Cuba’s National Assembly has just adopted a new Constitution which replaces the previous one originally adopted in 1976. Some of the more internationally eye-catching changes are that while the position of the Communist Party remains intact, much as is the case in contemporary China and Vietnam, the goal of “building a communist society” has been replaced by the generally less dogmatic term “socialist society”. Further changes including the first ever legal recognition of some forms of private property.
With Cuba looking to increase growth rates in its economy, it may be that Cuba’s new President Miguel Díaz-Canel is looking towards the world’s most successful economic model, that of Market Socialism as originally articulated by Chinese reformist leader Deng Xiaoping in 1978, as a means of elevating the long term sustainable development of Cuban society.
While Díaz-Canel is a firm party loyalist and by most accounts an orthodox Marxist-Leninist, this is not necessarily at odds with developing a socialist economy along the lines of the world’s second largest (soon to be the largest) overall economy which happens to be a socialist society governed by a Communist Party – China.
Throughout the Cold War, Cuba remained a pro-Soviet state. However, unlike Vietnam which while maintaining its Communist leadership and partnership with Russia, also retains a position of tension with China, Cuba has been growing ever closer to China since the end of the Cold War. Likewise, as one of the earliest members of the Non-Aligned Movement, Cuba continues to pursue relations with a variety of nations throughout the developing world.
When Deng Xiaoping became China’s paramount leader in 1978 the poverty rate was 88% of the entire population. Today the rate is 2% while Xi Jinping’s current reforms to agrarian populations looks to fully eliminate poverty by the end of the year 2020.
While Cuba’s official poverty rate remains around 5%, a generally respectable figure for a developing country that has been embargoed by its superpower neighbour since the early 1960s – the statistics tell only part of the story. In Cuba homelessness is more or less non-existent while health and education are free from cradle to grave. In spite of this, the country remains materially behind the times when compared with many larger socialist/communist states including both Vietnam and especially China.
The impetus to adopt a US style neo-liberal capitalist system remains low among Cubans living in Cuba. Furthermore, Donald Trump’s reversal of the always exaggerated Obama era thaw has made it clear to the leadership in Havana that the US is happy to dominate Cuba but unwilling to respect its sovereignty.
The clear path for Cuba as dictated by circumstance is the road to a market socialist model with Cuban characteristics. It is no coincidence that last week President Díaz-Canel met with Li Qiang, a senior official of the Communist Party of China in Havana during, which time China vowed to deepen an already friendly relationship with Cuba.
According to a report on the meeting from official Chinese news agency, Xinhua,
“Li said the two countries are bound by the common ideal. In the new era, China will continue to steadfastly deepen its sincere, loyal friendship with Cuba, promote mutually-beneficial and win-win cooperation, be partners in reforms and development, so as to lift the Sino-Cuban relations to a higher level”.
Days later, Cuba has introduced a new Constitution making its domestic laws more compatible with the kinds of innovations that China has undergone over the last four decades. While it is still early days, the new Constitution offers Cuba an opportunity to begin to build on its unique cultural characteristics and its socialist economy in order to materially enrich the condition of the Cuban people, something that in a country with a population of 11.5 million will clearly not take as long as was the case in China.
Cuba’s universally literate population, among the most highly educated in the Caribbean, is likewise well placed to benefit from an increase in economic development that a Chinese partnership when paired with a domestic market socialist system can achieve.
Cuba has long rejected being a US colony and today has rejected a mentality of living in the past. Instead, Cuba’s future is set to be modelled on the system that lifted the greatest number of people out of poverty in the shortest amount of time in history – market socialism.