Friday, November 23, 2018

12-Introducing "Cuba's Caribbean Marxism: Essays on Ideology, Government, Society, and Economy in the Post Fidel Castro Era" (Globalization and the Caribbean Marxist Multinational)


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!’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 10 ("Globalization and the Caribbean Marxist Multinational"),  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 

Chapter 10
Globalization and the Caribbean Marxist Multinational: Cuba and Regional Trade
      The Cuban Embargo has had a tremendous effect on the way in which Cuba is understood in the global legal order. That understanding has vitally affected the way in which Cuba is situated for study both within and outside the Island. This “Embargo mentality” has spawned an ideology of presumptive separation that, colored either from the political “left” or “right,” posits isolation as the equilibrium point for any sort of Cuban engagement. Indeed, this “Embargo mentality” has suggested that isolation and lack of sustained engagement is the starting point for any study of Cuba. Yet it is important to remember that the Embargo has affected only the character of Cuba’s engagement rather than the possibility of that engagement as a sustained matter of policy and action.
         Yet Cuba has reacted to American efforts at isolation with a vigorous and to some extent successful internationalism of its own. Cuba has turned the American Embargo and its mentality on its head, and used it as the blunt instrument against which it has constructed both its internal political ideology, and turned that ideology outward.  Conventionally understood, Cuban engagement has been episodic and opportunistic. It has been (and continues to be) confrontational at times and always ideologically driven in large part, perhaps, because those strategies have worked well for Cuba on the international stage.
         Since the 1959 Revolution, Cuba has fought a number of wars on multiple fronts in the service of its national interests and internationally significant ideological campaigns. Virtually every lever of state power has been used in these efforts— including military, diplomatic, organizational, economic, media, cultural, religious and ideological efforts. Most of these have used the United States, and its socio-political, economic, cultural and ideological values as the great foil against which to battle. Over the course of the last half century, these efforts have had mixed results. But they have had one singular success—they have propelled Cuba to a level of influence on the world stage far beyond what its size, military and economic power might have suggested. Like the United States, Cuba has managed to use internationalism, and especially strategically deployed engagements in inter-governmental ventures, to leverage its influence and the strength of its attempted interventions in each of these fields (e.g., Huish & Kirk 2007).
         Over the last decade that engagement has assumed an important economic as well as military and diplomatic character. Chapter 7 explored one manifestation of Caribbean Marxist internationalism in the context of sovereign lending and odious debts. Caribbean Marxism, however, is not confined to issues of a sovereign character.  Trade, and the regulation of trade and the consequences of economic activity are also important. Globalization has not left Cuba untouched (despite Cuban and American protestations to the contrary). Cuba has sought to engage globalization on its own terms. The engagement must be understood as increasingly bound up within the context of Cuba’s external relations, especially those in which Cuban has participated in the construction of a multi-national institutional architecture and in which it may not appear to take the lead.
Since the start of the 21st century, conventional economic globalization has been the object of one of the principal long term ideological wars waged by the Cuban state (Castro 2003). The Cuban state has been active in its attacks on the organizational framework of global conventional economic organization, from sovereign debt (Backer 2006) and business organization (Backer 2004) to the basis of private power to effect trade between states (Castro 2000). Among its many activities in this realm, the Cuban state has undertaken two significant efforts. The first seeks to develop an alternative basis for inter-governmental management of trade through the Alternativa Bolivariana Para los Pueblos de Nuestra América (ALBA) (Backer & Molina 2010). The second, realized in large part within the ambit of the first, seeks an alternative basis of the organization of economic activity for the production of goods and provision of services in line with an internationalized application of its national ideology. The projects and enterprises that are meant to implement these objectives are still at a very early stage in development. But all of them share certain characteristics founded on their organizational framework: control by the state, a conflation of labor and capital as components of production and a focus on state policy for the production and distribution of goods and services in the service of state determined economic welfare maximization.
That engagement, in turn, has made it far more likely that the autonomous development of Caribbean Marxism would collide with the emerging norms of globalization.  That collision is likely to occur in the emerging field of the legal and social regulation of human rights in transnational economic activity (Backer 2006a). In that context the political and social principles of Caribbean Marxism may not be compatible with emerging international consensus either on the rule structures to which economic activity ought to be subject, nor to the underlying norms to which business (whether undertaken by private or public entities) ought to conform.
That collision is likely inevitable as these enterprises, arguably created as a challenge to the conventional global economic framework, must operate within an international regulatory space with its own ideology. That ideology has been developed within the general parameters of human rights and other norms with respect to which international consensus has been developing, many with Cuba’s approval. Among important developments in the rules of business behavior, especially those touching on internationally recognized human rights, are soft law instruments developed through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the principles of business and human rights being developed by the United Nations through the Secretary General’s Special Representative, John Ruggie—the Protect-Respect-Remedy framework (Backer 2010).
In particular, the relationship between enterprise, state, and worker appears to serve as a flash point for conflict between the grannacional conception of business and global consensus on the rights of workers—especially in areas of pay, forced labor, and trafficking. For example, some forms of Cuba’s socialist regional trade framework as been attacked for fostering conditions of individual servitude at odds with emerging international human rights standards. “Seven Cuban doctors and a nurse have accused their government of engaging in a ‘modern form of slavery’ with Venezuela after bartering their services for cheap Venezuelan oil” (Galliot 2010). This is a not unusual consequence when state operated enterprises that combine sovereign and private activity collide with emerging international human rights rules. This collision, and its particular potential effects on Cuba’s recent efforts to define a space for itself within global economic frameworks, is the subject of this Chapter.  Moreover, there is already an indication of potential conflict in recent cases filed in the United States in which these issues have been raised (Licea v. Curaçao Dry Dock Co. 2008). “For multinational corporations facing allegations of human rights abuses, the stakes have never been higher” (Drimmer 2009). That applies, in equal measure, to economic enterprises sponsored, owned or controlled by Cuba. And this is an area in which state sovereignty will provide little protection to enterprises geared to projection within world markets.
This Chapter considers Cuba’s new efforts at global engagements through the device of the grannacional in its ALBA framework. That framework itself presents something of an ideological curiosity that may be more meaningful as an illustration of the way in which Cuban Marxism finds expression as Caribbean Marxism. It is the internationalism inherent in Caribbean Marxism that is the central subject of this Chapter (Piedras 2018). The Chapter starts by examining the basic theory and objectives of the grannacional generally as articulated in ALBA publications as the “concepto grannacional” that serves as the organizing framework of these multi-state socialist enterprises. It considers distinctions and implications for the division of grannacional efforts between proyectos grannacionales and empresas grannacionales. It then focuses on a specific grannacional-related project—the Misión Barrio Adentro (MBA), a socio-political barter project in which Cuba exchanges doctors and other health field related goods and services under its control for Venezuelan goods, principally petroleum (Convenio 2000). MBA is analyzed as an example of the application of the joint Cuban-Venezuelan approach to economic and social organization through the state. The MBA is also useful as an illustration of the difficulties of translating that approach into forms that might conform with emerging global expectations of economic conduct by private and state actors. The recent litigation in which Cuba has been accused (directly or indirectly) of violating international law by operating enterprises based on forced labor by both laborers and doctors, and soft law systems of governing business conduct (Galliot 2010) serve as a backdrop against which this analysis is undertaken.
The Chapter then briefly considers the theoretical points of conflict and intersection between internationalized Caribbean Marxism and emerging international human rights standards. For Cuba, programs like MBA have served as a means of engaging in economic globalization and of leveraging its political intervention in the service of its ideological programs in receptive states like Venezuela (Bustamante & Sweig 2008; Kirk & Erisman 2009). It has also provided a basis for expanding Cuba’s commercial power by permitting large scale state-directed barter transactions. But when bartering involves labor as well as capital, the fundamental premises of the ALBA system—and Cuban ideological notions of the fungibility of labor and capital in the service of the state—may collide with emerging global frameworks for human rights and economic activity. That collision is examined against (1) recent litigation in which Cuba has been accused (directly or indirectly) of violating international law by operating enterprises based on forced labor, (2) the possibility of conforming to the OECD’s Guidelines on Corporate Governance of State Owned Enterprises (OECD 2015) and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (OECD 2011), and (3) the possibility that these enterprises will not be able to conform to the United Nation’s developing business and Human Rights project, and especially its Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights (United Nations 2011). MBA serves as a template both to understand the character of the operationalization of social sector grannacionales and also to illustrate the way in which these projects raise significant questions of international law compliance, especially the ability of these enterprises to comply with emerging standards of business conduct.

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