We publish here the second part of the debate with Martín Hernandez (member of IWL-FI) that took place at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre during a workshop on “Capitalist Restoration in Cuba”. Its importance can be measured by the presence of six members of the official delegation of Cuba to the Forum.
If you wish to read the first part before, please, click here.
Paola González (Argentine economist):
“I also like studying Cuban economy. In the first place, because what makes the difference between a capitalist society and a socialist society is the private property, the law of inheritance, the free contracting of labour. There is not inheritance in Cuba. It is not like I can buy a car o a house and I can leave it in heritage to my son. I cannot employ people. If I go to Cuba and I want to set up a firm, I cannot have employees. The control of the leasing of labour is under the control of the Cuban State. It is not under the control of private firms. So the surplus value, the profit supposedly extracted form labour, is under the control of the Cuban State. It is not under the control of private companies. If private firms wish to employ people, they have to apply to the state. On the other hand, before talking about the blockade and about the dissolution of the socialist field, we must understand that Cuba is an island, that it has no drinking water, it has no oil, it has no farming land, it has no electricity and that it has none of the things that Brazil has. Once one of the leaders of the revolution told me, “we wish to have made the revolution in Argentina or in Brazil, because here we have absolutely nothing”. When we speak of Cuba we have to remember that there are people living in Cuba, and those people have to be fed, they must have water, they must have light, they have to have gas. So what is the matter? If we do not have light, and we do not have gas, if we do not have oil, if we have nothing, we have to do something. There was a big crisis, a big mobilisation in the year 1994. It was the crisis of the rafts men. The Cuban people moved on to the square and created and impressive havoc. And the “antidemocratic” Cuban government did not repress. It did not use the army. Did not shoot at people, as what we are used to. This “authoritarian” government did not beat the living daylights out of people. This is documented in all the media. Everybody knows this. On the other hand, anyone who says that Gorbachov and Fidel are the same thing, is not saying the truth. Everybody knows that Gorbachov is giving lectures all over the place while Fidel Castro is still defending the achievements of the Cuban revolution. I think it is very important to bear in mind the characteristics of Cuban economy. For this is what really means anything. Cuban economy has to feed all this population. We are all perfectly aware of the power that the masses have when they do not wish to have a certain government and just as they moved in ’94, then they decided that they wanted to keep on fighting to defend this Central Committee and Fidel Castro. They have been speaking of Che Guevara here, and that upset me, for I am Argentine, too. Poor Che Guevara! He died and he cannot speak, but Fidel Castro is alive. I think it is all too easy to be a Guevarist today, because Che Guevara is dead. But it is difficult to be a Castroist, because Castro is alive and he is the only revolutionary pattern that exists for Latin America.”
Carlos (Brazilian physician):
“I wish to recall that in 1991 I went to Cuba twice: first in October and then in December. I had already been to Cuba in 1979. At that time I was at Harvard following a course of studies on public health and I spent almost a month, together with a a group, getting to know the Cuban health system. I returned to take part in a Congress of Paediatrics in ’87, and then once more in 87 twice in 91, in 93, 97 and in the year 2000 and I had the opportunity of accompanying the Cuban society during all this time. There is no other country on earth that would have supported what happened in 1991. No other society. The National B Product dropped overnight 35%. Here, in Brazil, it drops 1% and there is a chaos. Several factories had to close, because they had no way of functioning. The same thing happened with electric energy. They have no oil, so how were they going to make the factories work if they could not import raw material? They could produce neither soap nor toothpaste. It was a dramatic situation, and in spite of this the Cuban people continued supporting Cuban revolution and its leadership. In spite of the fact that in ’93 the USA launched a very strong campaign for people not to go to vote in the election or to emit a blank vote, in the whole of Cuba there was only 7% of null or blank votes. It was 14% in La Havana. In the 97 election the null and blank votes disappeared once more. And how can this be justified? It is the democratic process and the debate that is being carried out around the destiny of Cuba. I even saw on TV countless congresses taking place in Cuba, and Fidel present in all of them, even with the pioneers, to discuss the dramatic situation that existed and the proposals for the “special period”. These proposals were discussed in every corner of the country, in the trade unions and in the neighbourhoods, and then they were finally transformed into law. After a discussion with the rank and file, steps were taken to confront the special period. I wish to recall two important things here. That thing that happened in 1994, that the comrade has already mentioned, when due to a provocation stage up by the gusanos, there started a great upheaval in the square and addressed them with just nine people and would not let anybody use any weapons, and it was just his presence there in the square that made people rally round him and that even there was a demonstration in defence of the Cuban revolution. Finally I would like to contribute another piece of information about something that happened a few days ago. Last week the government put in jail a band of Czechs among whom there was an MP and a minister with money for the counterrevolution. That gave rise to some protests all over the world, principally in the Czech embassy. Well, it was only the day before yesterday that a million Cubans with Fidel at the lead marched in front of the Czech embassy. It was hours and hours of march in front of the embassy to show allegiance of the Cuban people to steps taken by the government. When we talk about the Cuban Revolution, the first thing we must understand is that it will never commit suicide, and if steps were taken, such as the foreign investments, it was absolutely necessary in search of capital, technology and market.”
Leonel (Institute of Agronomy. Member of the Cuban delegation to the Forum):
“There is absolutely no doubt that it is important for the Forum to discuss the problems on the agenda and it is good for it to analyse the situation in Cuba, but of Cuba in her struggle against neoliberalism, in the struggle for a just and higher order. Not to analyse the flaws of determined aspects of Cuban economy, flaws of determined aspects of our political life. I really cannot furnish data, because this is not the most important thing. I simply want to demystify some of the ideas posed by comrade Hernández. I think it is important, because there is either bad interpretation or lack of knowledge. In our country, the Law of Foreign Investments, passed in 1982, was not put into practice until 1996, because it was not necessary, but our Parliament, constituted in 1976, the present day Parliament, assessed how far it would be economically and politically convenient for Cuba to open up potentially to foreign investment, but at that moment, there was the aid from the Soviet Union, there was the Mutual Economic Assistance Council, there was the concrete help from the People’s Republic of China, but there was also the help coming from the Democratic Republic of Germany who provided us with powdered milk for all our population. There was the help coming from Poland in the form of chemicals for farming and the planes for spraying. All our buses came from Hungary, because this was part of an agreement we had with the Mutual Economic Assistance Council: to send them citrus, to send them sugar, and in exchange there came the buses. But then Hungary disappeared. And Democratic Republic of Germany disappeared. When Czechoslovakia was invaded in 1968, our commander in chief, the same we have now, asked the soviets what would they do to Vietnam; the same thing? I mean to say that Cuba has never been a satellite of the Soviet Union. I get worried sometimes, because it would be necessary to arouse Stalin from his tomb. Cuban revolution has nothing to do with that comrade.. It was born and it attacked Moncada when he was dying. We respect all the theoretic positions and the important contribution towards the Russian Revolution made by comrade Trotsky. We respect him as a revolutionary, as the founder of the Red Army, as a member of the Communist Party in those so complex times of whether war or permanent revolution or socialism in one country. He was with Lenin and Lenin considered him to be the most capable man of all the Central Committee. We are therefore not discussing anything like that. I, at least, who come from Social Science and was a lecturer at the Havana University. I studied his ideas and I have nothing against them. Now we have had a 34.5% drop in the IBP, and not in 1992 but as from 1989, which is when the downslide began. When the soviets in the mid-year, the same Mr Gorbachov who paraded here as Fidel’s peer, told us that there would be no more oil coming, when Hungary stopped shipping buses for us, when the Germans did not buy any more of our oranges nor indeed any of our citrus fruit, when no more spraying planes came from Poland. When the Soviet Union that used to give us oil on credit began to sway…
It then became necessary to update the law of foreign investments, in search of capital, technology and market. Because our technology was sovietic, it was Bulgarian. And the central sugar mills had soviet technology and our aeroplanes were Russian of the year 1962, because we had no money to buy DC10. But we did not hand our property over to foreign capital. In Cuba the telephone company is still state property. With 51% Cuban capital and the workers are all Cuban. With no foreign entrepreneurs. The same thing happens in the region where oil is extracted, which made it possible to be no more electric cuts in La Havana. Because a Canadian company furnished the capital and technology, and our engineers, who are just as capable as they are, and have been educated in Cuba and not in Harvard, are prepared to tackle this.
Cuba is a country where there are no kidnappings, no bombs, no explosives, no drugs. There are some prostitutes, that is true, but they are not unprotected. Prostitutes with children, and with children’s circles, in very god health, they will last 76 years, for this is the average life expectancy in our country. Prostitutes with schools. Prostitutes who, if they have heart problems, we shall operate on them free for nothing. They are, therefore prostitutes for shampoo and jeans, and are not like what the comrade calls “a dramatic case”.
We have not given away any land in Cuba; the banking system I Cuban. What brings about all this talk about foreign banks? What is the matter? That is where comrade’s Hernandez’s confusion comes from. I believe that comrade Hernandez has his criteria. I think he has analysed them and presented them here decently. I believe that it is right to debate like this. But what is the matter? There is an error. The banks that exist in Cuba exist, among other things, in order to give us capital so that we can implant technology and search for markets. What is happening? Cuba cannot carry out transactions in dollars. Cuba has to operate in liras, in yens, in pesetas, so we have to bring banks that would back us, foreign banks. There are no foreign hotels in Cuba. The Sol Meliá chain is Spanish and it provides capital. We contribute the Cuban personnel. Three Spanish executives administer it for ten years. They take away their profits and they leave us their technology, their gastronomic culture, their culture of waiting on the clients and a five-star hotel to boot, but the terrain is ours. Who says we have lost it? Our revolution is not idyllic. Our revolution has a lot of flaws. Our political process is full of flaws. But our greatest enemy is the United States. A nine days ago a new president took over, who may be aggressive with Cuba. We cannot be debating in Cuban society anything that is not sovereignty. How to educate our children. How to take culture to all. To keep the infant death rate low. How to avoid the prostitutes. How to control the sex tourists who may arrive. To finish I wish to assure you of three things. Firstly, something that this Marxist, Leninist and Trotskyist comrade who spoke here knows. In Cuba the power over the means of production has been retained. No means of production is to be found in foreign hands. We have the political power which is something the Perestroika and the Glasnost have given away. That is why there is no way of comparing these things. And this is something he knows very well, too. Thirdly, do not worry about Fidel’s age. First of all, because he is very healthy. It is true that he is reaching that dangerous age and everybody has to die, but in Cuba revolution will be continued. Just as other revolutions were continued, and those that were not it is because they started debated around esoteric, Utopian and abstract issues. The chairman of our Parliament, Ricardo Alarcón, was 21 years old when the revolution triumphed. Today he is 63 and is one of the old leaders that we still have n the country. Our Prime Minister is 49. All the governors of the provinces are men of fifty. Our ministers were born with the revolution. Our revolution will be continued. We are thankful for that and we wish to state that we do not want abstract revolutions. Revolutions take place on earth and are fought against the yanks. Thank you very much.”
Martín Hernandez (IWL-FI):
“I would like to pose an opinion and also point out to some problems, especially in relation to the comrades who have criticised my contribution. I understand and I respect the opinion of those comrades who, confronting my criticism, have responded by giving an unconditional support to Fidel and to the leadership of the Cuban State. Why do I understand it? Because history proves that when there is a deep revolution, one that has cause so many transformations like the Cuban Revolution, one that has had such an impact on the whole planet in general and on Latin America in particular, the natural response to any criticism is to come out with an unconditional defence, no matter what may happen. And yet I do believe that a mistake is being committed here. The defence of the Cuban Revolution – which is not under discussion here - is mistaken for the defence of its leadership – which is under discussion.
Once this is said, I would like to return to two or three issues that I posed just now. In the first place, I have been told that what I was saying is not true and that nothing has essentially changed in Cuba. The revolution is continued. Now let me ask you something. Does the monopoly of foreign trade still exist? The comrades are telling me that we are not witnessing an idyllic revolution, and they are right here. Anybody who thinks that there can be a revolution with no contradictions of any type is absolutely wrong. There are so many contradictions that in Russia, in the first years of the revolution there was a NEP – a new Economic Policy – that means giving great concessions to capitalism. There are no pink revolutions. But comrades, I am not talking of pink revolutions. I agree perfectly with the fact that at a determined moment – and perhaps this is the determined moment for Cuba – if such is the need, foreign loans are to be sought, aid and investments are to be requested. Life is like that. Any worker, if he has such a need, will go to a bank to try and get a loan. And it is not because he is in favour of the bank, but because he needs the money. But this is not what I am discussing in relation with Cuba. I wouldn’t argue that – faced with need – should not ask for foreign help. My contention is that the Law of Foreign investments is regulates the giving away of the country to the foreign capital. The clearest expression of this is the fact that the State no longer had the monopoly of the foreign trade. And that is what the law says; it’s not something I’ve invented. So let me ask you: is this true or is it just slander? Because what I am reading here is a copy of the law that we bought in Havana, not an interpretation of mine. It is therefore useless, comrades, in a debate of this type, to raise our voices and try to win the discussion by shear screams. And I say this for the two sectors of comrades who are present here. And I return to my question: is the monopoly of the foreign trade in the hands of the State or is the foreign trade in the hands of the companies? What does the law say about it, and furthermore: what is happening in reality today?
As for the contribution of comrade Paola from Argentina. She made a description of Cuba that has not much to do with reality. Cuba is a country that has always lived in a difficult situation, ever since the first moment of the revolution. And that is precisely why the headway made in that country is so extraordinary, because it was made there. But I really do not know where she got the data for her report from? She said that Cuba had no farming land, no water and no oil. It is simply not true. It has so much farming land that sugar cane is one of its great products. It is not that Cuba has no oil. It has oil. And it is precisely my contention that oil is being given away to Canadian firms. It is a country that has extraordinary resources, and just to quote an example, look at the nickel it has. Cuba is a country whose economy rests on the monoculture of sugar, but not because there is nothing else to have; it is one of the negative aspects of the soviet aid, which mean supporting the country, but maintaining it in the monoculture. The original project of Che Guevara consisting in the industrialisation of the country was never carried out.
On the other hand the comrade says that there is no restoration, because it is not the companies but the state who takes on employees. This is a fact, but it says nothing about restoration or no restoration. Not a greater or smaller number of privates companies determines whether there is or there isn’t restoration. For example, in Venezuela, a typically capitalist country, 58% of the production comes from state owned companies. This is not what defines the character of the State. What in my opinion determines the class character of a State is the type of property and the kind of production relations that the State protects and defends. That is why I pointed out the example of the NEP in the Soviet Union. The NEP meant enormous concessions to capitalism, up to the point where 8o% of the land remained in private hands. And why did the USRR continue being a workers’ state? Because the strategy of this state was to develop the state owned property and non capitalist relations of production, and these were the ones that most grew during the time of the NEP.
Now those of you who are criticising me, should forget all about shouting and stop acting indignant about what I say, for this will not help towards the debate, and you will have to tell me who is favoured by this Law of Foreign Investments that I have quoted, and within this framework, you have to tell me what is the policy that the Spanish, or the Canadian bourgeoisie, or the bourgeoisie of the EU as a whole have for Cuba, and in what way should we, who defend the Cuban Revolution, should respond to this policy. And I pose this question because it is my opinion that European imperialism, with Spain in the lead, often acting as front men for German and American capitals, are trying to re-colonise Cuba. And I am not the only one who says this. There is a brochure for entrepreneurs that has been circulating widely all over Europe; it is an invitation to go to Cuba, because, as they say, Cuba is a fiscal paradise and as for labour, they say something similar to what the comrade has just said, only that they say it form the point of view of entrepreneurs. They say that the Cuban State is the greatest thing, for it guarantees a high level of education, health and housing. That is what the imperialists are saying, not I, and that is why they go to Cuba. So, what I want to say it is not whether foreign investments or loans ought to be sought for or not. What I am saying is that the opening up of Cuba meant the end of central planning of economy and the end of state monopoly of foreign trade. The Argentine comrade says that private property of the means of production is not returning. So let me ask you: why has the Constitution been reformed in 1992 introducing precisely this topic, the issue of the private property of the means of production?”
Valentin Sosa (Doctor in economic Science. Leader of the National Association of Economists and Accountants in Cuba. Member of the Association of Economists of Latin America and the Caribbean. Member of the Cuban delegation to the Forum):
“The atmosphere is rather heated and I would like to help to soothe it. We, the Cubans, are used to staying calm in the most difficult moments, so take it easy.
In the first place, on behalf of the Cuban delegation, we wish to thank you for the opportunity of taking part in the first World Social Forum that is anti-Davos and not anti-Cuba. In the second place to acknowledge that as Cuban we are proud of having been born in the land that Christopher Columbus called the fairest land human eyes have even beheld, the land of General Antonio Macedo, our “Titan of bronze”, the land of Carlos Manuel de Cepedes, the father of the fatherland, the land of Jose Marti, our national hero, and the land of our dear commandant Fidel Castro.
I wish to start where the colleague left off and give some information that is very important for everybody. Precisely today – from January 29th till February 2, the Third Encounter of Economists is being held in Cuba to discuss globalisation and problems of development. It is one of World’s greatest events. The first characteristic of this event is that it is a democratic occasion. Over fifteen organisations and bodies are taking part in it. The World Bank, International Monetary Fund, social scientists, researchers, and all those who wish to tackle the wide span of themes related to the world economy, its socio-economic impact, the financial flows, the integration of Latin America and other topic related to the development of the region of Latin America and the Caribbean and of the whole world. This event has an important feature, for it is Cuba who is calling them all together to talk. That is, today everybody goes to Cuba to express their opinions - neo-liberals, Marxists, neo-Keynesians, structuralists - all these people are taking part. In the first place, of course, to solve the problems of the world. So I beg you to remain calm, as a Cuban, as a Marxist, to express opinions. We are making this event, which is very important, and we invite you to it. Perhaps next January another meeting like this will take place. I believe it important for you to have a chance to get to know Cuban reality and to get to know Cuba in its own place.
I want to make some adjustments, for the comrade’s contribution has been very interesting, but the association of economists and CEPAL has a high level of updating in figures that one must know how to handle.
First of all, in 1990, after the downfall of the European socialist field and after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Cuban economy began to be faced with the deepest crisis of its history. That is no secret. This crisis was increased by the opportunist aggravating of the blockade by the United States there since 1962. In the early part of the 90s, the effects of the special period were becoming sharper. As early as 1986, at the Congress of the Party, the leadership foresaw that we, the Cubans, would have to be able to solve those internal economic problems that we had inherited, for obviously we don’t have a perfect system, we inherited from the socialist system and we committed some errors. That is not a secret either. This process has exceptional features.
The first steps taken aimed at achieving a opening towards the outer lands and together with it, the reinsertion of Cuba in the new panorama of international economy. But we must not forget that up to that time, between 80 and 85% of our foreign trade was with the countries of the socialist block. The decision to open the economy to foreign capital, mainly through the creation of mixed companies, with a majority control by Cuban, was introduced into legislation in 1982 and it reached its maturity with the new Law of Foreign Investments. The fundamental aim of this law was to gain access to international financing, technology and markets, and so to make up for the loss of the links with the former socialist block. Logically, when all this was lost, we had to look for technology and markets. Cuba is very proud of having qualified labour. It is the result of an investment that the State had made ever since the triumph of the revolution.
Another important decision was to establish the principles of equity that would precede the adjustment consisting in trying to preserve the employment, the workers’ income, to keep up the level of health, education and social security, for they are all important achievements. In spite of the crisis these values have been preserved even if they have been preserved in few countries in the world. Within the field of economic policy, efforts centred round economic activities capable of generating the most dynamic incomes in currencies, in tourism and priority sectors of economy. In July 1922, National Assembly introduced changes in the Constitution so as to advance in the process of transformations; among other things the possibility of incorporating state property to mixed companies and this form of property was admitted. State monopoly was also banned from the carrying out of foreign commercial operations. I think this is important. Simultaneously, important political changes were introduced, such as direct elections through a secret vote for national members of parliament. Together with this, there is the postulating of candidates directly by the population- That is much more important. Additionally, the government system has been improved by the creation of Popular Councils that constitute the basic echelon for the better knowledge of the decisions that have anything to do with problems that affect the community. In a more general sense, I believe that we can say that as far as opening outward is concerned, the most important decisions have been assign of the new mining law that updates the existing legislation and incorporates the international norms in that sphere, and the promulgation of a new law of foreign investments aiming at the purpose I have just explained. This law has aroused great international interest for it offers investors guarantees that are similar to those they would be granted abroad. In this way, they will be free to sell or to transmit their total or partial share in freely convertible currency and will be able to request extension of the term of their operations. So far, foreign investments in Cuba have reached the sum of 4 100 million dollars. Investors input can be made freely convertible currency, machinery, fittings and other tangible possessions, copyrights,. The law also includes the establishment of free zones for industries, with a special regime in questions of Customs duties, exchange, taxes, in order to encourage exports and international commerce.
We believe that Cuba, without resorting to neoliberal patterns and recipes imposed from abroad, is re-activating the main productive branches and here I would like to quote some figures that have not yet been mentioned during this plenary meeting. The investments that are most important for our development have not been stopped and it has been proved that a small and besieged country can progress without forsaking any of the social benefits achieved during the four decades of revolution. The positive tendency of Cuban economy has stated becoming manifest as from 1995, when economy begins to grow at 2.5 of IBP. We can say that as from 1996, the factors that give an impulse to the dynamic of development are consolidated; economic transformations show the gradual orientation of Cuban economy towards conditions of efficiency and competitiveness of international economy. This is an important element. Basic social indicators have been kept in spite of all the want for essentials suffered in these years. The rate of infant mortality is a 7.1 per thousand born alive, which is the lowest in all the history of the revolution. Not one single school has been closed down and the pensioned people collect their pensions.
In spite of the continuity of the blockade, the Report on the Human Development admits that Cuba takes a second place among the countries with the lowest level of human poverty within the category of the underdeveloped. This is an undeniable achievement. In spite of all the limitations and all the restrictions, I would like to finish off by saying that we, the Cubans, really feel quite optimistic about our model of economic development. We do not recommend our model to anybody, but we do feel satisfied with the work we are doing. There are three reasons for that. First, because the most important thing is the people, the most important thing is man. Second, because the role of the government is aimed at preserving the fundamental achievements of the workers, of the people, of our intellectuals. And thirdly, because it has been proved that united people cannot be beaten. We have the example of that child, Elián Gonzales, whom the people of Cuba accompanied for six months and with that unity we proved that he had to return to Cuba. This also goes to show what we, the Cubans are like when we have to fight against any adversity. We want to thank you and to prove that we are convinced that neo-liberalism pursues fundamentally to increase inequality among nations and to oppress people. We are convinced that socialism is the fundamental word that defends the social bases and social justice of the people. Thank you very much.”
“The character of the discussion that is being posed here, that has already been well expressed by comrade Hernandez, is about the character of the State. This is the main thing we have to discuss here. The economist comrade from Argentina has posed a number of situations, a series of elements in relation to Cuba, only being an economist, she simply forgot to define where is the surplus value going, for surplus value exists in a State even when the State is socialist. This 49% of the mixed societies that are in possession of foreign capital. Where does its surplus value go? Does it go to the Cuban working class, or to sectors of imperialism? It this surplus value realised in order to bring improvement and progress to Cuban society, or does it go to fatten the benefits of imperialism that is settling down in Cuban society?
There is a book and a film that I believe most of those present here know. It is called “Animal Farm”, where the pigs who had carried out the socialist revolution, were changing the socialist mandates little by little while arriving at agreements with imperialism, and so the defeat of the socialist system came as a result of concessions granted to imperialism.
It is obvious, as comrade Hernandez has pointed out here, that we will defend the Cuban revolution, that we defend the socialist revolution in the USSR in the same way as we defend all the socialist revolutions, which were beaten as has been pointed out here by some comrades, by leaderships that were established there and whom people trusted blindly that they were heading towards development, to end the State and to globalising of socialism. And yet what have we seen? What happened with the revolutions of European east? Was it that the masses, having broken off their chains rushed out into the streets to shout for the political revolution that we were defending? That this was the end of the bureaucratic state? That this was the end of those who were there usurping the wealth produced in a socialist society? Or did they ran into the arms of imperialism believing that it was in imperialism where salvation was to be found? Comrades, these leaderships set beck and delayed the process of world revolution.
As to what the comrade said, the one who went to Cuba and saw how people discussed. I shall ask you. How many Cuban people went to cast their ballots to defend the surplus value produced in Cuba should be taken away from the people and handed over to imperialism? Just how democratic was this consultation made? Is the Cuban people aware of what is going on?”
Leandro Paixão (Member of the PSTU – Brazil):
“I am a militant of the homosexual movement and I decided to join PSTU and the IWL because in PSTU and in IWL I saw what is also on our flag: diversity, respect to criticism, and I saw this inside our party. There is space inside our party. Now I just wanted to say one thing. Here I had the right to say what I said but if I were in Cuba, I would not have this right. In Cuba, homosexuality is considered a degeneration of capitalism and I do not see myself that way. I think you do not think this way either. I think that you respect the brothers and sisters, the friends who are gay or lesbian and that you believe that they have a right to live and not to go to jail, because in Cuba, when the revolution was made, homosexuals were sent to jail, but not in Russia. When the Russian revolution triumphed, the first thing they did was to abolish the laws against homosexuality, but Stalinism later on destroyed this. That is why I say, a revolution is a complete revolution or it is not a revolution.
Mario Moreira (Sub-director of the NGO Association for the Unity of Our America. Member of the Cuban delegation to the Forum):
“First of all I wish to support the criterion of the Cuban delegation of respecting the diverse opinions that can be hear in this hall and to thank for the backing we have received in this great Forum that has been summoned for the first time. I certainly do agree with comrade Hernandez when he says that it is a pity that there should have been no Cuban presence of specialist who could give lectures for this would have probably cleared up many doubts. Many statistics have been presented here in relation to the reduction of the number of working positions to be taken in the early 90s, which logically affected society as such, but what has not been said is that those people perceive 60% of their salaries. There is no person in the world in any other country that would collect money for not having a job. Cuban State guaranteed 60% of the salary of all these people, and yet, as early as 1997 (it is a pity that these figures should not be available) thousand of Cuban workers have been incorporated to their posts. It is a pity that these figures from Internet are not used so as to be more updated with the economic information, because there is a big difference between what the tabloids say and what real life in Cuba is. And I want to insist that you visit Cuba and see that reality is different. Of course not everybody will be able to do so, but it really is not the same thing to visit Cuba in 1991 and to visit Cuba now. There is a change, not towards capitalism, to make thins quite clear about that, but towards the preservation of social achievements. There might be other changes in the social sphere. Cuba is moving towards changes in the social transformations, but she defends many social achievements, as she has always done, and unfortunately, these achievements are not shown to the world. A lot is being said about the deterioration of public health. What country on earth, with a deteriorated health service can maintain child mortality at 7.2 per thousand during several years, and life expectancy at 76 years of age? What country with deteriorated health service can afford this luxury? I am posing this question to you.
On behalf of the Cuban delegation we want to express our gratitude; we are barely twelve people what among students, workers, non-government organisations and statesmen. It is a pity that many of the questions posed here were not posed for the panel where the chairman of the National Assembly of Cuba was. And just so that you can see how democratic he was, for those who took part, that twice somebody, a girl, a French journalist, interrupted him recklessly, and yet he was kind and answered exactly what he had to answer.
Once again we wish to thank the organisers of the forum very much and we hope that Porto Alegre will keep on being the capital of the II Social World Forum, and where the organising committee, if I may be allowed to say so, will summon a more significant Cuban presence so as to show what our country really is.
Giovani (Member of the leadership of University Students’ Federation. Member of the Cuban Delegation to the Forum):
“I represent a students’ federation that for over 78 years has been committed to the people in defence of the interest of the authentic people. When the revolution wins in 1959, my students’ federation – and I say “my students’ federation” with a tremendous pride, I say it with a feeling of belonging, I say it with a feeling of extraordinary nationalism - my students’ federation continued being a mass organisation that represented the interests of university students of my country, with the only difference that before 2959 my Federation existed only in the only three universities of the Cuban bourgeois elites, and at present, thanks to the Cuban socialist revolution under the leadership of our Commander in Chief, it is present in 78 universities, centres of higher studies of that tiny little blocked island, this isle of the Caribbean, with 78 centres of higher studies.
I am also speaking on behalf of the Latin American Students, because I have a right to do so and I am authorised to do so, for I represent an organisation of Latin American Students, which is presided over by the FEU of Cuba, and that presidency is no coincidence. It happens because Latin American students are so proud of Cuban students. I have come here to speak also as a Cuban and there is no self-sufficiency about it, but I wish to thank my country for this wonderful school of medical science. It is the Latin American School of Medical Science of la Havana. In this country that is under a blockade from the United States, in this country that has been permanently at war for the past 42 years. What government in Latin America, what government in this world has opened its gate for 2 000 young Latin Americans for them to study - free of any charge – and then go back to their country to practise the sacred career in medicine? I am not an economist, but if my teacher of political economy were here, she would have suffered a massive heart attack, and she would die. I’m not an economist and much less I have learned from Cubanologs. Do you know who Cubanologs are? Cubanologs are those petty intellectuals, those politicians who, from Miami, talk about the reality of my country. I am not a Cubanologist, but I am a Cuban, born with the revolution. I was not lucky enough to – generationally speaking – of being with Fidel in the Gramma, of going to Moncada, and much less of climbing with him the Sierra Maestra.
Just look at that belly. To keep it that fat, you have to feed it. You have to feed the people of Cuba and if in 1989 or in 1992 the need to open up economically had not been perceived, today we, the university students, would not be here and what is more, we would not be there.
My generation – I am 28 years old – is the generation of the bicycle, because when we ran out of oil, buses could no longer go to the university centres. But my generation is also like yours, one that saw lecturers like you, politologists like you, theoreticians like you, like all those who are here. My generation is the one who saw those university lecturers take off their coats and their collars and take a bicycle and turn up every morning at seven sharp at our Cuban universities in order to keep on teaching us how to think because in Cuba, yes, it is true, there is foreign investment; yes, it is true, there is some prostitution. That is not a lie. But in Cuba we have a well-educated youth and a well-educated nation. In Cuba we have education. Just look at that! A blockaded country, a country besieged by the United States, but a country that opens a TV channel for all the people, workers, peasants, women, Negroes, all have a chance to accede freely to knowledge.
Of course there are homosexuals and Lesbians. Cuba, as a nation has its great flaws and its great virtues, Cuba has its great glories but, more than that, what characterises a Cuban, what characterises the revolution, and what those Cubanologists cannot forgive, is this intrinsic rebellion in Latin American blood. Neither did we speak here in this plenary about the Cuban solidarity with the rest of Latin America in the middle of this special period. Nobody spoke about the Cuban doctors who are today in Central America.
The fact that Cuba has forgiven the foreign debt to all those countries affected by the hurricane Mish.
Neither did we speak about the “thinking tanks”. Do you know who the thinking tanks are? They are the American theoreticians, those of the only American party. Because it is said that in Cuba there is only one party. But America, the elite of democracy, is the one who has only one party. The thinking tanks are the ones who now are brainstorming to see what will happen in Cuba when Fidel Castro passes away.
Look, the main concern of my generation is not what will happen in Cuba after the Castro era. Because in Cuba there will never be a post Castro era. In Cuba, we are getting ready for a post-empire era. And this forum should project itself for this alternative. This was the optimism and this still is the faith and trust we have. This Forum has to be this alternative for all; absolutely all of us get ready and fight, not for the post-Castro era, not for the post-revolution era. And it is here that Cuba is a world reference, because for all our virtues and our flaws, nobody can deny that Cuba is the lighthouse that sheds light on to the American continent, the lighthouse that sheds light on to all the world left.
Which revolution, what government has done so much for its people in the 42 years? And you, who are a historian, you should know that 42 years is nothing as historical term. Absolutely nothing. What nation, what country has done so much for its people as Cuba with the comrade Fidel? The Eilián case was mentioned here. How stupid they were! The ones of Miami were very stupid- To try and keep that child back! To try and play with that conscience! They united us more. We turned out to be stronger than before. We are stronger from the ideological point of view; and what matters here is not economy but ideology, what matters are the values, what matters is the culture. Our culture. That is why being Cubans, diverse, plural, ample, we respect those who respect us. Those who analyse Cuba from Cuba. Cuban from Cuba. The Cuban thing from the Cuban thing. Not from the satellites to the Cuban. Because we are a very respectful people. Our revolution, as it was said here, is not a copy of anything it was not a satellite of anybody, because if it were a copy that carbon paper would have grown old by now. If it had been a satellite, the aerial would have fallen off, because there are no more resources to keep them up straight. We are simply a project of our own and we are to be understood as a project of our own, and also remember here, from a revolutionary vision, what the Sovereign Pontiff told the world community when he was in Havana. He said that “Cuba had to open up to the world, but it is now necessary for the world to open to Cuba.” As Cubans, we are not in the least bit afraid of this opening.
In April the students had the immense opportunity, that nobody has ever had, that a ruler like the comrade Fidel should receive 6 014 students coming from 38 countries for a Latin American congress to discuss the cuts in the educational budgets, for governments would not allow more than 6% for education. My university does not discuss such topics. We, the Cuban students, have no need to face this budget discussion. Our discussion is in the field of culture, in the field of ideas, in the field of perfecting this work done by humans, and as human that we are, we are subject to errors. Martí used to say that the thankless see much more than spots in the sun. I am thankful and I would rather see the sun-beams, just like here, in Porto Alegre. Why? Because I am thankful to Porto Alegre for having received me, and to this sun that is shining upon me.”
Jossara Cony (Brazilian National Deputy, Member of the Central Committee of PCdoBrasil):
“I agree entirely with comrade Hernadez when he says that a debate of this type should have been carried out in a much larger auditorium where there would have been a chance for many more people to take part, because it is my contention that this debate, apart from delimiting a decisive discussion for this World Social Forum, is a lesson to learn. It is a lesson for us in the present day stage of class struggle. I am a member of the Central Committee of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Brazil (PcdoB) and I made it a point to speak here in order to contribute, with all the revolutionary serenity, towards this debate. It is a lesson for us, comrades, because depending on how certain decisive points are approached and how they are interpreted, not only for the revolutionary Cuba but also for the revolutionary struggle and the learning of mankind, we may either encourage revolutionary attitudes or counterrevolutionary attitudes.
One of the issue under debate here is democracy. In my opinion, if we are to have an internationalist lookout, it is our duty as Brazilians, as Latin Americans to deepen this issue of democracy. For in my mind, and in the opinion of my party, democracy is to be approached from a class standpoint, and democracy from a class standpoint implies revolutionary watchfulness against counterrevolutionary attitudes when there is the will to build a new structure for a society that would guarantee the authentic emancipation of the people in the political, economic, social and spiritual sense because counterrevolution is there, all over the world, to try and prevent us from achieving emancipation; and it is my opinion that from the standpoint of revolutionary watchfulness, the Cuban people with its leaders, today under the leadership of Fidel, and to be in the future under the leadership of those who have been formed in the revolutionary process, are teaching us the meaning of revolutionary watchfulness. I went to Cuba for the 7th International Seminar on Primary Health Care and to a seminar on medicinal plants. But before I go on to the experience I had there, I wish to explain what I mean by how counterrevolutionary or revolutionary attitudes can be generated. I believe that its is one thing to call for a discussion and to discuss the problems of Cuba from the standpoint of revolutionary proletariat, of international solidarity, to discuss things from a critical vision. But it is something altogether different to transform a workshop like this into a discussion on restoration of capitalism in Cuba. This is a counterrevolutionary attitude.
We have to keep calm, above all when there is a dispute going on hegemony over the ideological viewpoint on what we want for the working class all over the world. What I mean is that there, in Cuba, I saw a nation learning and feeling the spirit of solidarity. Something new, unfinished, being carried out by humans, because the experience of the peoples have their dynamics linked by multiple subjective and objective factors; who does not understand this, and does not understand it as from what Cuba is doing, with all the feeling of my political militancy and of the commitments of my party, I say that he does encourage counterrevolutionary attitudes.”
Ricardo (Leader of Labour Party of Mexico):
“With the downfall of the soviet bloc, just as all the parties that sustain the socialist project, we were concerned to see what errors had been committed in the Soviet Union. What were them that we would have to be careful not to do when we shall build socialism. It was with this concern in our minds that we took part in a seminar to work out a balance sheet of the building of socialism, to analyse what had gone wrong in the Soviet Union and why Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam and China the socialist project was still on.
I believe that before jumping at rash conclusions, we must have the modesty of learning and become disciples of the teachings of those peoples who have managed to make headway with the socialist project and who have had important victories. I think that if there is anything we have to set aside, it is dogmatism. There can be various socialist models, not only one. When we talk of the monopoly of foreign trade as a basic condition for building socialism, it just may not be like that. Perhaps it is possible to build socialism without so much monopoly, with more society, perhaps, and not so much statism. And I think we still have a lot to learn. They are but the very first attempts at building socialism and I think we must remain open to learning those lessons that the Cuban people are teaching us, that the Korean people are teaching us, that the Vietnamese people are teaching us, that the Chinese people are teaching us and also the people of Libya who call themselves socialist. There is a lot to learn, and I believe that this kind of seminars, if we leave out the heated part, may be useful for that.
What we wish to let you know is that the memos of the seminars that we have had in Mexico are at the disposal of anybody interested in knowing them. Several experiences are synthesized there. Comrades from Cuba took part and so did comrades from Vietnam and Korea and there were diverse opinions, which is natural. For example, there were Cuban academicians who sustained that in Cuba we were building socialism, but we were not in socialism yet. Then there were the comrades who said that we were. But I do think that there had been an important debate on this issue. I think the main aim is to see the errors that were committed so that we should not commit them in the future and to back each other because I think we cannot let the search for errors divide us. I think that what we should keep up is the ideological discussion but always minding the unity against imperialism and in favour of our peoples. That is why I believe that in this debate, even if we do not finish it and even if do not arrive at many conclusions, cannot prevent us from – at least in the policy – being united even if in the ideological aspect we shall maintain the debate that should be fruitful and passionate for we have to carry passion into politics. In the ideological, scientific and academic fields we must be cool to be able to understand our opponent in the discussion and to be able to learn more, with an open mind that will allow us to commit as few mistakes as possible in the future.”
Breno Altman (journalist for the magazine “Reportagem” of Brazil):
“First of all I wish to congratulate the Cuban comrades for the enormous patience they have when facing the topic that have been expressed here. A patience that I must admit that I do not have, and I do not have this patience because of a very important element that is in the very topic of the debate and that explains the reaction of several of the comrades. If we draw all the conclusions from the analysis that capitalism has been restored in Cuba, all links of solidarity with this state stemming out of the Cuban revolution and with that political leadership have been undone for we can have no links of solidarity with a capitalist state, not to mention the leadership that has – according to this analysis – played the counterrevolutionary role especially since it is the same leadership. The political conclusion that can be drawn from the analysis that there has been a capitalist restoration in Cuba is that the Communist Party of Cuba, under the leadership of Fidel Castro, is a counterrevolutionary leadership that deserves no solidarity. If we remember that the left in Latin America has been built up to a great extent on the basis of the values and the experience of Cuban revolution, this means form the point of view of the perception of the left like a blow with a closed fist in the middle of your stomach, a slap in the face. Small wonder therefore that they should respond indignantly.
This contribution by comrade Hernández reminds me of that old story of this man who, instead of buying a shoe of the size of his foot, ties to make the foot become the size of the shoe. A certain mould is forged and then you have to find the concepts so as to try and preserve that mould. An extremely important conclusion that must be discussed after 70 years of socialist experience and after the collapse of the socialist world, is the old idea that functioned as a flag of Trotsky’s way of reasoning, that socialism in only one country was not possible. Since socialism in one country was not possible, and many times socialist experiences were tackled with concepts that tried to prove that thesis. This is one of them. To say that in Cuba, as socialism in one country was not possible, Cuba could not be socialist, and so what happened in Cuba was capitalist restoration. A capitalist restoration without the essential ingredients of capitalist restoration. Because a new bourgeoisie did not come into being there, there was no appropriation of property into capitalist hands; Cuba lives a historically dramatic situation that was the share of all the socialist revolutionary movement: that revolutions triumphed in poor countries. When Russia made the revolution in 1917, she had to face this problem. There was no original accumulation of capital and wealth there that would have allowed some progress towards socialism and the situation of isolation was extreme. In this situation, Russia had to resort to the NEP (New Economic Policy) whose slogan was – for a long time – “peasants, get rich”, because after the I World War and after the civil war, there was a need to feed the Russian people. The essential element of the NEP from the point of view of statistics was the enormous development of private farming production, so much so that in the late 20s it generated the crisis of the scissors, for the peasants retained the food and so threatened the working class. Cuba has been through a situation in which she lost a third of its internal production and had to resort to the so-called “special period” which the Cuban leadership overtly took upon itself. The phrase pronounced by Fidel in his 1989 speech was: “We have to defend the achievements of the revolution even if this means several steps backwards in the building of socialism and the adoption of policies that would allow Cuba to accumulate the wealth once again to take up the struggle for a new system.” I think we have to avoid imposing our models on other countries. It was equally wrong to try and import models from other countries. The fact that here, in Brazil, there are workers’ assemblies with several tendencies, with various parties; this is not a question of principles as far as workers’ democracy is concerned. The fact that there may be only one party does not by itself damage workers’ democracy. I believe that the Cuban comrades have the right to choose, through their own experience, the model of building their political regime.”
Miguel (Leader of the TCT, Central de Trabajadores Cubanos. Member of the Cuban delegation to the Forum):
“The first thing that one can breathe here in this debate, in this hall, is the recognition of and the love for the Cuban revolution, something we are very thankful for, because it is on this love, recognition and solidarity that the revolution has thrived, essentially in those hard time, that we believe were precisely the nineties. There have been opinions here of every kind. Some of more knowledge on Cuban reality, others not so much. In some cases one can see that some do not know anything about the Cuban revolution, but that’s the way things are: it takes all kind to make the world. But I think that what really stands out is that: this feeling. There is message we always give to our friends, and it is that if there is anything that really helps us, the Cuban people, is that they should not idealise us.
We are a people in colours, not just black and white. Our society has all kinds of shades. It is true that we do have the paradise we would like to have, but then we do not live in the hell they say we live in. In order to really understand the Cuban problem, we must know what the Cuban revolution was. What the roots of the Cuban revolution are. Our roots are not in the October revolution. Our roots are in last century, in Martí’s ideas. It is this ideology that has supported us, and then, of course we also embraced the ideas of a more just cause, that are identified with the cause of social justice. Today a lot is being said about whether there is restoration, which is the way, etc. Look, something very simple has happened in Cuba. An old Chinese proverb that is being often repeated there says “When you feel hot, what you must do is to open the windows to let fresh air in”. That is what was happening with us. The problem is that together with the air, the bugs come in. We had to do it. Open the windows for the air to come in, for if we didn’t we would remain pure, but we would die: we would die chemically pure. That would have been our fate. We knew that bugs would come in and the truth is that social figures appeared that were almost unknown, as is this question of the prostitution. There has been corruption. There have been other equally negative manifestations that were unknown in my generation. The problem is just how we – and this was what we did – could get hold of our own insecticide to put an end to the bugs, for what there has been none of is impunity. There has been a will, from the point of view of social planning, of solving, of responding to the challenge that all this meant. At this stage there were determined prices that we had to pay. And we knew it. In the social sphere, but also in the political one. There were those whose knees shook when faced up against the difficulties. And we knew that. The point is that Cuban people have a history and a lot of blood was shed to make the revolution. I find it really hurtful that there should be friends, with no evil intention, from any old part of the world, stand up and make a great criticism to the revolution. And I do not say that this is the case, but all I say is: What other country in the world can put up with it for forty years? First of all it is a revolution ninety miles off the coast of USA. None other did it. We did it. And then sustain it for forty years in spite of the blockade. And here there are those who say that the blockade is a half-truth. No! The blockade is an absolute truth. An absolute truth, because in the midst of the disappearance of the socialist field, what emerges first is the Torricelli Law and the Helms Burton, which are expressions of the strengthening of the American will to sink the Cuban revolution. And it is no coincidence. There is no pure calendar coincidence in these dates. So I say, well, nobody did it. Nobody kept it going for forty years. But when all is said and done, what is now happening in Cuba has something to do with the will of the Cubans. That is the way we are, because that is the way we feel like being. And we defend our desire to be like that. Somebody has said, and I share this opinion, “let us not pretend to make them do it our way”. I am quite straightforward about it. They are going to fail at it. We copy nobody, and that is why it works, because this is an authentically Cuban revolution and we did not follow anyone, as they say in baseball, the bad balls. So, comrades, on behalf of the Cuban trade union movement, what I must say is that we are thankful for your will that our revolution should keep on being a socialist revolution. We, the Cuban, feel very sure. We know the historic responsibility we have taken upon ourselves of being the point of reference, of which, unfortunately, there are very few left. But trust the Cuban people for we will not betray you, nor shall we betray ourselves, nor mankind in those days. Thank you very much.
“Several of those present here have criticised me very severely for ‘a complete lack of knowledge of what was happening in Cuba’, so I must ask those comrades to forget all I have just said about Cuba and to take into account only the data that comrade Valentín from Cuba has given you. Because what comrade Valentín has done is to make an objective description of what is happening in Cuba. What I say said is exactly the same thing this comrade says. All my data agree perfectly well with his, because – as I have already said – they proceed from the same source. All this data comes from the Cuban government, and those that do not come directly from the government, come from CEA (Centro de Estudios sobre América – Centre of Studies on America) of Havana, which most certainly comrade Valentín knows. I tried to be extremely careful when taking the official information as correct. So let me repeat. Just take into account what comrade Valentín says. This is a very deep discussion. All of us, revolutionaries, are facing a challenge that has a lot to do with the future of Cuba, which is also the future of Latin America and that of the world revolution. And this challenge will not be solved by arrogance and shouting, or ‘lack of patience’. You will have to have lots of patience. We shall all have to have a lot of patience. What is all the Cuba discussion about? Is it about whether it is necessary to make concessions to capitalism? No, this is not the discussion. I repeat once again: if it is necessary to ask for loans, we shall ask for loans. If it is necessary to bring capitals, it is often necessary to make concessions. If we cannot develop certain essential technology that imperialism has, we must see how this technology is to be brought, even at risk of making concessions to capitalism. Being aware, in the first place, on the fact that we are making concessions to capitalism.
In the early 20s, the discussion in the USSR was precisely this, but it was a democratic discussion and it took a year and a half to decide if concession ere to made to capitalism or not. And Lenin was completely against making any kind of concessions. It was Trotsky who defended those concessions to capitalism. It was Trotsky who defended having to make the NEW (New Economic Policy), that is to say, concessions to capitalism that is “opening windows” to recover an economy that was qualitatively more deteriorated than the Cuban economy, because Russia had just been through not only the World War I, but also the counterrevolutionary civil war. A civil war that swept away not only the factories, but also the working class. The bulk of the working militants of the Bolshevik Party died in the civil war, and it was faced with this outlook that Trotsky said, “in order to recover economy we have to make concessions to capitalism’ and he fought for that inside the Central Committee. During a year he was isolated. Hardly anybody backed him. Lenin was totally against it. Lenin feared that concessions might lead to the restoration of capitalism. And now comrade Breno tells us that the guideline of the NEP was “peasants, get rich”! This was the guideline of the restorationists. That was Bukharin’s guideline. It was the guideline to open all the windows and never close them again. It was Bukharin’s guideline, which was the right wing of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party.
For over a year this discussion went on and nobody said “I’m getting fed up with this discussion. I have no more patience.” That’s because these were the time of workers’ democracy. But it was not only the Bolshevik Party who was discussing. The Third International was discussing, too. So, coming back to the topic of the NEP. The whole Central Committee, with Lenin in the first place, wound up by adopting the policy of the NEP, and it was discussed in the Soviet, and concessions were made to capitalism. And here we have the discussion again. What kind of concessions? How far reaching? And that has a lot to do with what comrade Miguel of the CTC of Cuba said. He says, “Let’s open the windows even if the bugs get in”. The problem is the type and the size of the bugs. Because if e open the windows, maybe mosquitoes will get in, but maybe so will lions and tigers. The problem is how long do we have the windows open? That is the gist of the discussion. What did they discuss in the NEP? The Bolshevik Party agreed that the concessions to capitalism could never affect the planning of economy or the foreign trade monopoly. What is more, they agreed as to the fact that if they admitted this, it would be like decreeing the end of the revolution. This was the attitude of the Bolsheviks. The Cuban comrades say something altogether different. They say that what they are trying to maintain is not planned economy nor the state monopoly of the foreign trade, but to upkeep the “social achievements”. On the other hand it is necessary to make a reflection. With all these concessions to the European imperialism, whom nobody mentions here at this meeting, the comrades believe that they will recover the economy and continue being independent from imperialism. I think this is impossible. All this revolutionary enthusiasm makes me very happy, but it is not enough. We have to see what is happening in real life. We have to see, within that framework, the role played by the government. Before I finish I would like to congratulate the Cuban comrades who took part. First of all, because of what they represent, that they should have come to take part in this debate here is something we are proud of. Secondly, because of what Breno does not share. Because of the enormous patience they have proved to have when discussing the different opinions.”
“I wish to ask a question. What elements do you have to say that in Cuba there is no more economic planning? Because you have mixed up the existence of the planning with the monopoly of foreign trade. And I wish to inform you that last year the 40th anniversary of economic planning was commemorated, and the fundamental link of socialism is planning. The thing is that in Cuba, in the early years in Cuba, plans were made based on material balance sheets. We used to receive most of the raw material from the socialist sphere, and when this came down and so did the Soviet Union, planning becomes a different element, because financial elements crop up that were not there in the previous plan. This means that socialism without planning is not socialism and in Cuba there always has been planning. It became necessary to re-orientate the foreign trade, because if we did not do so, we would perish. There is another thing you did not talk about. It is the de-penalisation of the dollar. We did this reluctantly. It was against our standpoint. Knowing the risks we were running from the social point of view. We planned the main state restrictions. We must speak about it, because in Cuba the plan was made to survive in completely different conditions. The planning was in two directions. To survive an economic blockade, faced with a military attack, and planning to survive in times of peace in the special period. Without this planning we would not have been able to survive. This is important, for there may be some confusion about it. We are all for what Lenin had said, but what happens is that these are two different historical moments. All that was done in Cuba was done because life forced it to be done this way. That is why we talk of social achievements. At the beginning everybody was worrying because they said that Cuba was not opening to the world. Cuba begins to open up because life imposes this opening and because conditions have changed, and everybody begins to worry about the Cuban opening. The association of economists to which I belong has 35 000 members throughout the country and the fundamental task is to participate actively in the whole process of transformation of Cuban economy. I believe that socialism cannot exist without planning. The problem is that the conditions have changed completely and I think that the example of Cuba is live. Inasmuch as Cuban economy starts to recover, many of these transformations will be eliminated. First of all we are aiming at recovering the Cuban peso. This is a fundamental task. And the other thing is that as foreign trade is re-oriented, we shall have to start changing the outer shape of the foreign trade, for logically, before there used to be no World Bank. Before there was no International Monetary Fund. Commercial exchange was at advantageous prices within the socialist sphere. That is why I think it to be important, and we must always bear in mind that there will be planning and all the transformations and all the opening have been due to problems of the moment, because the concrete historical conditions are totally different. The Che has seen lots of things. He foresaw lots of things. But life is richer than that conditions have changed, we are very proud of the revolution. The day that Fidel Castro dies, Fidel will not die for us. We shall mourn him as Cubans, as human beings, but his ideas will multiply just as the ideas of the Che are multiplied, or the ideas of Marti, the ideas of Bolivar in Latin America. I mean to say that we have committed some errors. We became aware of these errors just in time. But we cannot help forgetting planning for planning is the fundamental basis of socialism.”
“Why do I say that in Cuba there is no central planning? For lack of time I shall not be able to go deeply into the matter. In Cuba, just as in any other country, there are economic plans, but now, unlike what used to happen in the recent past economy is not planned. If it were not true, you will have to explain to me why the Central Planning Board has been dissolved. On the other hand, and in spite of what you tell me, there is a close relation between the State monopoly of the foreign trade and planned economy. Nobody says that there has been no end to the state monopoly of the foreign trade, and you have posed this yourself. At the moment in Cuba, all companies, be they state owned, mixed, foreign or national, may export and import whatever they wish, and therefore these companies do not produce in relation to a central plan, but responding to their own interests and needs. So what planned economy are we talking about? Just to finish, I would like to express my gratitude, once more, for the presence of so many comrades here at this debate. In a special way I wish to thank those who expressed opinions different to mine, and who had come to this debate precisely because they had these differences of opinion. Thank you very much."