Monday, October 28, 2019

Essay Posted: The External Capitalist and Internal Marxist—The Fundamental Contradiction of Cuban Economic Reintegration in the Global Economic Order and the Role of the U.S.

(all Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2019)

I am pleased to post for review and comments the following essay that will appear in Volume 29 of the Proceedings of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (Cuba in Transition 29:--(2019)).

The essay is entitled The External Capitalist and Internal Marxist—The Fundamental Contradiction of Cuban Economic Reintegration in the Global Economic Order and the Role of the U.S. It considers the double contradiction of the Cuban efforts to embed itself in the global economic order. On the one hand, global engagement would reconstruct Cuba as a global capitalist in its outward engagements. On the other hand, Cuba remains committed to insulating its internal economy from global markets and the operating rules of markets based economic systems. But the possibilities inherent in navigating this double contradiction are severely stressed in the wake of Cuba's regional politics as it meets and engages with the contradictory politics of the United States. The consequences are important not just for regional Caribbean politics, but for the threat it poses to successful Cuban global economic engagement.

The Abstract and essay Introduction follow.

The essay may be downloaded HERE:Backer_29_ASCE_ProceedingsBACKERINLAW.

The External Capitalist and Internal Marxist—The Fundamental Contradiction of Cuban Economic Reintegration in the Global Economic Order and the Role of the U.S.

Larry Catá Backer

Abstract: Since 2011, Cuba has sought to better embed itself into the global economy. But it has sought to do so on its own terms. That has produced a double contradiction. The first is outward facing and touches on the bifurcation between Cuban economic activity beyond its borders, or with global capital and investors. The second is inward and touches on the challenge of reconciling Cuba’s markets based model abroad with its recently revised political economic model inside Cuban territory. This double contradiction, of Cuba as global capitalist and national central planner, has produced a singular structure for global economic engagement. But it is also a fragile one. The essay examines both the contradictions giving shape to the Cuban global engagement model, and its fragility in the face of American economic measures designed to make it difficult for Cuba to attain its global economic objectives. The essay starts with context—Cuba in its “New Era of Development”—situates the problem of globalization presented to the post-Fidel Castro government. The essay then introduces the basis conundrum in Re-Integration and Cuba’s New Era Double Contradiction. The next section, The Cuban Capacity for Reform, focuses on the choices made by the Cuban state to overcome its ideological constraints in fashioning a global engagement project. These touch on the capacity of Cuban political, economic, and social organizations to incorporate reform of the type envisioned—markets-based in external activity, and centrally planned within the national territory. The essay then turns to the role of the United States and the repercussions of its tilt toward the Caribbean after 2017 as a key stress point of this enterprise of global economic engagement. Of specific importance is the role that re-introduction of sanctions regimes and the lifting of restrictions on lawsuits related to property confiscated form 1959 under the Helms-Burton law. The essay ends with a consideration of the ramifications of the convergence of these trajectories on Cuban engagement objectives.

This essay considers the challenges and opportunities facing Cuba in the context of its efforts to re-integrate itself into the global economy.[1] Cuban re-integration into global markets appeared to be a relatively simple task at the beginning of 2016. Cuba would conform to global expectations in the context of its engagements outside of its territory, while preserving its political-economic model within that territory. At the same time, a small opening would be tolerated (and highly regulated) as a complement to the state sector. In return, Cuba would secure much need capital for its key internal development projects, and would be able to finance critical economic sectors designed to increase the value of its exports. By the end of 2019, the effort appeared to be fatally stalled. The opening of the internal complementary private sector was stalled, efforts to access global markets were faltering in the wake of a quite substantial economic sanctions policy re-invigorated by the Trump Administration as punishment, in part for Cuban regional politics—especially its support for the Maduro government in Venezuela. By October 2019, Cuba faced power shortages, [2] and it had returned[3] to the “special period” dollarization of its economy[4] in an effort to stop the economic bleeding.

Re-integration continues to be an important part of the Cuban Communist Party’s (PCC) basic line, and serves as a cornerstone of the PCC’s post Fidel “New Era.” The use of the term “New Era” is deliberate and will invite the reader to consider the parallel development, as well as the deviation between, between Chinese Marxist-Leninism[5] and its Cuban Caribbean Marxist cousin.[6] In both cases, “New Era” is a reference to a “new era of development;”[7] each new era is bound to the actual conditions of a state within its geo-political context and each requires confronting contextually relevant challenges.[8] Yet “new eras of development” also produce contradiction, in the sense that they produce challenges to the integrity of the political-economic model in new circumstances. For China, grown right and influential following its own path, the contradiction shifted from one of production that resulted in the development of a Markets Marxism model through its Reform and Opening Up Strategy,[9] to one centered on the fairer distribution of the gains of productivity among the people.[10]

Cuba’s “new era” contradictions, that is the challenges that proceed from efforts at fundamental reform in recognition of substantial changes to local and geo-political context, presents quite distinct challenges. Its origins lie with the transition from Fidel to Raul Castro, from the post “Special Period” settlement to the development of a more mixed economic model, and from efforts to re-engage with global markets, at least with respect to state enterprises. Cuba faces the quite different contradiction of economic reintegration into the pathways of contemporary global production while preserving its revolutionary moment that in many ways is fundamentally incompatible with contemporary global production. That, certainly, has been the results of efforts at changes from the Lineamientos of 2011 to the great constitutional and political-economic model reform projects of 2016-2019.

Contradiction in the shadow of recognition of “new eras” of development, then, speak to challenges to ideological models (and their premises around which government is constituted and operated, however imperfectly). It is therefore necessary, if one is to usefully consider the current state of Cuban re-integration in global markets, to speak to the role of ideology. Ideology here is understood as the aggregation of premises, objectives and principles within which the Cuban vanguard constructs the reality through which it interprets the world around them and constrains the legitimate choices among which it may select consistent with its way of understanding themselves and the world around them. On other words, I will speak to how the Cuban vanguard understands (see) the world around them and how they then give meaning to what they say and do.[11] But that ideology does not exist in a vacuum, even as it serves to construct and interpret the world around them, ideologies provide the means by which the world around Cuba understands (sees) Cuba and how it gives meaning to what Cuban say and do—and in very different ways.

[1] See, e.g., Pavel Vidal and Scott Brown, Cuba’s Regional Economic Integration: Begin with the International Financial Institutions, Atlantic Council (July 2015). Available

[2] See, e.g., Sarah Marsh and Nelson Acosta, “Amid crippling sanctions, Cuba deploys oxen, wood-fired ovens to overcome fuel crisis,” Reuters (20 Sept. 2019). Available

[3] See, Marc Frank and Nelson Acosta, “U.S. dollar makes a comeback in Cuba to fight capital flight,” NASDAQ (15 Oct. 2019). Available (“Cubans who want to buy from the specialist stores will need to use a dollar-denominated bank card from an account opened with tradable currencies, such as the dollar or euro. People may obtain those tradable currencies through offshore remittances or by other means such as exchanging local pesos on the street, the government said.”).

[4] See, e.g., Arne C. Kildegaard and Orro Fernández, “Dollarization in Cuba and Implications for the Future Transition,” Proceedings of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy 9:25-35 (1999) Available

[5] See, China State Council Information Office, White Paper: China and the World in the New Era (September 2019). Available

[6] See, Larry Catá Backer, Cuba’s Caribbean Marxism (Little Sir Press, 2018).

[7] White Paper: China and the World, supra, n. 2, p. 3.

[8] Ibid. (“Copying or imitating other countries offers no way forward. The greatest inspiration from China’s development is: What kind of path a country takes should be based on the experience of other countries, but more importantly on its own reality, and should be decided by its own people in accordance with its own history, cultural traditions, and level of economic and social development. . . . But modernization is not equal to Westernization, and cannot be mechanically carried out or achieved through the same model. Whether the path of a country is the right one depends on whether this path can solve the historic and practical problems facing the country, whether it can improve people’s wellbeing, and whether it can win the recognition and support of the people.” Ibid., p. 26-27).

[9] Larry Catá Backer, “Central Planning Versus Markets Marxism: Their Differences and Consequences for the International Ordering of State, Law, Politics, and Economy,” Connecticut Journal of International Law 32(1) :1-47 (2016).

[10] Xi Jinping, Secure a Decisive Victory in Building a Moderately Prosperous Society in All Respects and Strive for the Great Success of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era Delivered at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China October 18, 2017Report to the 19th Chinese Communist Party Congress, available

[11] The essence of the analysis is grounded in semiotic sensibilities. See, Jan M. Broekman and Larry Catá Backer, Lawyers Making Meaning: The Semiotics of Law in Legal Education (Springer, 2013).


No comments: