The Effects of the Reform on Cuba’s Social Structure: An Overview

Mayra Paula
Espina Prieto

Cuba’s economic reform is one of the few experiments in socioeconomic change that currently defines itself as an alternative to neoliberal transformation that nearly exclusive and all-encompassing formula for structural readjustment to crises.  Even though the reform deals basically with economic mechanisms and unfolds on this terrain, its impact has a wider compass.  The systematic links among all spheres of social life and the very magnitude of the reform amplify the scope of the changes.  It therefore becomes increasingly urgent to explore the social effects of the readjustment, as the key to determining whether the real alternative represented by Cuba will be preserved or lost.    Characterizing the social composition of society then becomes the central issue, because this is the factor that links the economic and the social spheres, and mediates the ties between them.

Undoubtedly, one of the clearest and most deeply felt effects of the crisis and the reform "an effect which expresses with great force the interrelationship of macro-social processes with daily life and personal destiny" is the abrupt widening of the gaps of inequality.  This has confronted not only the social sciences but also ordinary common sense with a series of pressing questions:  What is the significance of the re-ordering of the social structure?  Does it represent continuity or a break with the socialist model of stratification?  Is this re-ordering completed?  Will the breaches of inequality increase still further?

All these questions are the subject of ongoing investigations and cannot expect to find full answers here.  The modest proposals of the present article are:  to demonstrate that Cuban sociology has a tradition of  social-structural analysis and thought which enables it to participate effectively in evaluating the complex current situation; to situate Cuba in the context of the transformations accompanying globalization; and, finally, to add some ideas to the discussion on the significance of Cuba’s social re-structuring.

Sociological studies of Cuban social structure

Social-structural studies in and on Cuba, though few, have always been important in the panorama of the country’s social sciences.  Given the limited size of our academic sociological community, the relevance of this presence must be judged not by the number of specialized studies on that topic "which has always been small" but rather by the constancy of their production and their focus on key social problems.  In the 1960s, major attention was paid to the working class and the peasantry, given the intense changes that the socialist transition effected among these groups and the roles they were to play in the new society.  The studies done in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s systematized and expanded research into the country’s social structure.  Among the factors that conditioned this expansion were: 1) recognition, in the documents of the First Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), held in December 1975, of the role of social differences and the need to overcome them as one of the key problems of socialist construction (which gave this topic a certain “official legitimacy”);  2) the international theoretical conference on “Class Structure in Latin America,” organized in 1980 by Revista Internacional with the sponsorship of the PCC;  3) increased numbers of university graduates in sociology and other related disciplines working on specific social research; and 4) the new concept of planned scientific work initiated at the start of the 1980s in an effort to address all social problems that the PCC considered relevant to the five-year plans for science and technology (Martín & Nuñez, 1998).

Given the strong influence of Soviet thinking, the methodological focus of studies in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s was, as a rule, the theoretical model of social stratification presumed to be typical and universally valid for socialism anywhere.  It centered on regularities in the advancement of the process of social homogeneity.  This homogeneity was understood as the essential feature of the new structure.  Social differences were seen as obstacles to be overcome.

Starting from this principle, Cuban studies were oriented toward understanding how the normal tendencies of the homogenization process were expressed in the specific conditions of Cuba.  Emblematic studies of those years were done by the Labor Ministry on the formation and rational use of labor resources (Chuprov, 1975), and by the Academy of Sciences on prospects for development in a territory newly assimilated into the economy (Núñez & Espina, 1985) and on the socioeconomic profile of an iron and steel mill (Núñez & Espina, 1986).  All three included a detailed and complex description of the social structure of the labor force.

During the second half of the 80s, two important innovations appear in this panorama.  A line of research was opened on youth and generational relations, focusing on the functioning of class and generational structures (Domínguez, 1994).  National studies on mobility and social origin were also undertaken for the first time.  During this period, heightened theoretical reflection was evident in lively polemics and debates. The topic of major discussion and opposing points of view was the structural framework of Cuban society in a period of mature socialist transition.  Taking the CIPS [Center for Psychological and Social Research] studies as illustration, we find that specific sociological research identified, documented, and evaluated interesting trends in this transition, especially from the 1976-88 period, that can be considered “a long preamble to the crisis” (Espina, 1994), among them the following:

  • elevated dynamism and radicalism of the processes undermining the preceding class structure (in this case, that of dependent capitalism) compared to European socialist experiences;
  • a slowdown in the rhythm of structural transformations and delay in the full qualitative development of basic class groupings (working class, intellectuals, peasantry);
  • presence of strong “social-structural distortions” associated with the nearly absolute predominance of the state as a mechanism for configuring the social structure:  excessive increase in the numbers of administrative employees, managers, and specialists devoted to planning and control; bureaucratization; decline in the proportion of  productive to nonproductive groups; inverse relationship between the growth of state employment and labor productivity; reduction of the relative weight of the working class;
  • increasing heterogeneity of the social structure and prolonged reproduction of a degree of polarization between extreme groups, requiring that distribution policy address the real situation of advantaged and disadvantaged sectors and the increasing diversity of demands and interests;
  • weakening of core groups of the basic social classes, including an accelerated decline of the agricultural workforce, minimal presence of  a technical/engineering intelligentsia, low efficiency of the cooperative workforce in agriculture, low productivity among industrial workers;
  • social mobility as a cause of decline in basic sectors (agricultural and construction workers) and of increase in non-basic sectors (service and non-state workers);
  • intensified rates of reproduction of a parallel social structure associated with the informal economy, generating a redistribution of roles and merchandise (“counter-distribution”) that undermines the socialist scheme and informally increases inequalities;
  • possibility and necessity of  broadening the small urban private sector as a way of satisfying the demand for goods and services not covered by the state,  relieving the state of minor functions, attenuating surplus employment,  and solving  territorial imbalances between growth of the labor force and the reduced  availability of  state jobs.

Having reached these kinds of problematizing conclusions (which call into question the theoretical model of socialist social structure and the regularities of its development as identified in the prevailing sociological literature), Cuban social-structural studies have been placed in a favorable situation to understand that there is no one social-structural model for socialism universally applicable to any historical situation, and that in any case the transition to socialism involves highly complex processes that cannot be reduced to building social homogeneity.  Some of the considerations that make up the new approach to these problems can be summarized as follows:

  • Contrary to generally held views on the model of transitional and socialist social structure, this does not entail a simplification relative to the social class composition of capitalism:  at the same time that it simplifies,  eliminating socioeconomic types, it brings into being a new and highly complex model of social relations based on a balance between heterogeneity and equality.
  • The heterogeneity and socioeconomic differentiation that characterize this structure cannot be completely explained as holdovers from the old social order that need to be eliminated; rather, they are to a significant degree inherent in socialism and can act as a moving force for development within a context of social equity.
  • Heterogeneity, differentiation, and social-structural complexity correspond, in explicit or latent form, to potentially conflictive social relations (in the sense of differences and opposing interests that cannot always be harmonized).
  • Rather than focusing on a process of homogenization, socialist theory has to understand the tension between social equality and differentiation, between the need to recognize differences and the need to articulate them in a common sociopolitical project.
  • Socialist property should not be rigidly identified with state ownership.   Such absolutism leads to excessive bureaucracy and to economic/productive ineffectiveness, and also impedes the development of a sense of collective ownership.
  • Small private production for the market (urban and rural) is a pre-capitalist form that is compatible with the logic of socialist production and distribution.
  • Socialism entails the presence of a wide range of diverse needs, aspirations, and interests, which require the application of a distributive logic that includes simultaneously egalitarian principles (for basic goods) and differentiated access to the satisfaction of non-basic needs (whether material or spiritual).
  • Formally egalitarian (igualitarista) distribution, far from making inequalities disappear, can have the effect of consolidating them in such a way that not all social groups have an equal starting point for acquiring its benefits.
  • Differences among and within classes are long-lasting phenomena, and progress toward their elimination is contradictory:  as forms of  differentiation between and within classes disappear, other sources of inequality arise, associated with the logic of  socialist construction in a given country and at a given moment.

This “renovative” thinking has encountered certain obstacles to its acceptance:  the absence of a social-structural focus in much of the country’s sociological work; the generalizing or formally egalitarian approach prevalent in the design of social policies; and the identification of the concept of national unity with that of social homogeneity implicit in the political discourse of Cuban socialism.  All this has raised doubt about proposals that emphasize the role and significance of inequalities, that prioritize the study of processes of differentiation, and that emphasize points of conflict in relations among different social sectors.

Crisis and reform have altered Cuba’s social structure and have made necessary the difficult task of re-conceptualization¾up to now only barely sketched¾in order to re-initiate empirical social-structural research.  The sociological terrain is characterized, in its new stage, by the following developments:  continuation and expansion of studies of the agrarian structure; the interest awakened among economists in the topic of social inequalities; the appearance of vulnerable groups (Ferriol,1998); the restructuring of sources and levels of income and their concentration; attention to the emergence of a new type of stratification, more heterogeneous and complex;  the increase in social distances and the relationship of these processes to the continuity of the socialist alternative (Espina, 2000); consideration of the social structure as a factor in the configuration of social actors, of social change agents, and, consequently, of subjective aspects in the perception of inequalities (Perera,1999); studies on intellectuals and their subjective profiles; the explosion of studies on the informal sector, and on the social-structural “novelty” of the Cuban reform (Núñez, 1998); the link with social policy designs, especially in the area of employment; and the appearance of studies on the relation of class to race and to gender (Gonzalez,1996).

The Latin-American social structure:  crisis, reform and globalizationOne of the motives behind the Cuban reform is precisely to remodel the economy in order to meet the requirements of the international market and to maximize the efficicacy of its links with that market.  Thus it is obvious that social processes at the national level are not isolated, nor do they depend only on changes that occur within national boundaries. To a significant degree they are connected with the most general logic arising from the division of labor and the organization of production, technology, and international markets, all of which affect them from abroad in ways that research needs to unveil if there is to be a proper understanding.

At the same time, however, this reform presupposes maintaining the Cuban option as an alternative to capitalism, specifically to neoliberalism, in such a way that, even though it adapts itself to the international capitalist economy, it preserves a distinct economic and social character.

To all this must be added the fact that globalization (the articulation of national economies in extra-national networks of production/trade/technology) is the process that predominates today in the capitalist economy and also affects the Cuban reform.  Therefore, to understand the Cuban case, it is necessary to situate it in the international context, and more particularly in terms of how its own traits relate to those of the whole social, economic, and cultural mosaic of Latin America.  Considering present-day Latin America as a whole, the reconfiguration of the social structure is marked by the following traits and processes (Martín & Nuñez, 1998):

  • high concentration of power, wealth, and income in privileged groups;
  • low job-creating capacity on the part of traditional employers (public and private sector);
  • increased importance of small- and medium-sized enterprise;
  • decline in incomes from productive activity;
  • consolidation and expansion of the informal sector as an alternative for survival;
  • cuts in wages and salaries of the majority;
  • diversification (heterogeneización) of poverty and the appearance of the “new poor”;
  • decomposition and marginalization of family farming;
  • strengthening of business sectors and of the technocrats linked to foreign enterprise;
  • growing economic power of big landowners;
  • emergence of a new social stratum of rural family entrepreneurs;
  • increased vulnerability of middle sectors;
  • increased heterogeneity of the working class (groups linked to big modern export businesses vs. groups linked to traditional businesses that are being left behind);
  • segregation by sex due to technical and organizational changes in social reproduction, leaving large groups of working women in disadvantaged positions;
  • consolidation of a parallel pyramidal structure based on drugs and other illicit businesses, in which relations of exploitation and subordination are clearly visible;
  • increased presence of marginal populations.

We may conclude that the tension between contradictory trends "homogenizing and differentiating, integrating and excluding, absorbing and polarizing" is dramatically reflected in the appearance of ever greater social distances between the elite and the vulnerable, with a shrinking of the favored extreme and a swelling of the disadvantaged.

Is Cuba becoming “Latin-Americanized”?  Cuban reform has signified a clear and radical break between emerging, traditional, and informal sectors, the widening of social gaps, the formation (in relative terms) of elites, and the appearance of a marginal population (vulnerables).  Moreover, it is obvious that the national panorama also reflects phenomena that bear the stamp of globalization’s particular social-structural tendencies: separation of large groups of workers from formal employment; concentration of income; differentiation (heterogeneización); polarization; vulnerability; emergence of techno-bureaucratic sectors in advantageous situations and with standards of reference provided by the foreign market; and increased presence of foreign capital.  These phenomena represent the cost of linking up with the international economy, which demands above all efficiency, competitiveness, and assimilation of the norms that govern world trade.  All this resembles the current Latin American situation, which grows out of the globalization/underdevelopment, crisis/readjustment relation, conditioned by limited resources to attack the social effects of economic reforms.

Without denying the harshness of the social costs of readjustment, whose manifestations in Cubans’ daily lives are evident to all, there are reasons to conclude that the effects of structural selectivity (the attraction and insertion in the globalized economy of economic entities selected for their competitive potential) and of centrifugal economic practice (exclusion of non-competitive sectors) have been attenuated in the Cuban case by two essential factors: the gradual nature of the reform, which permits a certain accommodation of  social consequences, and the redistributive thrust of Cuban social policies.   According to the Human Development Report for 1996, of the 78 developing countries included in the new Human Poverty Index (HPI), Cuba was one of the small group in which less than ten percent of the population was affected by “human poverty” (Centro de Investigación de la Economía Mundial [CIEM]¾United Nations Development Program [UNDP], 1996).   In the Index of Poverty by Gender (IPG), which seeks to measure gender inequality in economic and political participation, Cuba occupies twenty-first place, with results superior to those of many industrialized countries (CIEM, 1996).  In the terms of the capacity to meet basic needs (food, general health, reproductive health, education, and knowledge), Cuba ranks tenth among 101 countries considered.  Based on this index and in relation to the HPI, the 1996 report recognizes Cuba’s efficient use of income and higher level of human development, even in the absence of economic growth, thanks to the government’s well-structured allocations for social welfare.

Reform and social-structural changes

Within the repertory of Cuban economic reform measures, one can distinguish some whose stratifying effect on the society is direct and immediate.  A summary list of such measures would undoubtedly include the following:

  • redesign of the system of ownership:  appearance of the mixed public/private ownership and of foreign investment; expansion of small private urban and rural production; extension and diversification of the agricultural cooperative sector; shrinking of the state sector;
  • change of the state’s role in the economy:  increased role of market mechanisms and promotion of strategic planning;
  • enterprise-reform, including changes in work incentives;
  • restructuring of employment and sources of income;
  • promotion of new economic sectors such as tourism and biotechnology;
  • legalization of the dollar and dual currency.

Because of the strong effect of these measures on the Cuban social structure, one can speak of a new historical stage of “restratification.”  This term calls attention to a whole process of quantitative and qualitative change in social relations, bringing in new strata, transforming the situation of others, and changing the rankings among them.  To substantiate this affirmation, let us examine some current trends:

1. Appearance of new class formations.  This still insufficiently explored trend can easily be noted in the informal sector:  property-owners, landlords, and employers are typical categories in the reconfiguration of an urban petite bourgeoisie.  Owners of small businesses such as restaurants and cafeterias, car-repair shops, and small shoemaking facilities are typical of this reconfiguration.

2. Internal fragmentation of the earlier major social class components (intra-class restratification), expressed in a group of interconnected trends:

Division among those working in different property sectors:  In contrast to the previous stage, in which integration of the working class and of intellectuals, managers, and employees was based fundamentally on their almost absolute link with the state sector, and in which their salaries remained within a fairly narrow range, the internal composition of these social class components has separated into segments corresponding to their links with society:  state workers, those linked to joint ventures and to foreign capital, and those occupied (whether for wages or independently) in the informal economy. State workers continue to be the majority.  The other two sectors, although not adequately measured by available statistics, are expanding.  In spite of their relatively small numbers, they represent a substantial diversification in the socioeconomic "and surely also the subjective" profiles of these strata, especially in terms of the form and magnitude of their incomes and their roles in the economic system as a whole.

  • Division between those working in traditional and in emerging sectors: Conventionally, this classification distinguishes between activities in which new types of incentive have been applied, presumably material or monetary advantages for workers linked to exports or to the domestic dollar market (“emerging”), and those which remain governed by incentives and leadership criteria applied prior to the crisis (“traditional”).  The division between traditional and emerging sectors results in a significant difference within the working class and among intellectuals, managers, and employees, by creating a gap between advantageous and disadvantageous positions in terms of material well-being in both working and living conditions.
  • Promotion of professional diversification:  The accelerated expansion of relatively new economic sectors and activities in the Cuban economy has diversified the universe of socio-professional groups.  Occupations linked to tourism, biotechnology, the market, and management are among the most attractive novelties on the Cuban occupational spectrum.

Beyond the socio-professional diversification, this trend has another restratifying effect that economists have called “the inverted pyramid,” namely a rupture of the link between professional training and income-level that had been one of the capstones of the Cuban salary system.  At present, a high level of training does not translate into high salary or general income, which depends on access to dollars and on links with emerging sectors.

3. Reordering of agricultural production.  The division of state lands into cooperatives, the promotion of small private ownership, and the introduction of market mechanisms have implied, on the one hand, the emergence of new social groups (cooperativistas on state lands or in Basic Units of Cooperative Production [UBPCs], and small farmers), producing a real restoration of peasant-based agriculture (recampesinización) in Cuba.  Thus, by 1996, there were 43,015 small farmers, while the members of UBPCs numbered 300,000.  On the other hand, the use of market mechanisms to sell a part of agricultural production has amplified socioeconomic differences within this heterogeneous peasant population.             4. Income polarization.  The reform has signaled the end of a situation in which most of the population (around 95 percent) earned its income from state jobs, where the highest salary could theoretically not exceed five times the lowest, and where such differences were based, as a rule, on skill and productivity.  Now the form and magnitude of incomes are diversified, and the range separating minimum and maximum limits is widened:

  • Redistribution of employment and departures from the state sector (urban or rural) of a considerable mass of workers, who become “de-salaried” or who become salaried or semi-salaried in the private sector.  By 1994, according to the author’s estimate, some 30.2 percent of those working in the national economy were linked to the non-state sector, in contrast to 6 percent in 1988.  To this should be added the emergence of unemployment, which, according to official figures, reached between 6 and 7 percent of the economically active population in 1996 (Ferriol, 1998).  Thus, a considerable part of the working population stopped receiving fixed and/or centrally determined wages, while the minimum and maximum amounts received varied.  At the same time, real wages plummeted as they lost buying power.
  • Creation of incentive systems of their own in emerging sectors, and other activities.  These systems include payment in dollars or their script equivalent, and access to special stores, which in 1996 covered 38 percent of state workers and cooperative members (Ferriol, 1998) and 1.3 million workers altogether (González, 1998).
  • Direct access to dollars.  It is estimated that in 1997 approximately 50 percent of the population had access to dollars through either family remittances or work incentives (Ferriol, 1998).  This sector could then enjoy a wider range and higher quality of consumer goods than the rest.  (Obviously, this affirmation must be qualified to take account of different levels of individual access to dollars.)
  • Concentration of income.  Estimates for 1994 showed that less than 10 percent of those possessing money held some 60 percent of the accumulated cash, and that some 70 percent of bank deposits were made by just 6 percent of savers, while 15 percent of families controlled 70 percent of the cash.  By 1997, savings were concentrated in just 12.8 percent of the accounts (Ferriol, 1998).  
  • Appearance of vulnerable sectors.  According to recent studies on poverty (INIE-UNDP, 1998) nearly 15 percent of Cuba’s urban population is considered to be “vulnerable,” meaning that its monthly per capita income is insufficient (or nearly so) to cover basic household requirements.  This is a recent phenomenon, at least on such a scale, and shows the worst effect of the widening of social differences.

In general, the stratification process is expressed in greater inequality, in the widening of social differences, and in the upward and downward flight of extreme groups.

The question of the magnitude of inequality is still being debated.  According to economic studies, the difference between the 20 percent receiving the least income and the 20 percent receiving the most income ranges between 1:4  and 1:6 (Ferriol, 1998).  In our opinion, these estimates undervalue the degree of income inequality, by considering only the averages of the top and bottom sectors.  More attention, however, must be given to the dispersion of income that does not reflect the inclusion of atypical cases.  If, as was pointed out earlier, 14.7 percent of the population exists in a situation of vulnerability, with incomes of no more than 200 pesos per month, while another percentage¾whose magnitude has yet to be determine lives on incomes of 2000 pesos1 per month (self-employed, farmers, families receiving remittances), then the extent of inequality is broader than suggested by earlier estimates.

Preliminary conclusions. Of course, in order to identify the real degree of inequality, it would be necessary to include not only income differences but also another series of indicators that reflect different levels of access to material and spiritual goods.  Such a study, still in progress, will take into account a combination of quantitative and qualitative factors.

Certainly many of the economic indicators have tended to improve as a result of the measures applied.  In 1994, the fall of the gross domestic product was halted, and modest but systematic economic growth has taken place in the years since then.  Accumulated liquidity and budgetary deficits have diminished considerably, so that the national currency has increased in value, market prices have dropped, and the price of the dollar has gone down (González, 1998).

However, while this economic revival may have attenuated the differentiating effects of the reform and slowed the process of generating inequalities, it has not meant, in our view, an actual reduction of differentiation nor a turn back to the period before restratification.  Rather, the process of differentiation is integral to the crisis, but also to the reform.  It is part of the way the reform functions; it will last for a relatively long time and, predictably, will spread even deeper.

At least three positions have emerged in the interpretation of the social-structural impact of the reform:

The first is what might be called the thesis of “frozen” structures, which argues that a socialist experiment in unfavorable conditions uses capitalist tools and that this represents a step backward, a loss, a rupture or an interruption that has to be quickly eliminated and overcome.  This perspective would mean that any economic recovery should be reflected in a restoration of the old scheme of stratification, where non-state socioeconomic entities (joint ventures and the informal sector) play certain specified roles but are not considered complementary to the state, nor as having any independent initiative, and are therefore seen as a sector that the state should compete with, displace, and eventually eliminate.  According to this view, the current situation is a reversible one that will be replaced, when economic conditions permit, by a return to the former or “normal” course of operation of socialist society.

The second position can be termed the thesis of the “erosion” or “closing” of the socialist option and the gradual restoration of capitalism.  This view, which we find in some studies on Cuba done from abroad (Gunn, 1993; Mesa Lago, 1993, 1994; Hoffman, 1995), has formulated a social-structural evaluation of the Cuban reform that, in sum, considers the joint ventures, the informal dollarization, and the market to be the factors of major influence in this terrain, accounting for the emergence of such tendencies as:  creation of new class divisions that weaken equality; continuous increase in inequalities; increased use of managerial methods that infringe on socialist criteria; exit of large groups of the labor force from the state sector; an expanding  breach within the labor force between an elite group and one with inferior status; appearance of groups excluded from access to certain consumer goods;  higher incomes of social groups linked to the informal economy; growing economic power of the informal sector compared to the state sector, giving the former the potential for political pressure; and progressive expansion of liberalized spaces in the economy and of the groups linked to them.

Although these considerations do not preclude recognition of more stabilizing and pro-system effects of the reform (creation of jobs, expansion of development zones, curbing the black market, improved food supplies), this thesis emphasizes their subversive, anti-system effects, arising from the reforms’ tendency to erode socialist society from within through the emergence of new socioeconomic sectors that carry with them different social relations from those that form the framework of that system.  This means that even though the reform produces a stabilizing effect from an economic point of view, its actual implementation entails suppression of the socialist alternative, as it increasingly takes on a pattern of stratification based on the market.

The third position, shared by this writer, can be called “transition to feasible socialism,” in order to emphasize the possibilities for change and improvement embodied both in the option of reform and, at the same time, in Cuba’s own prior socialist experience. The tension between continuity and rupture inherent in the Cuban structural readjustment should also be stressed here.

This third position views the pattern of emerging stratification as an adaptation to new internal and external conditions, a correction of earlier tendencies, and a search for a social structure that is an alternative to capitalism even though it uses instruments that capitalism also uses a transitory phase that allows modification of such phenomena as inequality and excessive polarization.

From this point of view it is essential that the components now surfacing become complementary to and collaborate with the state sector, which continues to be the essential one.  The state sector should concentrate on basic strategic activities. Competition from other sectors does not mean displacing the state sector; it simply means attaining greater economic and social efficiency.  Under present circumstances, in other words, a socialism with a stratified and partially unequal structure is acceptable provided that all the socioeconomic formations emanating from the different forms of ownership have a complementary and cooperative relationship, with the private sectors subordinate to that of the state.  This subordination, which would be the form in which the popular sectors acquire social hegemony, should be expressed in:

  • greater efficiency of the state sector;
  • redistributive capacity of the state;
  • popular control and real participation on a broad scale;
  • an appropriate mix of centralization and decentralization in decision-making;
  • identification of goods that should not be distributed through the market (partly or wholly);
  • reinforcement, through production-based incentives, of inequalities linked to work and to the chosen development strategy;
  • utilization of inequalities arising from market distribution as an indirect form of incentive to productive efficiency;
  • progressive attenuation of non-work-related sources of inequality (remittances and informal economy) by strengthening those associated with work.

In any case, the three positions here outlined should all accept the idea of multiple future potentials, the non-linear character of causal relations, and the possible emergence of contingent factors that push the final course of events in a given direction.  This implies that it is not possible to find some “natural” mechanism that would inexorably lead reform along some single road that can already be precisely anticipated.

From this view of a possible future contained in the present situation, we believe that the new Cuban social structure¾shaped by the readjustment and in good measure transitory¾retains its character of an alternative, in terms of stratification, to the highly polarized and exclusionary structural model of dependent capitalism.

Translated by Jane McManus and Victor Wallis


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1. Author’s estimate in case studies done in the city of Havana.