Tuesday, July 17, 2018

"Tenemos trabajo para los periodistas:" On the Meaning and Utility of Press Freedom in Cuba; Fidel Castro (1961) and Díaz Canel (2018)

"Tenemos trabajo para los periodistas. . . . " 
[We have work for journalists]
(Discurso Pronunciado Por El Comandante Fidel Castro Ruz, Primer Ministro Del Gobierno Revolucionario, En El Acto Homenaje Al Periódico Revolución, Con Motivo Del Premio Que Le Fuera Otorgado Por La Organización Internacional De Periodistas, Efectuado En El Salon De Embajadores Del Hotel Habana Libre, El 25 De Marzo De 1961).

"[N]i los medios públicos cubanos ni sus periodistas están en venta." 
[[N]either the Cuban public media nor its journalists are for sale.]
(Discurso pronunciado por Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, Presidente de los Consejos de Estado y de Ministros, en la clausura del X Congreso de la Unión de Periodistas de Cuba, en el Palacio de Convenciones, el 14 de julio de 2018, “Año 60 de la Revolución”). 

A neglected but interesting exercise that is worth the trouble is to consider the arc of transformation of notions of the rights and duties of (to use an increasing ancient term) the press. That is particularly useful for those who study the evolution of the Latin American strains of European Marxist-Leninist political organization.  It becomes even more interesting in the context of Cuba as the West (again) entertains notions of Cuba's evolution or transformation or development into something that more closely resembles. . . .them!   

It is with that in mind that I thought it useful to consider in parallel two important speeches made by those in leadership positions in Cuba both of which focus on the nature and role of a free press as those terms are understood by them.  The first was a speech delivered by Fidel Castro in 1961 (Discurso Pronunciado Por El Comandante Fidel Castro Ruz, Primer Ministro Del Gobierno Revolucionario, En El Acto Homenaje Al Periódico Revolución, Con Motivo Del Premio Que Le Fuera Otorgado Por La Organización Internacional De Periodistas, Efectuado En El Salon De Embajadores Del Hotel Habana Libre, El 25 De Marzo De 1961 (Departamento De Versiones Taquigráficas Del Gobierno Revolucionario). The second, was delivered 57 years later by Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, Raul Castro's successor to lead the Cuban state apparatus (Discurso pronunciado por Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, Presidente de los Consejos de Estado y de Ministros, en la clausura del X Congreso de la Unión de Periodistas de Cuba, en el Palacio de Convenciones, el 14 de julio de 2018, “Año 60 de la Revolución”).

Both are worth a careful read, and neither can be read profitably without the other. Both remind the reader that press freedom continues to be understood quite differently within other political systems (and not just Marxist Leninist ones; one can as easily transpose the ideas below to political systems grounded on other principles) and that engagements with press freedom (as a norm and as a method) has evolved in the face of changes in tastes, desires and technologies, as well as the capacities for individuals, entities and others to use them.

 The text of both follow, along with some very brief introductory thoughts.

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Law of Private Sector Reform in the Shadow of Constitutional Transformation in Cuba; The Limits of Market Reform In Centrally Planned Economies

d more here: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article214620125.html#storylink=cpyThe Miami Herald)

On July 14, 2018, Cuban Communist Party (PCC) authorities announced substantial changes to its 1976 State Constitution (Visión hacia el presente y el futuro de la Patria Aspectos principales del Anteproyecto de Constitución). The changes represent an effort by the PCC apparatus to build the changes it had instituted since 2011 into the formal structures of the governmental apparatus of the state (A New Constitution for Cuba--Principles and Reform). The reforms are being reviewed during  Cuba's 7th Plenary Session of the PCC Central Committee (Tele-Sur).  Once finalized will be delivered for consideration and approval by the state apparatus (scheduled for 21 July 2018) and eventually submitted to the masses for discussion and popular affirmation (Granma).

The Western press focused on several of the changes--principally the institutionalization of free markets and private property ownership.  The BBC reported that "Recognising private property could potentially mean more protections under law for private entrepreneurs - and foreign investors."(BBC). Others noted that "The constitution does, however, create new recognitions of the free market and private property in Cuban society, and creates a new presumption of innocence in the justice system." (CTV News; Los Angeles Times; US News&WorldReport). Still others declared that "Cuba is set to officially recognise the free market and private property for the first time under sweeping reforms to its constitution intended to boost the island’s economy." (Independent). Reuters was more careful, noting with respect to enshrining market reforms that these "could mean enhanced legal protections for Cuba’s fledgling entrepreneurs, and foreign investors too, even though Granma said the constitution reaffirmed that central planning and state enterprise are the pillars of the economy overall." (Reuters).

This post briefly sketches the evolving understanding of free markets--and the space reserved for its functioning within the political economy of Cuba--that emerges from the actual practices of the Cuban state in the last several months.  It is this practice that will likely inform the meaning and utility of any markets protective language in the proposed Cuban constitution.  These suggest a very different, and quite modest and collateral understanding of markets and market mechanisms in Cuba from understandings of markets in other places. More importantly, it also elaborates the means by which markets are subsumed within a centrally planned economy.  This serves as a caution for those who might be tempted to read far too much into the revisions of the proposed Cuban constitution.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

A New Constitution for Cuba--Principles and Reform (Visión hacia el presente y el futuro de la Patria Aspectos principales del Anteproyecto de Constitución)


The current version of the Cuban Constitution was adopted in 1976 (the first after the 1959 Revolution) and last amended in 2002 (effective the next year). It is a constitution drafted in the fashion of the old Soviet constitutions of the post-Stalin era.

But much has changed in the period since the last amendments. Most well known of these changes was the retirement and then death of Fidel Castro Ruz, replaced first by his brother Raul Castro, and thereafter by Miguel Diaz-Canel, who in 2018 assumed the duties of the presidency (though Raul Castro retained his position as first secretary of the Cuban Communist Party) (e.g., here). Less well known have been the great ideological changes that have been developing over the course of the last decade. These have been driven by the PCC and its efforts to reform the political and economic principle sunder which the state is organized and operated.

These changes were memorialized in three key documents, the products of the 6th and 7th PCC Congresses. The first was the Lineamientos de la política económica y social del partido y la Revolución (Partido Comunista de Cuba April 18, 2011) (Guidelines for the political economy and social policy of the party and the Revolution) As approved by the VIth Party Congress, the Lineamientos consist of 313 Sections. Each provide suggestions for action that affects nearly every aspect of Cuban economic life, with consequential effects on social, cultural, educational and other sectors of activity that had been under the direction of the State (See, e.g., here). The second and third were products of the 7th PCC Congress. The first, was the Conceptualización del modelo económico y social Cubano de desarrollo socialista (e.g., Larry Catá Backer Comment to the Conceptualización; Flora Sapio Comment to the Conceptualización). The Conceptualización serves to answer the question: what sort of theoretical model will guide the development of Socialism in Cuba. The Conceptualización is of particular interest for its potential divergence from the construction of Chinese post-Soviet Socialist Market theory within the context of socialist modernization (generally, "Central Planning Versus Markets Marxism: Their Differences and Consequences for the International Ordering of State, Law, Politics, and Economy," that appears in the Connecticut Journal of International Law 32(1):1-47 (2017)). The second was the Plan nacional de desarrollo económico y social hasta 2030: Propuesta de vision de la nación, ejes y sectores estratégicos in which the PCC posited that development can be better managed by rejecting the central role of markets, and substituting state planning in its place, taking an all around view of economic planning as inextricably bound up in social, political and cultural progress of a nation (e.g., The Algorithms of Ideology in Economic Planning).

The three documents framed substantial changes to the conceptualization and approaches to the operationalization of the Cuban political economy, at leats at the margins. The principal changes included a limited opening for the holding of private property (and its sale), the development of a limited private commercial sector (heavily managed by the state), and the possibility of aggregations of labor through cooperatives for approved economic activity. These changes have been implemented through a series of law, regulations and decisions under the direction of the PCC. The changes were at the margins in the sense that they reaffirmed the central role of the vanguard party, of central planning (and the rejection of market mechanisms for economic planning), and of the state sector as the primary engine of economic activity at home and abroad.

Now the PCC has proposed, through its state organs, to change the Cuban constitution to reflect these changes as well. The new constitution was overseen by a Commission chaired by Raúl Castro Ruz, which also included Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, José Ramón Machado Ventura. Most Western coverage has treated these changes as if they mattered, in the sense of producing innovation in the political economy of Cuba,  But of course, that is not the case.  Constitutional changes, in this case, merely memorialize the innovations that were first developed by the Communist Party and then implemented through quite complex sets of legislative initiatives.
Cuba’s current Soviet-era constitution only recognizes state, cooperative, farmer, personal and joint venture property. . . . Ruling Communist Party newspaper Granma published a summary of the new constitution on Saturday, saying a draft it had seen included 224 articles, up from 137 previously. Details were not immediately available, and Reuters did not see the draft. But Granma said it enshrined recognition of both the free market and private property in Cuba’s new Magna Carta. (Communist-run Cuba to recognize private property in new constitution).

Western in some respects is curious.  It tends to read the changes from its own perspective, and to project its own desires and hopes into its coverage.  Thus, for example, the Western press has emphasized the enshrinement of the recognition of free markets.  But that may be misleading to the extent it implies any embrace of Western style free markets. Indeed, Cuba has made it clear that it continues to reject notions of Western style markets in favor of managed private sector activity.  

The announcement and detailed description of the provisos of the daft constitution follow (Español), along with the current state constitution.  A summary of the proposed changes are discussed in English by Reuters, the BBC, CTV News, the Independent, and Havana Times.  To understand the new Constitution one has to know the Conceptualización.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The NATO Meeting's Agit-Prop Moment--Is this Any Way to Run an Alliance in the Age of Media Spectacle? On Reshaping Discourse in NATO

With 28 other heads of state, Mr. Trump signed the 23-page NATO declaration, which reflects months of negotiation and drafting ahead of time. Credit Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

Agit-prop has moved from technique to to the center of the way in which power communicates; it has moved from the playhouse to the world ordering now made possible in this Internet age (e.g., here). To paraphrase that often ill-used cliché (As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII [All the world’s a stage]), All the world's live streamed, And all the men and women are staged to serve it. One had a sense of this at the recently concluded G7 meeting in Canada (Picture and Communique: Agit Prop at the G7). The self conscious use by leaders of the tactics of agit prop (long used against them) was both self conscious and deeply revealing.  Agit prop, once reserved for the outside, appears more and more to be a useful part of the toolkit of public private partnerships in the production of governance optics.

The July 2018 meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO) civilian leadership provides yet another example of the style of the "leadership meeting" (common now to all sorts of governance institutions) to moments of targeted agitation. The picture above is a great example, one in which the viewer is invited to read all sorts of things--the isolation of Turkey, the strong Franco-German bond, the relationship between U.S. and U.K. the emptiness of the center, and the quite clear boundaries between primary and secondary actors.

But that picture did not capture the 2018 NATO meeting's great agit-prop moment. It's agit prop moment--which one might label "breakfast with Mr. Trump"-- occurred on the side in a carefully scripted moment of virtual theatre.

 ("In what was supposed to be a brief photo op ahead of a breakfast meeting, President Trump launched a verbal attack against NATO defense spending as cameras clicked away. Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP; Image form "Trump Blasts Allies At NATO Summit")

Yet it might also be understood, if only for its aftermath, as another element in the construction of a powerful cult of personality for the President of the United States. This might appear odd given the "new normal" for reporting about Mr. Trump in the midst of the vicious but as yet mostly non-violent civil war among Western elites more eager to secure their own power (and that of their ideologies) than to govern. It might, indeed, appear even more odd if one considers the premise that reporting around Mr. Trump has degenerated more into mere editorializing around facts than engagement with them.  Yet, these very mechanisms constructed for demonization of Mr. Trump may, instead, be the most important instrument for the construction of his cult. I say that surmising that cults of personality can be as easily built around fear and loathing as it can around love and admiration (as managed by those actors who create the media records of the times).

None of this is worth the time it has taken to write it, except perhaps for some lessons we might draw from this (mis)adventure. A brief consideration of those potential lessons follows.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

China's New Supervision Law: Resources and Links 纪委监察委执纪执规执法 (查办职务违法职务犯罪案件及涉黑案件) 电子手册 目 录

“The concept of bureaucratic authority has always been central to the analysis of formal organizations. Bureaucratic authority is distinguished from other types of authority relationships in being based on the office, not the person; it is authority which has its ultimate legitimacy in abstract norms and regulations rather than only in the wishes of a superior.” (Marshall W. Meyer, “The Two Authority Structures of Bureaucratic Organization,” Administrative Science Quarterly 13(2):211-228 (1968)))
All large bureaucratic apparatus--whether in public governments, large economic enterprises, or religious institutions--requires a means of ensuring that the bureaucracy works more or less as intended.  Over the course of the centuries a number of fundamentally distinct systems have been created to solve the problem of supervisory supervision. Boards of Inquisition, civil service commissions, prosecutorial bodies, close public supervision and regimes of transparency, and the development of state agencies with sometimes broad authority to police functional bureaucracies have all been used, sometimes with some degree of success for a time. 
March 2018 meeting, China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) approved a constitutional amendment creating a super-sized anti-corruption body called the National Supervision Commission and adopted a Supervision Law to govern its operations. A massive institutional restructuring plan subsequently issued by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) makes clear the Commission will be co-located with — and integrate its anti-corruption functions with — the CCP’s own powerful anti-graft body, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI). (What’s so controversial about China’s new anti-corruption body?)

The Chinese experiment in supervision will prove to be a very fruitful source of study for those interested in the construction and maintenance of collective organization. It has already proven to be quite problematic for Western critics (e.g., here).  "But party-state think tanks hail the National Supervision Law as proof of the Communist Party’s self-asserted aspiration to “limit state power” and “establish the rule of law.”"(China’s Anti-Corruption Bill Exposes the Achilles’ Heel of Xi’s Legal Reforms). It is particularly interesting for the way in which it seeks to solve the problem of disciplining governance were power is divided between an administrative and a political apparatus which jointly exercise power. through a variety of collective mechanisms.   

Chinese authorities have provided online resources for those interested in the construction of the new supervision apparatus under the Supervision law: 纪委监察委执纪执规执法 (查办职务违法职务犯罪案件及涉黑案件)电子手册 (Discipline Inspection Commission (Investigating and handling job-related crimes and black-related cases) Electronic manual). These follow below 目 录 [Table of Contents] 仅限中文. Links may also be accessed HERE.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

“新时代”的新解读 - - 评强世功教授《哲学与历史 —从党的十九大报告解读“习近平时代”》一文 作者:白轲(Larry Catá Backer) 译者:戴苗强

作者:白轲(Larry Catá Backer)

English Version HERE:  Reflections on Jiang Shigong on ‘Philosophy and History: Interpreting the “Xi Jinping Era” through Xi’s Report to the Nineteenth National Congress of the CCP’ [ 哲学与历史 —从党的十九大报告解读“习近平时代” 强世功 ] 

也包括在随后的材料中 哲学与历史 ————从党的十九大报告解读“习近平时代” 强世功

A Peek at the Slow Emergence of Cuban Economic Activity Within Global Capital Flows

Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2017

Cuba's tourist sector continues to draw interest among global financial and management markets, especially those in Europe.  This trend appears to have drawn some interest in recent months.  Cash strapped Cuba has long sought to attract foreign investment as well to leverage operational and technical know-how of operators from European tourist sector managers to ensure the appropriate development of the tourist sector ultimately controlled by the state for the purpose of funding programs central to its political objectives. These efforts are undertaken under the shadow of the U.S. Embargo and targeted sanctions that are meant to cripple the ability of the Cuban state to profit from its investment in the tourist sector directly.  Beyond the threat of U.S. political objectives is the ever present danger that the holders of Cuban sovereign debt, now quite sizeable, can use any effort by Cuba to access financial markets as an opportunity to recover at least some of their investment. Access to capital on its own terms has been the greatest challenge of the Cuban economy for the last generation, yet one that has made Cuban authorities quite adept at exploiting political fracture to its own economic advantage if only on a just-in-time basis.

Within this environment, small European firms have become more interesting objects of investment and management. Recent reporting has suggested that some elements of global finance appears to be betting on continued growth of the tourist sector, enough, at any rate, to make modest investment worth the risk. My brief thoughts and reporting by Marc Frank in Havana and Karin Strohecker in London (Asset manager Aberdeen Standard to run first Cuba fund) follows.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

New Paper Posted: "Data Driven Governance: Building Data Driven Accountability Based Regulatory Systems in the West and Social Credit Regimes in China"

I have just posted a draft manuscript for comment.  Entitled (for the moment) Data Driven Governance: Building Data Driven Accountability Based Regulatory Systems in the West and Social Credit Regimes in China, the draft has two principal objects.  The first is to consider the parallel efforts of both Western states and China to develop data driven accountability fueled governance systems. The second is to suggest the scope of the challenges that such system construction will likely encounter.

The development of data driven governance has provoked substantial angst and uncertainty everywhere.  There is good reason for this angst, but perhaps not for the usual reasons conventionally advanced. Data driven governance systems (including the quite ambitious project of Chinese social credit) grounded in accountability and managed through the self-reflexive operations of an analytics that incorporates social, economic, political or religious objectives through algorithm represents a new form of governance, with its own language, its own structures, and its own ecologies. It exists still within traditional systems of law and regulation and was originally understood as a technique for the implementation of the policies and objectives of those systems.  Those traditional systems have developed their own language, modalities, ideologies and structures within which the integrity of the system can be maintained.  Yet in this "new era" of governance, data driven governance already exhibits signs of producing its own language, its own structures and its own modalities for enhancing and protecting system integrity within ideological parameters in the context of  which the traditional language and forms of constitutional political government operated through complex bureaucracies intertwined with judiciaries and popular representative organs may n longer be particularly relevant.

This "new era" of governance thus not not necessarily call for yet more efforts to "tame" data driven governance within the cage of traditional government and its structures and methods of operation.  Instead it may require the development of new sensibilities, new interpretive language, and the recognition of new classes of system operators whose injection into the process of governance may profoundly affect the way societies understand and engage with governance organs. This trend may be understood (and encouraged) within those organizations at the vanguard of these changes (within vanguard enterprises in the West (and public security apparatus) and embedded within certain organs of collective organization in China). Yet among those deeply embedded within conventional governance-power systems it has produced resistance or efforts at domestication, which pepper scholarly journals and the regulatory efforts of state and international organs.  Yet rather than or in addition to resistance and domestication, it may now be time to turn to the business of building principles of Demokratie, Sozialstaat, Bundesstaat und Rechtsstaat into and through the language of data and data analytics to ensure that algorithmic governance, like that of the law-regulatory systems that preceded it, will operate under appropriate ideological constraint. And if the politician, the lawyer, and the bureaucrat will not engage in these projects, then it is likely that the engineer, the econometrician and manager may. Power relations will not be the same thereafter.

The Abstract and Introduction follow. The draft may be accessed HERE. Comments and reactions most welcome!

Saturday, July 07, 2018

The Affair of the Sonic Weapons Attack and the Weaponization of Noise; From the Front Lines in China, Cuba, the United States and Elsewhere

A police officer with a Long Range Acoustic Device at a protest in Times Square. The use of such devices against protesters in 2014 is at issue in a federal lawsuit accusing the Police Department of excessive force.Credit John Minchillo/Associated Press; From "Noise as a Weapon? Police Use of Sound Cannons Questioned", New York Times 1 June 2017).

I have noted in recent posts that the Affair of the Sonic Weapons Attack--once consigned to the periphery of U.S.-Cuban relations, has now moved center stage to the relations among the United States, China, Russia, and their surrogates around the world.  That makes the Affair both more interesting, and its consequences more potent. It also suggests  that the Affair is playing some sort of part in the "great game" of power realignments among the powerful states with an appetite for this sort of adventurism. At the same time, that great game appears to have generated a carefully controlled set of disclosures to the masses int he affected states.  One gets the disquieting sense that there is far more here than meets the eye--and that it is to every state's advantage to ensure a very carefully controlled exposure to "news" of these events to suit the interests of the combatants without giving too much away.  

While these musing must remain mere conjecture, the chronicling of the drip, drip, drip of information (and its sometimes inadvertent exposure of something useful) need not be.  It does not appear that any of the major actors appears close to any resolution.  The science is unclear, the technology is shrouded in ambiguity, and the motives and techniques beyond the reach of the reporters, whose coverage of the events have assumed a rhythmic and repetitive character, with each new discovery of injury producing a similar wave of reportage, of accusation and denial, and of medical and scientific experts running off in search of something. All of this misses the point, of course--and the point is in the rhythmic ululations of attack and response within the wider context of the interactions among these actors to advance their strategic interests.

This post provides a short update of developments in the now global Affair of the Sonic Weapons Attack, that draw in not just China and Cuba, but the United States as well. 

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Recently Released: OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct

I was delighted to hear that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) had recently published its OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct (Paris: OECD, 31 May 2018).   The OECD describes this work in the following terms:
Businesses can play a major role in contributing to economic, environmental and social progress, especially when they minimise the adverse impacts of their operations, supply chains and other business relationships. The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises recommend that enterprises conduct due diligence in order to identify, prevent or mitigate and account for how actual and potential adverse impacts are addressed.

The OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct provides practical support to enterprises on the implementation of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises by providing plain language explanations of its due diligence recommendations and associated provisions. Implementing these recommendations can help enterprises avoid and address adverse impacts related to workers, human rights, the environment, bribery, consumers and corporate governance that may be associated with their operations, supply chains and other business relationships. The Guidance includes additional explanations, tips and illustrative examples of due diligence.

This Guidance also seeks to promote a common understanding among governments and stakeholders on due diligence for responsible business conduct. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights as well as the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles Concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy also contain due diligence recommendations, and this Guidance can help enterprises implement them.
This is a quite useful addition to materials available to business ion implementing their responsibility to identify, assess, mitigate and remedy adverse impacts of their economic activity, at least within the scope of the OECD Guidelines for Multinationals.  This Post includes some brief thoughts, along with the Press Release of OECD Watch and links to some useful sites.