The real meaning of Private Property in Cuba.
In Cuba, the government uses private property as a palliative and emergency, not for the prosperity of business and the true growth of the economy, but to benefit from the efficiency of “cuentapopistas” and redistribute their profits among the rest of the population that they themselves continue keeping in poverty as a result of their own incompetence.
The Cuban government suffers from a chauvinist economy of low expectations. The dominant power does not want anyone to become rich (even when some achieve it in front of their noses), but everyone can get a bit of the same misery that all Cubans should be morally proud. Unfortunately, even this dream of low expectations can not be fulfilled for most Cubans.
Cuba has two clear options. The first is to continue feeding the ruined dream of permanently giving miserable handouts to all Cubans, reinforcing the procrastination that many have for lacking any dream of individual prosperity. The second, allow some Cubans to be legally enriched by giving equal opportunities to all, even when many might not choose or won’t achieve quickly their dreams of prosperity.
Let’s analyze these two options with two examples brought from nature and from how some cultures relate to nature. Manakin male birds attract their females through dance, but for that they need two things. First, the perfect branch. Second, each male needs a dance companion. A younger male bird, which becomes his faithful companion.
The dancers are not related, but are committed to a long-term relationship. They will dance together in pairs for 10 years and will be so close to each other that both will complement each other even in finishing their songs with each other. The key to both attracting a female is in achieving the perfect synchronization.
However, there is an obvious problem. Only a lucky male will mate with a female. For the other, this must be the ultimate disappointment. The loyal wing male has nothing to gain by all his efforts. This is because the pair is formed by a dominant male and a subordinate one, and only the alpha male will be able to mate with the female.
The subordinate has to submit to the will of the dominant. Obviously, it is natural to ask, why the subordinate male enters into such a relationship with the dominant male if he does not stand a chance to mate with females? The beta male certainly has a plan. He is playing the long-term game.
Manakins live for 18 years. Up to half of his life, the beta male will help the alpha to conquer the females, strengthening their reputation and attracting the same females year after year. However, when the alpha dies, the beta male inherits the dance branches and all of his female visitors.
What might seem unfair treatment is, in fact, an effective cooperative strategy. The beta male over the years will rise in rank and, helped by his own dance partner, will win the females that will help him perpetuate his genes. With a little patience, it will eventually be his turn to benefit from a dance partner of his own and take charge of mating with females.
However, we have a second option as an economic partnership strategy. In Guangxi, province of China, fishermen use trained cormorants birds to help them catch fish from the river, an association dating back more than a thousand years. The fishermen tie a rope around the neck of the birds to prevent them from swallowing any fish they catch. The birds return to the bamboo rafts of the fishermen with the fish because they have been trained to do so.
From the moment they are born, each of these cormorants is raised in a life of obedience to his master. The birds are actually slaves, “happy” slaves, one would say. The fishermen, of course, keep the best fish, while the cormorants are fed with leftover.
The fish leftovers act as a “quick fix” to give the cormorants enough work energy, while depriving them of the reward associated with their skills. Their dexterities are exploited by fishermen to obtain the profit they produce. If the cormorants fed on the fish according to their skills, they would get a profit that would give them access to a much better life, but the fishermen deprive the cormorants of that life.
The kind of capitalists that the Cuban government criticizes so much are precisely those who act as fishermen in China and not as the Manakins birds. In fact, the Cuban government believes that the behavior of the Manakins birds is the fairy tale that capitalists sell to their societies to cheat their employees.
Obviously, the question here is, what is the fairy tale that the Cuban government sells to Cubans to deceive them and continue to keep them trapped in a poverty of generalized government handouts? Undoubtedly, the practice of Chinese fishermen with cormorant birds is exploitative and many societies around the world are far from behaving like Manakins birds. However, assuming that the Cuban government rejects the social exchange of Manakins birds because it ultimately hides the Chinese practice of fishermen with cormorants, what exactly does the Cuban government offer its citizens as an economic alternative to capitalism?
They have created fake business owners, keeping the entire population as apprentices of beta manakin birds, and presenting themselves to the Cuban people as revolutionary manakin alpha birds, while acting as Chinese fishermen. These practices of the Cuban government are far from being fair. It is not even fair even under the standard ideals that they themselves criticize of capitalist societies. The practices of the Cuban government are a hybrid moral monster defending their own chauvinist misery, which is sustained by a legion of fishermen of government cormorants masquerading as revolutionary manakin alpha birds.
The Cuban government still does not understand what economic growth is under a just society. A fairer society that seeks economic growth chooses equality of opportunities and not equality of results as an economic strategy. Still, we could ask ourselves, where does this idea of equality of results come from? Some of us would like to see equality of outcomes for children, especially if they were ours. Equality of results could also be desired in a utopian society with such abundance that it would no longer need to grow. This, obviously, reminds us of the Marxist communist utopia.
The problem with our desire for equality of results is that they are based on unsustainable premises. Children should be given first and foremost equality of opportunity and not equality of results for the simple reason that they should be given the opportunity to forge their own future and not a future forged by their parents or by a government. The inequality of the results aims to recognize not only the merits, but also the diversity and differences among the people, something that the Cuban Marxist utopia does not recognize as being attached to an abstract understanding of equality that only results in misery and Chauvinist moral stoicism.
A society of abundance that promotes equality of results can only be based on two erroneous assumptions, that we all have the same aspirations and dreams and that if we are all morally just, we are all morally modest, otherwise we are greedy. There may be many wrong things about aspiring to material wealth, but one of them is not to aspire to material wealth in itself. In the same way, there can be many wrong things about the permanence and perpetuation of poverty, and one of them is definitely being proud of poverty because of the enemy’s materialistic greed.
Cuba would need a government that legally allows some to become rich and some to become poor under the principle, not that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, but to create a large middle class that replaces the immense existing widespread poverty today in the island. The poverty existing today in Cuba is fuelled by a political fanaticism that aspires to an imaginary society of equality in which all are poor and indoctrinated in a communist moral of double standards: “Be a communist at heart, but try, discreetly, your best in the black market to survive because “daddy” government cannot help you or give you the possibilities for you to help yourself. “Daddy” government, however, will watch you constantly in case you manage too much for yourself. “
In a utopian society, the communist government would not need waged capitalists to represent their businesses, but since socialism is condemned to be its effective reality, it must recognize the value of capitalists while keeping its waged ’capitalists’ in a state of “quarantine” and permanent vigilance to prevent them from becoming the hated Robber Barons of the savage capitalism Marxism educated them about.
Can you imagine a State capitalism exploiting its capitalists represented and designated for the benefit of those who can not or simply do not have the opportunity to be capitalists? We would not even need to deepen the corruption associated with the government that appropriates the profits of its obedient “capitalists” to witness the persistent calamities of current Cuban society.
What the Cuban government does is put capitalism and private property at the service of a generalized charitable misery as a result of which it has become impossible for them to motivate the Cuban people to fight for better ways of life. The Cuban State exerts a totally unproductive control over the Cuban economy. This is a real impossibility because most Cubans work for the great anonymous and economically dysfunctional machinery of the government.
Obviously, for the dominant power in Cuba, using the supervised “capitalists” is a lesser evil that attempts to subsidize a generalized prosperity of low expectations through a continuous expropriation of the profits from those who are allowed to play at being “capitalists” with the sole purpose of giving them a fictitious prosperity. These self-employed “capitalists” are waged business agents actually working for the government. Self-employed workers have to pay very high taxes in order to redistribute their earnings and try to cover the minimum needs of the rest of the ordinary Cubans, to whom the government is unable to give economic autonomy, while subsidizing them with handouts through the rationalized supply book.
State capitalism, if such an oxymoron is possible, would be a hypocritical and decadent capitalism. What, however, exists without any oxymoron is corporate monopolistic and crony capitalism. Cuba’s capitalism is not state capitalism, but socialism with fake waged businessmen.
Interestingly, something as abnormal as “state capitalism” is possible as a moribund allegory during the terminal phase of some socialist models. Such an absurd label is part of the ideological tools that the collapsing system uses to cling more to its foolishness. The ideological strategy is to coax the “revolutionaries” to see it as part of the political and economic openings that the government is so generous able to grant and thus try to ridicule the accusations from their enemies.
Marx in one of his “scientific” dreams imagined a capitalism that would naturally become communism until his buddy, Engel, lowered him from those clouds and made him see that the revolution was a historical imperative. The Communist Party in Cuba does not have or will never have any intention or plan to transition to capitalism naturally. However, to think that Cuba will transition to capitalism naturally under the present Marxist ideology is as naive as to think that there will be or Cuba would require of another revolution to transition to capitalism.
I do not believe that in Cuba there will be another revolution or that one will be needed to transition to capitalism. Capitalism is not a social system that is transited through a revolution. The French Revolution was not a transition to capitalism, not to mention that not even in England was there a real revolution and it was the cradle of capitalism.
Capitalism is a system of economic exchange that although it can be thought of in very simple mercantile terms, it needs development in three spheres, in industry, in banking and in technology. The industry, today may be ignored, but banking and technology are essential.
There is no political will that can create capitalism merely through ideology for the same reason that the political will that tried to prolong socialism with mere ideology failed. Capitalism needs first of all of economic development, and not of politics. That was one of the fundamental truths that Marx learned from Adam Smith. The great irony about the Cuban government is that it uses the “capitalist” nomenclatures to give the impression of its dynamism and willingness to change “within” the socialist revolution, but it only highlights its growing ideological collapse and not the reinforcement of socialism. Giving to such government more ideological oppositional war when they offer dialogue is not an intelligent political strategical move.
The Cuban government will never give Cubans prosperity as long as they continue to reinforce their Marxist-Leninist ideology. Paradoxically, reinforcing it will bring them closer to their slow but inevitable collapse. Socialism is the reverse of capitalism in that sense. For socialism to improve economically, it has to change politically, in both senses, nominally and substantially. Capitalism, however, requires mostly to change economically in order to change politically.
Thus, the Cuban government recognizes something positive about private companies, but uses them as a springboard and illusion of prosperity to redistribute wealth and persist in achieving and perpetuating the Communist folly: “We will all achieve a poor prosperous life and we will all continue to be immensely proud of it. “Welcome to the moral chauvinism of low economic expectations in which, while the Marxist fantasy remains achievable, some continue to be richer and the majority remains and is forced to live proudly poor.
By using what the Cuban government considers a lesser evil (private business) as a vehicle to obtain a greater result (prosperity for all), they actually achieve a lesser evil (prosperity of low expectations for some) with the concomitant effects of continuously perpetuating, behind the backs of ordinary Cubans, a worse evil (general poverty sustained by a chauvinist morality of revolutionary pride).
The Cuban government prefers to achieve a minimum coefficient of “decent” generalized poverty in exchange for the polarizing wealth and poverty of the capitalist and neoliberal world that they hate. However, what is really being perpetuated in Cuba is a generalized poverty, indecent and indoctrinated in the majority under an ideology of prosperity of low expectations for all. The indecent nature of the ideological poverty offered by the Cuban government to Cubans is precisely to use private property as a lesser evil to obtain a low common denominator of prosperity at the expense of the illusion of a great indoctrinated prosperity in those who undertake business. Such indoctrination comes from the revolutionary “capitalist” elite branded by the Communist Party, if this still makes any sense. Communist “capitalism” is still in its infancy in Cuba and the Communist Party is totally reluctant to take the paths of China.
The real problem, as I have already emphasised, is that the Cuban government takes private companies as a lesser evil when in reality there is no historical evidence to prove such claim, even when the insidious effects of cronies and monopolist capitalism are well known. For the Cuban Communist Party is crucial to keep private companies linked to the government in the same way that in feudal times the church was linked to the government. Today the church provides its services to society without the need to be obligated or represent the interests of any government. The church and governments, however, needed to mature and reform to achieve such a separation. In Cuba, the government and companies need reforms which will require to go beyond considering private companies as a lesser evil of a capitalist enemy and asserting, not only the economical, but also the moral value of private ownership.
In principle, private property, although still bound by laws of civic conduct, does not require any legal marriage with governments or charities to contribute to the general prosperity of society and to function in a healthy manner. It is a sign of the health of a society that private, governmental and charitable projects are relatively separate. Such separation should not prevent them from spontaneously contributing to society.
But let’s look at the reverse process in capitalist societies. While private property must be separated from the coercive control of the government, charities and philanthropy must be separated from profit-making mechanisms for both small businesses and corporations. The reverse phenomenon of what happens in Cuba (the use of private companies as an indecent charity) is happening in many capitalist countries (using charities as an indecent vehicle for making profits).
What many companies get from their advertising campaigns does not determine much the value of their products, but since competitors advertise too, it is a small margin that would not be practical to ignore. Charitable and philanthropic actions are fashionable nowadays in consumer markets, whether we are talking about small businesses or corporate businesses. The reality, however, is that many of these charitable and philanthropic acts are already an intrinsic and almost legal part of any commercial practice worthy of their names.
The problem here is not only that charities are subordinated to making profit, but that they are presented as if they were charitable in themselves, or in other words, that charitable actions are presented as intrinsically not motivated by the pursuit of profit. Obviously, genuine companies and their business mentality would never use profits as a systematic charitable medium if such a mentality does not result in real prosperity, as is the case with the Cuban government. However, the charitable contributions made by companies should not be presented as charitable in themselves when they are not. This does not mean that the entrepreneurial mentality can not sometimes open up to such practices without a motive for profit.
Practices similar to those of the Cuban government are also seen in isolation in the capitalist world when companies and corporations expect to receive charitable assistance from the government, consumers or investors. The fundamental idea that I have tried to put forward in this article is that the unhealthy association between private companies, government and charity can occur both in the Cuban government and in companies from the capitalist world. The fundamental difference, however, is that in Cuba the toxic stigma that the government give to private companies as a lesser evil at the service of a charitable prosperity of low expectation offers a misery of widespread chauvinist pride. The capitalist world, on the contrary, with all its lesser evils and worst evils, continues to offer possibilities that are not limited to solutions that must in principle resort to the use of lesser evils.
In that capitalist world which the Cuban government loves to hate, but conveniently uses, there are greater possibilities for private companies, charities and governments to exist relatively separate but in interaction. Undoubtedly, reality shows more and more that both, their separation and their extreme union, are harmful to the prosperity of any society, but to stubbornly insist in their extreme union, as is the case of Cuban government, under the justification that if they would not promote the extreme union between the government and private property the only other option left would be their extreme separation, is Machiavellian and opportunist.
Cuba suffers and the government continues to sweet-talk and force Cubans into the suffering of this extreme union. While it is true that extreme separation occurs more often in the capitalist world than the Cuban government abhors, it is in that world that, although prosperity is not systematically guaranteed even as minimal prosperity, there is more potential for real prosperity in the middle of obstacles that we often see as insurmountable.