New Cuban Constitution, for a society in which no one loses
A frequent topic of discussion in constitutional reform debates underway across the country is the issue of limiting the concentration of wealth
Author: Iroel Sánchez | firstname.lastname@example.org
august 29, 2018 15:08:22
People of all ages are participating in the constitutional reform debate across the country.
Photo: Endrys Correa Vaillant
Cuba is expanding rights, transforming its state structure to better respond to citizens concerns, and adapting legislation to match changes which have taken place over the last decade in the country’s economy to function within the difficult international situation. Since August 13, Fidel is being honored with a popular debate in which the entire people is acting as a constituent body, discussing a proposal that has already been the subject of extended debate in the National Assembly.
The analysis conducted by the National Assembly of People’s Power of the constitutional proposal now being considered by citizens included as one of its most intense moments the issue of whether or not the Constitution should explicitly declare that limiting the concentration of wealth is the responsibility of the state – defined as socialist and true to Martí’s precept, “The first law of our republic: the devotion of Cubans to the full dignity of man.”
First of all, it must be recalled that consensus emerged on this limitation during the broad debates held among millions of Cubans on the Guidelines for economic and social development, approved by the Sixth and Seventh Congresses of the Communist Party of Cuba, and the Conceptualization of the Economic and Social Model, in the initial version of which the idea was not present. Its inclusion was the product of a demand from the grassroots level and several delegates proposed it.
The responses I was able to hear from members of the drafting Commission – which by the way did an excellent job both in the introduction by the Council of State Secretary and the proposal presented – who spoke in the National Assembly explaining why private property is recognized in the new Constitution, and its concentration limited, and the concentration of wealth is also limited. They outlined arguments that gave the impression of confusing accumulation with concentration. This was the case when responses cited the example of athletes or musicians who earned significant amounts of money with their talents, accumulating wealth, but do not concentrate it, since they did not take it from anyone. On the contrary, they contribute to the country, usually bringing their wealth here, as a product of their work abroad.
Concentration supposes a process in which something is moved from various places to a single one, or to few from many others. We know from the most elementary precepts of political economy that the contradiction between the increasingly social nature of work and increasingly greater concentration of capital (wealth), which is created as a result, is the dynamic of capitalism, and a society that aspires to be an alternative to this should not limit the accumulation of wealth, but rather its concentration, since it is assumed that in the process of concentration someone (many) lose, and socialism should be a society without losers. The role of the state, therefore, is essential, with its policies functioning as redistributors of wealth created by all economic actors, including those based on private property, without falling into paternalism or egalitarianism, since we already know, from our own experience, the damage and deformations these cause.
In a world in which the problem is very serious, and has led to only eight persons with more wealth that half of the planet’s poorest, and that in Latin America only 32 individuals have concentrated as much wealth as
300 million inhabitants across the region, there are increasingly more people calling for limitations on this, and they aren’t communists or socialists. According to the organization Oxfam, this high level of concentration is the result of public policies that have benefitted the financial system, not only in the acquisition of properties.
Some interpretations – perchance – from the same sources that regularly condemn every step taken by the Cuban government a priori, for ideological reasons, have cited prejudices against private enterprise – recognized in the proposed Constitution – as the cause of this limitation on the concentration of wealth. But this is not necessarily so.
While legal norms for small and medium-sized private capital businesses have yet to be established, recent regulations announced on the issue cannot be interpreted as a definitive rejection of these, but rather as an adaptation to the temporary existence of distortions in Cuba’s current economic situation, including dual exchange rates, numerous subsidies, and a deficient financial apparatus, which have given some private entrepreneurs a rate of profit much higher than any Cuban state enterprise, and higher than that of similar businesses in other countries. This is the only way to explain the flow of “investment” in this sector from abroad, in search of profit rates that cannot be obtained in the free enterprise capitalism existent in Miami, and which led to a source far removed from Cuban socialism, the Spanish newspaper El País, commenting, “The majority of 11 million Cubans are seeing the birth of a duty-free bourgeoisie.” You don’t have to be a soothsayer to recognize that once these distortions are overcome – dual exchange rates and generalized subsidies of products and services, as opposed to subsidizing specific persons – and the financial system improved, conditions will be created to move forward with the formal recognition of small and medium sized private business as established in the Constitution.
But the warning against concentration of wealth is not necessarily directed solely toward private enterprise, but should, I believe, be a cardinal principle of state management and socialist enterprise. Seeing as necessary a limit on the concentration of property and “wealth” as referring only to great fortunes, does not address situations like the creation of more than 20,000 jobs as telecommunications agents, which could have benefitted single mothers, older adults living alone, and the disadvantaged by providing them simple, basic work with relatively good income, instead of providing this opportunity to the highest bidder, on more than a few occasions, the owner of an already prosperous business – a café, a CD stand, etc – or the families of those working for state enterprises with the highest average salaries, who now sell prepaid phone cards next door to a disabled person who could benefit from honorable work, appropriate for their condition, and that would help the state which is allocating resources to support such citizens, and thus benefit more Cubans.
Such realities justify the inclusion of another issue in the Constitution, related to the social objectives of state enterprises that should not be socialist in name only. An entity cannot be called socialist when, far from working to reduce inequity, its practices reinforce it, or when it exploits socially disadvantaged Cubans, risking their health and that of the community.
Technical responses to questions that are also political and ethical do not befit a country like Cuba, educated by Fidel for more than 50 years. The people are discussing a Constitution that assumes the ideas of Martí and Fidel will surely take into consideration something that the leader of the Cuban Revolution said early on, in January of 1959: “The laws of the Cuban Revolution are fundamentally moral principles.”
An aspect as important as the elimination of discrimination against non-heterosexual persons in terms of the right to marriage was supported by consensus in the National Assembly debate, and we can only feel proud of the maturity achieved by our society on this plane, and of the depth and solidity of the arguments presented in favor of this humanist decision that will surely contribute to its comprehension among the majority in our country, and hopefully convince those who have expressed their opposition.
“No one knows what communism is,” they say, but surely it includes the end of all discrimination. The discussion of this proposed Constitution is directed toward defending a country that is diametrically opposed to capitalism, which we know only too well, well enough to attempt to distance our future as far away as possible, while remembering that it reigns in the world today and that we must consider this reality for our development.