Cuba: Private Property and the Market Allowed in New Constitution
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Cuba: Private Property and the Market Allowed in New Constitution


Cuba’s new constitution, which was approved
by over 90 percent of voters on February 24, means big changes for the country’s economy. Changes that union leaders hope will also
be good for workers. Today we went as an army of Cubans to the
polls. But we also went to vote for a better country,
which is something that the world needs right now. The Cuban Revolution’s economic policy centered
on agrarian reform and sugar export to their socialist allies in Eastern Europe. The island’s 1976 constitution later institutionalized
the centralized economic model that predominated in the socialist bloc during this period. Cuba emerged from the hardships that followed
the dissolution of the Soviet Union in part due to economic diversification that included
foreign investment in select fields. The Cuban state nonetheless remained the primary
actor in practically all areas of the economy. The country’s unions also developed and
operated within the state centralism, and today most Cuban workers are still employed
by the state, in state-endorsed cooperatives, or in mixed enterprises involving the state. Now all of this could change. It has new elements in that it recognizes
private property, which was not recognized in the previous constitution. The recognition of different forms of property
in the new constitution, including private property, means that individuals will have
the ability to own productive assets for capital. It also means that locals will be able to
employ other Cubans under a wage system. The testing ground for this type of private
sector activity has been in Cuba’s tourism industry, comprising almost 11 percent of
the island’s GDP, where many are already self-employed or working for someone in a
small, often family business they say it recognizes self employment as an actor within the Cuban
economy. As a secondary actor, but an actor nevertheless–that
is, that you have the ability as an individual, or as a family business, we have the ability
to contribute services; to contribute to the economy, and contribute to the tax base, which
is also an important part of sustaining the gains that we have been making in education,
health, and safety. These changes have been underway for some
time. The presidency of Raul Castro saw an increasing
space for Cubans to run small businesses, and the Communist Party of Cuba also endorsed
a paradigm shift adopting a policy paper in 2011 that recognized the market and different
types of property as central planks for the island’s development. As such, the changes in the new constitution
were seen as important in order to formalize what had already been taking place. The changes to the constitution were significant. We had a constitution from 1976, when the
political moment in the world was different, and we were in a different economic situation. We had a different composition to our labor
environment, which has completely changed. There’s almost half a million workers not
employed by the state. We have the rights secured in the new constitution. Two years ago a labor code was discussed with
100 percent of workers, and then passed the National Assembly. In the previous labor code, self-employment
was not recognized. In this one self-employment is recognized. There is a chapter dedicated to specifying
the basic rights of the self-employed, and that’s a strength. The new constitution drops any reference to
communism, though union leaders say the document still affirms Cuba’s national sovereignty
and socialist project, including the rights of Cubans to natural resources, as well as
social guarantees including education, health, housing, and work. Those who wanted to vote favorably did so,
in the same way as the person who didn’t want to vote yes. But it is for the good of the path to socialism
that we are constructing. The way things are right now in the world,
we can’t have any illusions. We aren’t going to reach communism at this
moment. Even for those of us who have a society that
aspires to be socialist. Within the conceptualization of the Cuban
economic model we say that we are building socialism, but we haven’t even reached socialism
yet. Even theorists conceive it as a process that
can advance and retreat. And that’s what’s happening today with
socialism. Some say these changes are evidence that Cuba
is on its way to a mixed economy. Although there has also been speculation about
the influence of countries like China and Vietnam, where the growth of private investment
has also meant criticism about worker exploitation, among other concerns. Havana has, indeed, been forging ties with
China and Vietnam. And although Cubans insist they’re carving
their own path, the economic models employed by these countries have been viewed as examples
to consider. Invariably, in the process of perfecting the
Cuban economic model, to get to what is being proposed now, various other models have been
studied. The Chinese and Vietnamese models have been
looked at to find some similarities and common ground. But the path to building socialism without
a preponderance of any other model. While Cubans are hopeful that these reforms
provide new opportunities for the country’s ailing economy, there are undoubtedly challenges
that loom under the new labor-capital dynamic. Cuban laws mandate worker participation and
consultation. But this was conceived as part of a state-driven
economy. As it stands, strikes are not legal in Cuba,
though union leaders aren’t discarding the possibility of job actions as part of future
labor relations. in no part of the labor code does it contemplate
the contradiction between the owner and the employee. Rather, it sees the complimentary between
the two. However, we know that in the future, we know
that we will have to use collective bargaining in order to ensure rights and responsibilities
of workers. Our constitution doesn’t recognize strikes
as a form of struggle. Why? Because those of us who are labor leaders,
from the general secretary and the leaders of our unions, down to the rank and file,
have representations at all levels of the state. I’ll give you an example. The secretary general of the Cuban trade union
central, Comrade [Ulysses Barate], is a member of the council the state. And that is a space that he has to speak about
the issues facing workers, and he utilizes it. I’m a member of the assembly of the people’s
power, to give you another example. And that’s because I represent the commercial
and service workers. And that’s the space that I have to speak
about my member’s issues. And we do that, also. But if within the development of productive
forces, if a company or private property ended having a preponderant position, and the workers
of that private property had to do something with regard to that owner, perhaps it could
be a strike, of course. It could happen.

14 Comments

  • Linzie Rogers

    The natives are becoming restless and the powers that be understand this. Once it gets into capitalism lite that's when it should be wary of the west. It has resources the west would love to have. If it won't let it in then it will continue to be in the west's doghouse.

  • Richard Allen

    This out of world video goes against everything the Real News pretend to support in the US which is less Market and more socialism.

    The implication is that there was to much Socialism in Cuba and not enough Capitalism. It also implies that there is the right amount of Democracy in Cuba.

    There is no evaluation of the electoral process in Cuba which voted in this reform. It was acknowledged before that a dictatorship existed in Cuba to implement reforms for the benefit of the Cuban working class. Neither the government nor the electoral processes has changed in this dictatorship now implementing pro-market reform. Irony aside, how does having a new private sector boss going to advance the cause of democracy in Cuba, for the Cuba worker?

    In neither small or large businesses does anything looking like Democracy exists. I doubt Paul Jay nor Amy Goodman put up with much democracy in the organization they dominate and profit by.

    The essential problem of the private sector is the commodification of the human being. The very existence of the private sector is predicated on the subjugation of the individual as a worker and the rising of the another over him or her, with the point being the exploitation of one class in order to profit another. Little cute boutique businesses have the same goal as the most massive and brutal corporations. In fact all corporations start as small mom and pop businesses. The best way to prevent the growth of gigantic corporations is to kill them at birth.

  • mikecorbeil

    Definitely confusing for me. I'm not sure exactly what to understand from this report. It'd take an open room environment where people who attend could pose questions and get direct, say, answers, so explanations. I won't playlist this due to insufficiently understanding what the whole video is about or reports, but will still give it a Like.

  • Tom Usher

    It's the wrong direction but a move to get the US to lift sanctions. It won't work while Trump is there unless Trump undergoes a revelation.

  • Rafael Pena

    I think this allows for MORE creativity..you have to ask yourself..who would win in a debate? Marx or Orwell? Almost ALL marxist-style govt's failed..the problem is "authoritarianism" which Orwell so POIGNANTLY pointed out..almost EVERY economy is a "mixed-economy"

  • ture sankara

    What happens when there are no more "markets" or people or "things" or even planet to exploit?
    For we all now that "infinite growth" is impossible. Cuba is chasing a western imperialist illusion.

    Chant down Babylon ism & schism.

  • Unchained Media Scotland

    It may be fair to say that socialism like capitalism or even libertarianism, does not work in it's traditional old fashioned form. The most successful societies employ hybrid models.

  • Prepper Life

    As an German/ American, I love to buy a small piece of land in Cuba. It would be a beach front property, where salt and sand met. Being I have a small farm in the US, importing produce from Cuba would be my thought. Setting up an export/ import business, would be a win / win for us all. Please if the government is OK with this, I would love to hear some feedback from the locales.

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