and methods of government (remember the exportation of guerrilla wars in the 60s, and the model to control societies currently employed by Venezuela's chavistas) the General-President just denounced wealth in the world (that accumulated by others, of course) during his speech at the Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Countries, held on the Venezuelan island of Isla Margarita.
According to the Cuban leader, "the international economic order imposed by the major powers has led to 360 people possessing more wealth than 45% of the world's population."
The General-President ought to be asked his opinion about the fortunes that tend to surface when closed societies' presidents and other leaders are finally removed from office.