Cuba will always have an averigua

Humor is unexpected truth. At least, that is one of its characteristics. The Cuban idiomatic expression: ‘Siempre tendremos un Baragua’ (tr. ‘We will always have a Baragua’), means that Cuba is always ready to make a courageous decision and stand by it. But the people see a different truth and humorously say: ‘Siempre tendremos un averigua, meaning that in Cuba you always have to wait and see what is available, i.e. if there is soap, if there is toilet-paper, if there is cheese, if the government shop is open at all, and, if so, if they are selling etc. You can never be sure. You always have to check or verify (‘averiguar’) first. There is always some reason why normal things are not as you would expect.

Nearly all workers in Cuba are government employees. They earn low wages, but have job security as long as they don’t criticize the hotshot politicians. Whether you work, sell or produce, makes no real difference. Your wages won’t change. The government does try to persuade workers to pay more attention and do a better job, but in practice this does not materialize. There is little to no motivation; there are few or no effective incentives.

One sees the same basic pattern all over the world when government workers are involved. Citizens just have to wait until they are ready to serve. At their own slow pace. Now, imagine that all businesses, shops, snack bars, hotels, factories and farms were run this way. Production and service would rock-bottom and as a consequence government expenditure (compared to income) would rise to an unsustainable level. This is the situation in Cuba. To give just one example of daily experience. The only snack bar in San Jose de las Lajas where they serve coffee (‘Gustazo’) had reason not to serve coffee about 6 times out of 10. And, mind you, the coffee-processing plant is less than 10 km. away!

Social democrats just don’t get it

For more than a century now, social democrats have tried to figure out a third way of their own. Tony Blair and to a lesser extent Bill Clinton fall in this category. They see the poverty and unjust distribution of wealth and then try to solve the problem by distributing income. They leave all economic power concentration mechanisms intact and do not touch the capital owners. They basically embrace capitalism, but try to socialize it. To do this, they tax the rich and companies heavily and re-distribute this income via all kinds of mostly inefficient and unproductive mechanisms (unemployment benefit, unnecessary government jobs, subsidies for unproductive activities etc.). Kelso called it ‘boondoggling’....

Now, socialists laugh at this. They do tackle capital ownership. And radically. They abolish it and make the state the only owner. And to make sure the owners will not return, they prohibit free enterprise (thereby killing the hen that lays the golden eggs), kill democracy and close the prison doors (to leave Cuba, even for a vacation, one needs government permission). Social democrats don’t agree with this and therefore stop short of the logical conclusion, thereby for ever condemning themselves to half-baked solutions. For as soon as they gain power, investments drop, the economy slows down, tax income goes down, government expenditure becomes unsustainable and before you know it, they themselves start breaking down their own beautiful income re-distribution schemes.

But in Scandinavia it works, the social democrats argue. It is true that the re-distribution there is such that the ‘poor’ can also live comfortably. But for how long? To serve their capital owners, Scandinavian companies will sooner or later also start moving to countries where labor is cheaper, will start outsourcing and replace workers with technology and do all kinds of other things to raise profits. They do this for sheer survival also. They have to contend with competition. In Holland the gradual dismantlement of the ‘welfare state’ has long since begun. Germany and other European countries are following. Scandinavia will be forced to do the same.

As long as economic power remains concentrated in a tiny elite and the concentration mechanisms (interest, inflation, morbidity of capital, collateral requirement etc.) remain in place, the process of capital concentration (with masses of poor people) will inexorably continue. The workers in Scandinavia or Europe may be reasonably well-off, but this is partially due also to the masses of poor people around the world. As explained, these concentration mechanisms are inherent in capitalism. And because social democracy basically embraces capitalism, the best it can do is slow the process down. But it will always end up serving their masters, i.e. the capital owners.