Tuesday, November 06, 2018

4-Introducing "Cuba's Caribbean Marxism: Essays on Ideology, Government, Society, and Economy in the Post Fidel Castro Era" ("The Centrality of Ideology to Caribbean Marxism")


I reported the publication of Cuba’s Caribbean Marxism: Essays on Ideology, Government, Society, and Economy in the Post Fidel Castro Era (Little Sir Press 2018; ISBN: 978-1-949943-00-9 (pbk); I SBN: 978-1-949943-01-6 (ebk)) (here). Cuba’s Caribbean Marxism is the first offering through Little Sir Press, a self-publishing collective that is a new project in broader knowledge dissemination of the Coalition for Peace & Ethics (more about that project here). Join us! 

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/G/01/SellerCentral/legal/amazon-logo_black.pngCuba’s Caribbean Marxism eBook may be accessed through these sites:


Paperback ordering information to follow. Individual Chapters also may be ordered in pdf format.

I promised that over the course of future posts I would be introducing readers to the book. This post continues with an introduction to Chapter 2 ("The Centrality of Ideology to Caribbean Marxism"),  which follows below. Here for access to other posts in this series.  HERE for the video recording of the launch event for Cuba's Caribbean Marxism: Essays on Ideology, Government, Society, and Economy in the Post Fidel Castro Era, which took place 12 November 2018 at Penn State.

The Centrality of Ideology to Caribbean Marxism
Since the incapacity of Fidel Castro and with increasing intensity over the course of the last half decade, the Cuban government, led by the Partido Comunista Cubano (Cuban Communist Party (PCC)) has sought to implement far reaching reforms of Cuban economic policy. Emblematic of these reforms was a revised foreign direct investment law, Ley 118 (2014). News of Ley 118 was greeted with guarded praise, and some skepticism (Feinberg 2014). Feinberg reflected the opinion of many observers when he noted in the wake of the announcement of the new foreign investment regime, that the “proof will be in the pudding, and investors will be watching closing for the fine print in the new regulations and, most importantly, for the implementation of the approval process” (Ibid.). The difficulty centered both on the terms of the new provisions, but perhaps more importantly on the structures of investment, still heavily dependent not on law but on the exercise of administrative discretion by those charged with a still complex review and approval process.  “Will the government establish an investment climate that attracts foreign investments, and a truly transparent bureaucratic process that vets proposals in a prompt time frame competitive with international standards?; what does this suggest about the role of the private sector in Cuba and the extent to which foreign enterprises may directly penetrate the internal Cuban economy?” (Ibid.). The answer to these questions will determine the scope and character of Cuban reform in the post Fidel Castro era, an issue taken up on this essay. It will also serve as a measure of the extent to which Cuba will be willing to engage again with global trade and finance, an issue taken up in more detail in Chapter 6. 
If history is our guide, the answer to these questions will not be wholly positive. Administrative discretion may essentially gut any rule of law aspects of Ley 118, focusing all attention on the discretionary requirements of multiple levels of approval. The vagaries of state policy and its genesis in the somewhat opaque relations between the PCC and the state apparatus may substantially affect the application of Ley 118 and its implementation regulations depending on state sectors or the ministries to which approval may be required. The inability of the non-state sector to participate in this influx of capital may substantially weaken efforts to wean the population from dependence on state sector employment. Yet the old central planning template may find a way of re-emerging in the form of oversight rules for the activities of foreign capital.
Blame for these anticipated failings will be placed on the usual suspects—inept and corrupt administration, a nomenklatura jealous of its privileges and power, and the failures of rule of law systems to be respected by a state grounded on the allocation of personal power through fiefdoms, a sort of socialist feudal state where allegiance is personal rather than institutional (Corrales 2004). The limitations and likely deficiencies of Ley 118 as applied are substantial evidence of systemic failure, failure at the most basic ideological level. This failure reflects the contradictions and tensions inherent in an ideological theory that has now become so disconnected from facts that it cannot produce positive objectives even in the face of crucial need. That disconnection ultimately implicates strong choices made respecting the value of markets, the role of administrative discretion and control over economic activity, and most importantly, the relationship between economic activity and political activity. For the moment, the choices made with respect to each of these has produced a structure in which the system, in effect, is consuming itself, and ideological constraints provide little support for effective countermeasures. 
Yet, those ideological failures do not in any way require the abandonment of the Marxist-Leninist foundations of the Cuban state, or the embrace of principles of Western style democratic state organization. Rather they are the problems of a Marxist-Leninist organization that has failed to mature and to develop a Marxist-Leninist theory appropriate to its circumstances. No consideration of “Cuba's Perplexing Changes,” its focus on internal reforms and impact on the Cuban economy, then, can be complete without a study of the PCC, especially in comparative perspective.
After this introduction, the essay considers the critical role of Marxist-Leninist ideology on the formation of Cuban and Chinese Party-State systems and of its importance in constraining the analytical framework within which reform or development is possible. This essay makes six principal points around which it is organized. The focus of the analysis will be on the way in which each organization, and its relationship to the state apparatus is affected by the development of distinct foundational theories of state organization and the role of the Communist Party.
The first point considers the centrality of ideology to the “problem” of Cuba. The second examines the consequences for Cuba of the choice, made by its vanguard party, to follow a distinct path toward the articulation and application of Marxism-Leninism in the organization and exercise of power. The third examines the direct effect of this ideological framework on the structures of the Cuban Party and state. The fourth assesses the consequential effects of ideology on the shape and scope of reforms. The fifth then argues that Marxist-Leninist ideology, like Western style democracy and markets oriented economic ideology, offers more than one path, and considers more directly, the alternatives offered by the Chinese path. Lastly, the sixth part weighs the consequences of the quality of the transition that is coming to Cuba, one that need not lead Cuba away from Marxism-Leninism and a Party-State system.
These themes frame this chapter and those that follow.  As the reader works through the sometimes tortuous and quite deliberate pace of reform, the fundamental constraints of ideology will play a greater and greater role. To understand the pace and the scope of reform in Cuba, one must understand not just Marxism-Leninism, but Caribbean Marxism, a Marxist-Leninist theory with Cuban characteristics. This is grounded in an ideology that is increasingly elaborated, but whose core principles become more solidly embedded in the political (and by 2018 within the constitutional) order of the state and the PCC (Chapter 12). Ideology matters. It supplies the language of discourse; it frames that discourse within the constraints of its principles and resulting frameworks; it provides the lens through which other ideologies might be considered and either embraced or rejected.  In Cuba’s case, the result is both the cultivation of an animosity toward systems and forms of operation labelled capitalist (including markets), and a skepticism toward Marxist-Leninist systems that have embraced a markets-based component.

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