Economy

Cuba Embraces Free Market, China-Style

Whatever the hopes for Cuba, the country's regime seems keen to follow the profit model for the economy to shore up its political grip. Just like China and Russia.

Flag-raising ceremony at the U.S. embassy in Havana
Flag-raising ceremony at the U.S. embassy in Havana
Ricardo Kirschbaum

BUENOS AIRES â€" Fifty-eight years after the communist rebel Fidel Castro toppled Batista's corrupt government in Cuba, his brother, President Raúl Castro, is now recognizing, partially and reluctantly, the reality of the market economy. This is not unrelated to the recent process of détente begun between Cuba and the United States, and represents the end of a cycle and start of another, whose future remains to be written.

The complex changes that have begun inside the Cuban Communist party are also an open-ended process, initiated by an economic crisis it has failed to resolve, as well as its own ideological crises. More widely, the changes are the fruit of decades of U.S.-imposed sanctions, Cuba's previous economic dependence on the Soviet Union and the Communist leadership's own rigidity of thought, which restricted the country's development and economic options.

Carefully selecting its words, the Communist Party (PC) voiced on Aug. 16 its recognition of "the objective existence of market relations." We're talking relations here, not market economy â€" this difference can feed an ongoing theoretical, though not truly political, debate. Perhaps this is just as party leaders want.

Central idea

This effectively gives the signal for a shift toward models of vigorous political centralization complemented by economic liberalization, in the manner of Vietnam.

It is very difficult to say whether communist countries that have accepted market rules are capitalist now or not. We can only be certain that they stopped being altogether communist, by choice or force of circumstances.

What Cuba is doing is broadening the horizon for its reforms without ditching its central idea, as it seeks to emulate similar regimes elsewhere. The PC recognized the market principle in its April congress, though within "the functioning of the socialist economy," and the regime looks set to follow the principle of most other systems of its ilk (bar North Korea), which firmly maintain single party rule. We know that while the free market can increase political liberties to some extent, this, as Russia shows, is not inevitable.

Indeed as the economy is liberalized, the political regime retains control as it supervises and fine-tunes its version of the re-conversion process. The top-down system becomes a necessary complement to more open economic policymaking.

Another excuse for keeping the grip it seems is to manage corruption, which is a possibility in any regime. China has the highest rate of executions for crimes involving corruption. Expect then, the coming contradiction in Cuba: Economic liberalization will wind up riding roughshod over other, less lucrative, liberties.

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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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