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Reply to Globe and Mail Editorial Print E-mail

"A New, Risky Cuban Revolution"
Isaac Saney

To: Editors, The Globe and Mail

Re: Your editorial "A new, risky Cuban revolution" (September 20).

The announcement of the new Cuban economic measures did not come as a surprise to any serious journalist or observer. In July 2007 a nation-wide consultation and debate (a frequent practice in Cuba) was initiated on the Cuban economy. The planned restructuring of the state sector has been discussed by all the trade unions and mass organizations, in the newspapers, on radio and television. Workers have themselves decided that the measures are necessary to strengthen Cuba's economy upon which they depend for their living, and how they will be implemented. A substantial number of the 500,000 affected workers are to be absorbed into the non-state sector while a considerable number are being offered alternative state employment opportunities. Many will continue in their current jobs either working for themselves or in cooperatives.

This is not the shock therapy used in eastern Europe or demanded by the World Bank and IMF in developing countries. The new arrangements are being phased in and no one is being abandoned or left to fend for themselves. All the social guarantees remain in force. The aim of the restructuring is to strengthen social programs, not privatize nor dismantle, them. This includes universal free health care and education, subsidized utilities, a subsidized food ration and controlled prices; mortgage payments pegged at 10 percent of the highest income earned in the household (more than 80% of Cubans own their own homes).

For any country to try to overcome the worldwide economic crisis in a manner that favours its people, not the global monopolies, would be no small feat. This is all the more true for a country like Cuba which is subjected to a brutal all-sided commercial, trade and financial embargo from the United States, with extra territorial consequences which even affect Canadian businesses which trade or would like to trade with Cuba.

Many Canadians admire the Cuban people's unrelenting defence of their sovereignty in the face of tremendous odds. The changes your editorial misrepresents may be new, but they are not risky in the sense that the Cubans are not gamblers. They closed down all the mafia-run casinos more than 50 years ago and ended that regime, which permitted the impoverishment of the majority of the people and the corruption of all of Cuban life.

If measures which defend this are a risk, we can confidently say that for fifty years the Cubans have shown themselves capable of meeting the challenges they take up.

Isaac Saney
Spokesperson, Canadian Network On Cuba
Faculty member, College of Continuing Education, Dalhousie University & Department of History, Saint Mary's University
Tel.: 902-494-1531 (office)
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

* * *

A new, risky Cuban revolution - Globe and Mail Editorial, September 20, 2010

The Cuban government’s surprise announcement this week that it is laying off 500,000 state employees – about 10 per cent of the state sector – shows the desperate state of the economy. Free-market reforms are long overdue in the Caribbean island, one of the last bastions of Soviet-style Communism. But to expect state employees, especially the least enterprising, to succeed in the private sector is politically risky.

By 2011, the government will lay off workers from every government sector, selecting those who are least productive. These workers will then be expected to form private co-operatives, find jobs at foreign-run companies or set up their own small businesses. The government helpfully suggests a list of possibilities, including raising rabbits, making bricks, driving a taxi and organizing parties. Cubans who are not made redundant will face a new salary structure that rewards productivity.

This is the most significant economic shift since the 1990s, when the collapse of the Soviet Union forced Cuba to legalize use of the U.S. dollar, and allow people to operate restaurants in their homes, initiatives that were scaled back once the economy improved.

This development, however, appears to be longer-term. It will allow the government to rid itself of unproductive workers, and indicates that Cuba is ready to move in the direction of a more “marketized economy,” says Arch Ritter, an expert on the Cuban economy at Carleton University. “Once people aren’t reliant on the goodwill of the state, they are much less manageable. So there is a political risk,” he adds.

Cubans will still be entitled to a few months of unemployment benefits, as well as subsidized housing expenses and free education and health care.

While the government of President Raul Castro made the announcements, his older brother Fidel appeared to agree, recently telling an American journalist that the “Cuban economy doesn’t work.” Mr. Castro later said he had been misinterpreted, but the comment could also be read as tacit support for Raul’s reforms.

An internal government document acknowledges the difficulty of this strategic transition, noting many businesses won’t last because Cubans lack experience, drive and initiative to succeed in the private sector.

While the Cuban government doesn’t appear to have a strategy to help them make the transition, some Cubans may adapt more quickly than predicted. For years, Cubans have been forced to supplement their meagre state earnings and insufficient food rations by reselling stolen products on the black market – everything from cigars and cement to second-hand clothing. They already make exceptionally good capitalists.

Cuba is still far from fully embracing the free market to the extent that China and Vietnam have. But these reforms are a welcome first step.

 

 
Canadian Network on Cuba Holds Successful Convention Print E-mail

Communique, September 20, 2010


5th Biennial CNC Convention affirms determination to strengthen
Canada-Cuba relations and step up the work to free the Cuban Five,
political prisoners in U.S. jails

The Canadian Network on Cuba (CNC) held a very successful 5th Biennial Convention in Toronto from September 4-6, 2010. Delegates and observers from 18 member organizations were joined by observers and invited guests including Her Excellency, the Cuban Ambassador to Canada Teresita Vicente, the Consul General of Cuba to Canada Jorge Soberón and other Cuban guests.

 

Read more...
 
Reforms in Cuba and Disinformation Concerning Layoffs Print E-mail

- Enver Villamizar -


The Canadian monopoly-owned media have been reporting that the Cuban government is set to lay off 500,000 public employees. The way this is reported suggests that this is a step towards capitalist restoration in Cuba. In a September 19 editorial, the Globe and Mail wrote: "The Cuban government's surprise announcement this week that it is laying off 500,000 state employees could trigger unrest, but the reforms are a welcome first step."

The working class and oppressed peoples of the world would indeed be concerned should capitalism be restored in Cuba but this is the morbid preoccupation of the rich with defeat and has no resemblance to what the Cubans are doing. Of course, a return to capitalism is what the imperialists have been trying to put in place in Cuba since the revolution right up until the present, using economic, political and military aggression. However wishing for this and having it happen are two different things.

Writing about the public sector layoffs in Cuba, the monopoly-owned media see what they want to see. It is not concerned for the well-being of the Cuban people, especially its workers, just as it is not concerned for the well-being of the Canadian working class. Instead it reports from an anti-worker perspective in which the interests of the global monopolies are synonymous with the interests of the nation, while the workers are merely a cost of production.

The measures announced at the 5th Session of the 7th Legislature of the National Assembly of the Peoples Power on August 1 by Raúl Castro, President of the Councils of State and Ministers are definitely significant changes in Cuba. But what is their aim? According to the Globe and Mail it is to restore capitalism and impose a capitalist labour market model onto the Cuban working class. According to Castro, the measures are aimed at "preserving and developing our social system and making it sustainable in the future."

The essence of the reforms is presented by Castro in this way: "During the initial phase, which we plan to conclude in the first three months of next year, we will modify the work and salary regulations of surplus workers from a group of central state administration agencies, suppressing the paternalistic approaches that discourage the need to work to live and thus reducing the unproductive costs entailed in equal pay regardless of the number of years worked, and a guaranteed salary for long periods to individuals who are not working."

Along with these changes Castro re-affirmed that no one will be left to fend for themselves: "In adopting these agreements, we do so on the basis that nobody will be left to their own fate and that, via the social security system, the socialist state will give the support needed to live a life of dignity to those people who are genuinely not in a position to work and who are the sole means of support for their families. We have to erase forever the notion that Cuba is the only country in the world in which people can live without working."

In addition, Castro states: "The Council of Ministers also agreed to extend the exercise of self-employment and its utilization as another job alternative for surplus workers, by eliminating various existing prohibitions on the granting of new licenses and the marketing of certain products, thus making labour contracts more flexible."

In this way, the Cuban government is trying to deal with a problem of a need for increased productivity and efficiency from the Cuban working class to defend the self-reliance of the nation. Without these measures, Castro pointed out, the government will not be able to: "raise wages, increase exports and replace imports, to grow in terms of food production and, definitively, sustain the enormous social costs that are essentially part of our socialist system, a sphere in which we are also bound to be rational, saving much more without sacrificing quality."

What can be taken from these statements is that the Cuban government does not view the working class as a cost of production to be attacked in order to increase profits for a tiny elite. Instead the Cubans are arguing that the working class is a productive force which creates the added value the society relies upon for its current and future standard of living. This productive capacity needs to be constantly improved, if the society is to move forward and not stagnate.

The Globe and Mail and the interests it represents do not want to admit that the neo-liberal economic model is a disaster for the entire planet and that there are other ways to address problems of the economy in a manner which resolves them in favour of the people's interests. Cuba's entire experience defies empty chatter about economic models while the imperialists impose their dictate onto the world irrespective of the conditions and requirements of different countries and peoples. The Cubans have succeeded in maintaining socialism precisely because they defend the revolutionary interest under all conditions and circumstances. Far from accepting nonsense about foreign models they tackle the real problems which arise in life itself.

The Globe and Mail does not want to discuss the fact that the Cuban government is trying to deal with a real social problem which has emerged; the need to strengthen the ethic, through legal means, that it is through hard work and sacrifice that a socialist society is built, not through going into debt, squandering precious human and natural resources or harbouring elements who have become complacent about the need to work in order to live. In other words these measures are aimed at eliminating the negative aspects which have been given rise to in the Cuban economy in the course of ensuring that the people's rights were provided with a guarantee during the Special Period and since then. Based on the measures being implemented at this time, we can be confident that these rights will be provided with a guarantee in the future as well.

(TML Daily, September 24, 2010)

 

 
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