29 January 2023
by Aleksandr Podrabinek
According to reports from Cuba’s independent Diario de Cuba, there are plans to create a Centre for Economic Transformations in Havana, with Russia’s help. Miguel Díaz-Canel, the ogre-intellectual who came to power in 2021, replacing the ogre-revolutionary Raul Castro, has given some thought to an effective economy for Cuba. Evidently, there is no longer enough money for even what is most essential.
Naturally, Cuban Communists are little concerned about the impoverished situation of the people, but given the current rates of economic degradation, the totalitarian state’s entire structure may wind up under threat.
For example, there won’t be the funds to maintain prisons for political prisoners, who today in Cuba, according to the most modest estimates, number no fewer than 700. That would be a catastrophe for socialism! First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party’s Central Committee Díaz-Canel understands this full well. There’s something to think about.
How can a totalitarian system be organized so that power remains in the hands of the political gangsters while the economy takes on market features and becomes profitable? German National Socialists achieved a few successes along these lines in the last century. Then the Chinese Communists built their “market” socialism—not a kingdom of abundance but enough for an atom bomb and luxury for the gangster-regime.
In the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev wanted to follow their example by initiating a “perestroika” [restructuring] of socialism in a human vein but suffered personal failure when he could not hold onto power. The genie of freedom burst from its bottle then, and it took a good 30 years of incredible effort on the part of the former party nomenklatura and state security to shove it back in.
The idea that a market economy is a guarantor of democracy is lovely but not viable. It’s very convenient to build an economically profitable authoritarian system to ecstatic conversations about that idea by constantly balancing between freedom for business and dictatorship.
Looking Around at Russia
For experience in this respect, Cuban Communists have turned to Russia. A plan for economic transformations in Cuba is being drawn up by the analysis center of the P.A. Stolypin Institute for Economic Growth. That institute’s supervisory board is headed up by a “star” of the Russian oligarchate, billionaire Oleg Deripaska. A Russia-Cuba Business Council has been formed whose chairman is one of Vladimir Putin’s chief economic advisors, Boris Titov, the Russian Presidential Commissioner for Entrepreneurs’ Rights.
Current Putin advisors will teach their Cuban colleagues to create an economically profitable dictatorship. Understandably, these advisors should not look like militaristic gorillas; they should have human-like faces. What suits this purpose the very best are former liberals who know how to talk about human rights in general and entrepreneurs’ rights in particular. True, there is no certainty at all that the Putin advisors will succeed at creating a model of an effective economy in Russia that serves the dictatorship without a murmur. However, it is one thing to create and quite another to teach others to do so!
A couple of weeks ago, Boris Titov met in Havana with Miguel Díaz-Canel. The head of the Cuban Communists was pleased with the meeting. As Prensa Latina, the Cuban state news agency, reported, Miguel Díaz-Canel announced the intention of Cuba and Russia to take bilateral relations in the economic and trade spheres to a higher level.
An Ally Hard by the United States
Malicious dissident tongues in Cuba have already christened the plans for restructuring socialism following the Soviet model “Cubastroika.” In his article, “Model of a Russian Cage for Cubans,” journalist Rafael Cruz writes that Díaz-Canel wants to “replace the rusty, dirty, foul-smelling cage he inherited from Fidel Castro with a shiny solid cage forged from Russian steel for its own captives.”
The famous Cuban dissident René Gómez Manzano writes: “The future being readied for us is frankly deplorable. For it not to materialize, the Cuban people must clearly reject these plans.” Here, one has to assume, he is no longer talking so much about the economic peculiarities as Cuba’s rigid political attachment to Russia.
Cuba is one of the few countries friendly to Russia today. Attaching this unsinkable aircraft carrier located hard by the United States to its own aggressive policy will not be all that hard for the Kremlin. In the last few years, everyone has seen how the Kremlin has contrived to make even rich democratic countries like Germany economically dependent.
For the Kremlin, taking relations between Russia and the United States to the point of a new Caribbean crisis would be a great pleasure. And if by that point the nuclear briefcase is still in Vladimir Putin’s hands, he is hardly going to act the way Nikita Khrushchev did in 1962.
Translated by Marian Schwartz