Communist Party of Australia

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Issue #1591      May 1, 2013

Clarification and corrections

The article in The Guardian 24-05-2013 (# 1590), titled “A more efficient socialism – Australian Cuban Friendship Society Consultation”, reported on the speech made by Cuban Ambassador Pedro Monzon at the Consultation and the question and answer session that followed. In the attempt to summarise quite complex questions some points were not clear or accurate.

The article referred to, “The need to protect their country from a powerful and expansionist neighbour to the west”, it should have said “ … and expansionist neighbour to the north and north-west, the US.”

Then he added:

“In order to understand the traditional characteristics of our socialism, the problems we were facing during years and what must be changed now we have to consider that we have been politically and economically besieged for more than half a century by US policy and within it the blockade. This has had implications for our political and economic behaviour. In menacing situations like this you feel the need to encyst [protect] yourself, be cautious and close ranks in order to be stable.

“The added factors constituted by the disappearance of the European socialist countries plus the strengthening of the blockade and, as a result, the so called special period in the ’90s led us to avoid at any cost the option of applying shock therapies. That had particular consequences for our economy and society.

“We avoided by all means social polarisation first, because of our predominant concepts of social justice and, second, because of the need of maintain stability and keep our independence. Together with a dose of idealism, these have been responsible for the very good features of our revolution and also for some system dysfunctions that surfaced in this new international situation. Even though, and probably because we are Marxist and followers of Jose Marti, the Cuban National Apostle, we are much more spiritual and romantic than vulgar materialistic.”

The Ambassador did not say, “A high level of socialism produces paternalism”, but drew attention to the dangers of an incorrect model that would produce paternalism. The reference to paternalism stated:

“The quintessence of changes is to find a balanced relationship between social justice and efficiency. The objective of social justice that sometimes (when applied with an egalitarian concept) generates an alteration that is paternalism, affects efficiency in the economy and at the end of the day harms the core or essence of the system.”

Monzon elaborated on the basic ideas behind the changes. The first of these he noted was to “have a more efficient socialism, within an independent nation, not to advance towards capitalism.”

On the question of small business and the relationship between centralisation and decentralisation, Monzon said, “Decentralisation will give flexibility to the economy and the system as a whole, will open even more the doors to the development of the productive forces, individual initiatives and responsibilities, and permit the state to rely on a central plan and to concentrate on the fundamental industries that are the foundation of national development and the security of the country.”

The Ambassador, made the additional point that they would take into account the workings of the law of value but would not give in blindly to it.

He said that the reason for the complaints of some self-employed businesses is that Cubans are not used to taxation, but that the monthly fee of 80 Cuban pesos was not much for a small business considering their normal turnover.

He emphasised that Cuba is updating its system in order to improve socialism not to install capitalism.   

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