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Cuba's bold shift to a postsocialist era

It amounts to the worst of both worlds: a state-controlled economy in which the government shirks its social responsibilities.

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In an address to the National Assembly a few weeks ago, Cuba's new president, Raúl Castro, announced the latest and most profound ideological shift in the five-decade-long history of the Cuban Revolution.

In his speech, Mr. Castro redefined socialism and effectively declared the end of that system – as we know it – on the island. "Socialism means social justice and equality, but equality of rights, of opportunities, not of income," he said.

This remarkable declaration represents an embrace of a postmodern version of socialism. Rather than moving Cuba toward European democratic socialism – a capitalist economy with a socialist social-services system – his prescription advocates what amounts to the worst of both worlds: a state-controlled economy in which the government shirks its social responsibilities.

The new path goes well beyond revolutionary Cuba's historically alternating socialist formulas. Che Guevara's preferred model of socialism is based on the application of radical egalitarian measures and the principle of "moral incentives." In that model, individual workers are motivated by spiritual rewards derived from individual sacrifice for the common good.

Then there is the orthodox Marxist-Leninist socialist model, which allows the retention of capitalist vestiges, such as market activities and material incentives including overtime pay, salary bonuses for high productivity workers, and private business activities.

Following several years of applying the Guevarist model, Fidel Castro reintroduced material incentives in 1970, with the hope of improving the economy by increasing worker productivity.

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