Miércoles, 12 de Diciembre de 2018
Última actualización: 01:52 CET

Is Castroism reformable?

A march in Havana. (AP)

When Mikhail Gorbachev launched the reforms known as perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness, transparency) he did not do so with the idea of ​​doing away with the Soviet Union, but just the opposite: to save it from collapse, which, in the Soviet leader's view, was inevitable if profound changes were not made to make socialism a more "democratic", humane and economically sustainable system.

The results, however, overwhelmed him. His series of reform measures led to the collapse of the Communist system in Europe and the disintegration of the USSR, the Federation invented by Lenin in 1922, a union imposed by force and composed of nations for centuries subjugated by the Russian Empire, going back to Ivan the Terrible (16th century) and later by Peter the Great in the 18th.

The "first State of workers and peasants" (as the Bolsheviks claimed) was toppled by perestroika for one simple reason: socialism is not reformable. When one tries to thoroughly reform it he ends up "accidentally" dismantling it. It is not amenable to change. Rather, it must be pulled up from the root and discarded. The same thing happened in the rest of Eastern Europe, and is happening, gradually, in China and Vietnam.

Unfortunately, Fidel and Raúl Castro took notes and know this all too well. This is very unfortunate, as the best thing that could happen in Cuba is the introduction of genuine reform, which would mark the beginning of the end of Castroism.

But there is no Cuban Gorbachev or Deng Xiaoping. At least none in sight. In fact, the two brothers born in Birán have dug in their heels and erected a wall against any real reform. Theirs is the same phobia harbored by the architects of the Communist regime, to the point that the word "reform" does not exist in the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary jargon. Karl Marx forbade it, on the grounds that all "reform" was a bourgeois relic of 18th-century utopian socialism.

Lenin, meanwhile, in an article published in 1913 in Pravda Truda, wrote that reform "in practice means the renunciation of Marxism and the doctrine's replacement with bourgeois social policy."

Marxist scholars (they do exist, and there are many in Western universities) and "anti-system" activists (who now elude the word "Communist," degraded by history) believe that any reform in socialism is a masked way to return to capitalism.  

The regime is right when it insists that Raul´s changes are not really reforms, but rather an "updating of Cuba's economic model," and that they include no changes to the political system, or civil liberties, aspects that were part of changes in Eastern Europe.

Not enough capital is created

The fact is that there are no substantial changes on the Island, not even in the economic sphere, which desperately needs a resurgent private sector. Despite its services, cell phones, the selling of houses and cars, private restaurants, easy access to travel abroad, cooperatives for certain services and activities, and other small-time operations, there is insufficient gross capital formation in the country, or value added that is invested instead of being consumed. And without capital formation and investment there is no economic growth.

Cuba's Foreign Trade Minister Rodrigo Malmierca actually just recognized this fact at the 2016 FIHAV, or Havana International Fair: "We lack high rates of investment, of capital creation." Of course, he did not explain that it is only with truly free productive forces that sufficient capital can be created in a country.

This is why the Island's economy does not flourish. While in Cuba the rate of gross capital formation does not exceed an average of 9% of its GDP, according to the World Bank in 2014 this figure was 27% in the Dominican Republic, 31% in Haiti, 27% in Nicaragua and 21% in Bolivia – countries considered poor by the UN. With its market reform, China posted a figure of 46%, and Vietnam, 27%. Mongolia, a poor and former Communist country, came in at 35%.

In addition, to put it in Marxian terms, services not directly linked to industrial production (self-employed Cubans) do not increase the volume of goods to be socially distributed. People do not emerge from poverty like that. To make matters worse, instead of expanding the changes undertaken, the regime has largely backtracked, and is throwing up new obstacles for the self-employed.

Chinese reformist leader Deng Xiaoping's famous phrase "To get rich is glorious" has been stood on its head: at the 7th Congress of the Communist Party in April 2016 it was declared that: "the concentration of property and wealth will not be permitted." Today this backwards slogan is part and parcel of Castro propaganda.

The Castros will not loosen their grip

It's simple: Raúl and Fidel Castro sank the country, and they're not going to save it. Now elderly, they certainly are not going to allow the "revolution" to leave the rails laid down by Fidel. With these two alive there will be no reform. 

And yet, all over the world people are talking about "Raúl Castro's reforms," and many are banking on the strengthening of the "reformist trend" and private sector growth. They are overlooking the prohibition on the opening of new restaurants, the harassment of drivers, and street vendors, and those who sell imported clothing, and many other self-employed Cubans. They also expect the start of a transition to democracy as of 2018.  

That optimism sounds great, but clashes with two key factors: 1) the unique nature of the Castro regime; and 2) in no Communist country has reform been initiated by old-guard leadership.

In China they began after the death of Mao Tse Tung, and in the Soviet Union it was with Gorbachev, a new leader not tied to the Stalinist past like Brezhnev, Andropov and Chernenko were. In Vietnam, Doi Moi (renewal) was introduced by a new generation of leaders. 

In Cuba, in addition to the Castros' aversion to private property, there is another problem. When Raúl steps down as president of Cuba in 2018, he will remain the First Secretary of the PCC (official dictator), a position for which he was tapped seven months ago at the Congress of the CCP, for another five years.

The general has not even hinted that he will relinquish his pharaoh-like position in 2018. He could do so when, at age 90, he completes his second term at the helm of the PCC, in 2021. But surely Fidel has "guided him" and suggested that, as long as his health allows, he ought to remain at the head of the "revolution" to preserve, until the last minute, the legacy of Moncada and the Sierra Maestra.

If Raúl remains the leader of the PCC until 2018, the new president of Cuba will be a puppet of his, like Osvaldo Dorticós was for Fidel Castro from 1959 to 1976, the year in which the Commander took over as President of the newly-created Council of State.

And if he abandons the Party office in 2018, or in 2021, he would still remain behind the scenes as the regime's political and military "guide," like Deng Xiaoping was in China, who actually continued to run his country until his death at the age of 93, long after he had resigned.

If the General passes away before these dates, supreme political/military power would pass to someone in his chain of subordinates who is already groomed for it, this group being composed of some of his relatives, the leadership of the Armed Forces, and some civilian members of the PCC elite.

Whether there will be reform then remains to be seen. Of course, there could be some unforeseen chain of events not even envisaged today (this is almost always the case) that could trigger the end of the Cuban nightmare.

In short, the subject is complex and controversial. But, for now, I cannot see how Castroism is reformable. I wish someone would soon try to "improve" it, and thoroughly.