Sunday, November 11, 2018

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


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 6 ("The Ideology of Central Planning"),  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 Ideology of Central Planning in the Economic and Social Development Plan 2030
      Central planning for the development of the productive forces of the state has been a core element of Leninist governance since the 1920s. In the form of the Soviet five year plans, these efforts institutionalized the leadership of the Leninist vanguard party as the source of decision-making for the management of all national resources, and to “increase the state planning element in economic life” (Procopovicz 1930, 28). No less than in the Soviet Union of the late 1920s, the Cuba of the second decade of the 21st century continues to seek, through centralized planning, to naturalize a distinctly European Marxist collectivization in the “form of State organization of certain economic branches under the dictatorship of the Communist Party” (Ibid., 91). Leninist states are not the only political or economic enterprise that plans, and that reserves to its leadership class a monopoly of power to direct all of the productive forces of the enterprise. Planning in European fascist states of the 1930s shared many of the same characteristics (other than the ownership of the means of production) (Temin 1991, 573). Today most states devote substantial resources to strategic planning (Mintzberg 1994). Yet, as this Chapter means to demonstrate, at least within the state sector, central planning is acquiring an algorithmical character that may eventually supplant regulatory and principal based governance in the management of the state and its economic policies (Jessop 2013).
But ironically, it is in large enterprises that Soviet style central planning now thrives—organizations in which the governing institutions within the enterprise retain power and the enterprise owns all of the means of production subject to its planning. More importantly, in these enterprises, planning is an essential way to socialize their workers, express their ideology in concrete ways and set the parameters against which risks and options may be weighed and measured (Hayes 1985; Bryson 2011). Indeed, one of the most fascinating and least studied transformations is the way that Leninist principles—especially with respect to the internal ordering of a political-economic governance unit—has migrated in the West from the state to the enterprise, and from the enterprise to the structures of globalization itself (Varga 1964, 82–139). The largest Western multinationals manage their production chains (their internal economies) in ways that parallel the management by vanguard parties of the productive forces of the state. But the new planning is not merely qualitatively narrative, it has assumed the structures of algorithms—sets of rules that defines a sequence of operations, whether or not contingent (Bisschop & Meeraus 1982; generally, Pasquale 2015).
Despite this resonance, or perhaps because of it, the development plans of Marxist-Leninist states are usually given short shrift. They are useful as indicators of resource and production allocation but for little else (other than perhaps evidence of the failures of central planning when undertaken by the state). Beyond that, these documents are treated as mere (unattainable) expressions of ideology (at best) and propaganda (at its most pathetic) (Backer 2006). Yet there is value in considering critically these development plans, if only to get a sense of the mindset of high level functionaries with control over macro-economic policy, and to get a sense of the administrative cultures within which governmental middle managers will actually exercise discretionary authority. As global enterprises understand in this century (and as Soviet theorists understood a century ago), a principal object of development planning is not merely as an expression of the control of productive forces by the state apparatus under the leadership of a vanguard group, but also as a means of making meaning (1) of expressing the ideology beneath those planning decisions, and (2) of the creation of structures within which such decisions can be valued and understood in accordance with the structural terms of the ideology from which they spring. Early in the existence of the USSR Lenin was famously quoted as explaining that “what socialism implies above all is keeping account of everything” (Kolakowski 1978, 748).
This core principle of Leninism is well expressed through the management by the state of all productive forces. Economic planning serves not merely to describe the ways that economic productive forces will be applied, but also to embed the valuation system inherent in validating those choices within the logic of the system within which these allocations are considered. More than that, it also serves to express the way in which social, political and cultural forces are to be deployed in the service of the choices made for the development of productive forces to build a socialist society. That, in essence, is the paramount aim of economic, cultural, social and political planning—the creation of a socialist society, the construction of which is left to the control of the vanguard party. Most Westerners have been inculcated with the incompatibilities of this ideology to their own. What they fail to appreciate is the extent to which this normative world view creates both a language and a means of measuring value that is then central to determinations of what for Westerners are “mere” economic transactions or capital investments. Economic plans, then, manifest a way in which the Marxist-Leninist vanguard party makes meaning through its control of the state apparatus in a manner that appears to parallel the way that meaning is made through the logic and premises of the market in trade (generally Richards 2001).
This project, in turn, parallels the project of meaning-making through law, in which the judiciary serves as the principal vehicle for making meaning within Western legal systems (Broekman & Backer 2013). The object, ultimately, is to control the meaning of words and the values they represent, including the very term “democracy.” This is a project that seeks to contextualize great movements in socialist democratic theory that have emerged in China, movements that have not gone uncriticized in the West (Mitter 2017 “If China can persuade new partners to redefine ‘democracy’ in its own terms, as a system that somehow does not involve national votes, free media or popular participation in government, then it will have won ownership in a powerful linguistic battle.”). That ultimate objective was transposed from the economic to the political realm in 2018 with the great project of Constitutional reform discussed in Chapter 12. 
The Plan national de desarrollo económico y social hasta 2030: Propuesta de vision de la nación, ejes y sectores estratégicos ((Partido Comunista de Cuba. 2016; hereafter PNDES [Economic and Social Development Plan 2030])presented at the 7th Party Congress is particularly useful example of the way that ideology, social planning and politics pervades the economics of Cuban approaches to the management of their economic relations with foreigners (including the globally dispersed Cuban exile communities). But more important, it is an excellent example of the way that language is used to create meaning, to develop not merely a vocabulary (that appears tedious to the outsider) but to embed values that substantially affect the calculation of benefit among choices in both economic policy, and in dealings with foreigners. It is also important as a vision for transition developed in the wake of anticipated changes in higher leadership and the effects of normalization with the United States. But most importantly, PNDES itself can be understood as a crude but sophisticated algorithm for directing the Cuban economy and providing a coherent basis for making choices among economic activities.
This Chapter critically considers PNDES in this context. It starts with a brief analysis of PNDES for what it can reveal about entrenched ideological perspectives that shape decision making and analysis within Cuban Party and administrative elites. That is, it considers the way in which PNDES produces language that suggests the valuation algorithms to be used in making specific determinations about the operationalization of policy. This exercise produces a crude set of relational equations that might help clarify the way that PNDES elaborates structures of decision making and incorporates valuations (though the values themselves cannot be supplied for the coefficients). The Chapter ends by considering the way that these crude conversions of ideology to algorithm might be tested within the context of Cuban decision making with respect to individual trade deals and to its macro-economic planning as well.

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