Saturday, September 15, 2007

The UnRepentant: Fidel Castro Confronts Cuban Globalization

I have suggested the ways in which Cuba has been moving toward an embrace of a Chinese style engagement with globalization. That engagement has put the armed forces of Cuba--the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarieas (FAR)--under Raúl Castro's leadership, at the forefront of a movement to reorder the foundations of Cuban economic organization without substantially affecting the "socialist" characteristics of the Cuban Revolution of 1959. That engagement has seen a movement to reordering the state economy from a typically Soviet centrally planned structure, to one that is heading toward corporate organization. Where the relationship between the state and the factors of economic production will transition from that of an owner (effectively a corporate sole proprietor--for that is the essence of centrally planned economies), to one more resembling that between a shareholder (usually a controlling shareholder) and its corporation. See Larry Catá Backer, Cuban Corporate Governance at the Crossroads: Cuban Marxism, Private Economic Collectives, and Free Market Globalism, 14 (2) Journal of Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems 337 (2004).

This sort of change will have great consequences for Cuban economic organization. 

It may permit the sort of investment and trade with outside public and private entities that will produce a greater integration of the Cuban economy with that of the rest of the world. And it may well result in a reduction of the power of the state to intervene. As shareholder rather then sole proprietor, the state will assume a secondary (though still vital and important) role in economic governance. It will tend to determine policy through its boards of directors rather than manage the day to day affairs of these enterprises. And when engaged in joint ventures with foreign entities, its role will be even more remote.

The ideological difficulties these changes will bring are great. And its consequences have not been completely determined. When these changes were steered through the organs of Chinese Communist Party leadership in the late 1970s by Deng Xiaoping, there were significant voices raised in opposition. See Backer, supra. Now in Cuba, a great voice has been raised in pointed opposition--that of Fidel Castro himself. In a remarkable address, Fidel Castro Ruz, Reflections of the Commander in Chief: The Super Revolutionaries, (Sept. 3, 2007) (in the original Spanish here) Fidel Castro has publicly criticized Socialist engagement with economic globalization of the very sort that Cuba is now cautiously embracing.

The "Reflection" is not directed internally. It focuses on the errors of well meaning friends of the Revolution. He starts by reminding his readers of the fatal deficiencies of the current "neoliberal" system of private economic globalization, especially from a social and political perspective. "
The theory of continuous growth from investment and consumption, applied by the most developed to the countries where the vast majority is poor, surrounded by luxuries and the wastefulness of a tiny minority of wealthy individuals, is not only humiliating but destructive, too. That pillage, and its disastrous consequences, is the cause of peoples’ growing rebelliousness". Reflections, supra. In the original Spanish it reads thus: "La teoría del crecimiento continuo de la inversión y el consumo, aplicada por los más desarrollados a los países donde la inmensa mayoría es pobre, rodeada por lujos y derroches de una exigua minoría de ricos, no solo es humillante sino también destructiva. Ese saqueo y sus desastrosas consecuencias es la causa de la rebeldía creciente de los pueblos." Reflexiones, supra.

Castro reminds his readers that in a world order driven by consumption, everything is for sale,
including, it would seem, the "most gifted and cultivated intellects" ("Law inteligencias más dotadas y cultivadas
"). These intellects "have their price tags on the world market of goods and services" Reflections, supra. ("están tarifadas en el mercado mundial de bienes y servicios" Reflexiones, supra.). The market for ideas, Fidel Castro suggests, has worked its magic. And that helps explain the fate of the "super revolutionaries of the so-called left" ("los superrevolucionarios de la llamada extrema izquierda").

What is the evidence that these great intellectuals, defenders of the Cuban Revolution, and frequent guests of the Cuban state? The suggestions, increasingly made, are that Cuba embrace a posture of economic engagement with the global economic system! The basis of this advice, Fidel Castro suggests, is grounded in a reconsideration of the foundational understandings of the Cuban Revolution: First, the U.S. blockade does not exist, "it would appear to be a Cuban invention"
Reflections, supra. Second, Cuban must reconsider its single minded cultivation of the talents of its people and refocus its educational programs. "They sustain that some must live doing simple and rough work." Reflections, supra. And they overlook the value of the Cuban health care system. Reflections, supra.

But worst of all--they advocate an engagement with globalized business--the very global economic system that Fidel Castro has argued has been the ruin of developing states. See Larry Catá Backer, Ideologies of Globalization and Sovereign Debt: Cuba and the IMF, 24 Penn State Int’l. L. Rev. 497 (2006).
Thus, Fidel Castro suggests:

If foreign investments in housing had not been stopped in time, they would have constructed tens of thousands without any more resources than the prior sales of that same housing to foreign residents in Cuba or abroad. Furthermore, they were joint enterprises governed by a legislation intended for productive companies. There were no limits for the authority of the buyers as owners. The country would supply services to those residents or clients, without the need of being knowledgeable in science or computers. Many of the dwellings could be acquired by the enemy intelligence agencies or their allies. Reflections, supra.

De no haberse detenido a tiempo las inversiones extranjeras en viviendas, habrían construido decenas de miles sin más recursos que la venta previa de las mismas a extranjeros residentes en Cuba o en el exterior. Eran además empresas mixtas regidas por otra legislación creada para empresas productivas. No había límites para las facultades de los compradores como propietarios. El país suministraría los servicios a tales residentes o usuarios, para lo cual no se requieren los conocimientos de un científico o un especialista en informática. Muchos de los alojamientos podían ser adquiridos por los órganos de inteligencia enemigos y sus aliados. Reflexiones, supra
It follows, Fidel Castro argues, that this sort of engagement is "pure poison; the most typical of the neoliberal formulae" Reflections, supra ("veneno puro. Las fórmulas más típicas del neoliberalismo." Reflexiones, supra.). Fidel Castro thus argues against any significant move toward an engagement with the global economic system. Since it is the system itself that is poison--the ideological basis of economic globalization that is both fatally flawed and incompatible with Cuban Revolutionary values--it is the introduction of the values and practices of that system, rather than engagement with any particular state, that is particularly dangerous for Cuba. The juridico-political framework of economic globalization corrupts when engaged. It cannot be turned to the profit of the Revolution.

It follows as well, for Fidel Castro, that the only path toward engagement with the "enemy" ideology is a system of strictly monitored and controlled relationships within the Island. Cuba must continue to seal itself off from direct contact with what Fidel Castro might refer to as the neoliberal contagion. "We need some of the joint enterprises since they control very necessary markets. But you can hardly flood the country with money and not sell our sovereignty "
Reflections, supra. (“No se puede prescindir de algunas empresas mixtas, porque controlan mercados que son imprescindibles. Pero tampoco se puede inundar con dinero el país sin vender soberanía.” Reflexiones, supra).

Thus, like the conservative elements of the Chinese Communist Party who argued the incompatibility of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist ideology and state organization with a markets and non-state directed ideology, Fidel Castro suggests that the founding ideology of the Cuban Revolution will be poisoned by engagement. It will become the thing it hates most. Though Fidel Castro points the arguments to foreigners--the friends of the Cuban Revolution who seek to tell the Cuban nation what is in its best interests, it won't escape anyone's notice that the real object of this "Reflection" might not be Raúl Castro and the FAR. Especially since his speech on the anniversary of the attack on the Moncada barracks, Raúl Castro has made it increasingly a matter of public record, the intention of the FAR leadership to move the country toward a Chinese style mode of governance. See Larry Catá Backer, On the Anniversary of the Attack on the Moncada Barracks: Cuba Moves Forward towards its Chinese Future, Law at the End of the Day (July 27, 2007). Deng Xiao Ping had the luxury of time and the authority to interpret the Thought of Mao Zedong, without Mao looking over his shoulder. Raúl Castro does not have that luxury--though perhaps for the survival of the current regime he might need it more. Fidel may be reminding his brother and the FAR that they ought to proceed cautiously, or at least discretely, as they remake the Cuban state consistent with the Thought of Fidel Castro.

No comments: