top of page

Build the plan from below

By: Yassel A. Padrón Kunakbaeva

Published on June 19, 2019 in La Joven Cuba –

On June 14, during the closing of the VIII Congress of the National Association of Economists and Accountants of Cuba, in the Palace of Conventions, the Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel gave a truly remarkable speech. Because of the importance of what was expressed there, it is worth quoting some of his words, addressed to Cuban economists:

"It's my way of confirming what you already know: that the country needs its professionals in the economy; it needs your talent, its contributions and your work.

And it will need it in particular so that the decision, announced in this Congress by comrade Alejandro Gil, Minister of Economy and Planning, can be applied successfully, that from next year we will propitiate with objectivity and intentionality, as far as possible, that the workers are the ones who elaborate the plans of their companies.

Alejandro also spoke here of the need for a change of mentality to make this measure effective, claimed for years by workers. We must jump to a new moment and know that the plan "will not come from above". In my opinion, it is a bold and very revolutionary measure that, as the minister said, demands objectivity, realism and conscience. And who else can help make it so?"

During this congress of the ANEC, we have been informed that the Cuban State, finally, after decades of central planning, is willing to move towards a democratic and participatory conception regarding the economic plan. If the stated intention becomes a reality, it would be a very revolutionary transformation, in addition to being the first of a clearly socialist character in awhile.

And yet, despite being a potentially disruptive measure, in the sense of changing everything that must be changed, it does not seem that the announcement has shaken the foundations of Cuban society. It can be affirmed without hesitation, that there are many Cubans who have not heard the news, and that others have taken or will take, when they find out, a very cold attitude toward it.

The idea of ​​the central plan, which comes from the top down, is substantial with the state or vanguard socialisms that have been known in the contemporary world. China, Vietnam or North Korea, the countries that still claim to be socialist, do not give the initiative to companies when it comes to building the plan, despite the private component of some of those economies. Only one historical case of the construction of the bottom-up plan is known: the former Yugoslavia. This is the model that we would approach if the measure becomes effective.

The introduction of a principle of collective construction with respect to the plan, can be a transcendental step in the abandonment of the old paradigm of state socialism, which negatively affects the process of the Cuban revolution. Hence its capital importance.

The reason why this announcement does not cause a greater social resonance, is given by the lack of confidence that has accumulated on the capacity of the State to solve the country's problems. This lack of confidence is even greater, if it is to believe in the capacity of the State to be a factor in the emancipation and empowerment of citizens. The prevailing vision is that of an inefficient bureaucracy, which always finds a way to circumvent the popular will.

Even among those of us who still defend the revolutionary option, and believe that Cuba must remain socialist, a large part of us have ceased to believe in the capacity of the State and of the old political and mass organizations to carry out the project on their own. Today the hopes of many activists and intellectuals are placed in the capacity of civil society to build socialism "from below", through popular pressure, criticism, self-organization, etc., against the expiration of the methods to build socialism " from above".

It is in this context that we find Diaz-Canel taking forward a measure that makes an old democratizing claim of Cuban workers, including intellectuals, workers of thought and culture. The President, driving from above a transformation that we all know will not mean anything if it is not accompanied by a bottom-up impulse on the part of the workers. Because if the workers do not appropriate the spaces of power that correspond to them, with conscience, responsibility and firmness, the construction of a fully popular socialism will never happen.

Sometimes like this, one forcibly remembers that there is nothing written about how a society that has undergone a revolution is regenerated, but later knows deformations and setbacks, imposed by internal and external causes. How do we react to the challenge launched by Diaz-Canel? Do we dismiss it as coming from the bureaucracy? Or do we jump for joy to see that "now we" are on the right track?

In another place I have written that, in the conditions posed by the socialist transition, it is inevitable to maintain in certain circumstances the class alliance between people and bureaucracy. To this I add my appreciation that the Cuban State is not a linear reality, but rather oblique, as befits our tropical geography and the dialectical nature of the process. It can not be classified as a purely revolutionary or purely reactionary reality, because although it is true that the bureaucracy has separated as a distinct social class, which occupies a privileged place in social reproduction, this has not irremediably dismantled or damaged the pact social born of the Revolution.

Given the strength that the Revolutionary Project still has, the choice of socialist life made by a critical mass of Cubans, which was evidenced in the victory of the “Yes” vote during the constitutional referendum, it is not unreasonable to understand that progressive elements of the bureaucracy that emerge propose to advance in the construction of socialism, if only to fulfill the social role that guarantees their legitimacy.

On the other hand, ignoring the role of the State in channeling the Cuban process, putting faith exclusively in what comes from the popular initiative, and that is imposed on the State as a result of pressure and antagonism, can be an error. First, because it ignores the real dynamics of changes in Cuba during the last decades. Second, because it does not address the fact that all social conflicts are dangerous in a context of imperialist aggression. Any change that we can make saving ourselves from the conflict, the confrontation to the State, etc. is preferable to a confrontation that can open the breach by those forces that want to unseat and erase the Revolutionary Project.

I believe that what corresponds to us in this circumstance, to the Cuban revolutionaries who understand the role of civil society, is to make a critical accompaniment to this measure. Celebrate it at the same time that we propose that its scope can be from very large to very small, to the extent that other bureaucratic controls are maintained. Contribute to education and the awakening the consciousness of workers. Require other measures that must necessarily accompany this, such as the election by secret ballot of the directors of the companies, the improvement of union work, etc.

From the top you can also contribute to the construction of socialism. That is why we Marxists believe in the construction of a popular power and a State. This June 14, Diaz-Canel expressed his willingness to navigate the boat to a good port, even listening to those who contribute from the Internet and social networks: "I read continuously the analysis and questions that have begun to proliferate in the networks in the last months, and I understand and share the anguish of those who, honestly, want to end the biggest problems. In that we agree absolutely.

Avoiding some evaluations that disqualify and judge harshly all the decisions of the Government-without having all the elements of judgment- we value the criteria and take their validity into account in what we decide and plan, although I know that some expect more, perhaps even a public acknowledgment of your reasons.

Believe me, we'd love to do it if we could have the resources that we have to use every day at to guarantee that the social justice we have won will continue."

We already know that there will be nothing spectacular, and that all the threads of reality are not in your hands, President. But on the right track, we are willing to accompany him.


bottom of page