The recently concluded 7th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) produced little by way of surprises. The tone was set by the First Secretary when he suggested that a slow and steady course, with little deviation, should be the guiding principle of the Congress. And indeed, there was some dissatisfaction and a sense of anticlimax that marked a congress most notable for its lack of either transparency or popular engagement (see e.g. here form a usually sympathetic observer).
Raul Castro also noted the dilemma of the future of Socialist macro economic planning, balancing between direction by the state, open markets and managed economic activity. “El reconocimiento del mercado en el funcionamiento de la economía socialista no implica que el Partido, el Gobierno y las organizaciones de masas dejen de cumplir su papel en la sociedad de enfrentar cualquier situación que dañe a la población, ni mucho menos decir: “es una cuestión del Gobierno, yo no me puedo meter”. (Informe Central al 7mo. Congreso del Partido Comunista de Cuba, presentado por el Primer Secretario del Comité Central, General de Ejército Raúl Castro Ruz, La Habana, 16 de Abril de 2016, Año 58 de la Revolución, at p, 9). In this Chinese Press, this was interpreted as a broad commitment to gradual movement toward what the Chinese might understand as a version of a Socialist market economy (see, here). They quoted an official commentator to that effect: “Rafael Hernandez, Cuban political analyst and head of the Temas magazine, said the task is among the hardest challenges facing Cuba in the last 20 years. “We are not rushing towards a free market economy, nor is our government taking us there. This is a gradual process of transformation, economic diversification and development of a nationalist private sector,” Hernandez told Xinhua.”
For that reason alone the document is worth considering. But it is also important as an attempt to theorize a very different (that is different from Asian) approach to the principles and theory of Socialist Markets Marxism as an economic and political force. In contrast to the development of Asian socialist theory, grounded in the notion of socialist markets, distinct from capitalist market constructs, the Conceptualización appears to reject the primacy of markets, unable to distinguish markets from capitalism (as it understands that notion) and sets at its center the ideal of economic activity, including market activity, managed by and under the direction of the state as the highest expression of socialist economics–and politics.
The Conceptualización is now is meant to serve as the basis for a debate about the future of Cuban political economy. For students of markets, and that includes most people involved in the construction and management of the global economic order, including Marxist markets, this effort is worth considering. Not that it is right, but that it may be influential is alone worth the time to engagement with its principles and approaches. Indeed, the Conceptualización may serve as the most interesting theoretical counterpoint to the development of Marxism in a generation. Perversely, that interest is generated in large part by its anachronisms. Ironically, the advent of big data, of the algorithms that now increasingly automate markets, may itself make it possible to move the mechanism of the markets out of the private sphere and back into the state. But that touches on the markets and not on states, and the Conceptualización fails precisely because it inverts cause and effect. The state can manage markets–can substitute itself for markets–only by becoming the market maker itself. And that is possible only because markets themselves are becoming free of individual volition, except in those areas that the Cuban state has left to the individual–the detritus of economic activity with the lowest value added and the most marginal expressions of power. Data management in transactions may make that possible (cf here). In this form, in the form that big data, that technology, makes possible, that this poses the most interesting challenge not just to Chinese socialist market theory but also to the core of Western neo liberal market ideology.
For readers of Spanish I include below the introductory statements of the Conceptualización. The entire document may be accessed HERE: Conceptualizacion del modelo economico-PCC-Cuba 2016.