Re: on Cuba

From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@SFU.CA)
Date: Tue May 20 2003 - 19:00:12 EDT

         A very quick comment on one part of Diego's thoughts on Cuba and
the conference.

At 11:23 20/05/2003 +0200, Diego wrote:

>   Cuba is not a socialist country or economy even though many people
> there aim at socialism. Due to the well known problems of the Cuban
> economy in the early nineties, the Cuban government had to recur to a
> kind of dollarization which not only extended the inequality connected to
> all monetary systems but is producing in this case a strong and growing
> social dualism. In my opinion, the Cuban dollar dependence now is as
> great as is the Argentinian one (if not worse), and the compulsory move
> towards competitiveness that the Cuban economy is experiencing forces it
> to look for absolute competitive advantages. One of the biggest might be
> the organization of this kind of conferences on Marxist topics for
> socialist-sympathetic people around the world, able to bring into Cuba a
> lot of dollars to spend in and around the dollar hotels of The Havana. Of
> course, an important factor contributing to the success of this segment
> of the market might be Fidel's presence at these events.

         Although the US dollar is omnipresent in Cuba (although the Euro
is now accepted in Varadero in transactions), I don't think you can compare
its place as similar to the case of Argentina (and I believe Equador). The
money supply in Cuba is not at all dependent on the supply of US dollars.
They coin and print a convertible peso, designated in US dollars, which
circulates like the real thing internally, and they control how much of it
that they will produce--- which gives them a flexibility lacking in fully
dollarised economies.
         As for Cuba and conferences, there is no question--- this is a
major industry for them; in particular, it is the way that many people from
the US come to Cuba. But, you shouldn't think that the organisation of
Marxist conferences is common. To my knowledge, the only other conference
on a marxist theme in recent years was for the anniversary of the
Manifesto. The conference earlier this month was unique and was organised
on a shoe-string, relying on a few people who thought it was important to
have a conference on Marxism in Cuba. As it happens, Fidel has become
increasingly interested in Marxism and actually gave a written (thus short)
speech on Marxism at the Globalisation conference in February (which gave
the  Marx conference organiser hope that Fidel might be interested in his
conference). Strange as it may seem, Fidel was only informed about the
conference in the preceding week-- in this case by Pedro Ross, head of the
CTC, the trade union federation, who was interested in supporting the
conference; that is how the conference was ultimately shifted from the CTC
building. As people have noted, Fidel clearly was enjoying himself, which
wreaked havoc on the conference schedule; however, it is more significant,
I think, that some key people from the CC, Ross and the Minister of
Culture, Abel Prieto were there and very attentive. Also, some people who
shall remain unnamed who were in a position to support the conference and
made no efforts at all to do so suddenly discovered a great interest in it
when they realised what was happening.
         What I had not understood until after the conference is what one
prominent Cuban Marxist described as a virtual marginalisation of
Marxism--- and in particular its exclusion from the mass media. For this
reason, some Cubans were excited not only by the coverage of the conference
in Granma and on TV but also by the fact that the Roundtable, a widely
watched evening programme in the week following the conference was to focus
on it (including taped interviews with Samir Amin, Istvan Meszaros, Georges
Labica and others). At this point, it looks like there will be definite
support for a conference next year-- the theme in this case revolving
around Lenin.
         Finally, before this 'quick comment' gets ludicrous, is Cuba
socialist? Is it likely we'd come to an agreement? We'll all agree that it
is not communist, and we'll all agree that the society before communism
develops upon its own foundations is necessarily defective. Whether , in
looking at the defects in a particular concrete society, leads us to
designate it as socialism or not is, I suspect, something that there would
be little agreement on and---even if there were--- is not especially
fruitful. From my perspective, I see a number of contending tendencies---
those reflecting vanguard relations of production (which are dominant),
those tending toward capitalism (both from above and below-- with the
latter more significant) and those oriented to developments from below
which bear within them the seeds of a communist society. If you engage
yourself, you try to support those tendencies that you see as consistent
with your own perspective.

         in solidarity,
ps. I will get around to commenting on the 'dreams and nightmares' discussion.

Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6

Currently based in Cuba. Can be reached via:

Michael Lebowitz
Calle 13 No. 504 ent. D y E, Vedado, La Habana, Cuba
Codigo Postal 10 4000
(537) 33 30 75 or 832  21 54
telefax (at night): (537) 33 30 75

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed May 21 2003 - 00:00:00 EDT