Let us defend Cuban workers against capitalist adjustment
The news has recently been spread that the Cuban State will dismiss 500 000 workers (10% of the country’s labour force) as part of a much deeper adjustment. A great discussion broke out on the world left hinging round the meaning of this measure and the already existing discussion on the reality of Cuba accrued.
According to the Cuban government and its national and international defenders, these measures stand for the need to “defend” and “modernize” socialism, adapting it to the current international economic and political conditions. The contrary position is that the only possible explanation of these measures is that capitalism has been restored in Cuba and that these events can only be understood against this background as a response of a capitalist government to the current economic crisis, international in general and Cuban in particular.
Create “industrial reserve army”
The layoff of half a million workers is part of a much more global and continuous plan of adjustment: this initial figure is to be added to a similar number of layoffs within the next five years. That means that the state will dismiss 20% of its labour force. What is the future of the workers about to be dismissed? There is no social insurance against unemployment in Cuba. Official propaganda speaks of “relocating them in other sectors”, that is in private economy. At the same time, 178 new activities or professions are liberated to do autonomous or self-employed work (TCP) about half of which will be authorized to employ workers.
Even Granma, the official newspaper, reckons that about 250 000 should be installed as TCP and the rest should be relocated in cooperatives formed by the unemployed (such as those that already exist as taxi-drivers and beauty parlours) or directly in private property.
As experience in other countries teaches, a great part of those self-employed will go bankrupt at a relatively short term. This is something that even an internal document of the Cuban Communist Party admits, “Many may go bankrupt before the end of the year” (Clarin 15/09/2010). That means that most will join either the rank and file of the exploited by private companies or the other 400 000 already existing unemployed thus increasing the number of what Marx called “industrial reserve army”.
Other measures of adjustment include the closure of subsidized popular eateries and the end of the passbook necessary to receive the basic food at extremely low prices, an important component of the consumption basket of the poorest sectors.
Then there is a recent announcement that public education and health will no longer be universally free and that “total or partial payments” will be collected for the above services.
Very much alike all other capitalist governments, whey are trying to embellish the heartbreaking facts by saying that “only the sectors with the highest income will pay”; experience in other countries teaches us where that will lead us to.
Lastly, all these measures take place against the background of a process of constant deterioration of the value of wages of civil servants, which oscillates between what the majority collects, equivalent to between $10 and $15 a month up to a minority that can reach between $35 and $40, which far under what private workers from the sector of tourism or commerce get – in one way or another.
Omar Eveleny Perez Villanueva, a government economist, calculates that compared to 1998, “real salary was the equivalent of 24%” in 2009. That means that most Cuban workers lost over ¾ of their purchasing power in the last 20 years.
Furthermore , the Cuban government is about to authorize the British group, Esencia Hotels& Resorts, associated to the Cuban company, Palmares S.A., to build 16 new private golf links containing also luxiurious housing for foreigners in such paradisiacal places as Varadero and Pinar del Rio.
If we listed all these measures and did not mentioned in what country they are being applied, anybody might jump to conclusions that it is just another classical plan of capitalist adjustments launched against workers to benefit the great companies and their profits, like any other plan put into practice in Greece, Spain or France. There would be no doubt: the left would summon to fight and would support the strikes and demonstrations of the workers. That is what has just happened in Europe. But things this is happening in Cuba, the government and many left militants and organisations all over the world say that such say that these measures are not part of a capitalist adjustment but of the “defence of socialism”.
Raul Castro declared, “It is necessary to erase once and for ever the notion that Cuba is the only country in the world where one can live without working.” (Granma 2/8/2010). Raul’s position is just too similar to that of any other employer or capitalist government: state workers are all spongers who do not like to work and the state ought to get rid of them so that they can rummage for a living.
The second post-war and the Cuban process
Initiated in 1959, the Cuban revolution was part of a number of processes of the second post-war, which spawned new workers’ states, with economies in transition to socialism (such as Yugoslavia, China and Cuba), which were the great achievements of the workers and engulfed a third of mankind.
In Cuba, the leadership consisting of Fidel and Raul Castro and Che Guevara did not stem out of the communist parties, but out of the petty bourgeoisie who fought against the Batista dictatorship and for democracy in Cuba. Once the power was seized, driven on by circumstances, this leadership decided to go further than their initial programme, split away from imperialism and Cuban bourgeoisie and expropriate them and so to start the construction of the first workers’ state in Latin America.
Cuban people advanced immensely in education and public health, with levels comparable to those of imperialist countries and, from this point of view, excelled Brazil, Mexico or Argentina. Extreme poverty and paucity were eliminated, something that even the research of international imperialist organisms admitted.
Cuba became a symbol of what a socialist revolution could achieve right under the noses of imperialism. Its leaders, Fidel and Che Guevara became a point of reference for millions of revolutionary fighters all over the world. But in Cuba, right from the very beginning, this leadership reproduced the bureaucratic and antidemocratic model of the soviet bureaucracy known as “socialism in a sole country”.
Consistently with this position, in their foreign policy they always sought the defense of their own state and the quest for agreements with “friendly” bourgeois governments had always the upper hand in detriment of revolutionary processes. The examples of this can be found in their support of the Juan Peron administration in Argentina and Velasco Alvarado in Peru in the 1970. This was their orientation for the Sandinist leaders in 1970: do not advance as far as expropriation of the bourgeoisie and the construction of a new workers’ state in Nicaragua.
Restoration in Cuba
Ever since mid 70s, the disasters of the bureaucratic management and the changes introduced in the international economic conditions led to the stagnations and crisis in the national transitional economies throughout the whole East. Stalinist bureaucracy gave up any defence of these economies and began to apply restoration plans with increasing speed. In Cuba, between 1977 and 1983 a number of isolated and partial pro-capitalist reforms were carried out preparing the path. Yet they did not stand for restoration of capitalism. Cooperatives were legalised in those days and a number of jobs and professions were legalised for private activity.
But it was as from 1990 that qualitative changes started taking place. In 1986 after the restoration of capitalism in the USSR and the fall of the USSR in 1991, the crisis of the Cuban economy soared up, when it was further affected by the suspension of the aid previously lent by but the soviet bureaucracy.
The Castro leadership and even Fidel himself began to apply a polity of overt dismantling of the essential bases of a workers’ state. That is how the expropriation of the main means of production, their centralisation in the hands of the state, and the centrally planned economy ceased to exist and so did the state monopoly of foreign trade. It was the measures taken in the 90s, such as the dissolution of the Central Planning Board (1992). The permission for companies to trade freely with foreign countries and the Law of Foreign Investments (1995) that allowed the existence of private foreign companies to exist end enjoy the right to repatriate as much as 100% of their profit. Cuba has once again become a capitalist state because its economy now hinges round full functioning of the law of value and the quest of private profit.
Imperialist penetration of the island
Restoration did not express itself in the return of the old “worm” bourgeoisie from Miami but in the increasing domination of European imperialism (especially Spanish and Canadian) over the economy of Cuba in such central branches as tourism and trade with an increasingly semi-colonial dynamics.
Tourism is the sector that provides the highest revenue in dollars to the country. Almost half of the available rooms are administered by foreign companies with strong participation of Spain through groups Sol-Melia and Barcelo.
As for mining of nickel and cobalt (Cuba is the first and second place in the world reserves respectively) The Cuban-Canadian company, Metalurgica de Moa, with the participation of the multinational Sherritt, controls over 40% of the export of nickel. Exploitation of oil began in the area of Gulf of Mexico with Repsol-YPF, Petrobras, Ocean Rig (Norway) and Sherrit Gordon (Canada). Israeli capitals are beginning to have certain weight in building with the company Waknine and Beresousky, who also control 68% of commercialisation of citrus fruit and juice. The same goes for traditional production of tobacco and rum. The main producer of Havana cigars sold 50% to Altadis, today part of the English group, Imperial Tobacco and the producer of the famous rum Havana Club is now controlled by the French group Pernod-Ricard.
So today Cuba is not isolated commercially. It receives investments from all over the world. Actually, at the beginning, due to the expropriation of the bourgeoisie, imperialism treated Cuban as an enemy and even tried invasions as at the Bay of Pigs, planned raids and built up a strong political and commercial blockade. But as from the 80s and 90s, with the opening to market and then with the restoration of capitalism, more and more sectors of imperialism started trading with Cuba, especially European imperialism.
Only American imperialism is still keeping up the commercial blockade because of the “worm” bourgeoisie that is still strong in the USA and demands the maintenance of the blockade so as to guarantee their recovery of the wealth that was expropriated after the revolution. But even in USA, in spite of laws that hampers full dealings with Cuba, trade with the island is on the way up, mainly with what is permitted. This is so because more and more sectors of American bourgeoisie want to be free to invest in and trade with Cuba and not to miss those opportunities with respect to their competitors. That is why USA is today among the five greatest commercial partners of Cuba.
Similitude with China
It may sound strange that we should be talking about capitalist restoration when the same leaders who headed the revolution are still in charge and they keep on talking about “defence of socialism”. The latter means nothing for Gorbachov in the former USSR and the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party tried to conceal their restoring policies using “socialist” discourse.
But while in Russia and in Eastern Europe the CPs lost power, the Chinese process proved that it is possible to restore capitalism without changing the regime. The Chinese CP kept their hegemonic power but the country is no longer a workers’ state and became a capitalist country is administered by CP leaders who draw benefit from the new business.
Far from hindering restoration of capitalism in China, the fact that the political regime is dominated in a dictatorial manner by the CP spawned one of the highest levels of exploitation in the world. The truth is that regardless the difference between these two countries, the process that took place in Cuba is similar to the “Chinese way” to capitalism: the restoration was boosted by the CP. It is not a coincidence that Fidel Castro praises the “Chinese model”.
Stop tarnishing the name of socialism
Cuban government as well as their national and international defenders admit that these measures exist. But they say that it is all about the “defence of socialism”! Stop tarnishing the name of socialism calling the brutal exploitation of workers in China and the plan of capitalist adjustments of the Castro administration “necessary transformations”.
Those who honestly believe by supporting and justifying these measures they are defending socialism are really rendering very poor service to the real struggle for socialism as millions of workers all over the world, seeing the Cuban or Chinese reality will say, “shy should we fight fro socialism if it means the same exploitation and the same adjustment plans as under capitalism?”
In Cuba today, the real defence of socialism begins by boosting the struggle of the workers against the adjustments and the government that boosts them and by supporting them and defending them when they begin to surface. It also includes demanding democratic freedoms so as to make it easier for workers to get organised, the right to go on strike and to organise trade unions independent from the state so that the workers can defend themselves from the attacks launched by the government. Only by developing struggles against the capitalist adjustments will it be possible to prepare the ground for a socialist revolution that will really lead the working class to power.