New Cuban Constitution: For a Society Where there are No Losers

By Iroel Sánchez on August 27, 2018

Cuba is expanding its rights, transforming the structure of its State in order to better respond to citizens’ demands and adapting its legislation to the changes that have taken place in the country’s economy over the last decade in order to adjust it to the difficult international scenario in which it must operate. Since August 13, Cuba has been paying tribute to Fidel with a popular debate in which all the people are constituents, based on a project that has already had a substantial debate in the National Assembly.

The analysis that the National Assembly of People’s Power carried out on the draft Constitution submitted for  the evaluation of the citizenship has already had one of its most intense moments. It was around whether or not to include in the Constitution the responsibility of the State, defined as socialist the “First Law of our Republic, the cult of Cubans to the full dignity of man”, in limiting the concentration of wealth.

The first thing to remember is that such a limit emerged as a consensus in the broad debates among millions of Cubans on the Guidelines for Economic and Social Development that were approved by the 6th and 7th congresses of the Communist Party of Cuba and the Conceptualization of the Economic and Social Model. The initial version of the guidelines did not include it and the changes were the result of a demand from the grassroots and several delegates who proposed it.

The answers that I heard from the Drafting Commission – which, by the way, did an excellent job, either because of the presentation by the Secretary of the Council of State or because of the preliminary draft that they were able to present – to those in the National Assembly who expressed their opinion that the new Constitution, which recognizes private property and limits its concentration, also limits the concentration of wealth, outlines arguments that give the confusing impression concerning  accumulation with concentration. This is how it happened when we responded with the example of athletes and musicians who earn large sums of money with their talent, accumulating wealth, but who do not concentrate it because they do not take it away from anyone, but rather contribute it to the country by generally bringing it to the country as a product of their work abroad.

Concentrating is a process in which something moves from several places to only one or a few places. From the most elemental description of Political Economy, it is known that the contradiction between increasing socialization of labor and the increasing concentration of capital (wealth) that is created with it is the dynamic of the functioning of capitalism and a society that pretends to be an alternative one. And this should not limit the accumulation of wealth, but its concentration because it is supposed that in this process of concentration someone (or many) loses and socialism should be a society without losers. For that the role of the State  is essential and its policies as redistributors of the wealth created by all economic actors, including those with private property, without falling into the paternalism and egalitarianism that we already know from our own experience of the damage and deformations they produce.

In a world where this problem is very serious and has led to only eight people possessing more wealth than the poorest half of the planet, and also in Latin America where only 32 individuals concentrate as much wealth as 300 million inhabitants of the entire region. This disparity has made more and more people to start advocating for limiting that, and they are not necessarily communists or socialists. The Oxfam organization says that the concentration is so high because it had benefited from public policies in the financial system, not just in the acquisition of property.

Some interpretations, coincidentally, from the same place that usually condemns any priority for ideological prejudices such as every action of the Cuban Government, have sought in prejudices against private enterprise -recognized in the draft Constitution- the cause of such a limit. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.

Although the legal provisions for small and medium-sized private capital companies have not yet been issued, the recent regulations sheds light on this issue cannot be interpreted as a definitive rejection of it but as an adaptation to the temporary validity of distortions in the current Cuban economic environment – exchange rate inequality, numerous subsidies and deficient fiscal apparatus – that give some private entrepreneurs a much higher profit margin not only than that of any Cuban state company, but also that of their counterparts in any other undertaking of the same order in other countries.

That alone would explain the flow of “investments” from abroad into that sector in search of rates of return that they cannot obtain in the free enterprise capitalism that exists in Miami and that led someone as distant from Cuban socialism as the Spanish daily El País to affirm that “the bulk of the 11 million Cubans see the birth of a duty-free bourgeoisie”. One does not have to be wise or guess to suppose that once these distortions – exchange-rate duality and generalized subsidies for products and services and not for people – have been overcome and the tax system improved, the conditions would be created to advance in the implementation of the recognition of small and medium-sized private enterprises established by the Constitution.

But even the warning against the concentration of wealth in the Constitution would not necessarily work within the framework of private enterprise; I believe that it should be a cardinal principle of state management and socialist enterprise. Since it was necessary to limit only the concentration of property and to see “wealth” only as great fortunes, when creating more than 20 thousand Telecommunications Agents, it was not intended to benefit single mothers, elderly people living alone and other disadvantaged people with simple, easy to operate jobs and relatively good incomes. Some took advantage to the highest bidder and, not infrequently, the owner of an already prosperous business -cafeteria, record sales, etc.-or the relatives of the workers of the state-owned company with the highest average wage in the country, but now also sell prepaid cards next to the home of an underprivileged person who could benefit from a decent job, appropriate to their limitations and that would help the State’s effort today to allocate resources to protect them and that could better benefit more Cubans.

This fact endorses another aspect that should be included in the Constitution, related to the social approach of the state enterprise, which should not be socialist just because its name indicates it. No entity could be called socialist that, far from working to reduce inequality, would multiply its management, or would exploit socially disadvantaged Cubans, encouraging them to endanger their health and that of the community.

The technical answers to aspects that are also political or ethical are not totally satisfactory in a country like Cuba, educated by Fidel for more than 50 years. The people who are discussing a Constitution that assumes the ideology of Martí and Fidel will surely bear in mind something that was proposed as early as January 1959 by the leader of the Cuban Revolution: “The laws of the Revolution are fundamentally moral principles”.

An aspect as important as the elimination of discrimination against non-heterosexual persons in the right to marriage was agreed upon in the debate of the National Assembly and for this reason we should only be proud of the maturity that our society has reached on this question. It was reflected in the depth and solidity of the arguments presented in favor of this humanist decision, which will surely contribute to its understanding among the majority of sectors of our country and hopefully also to convince those who have expressed their opposition.

“No one knows what communism is,” but it sure includes an end to all discrimination. The aim of the debate on this draft Constitution is to defend a country that is at the very opposite end of capitalism, something we know too much about, so much so that we can try to keep it as far away from our future as possible, knowing that it rules the contemporary world and that it is essential to take this reality into account for our development.

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano, translation North American bureau