We are posting here the complete translation of an article by Mercedes Petit on Cuba originally published in Spanish in Correspondencia Internacional issue 29. The first part was published in January of this year on this web site. To accompany this complete version, six box inserts that highlight the role of foreign multinationals in the island plus an essay by the same author entitled “The Castro regime’s betrayal of revolution” have been added. -SC
By Mercedes Petit • mpetit (at) izquierdasocialista.org.ar
On August 1, 2010 the Cuban Parliament approved a new legal framework that will expand self-employment (known as cuentapropismo), allow the construction of 16 golf courses and the sale of real state to foreigners as well as reducing multinational bank deductions, among other measures. The Parliament also announced the elimination of more than one million government jobs and justified these new laws by repeating the same old argument of “defending the revolution” and “socialism”. The question is: Is it true that these measures are meant to update “socialism “? No. The bad news is that, on the contrary, these measures are part of a capitalist adjustment for Cuban workers to pay for the economic crisis.
An undeniable fact is that millions of people around the world are sympathetic to the Cuban Revolution and condemn the U.S. trade embargo. So news about the economic problems, failures in agricultural production, hurricanes and other hardships that affect the Cuban people are matters of concern and solidarity for many fighters. In this context, the recent announcements by Parliament and Raul Castro are part of a longstanding debate. But are these new emergency measures being enacted in defense of “socialism” to confront the world financial crisis and the blockade as the leadership of the Cuban Communist Party (CP) argues? In our opinion, that is not the case. Unfortunately, these measures represent a continuity of a policy meant to restore capitalism in Cuba. That is why social inequality and misery that had been erased by socialist revolution have been reinstated.1 Recent announcements anticipate an economic adjustment plan for the benefit of thousands of foreign private companies that have been established in the island for quite some time.
A web of lies
During the parliament session Raúl Castro once again repeated a phrase that has become inevitable to leave behind: “socialism is irreversible” (Granma, 8/2). Thus, Cuba is not copying either China or Vietnam, according to the minister of economy. “The Cuban economic model must have a character: the defense of the Revolution and the confirmation of socialism” and that “capitalist reformism has been ruled out “(Pagina 12, 8 /2).
These have been the same lies employed by the Castro brothers and the Cuban CP for nearly two decades. Raúl Castro‘s dual speech has received the blessing of both Spanish and Brazilian governments and even by senior U.S. officials without any inconvenience. As a matter of fact, here are some recent examples of how some Western governments welcomed the new economic overhaul:
- § Negotiations between the hierarchy of the Cuban Catholic church and the Cuban government that culminated with the release of political prisoners in July were arranged by the Spanish foreign minister. He then declared that “he did not suggest Raul Castro to advance a process of social reforms, but that it was the Cuban president himself who mentioned his willingness to go further in the process of economic and social reforms and he has very clear ideas with regards to that.”(Clarín, 9 / 7).
- § The Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said in an interview a little later: “Cuba is a state in evolution, and its political system will also evolve to accompany the economic changes already under way as attested by our companies that invest in the country.”(Clarín, 1 / 8)
- § Sarah Stephens, director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas, gathered in Havana in July with a group of U.S. legislators and experts to talk about energy and environmental problems. In a critique of the U.S. blockade against Cuba, she said that her own country does not see the “bigger picture.” According to her, with the recent release of prisoners, and the Church’s mediation, Raúl Castro is sending a message to the U.S. government on how changes are moving forward and that in fact he is willing to implement economic reforms (Clarín, 7 /22).
Moreover, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other groups who have been demanding the lifting of the blockade (with the aid of both The New York Times and Washington Post) stepped up their pressure. For example, Myron Brilliant, vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce testified in Congress: “Cuba’s isolation is not helping with political renewal. The fastest way to improve the way of life on the island is to have [US-Cuba] trade relations, tourism and policies “(The Nation, 7 /9). He said dramatically: “We are losing business opportunities” due to Canadian and Brazilian businessmen who invest in the island. And with the typical insolence of the U.S. Empire itself, he ended up by saying: “The Cuban government is a relic” (Clarín, 7/ 11).
In short, so while Castro never leaves behind the usual oaths to socialism in his speeches –repeated like dogma by Castro and Chavez supporters everywhere–, everyday life for Cubans is taking a different road. In fact, governments and businessmen who invest in the island discuss the progress of their business deals investments in Cuba with natural ease. Additionally, many businessmen and members of the United States Congress are asking Obama to ease restrictions so there is more U.S. participation in business deals in Cuba. So far, Cuba’s official statement that rejects capitalism and reaffirms “socialism” has no encountered any questions or concerns from U.S. politicians and businessmen.
But what is the web of lies set up by the Cuban CP and propped up by those governments and companies that have business deals with the Cuban government trying to hide from the Cuban people and the left wing vanguard around the world? Basically, it is trying to conceal the 180 degree turn made by both Fidel and Raul Castro since the 90s (the two of whom, preside over a one-party Stalinist dictatorship) by restoring capitalism which had been banished from Cuba with the triumph of the 1959 revolution.
The situation in Cuba is not entirely new. It is been a while since the Cuban economic model became a capitalist system with multinational companies, joint ventures and over-exploitation of its workers managed by a corrupt , dictatorial and dishonest bureaucracy. Lately, the Cuban people has been losing their working class gains and there has been a return of social inequality and social ills produced by economic readjustment such as unemployment and miserable salaries that are characteristic of the capitalist system. We must not forget that big business there are still in the hands of multinationals and joint ventures run by the bureaucrats while the Cuban government announces layoffs of state employees and the expansion of self-employment. Moreover, those parties involved in dismantling working class gains are lying to hide the real state of affairs.
Self-employment and adjustment
There were many questions and expectations in the air regarding the further deterioration of the Cuban economy since 2008 in the days leading up to the Parliament session. The roots of the present crisis can be traced to several factors. For example, the drop of living standards of most of the population, who live on starvation wages of approximately ten or fifteen dollars per month., was due in part to a drop in tourism by world financial crisis, the fall of nickel prices and the failure of the sugar cane harvest and the agricultural development plan.
According to Raúl Castro Parliament approved, “Important decisions that are in themselves a structural change of concept in the interest of preserving and developing our social system and make it sustainable in the future.” As usual, he did not forget to add that “socialism is irrevocable” (Granma, 8 /2).
These days, the Cuban media highlights the expansion of small self-employment, which by the way, existed long ago. Among some of the small businesses in expansion are small house-based restaurants (the “paladares”), craft fairs that serve tourists and markets that sell vegetables. Moreover, there is a widespread black market comprised of underground economic activities of all kinds which includes illegal cabs, the purchase and sale of spare parts, making and selling pirate CDs and DVDs, and so on. The Cuban state has even legalized more of those activities deemed illegal in the past allowing self-employed Cubans to hire their own employees and pay them wages. Thus, in the process, self-employers are compelled to pay rent and taxes to the state. Additionally, private taxis have been authorized to operate and barbershops have already been legalized this year .
Furthermore, the Cuban state announced the beginning of negotiations to build 16 golf courses funded by international capital (as of this writing, there are only two golf courses ) and a return to a legal framework implemented in the 90s that allowed foreigners to purchase homes —the sale of real state was frozen for a number of years. This measure is being accompanied by a renegotiation of external debt obligations to international creditors (approximately 600 million and 1 billion dollars) and reduced bank deductions for foreign companies.
However, the most striking announcement, was without doubt, the gradual reduction in public employment of more than one million workers (this data comes from various newspapers: Granma (Cuba); Pagina 12; Clarín and La Nación (Argentina), 8/2). Prior to that, Fidel Castro ‘s public reappearance was intended to show unconditional support for Raul who denied that there is no struggle between orthodox and reformist elements within the Cuban state, and that “their unity is stronger than ever” (Granma, 8 /2).
Getting rid of more than one million jobs
Since April 2009, the government revised the budget and began a policy of economic adjustment. For example, the state either suspended or delayed payments to vendors and imposed energy rationing which has not been in place since the “special period” after the fall of the USSR. And with respect to state workers, Raul Castro issued a major alert in a speech made in March 2010 at the Convention of the Communist Youth and delivered on April 4 this year. Back then he said that there was a “surplus of jobs” amounting to more than a million and that “this is a sensitive issue that we have the duty to deal with firmly and with enough political sense.” He then complained that there was a chronic lack of “construction workers, agricultural and industrial workers, teachers, police officers and other essential jobs that are slowly disappearing.”
In the Cuban Parliament, Raul Castro said that “after months of studying the updating of the Cuban economic model, the Council of Ministers at its last meeting […] agreed to a set of measures to undertake, in stages, reducing considerably large areas[read: too many workers- translator’s note] of the state sector. ” This will be a gradual process that envisions lying off more than a million “unnecessary” or “unproductive” state workers. (The first phase of which will end in the first quarter of 2011).
The basis for Raul’s justification was a harsh argument: “The notion that Cuba is the only country in the world where one can live without working needs to be permanently erased from people’s consciousness” (Granma, 8/ 2). But this is another one of his cynical lies. In fact, Cuba is the only country in the world where people almost work for free.
In Cuba, skilled workers, doctors, teachers and nurses receive salaries ranging from $10 to $15 dollars (the majority of them) and those who work in higher positions in hospitals or schools receive salaries ranging from $ 35 to $40 dollars. As Raul Castro complained in the April speech, the official data above revealed that there are fewer and fewer “essential jobs”. So in order to fill up education positions, the government has called on retired teachers to return to the classroom. In the meantime, medical physicians go to work abroad to send remittances to their families and save some money while hospitals have fewer personnel and patients have to give money to low paid staff in order to get treated.
It is a fact: capitalist misery has been established in Cuba. The strongest evidence for this assertion is the statement by Omar Everleny Perez Villanueva, an economist from the state, who states that, “[The system] cannot find a solution to the income of a majority of Cuban families (there are segments of the population who do not cover their expenses with the earned income they receive, forcing them to either resort to alternative sources or waive a set of goods and services) “he added,” by the end of 2008, real wages amounted to 45 pesos to what it was in 1989, thus, it represented 24%. “2. In other words, in 20 years Cuban workers lost 76% of the value of their wages. That is the true face of the capitalist Cuba under the Castro brothers.
The Cuban state: a job agency for the multinationals
No one today questions the fact that approximately 95% of the workforce is comprised by state employees. This estimation is based on official government data. Does mean then that 95% of the means of production and services are state run? No. It is quite the opposite case. This is one of the perverse peculiarities of Cuban capitalism where the little that remains under state control is employment.
As it is, most of the production and tourist sectors are private and set up as joint ventures. It works as follows: the Cuban state provides skilled and super exploited workers to Spanish, Canadian, Chinese, Russians, Brazilians and Venezuelans investors thus guaranteeing them high returns. As mentioned above, all these workers are paid meager wages in the form of the devalued Cuban currency [Cuban Convertible Peso-CUCS) while they purchase most products in CUCS equivalent to one dollar (24 pesos = 1 CUC = 1 dollar).
In the city of La Havana, all kind of odd jobs proliferate mainly in the tourist sector. In the interior, however, the economic situation is much worse. Thus, this is the state of affairs that is leading to the spread of theft, corruption and the black markets which ultimately, are forms of resistance to the prevailing misery. Here is a practical example: a bilingual tour guide who works 12 or 14 hours per day receives a monthly salary of 400 pesos ($ 17 dollars) from the state. The multinational company that employs the tour guide pays the Cuban government the sum of $ 150, which pockets the difference. Thus, the Cuban people spend their lives “inventing” schemes on how to get a little more CUCS to earn a little decent income.
Right now, the Cuban state wants to “relocate” more than four million state workers (between 20 and 30 percent) who earn miserable wages. (Relocating is the term used by both government officials and corrupt union bureaucrats). In reality, these are concealed lay-offs because its implementation would force workers to be relocated in the agriculture and the construction sectors which are in crisis as the state has been unable to re-launch. (For example, there are no plans to build housing for workers; only luxury hotels are being built). And prior to all this, the state announced a reduction in the unemployment insurance –reduced to only six weeks under the new economic adjustment.
There is clear evidence that the state’s economic reform has already begun this year  in an incipient form in the midst of present hardships. As a matter of fact, tourist workers who have lost their jobs in the off season have been transferred to farms still run by the state. In Varadero, there were complaints by workers who were suspended without pay for several months. And as these events occur, Margarita González, Minister of Labor and Social Security, with a guilty conscience,recited her assigned fallacy: “Cuba will not apply massive layoffs in the style of neoliberal adjustments” (Clarín, 8 /19).
A Capitalist offensive without the right to strike or freedom to organize
As part of an integral mechanism to promote capitalist profit schemes practiced by the government of Raul Castro and the Cuban CP, the state proposed the reduction of more than one million jobs. This is part of other measures being implemented such as reduction of and/or outright closure of cafeterias that serve workers; the review of and/or the withdrawal of subsidies that fund cultural activities, sports and recreation and food for college students (who recently mobilized to complaint about the low quality food being served). Another measure being discussed by the state is the elimination of the traditional “ration card” which has almost ceased to be effective in practice long time ago.
These economic adjustments are leading to growing popular unrest. But in Cuba workers do not have the basic right to strike that exists in most capitalist countries thus, they are unable to organize and defend their working class gains. Labor unions are nothing more than “offices” of the Ministry of Labor and branches of the one-party dictatorship. There is no right to organize and discuss in free assemblies the whole situation that the Cuban people are going through and how to deal with layoffs and low wages. And under the misleading argument of not serving the “counterrevolution” and “not play into the enemy’s game,” the Cuban state prevents workers’ democracy and prohibits strikes or even a street protest calling for higher wages. Meanwhile, those opponents who are accused of being “counterrevolutionary” by the government, such as Omar Espinoza Chepe, the dissident economist member of the group of 75, hailed the recent economic changes made by parliament as positive (Clarín, 8 /3).
Pressure is building
In February 2010, the death of hunger strike inmate Orlando Zapata led to a political crisis in the country. The next day, another hunger strike began at the home of Guillermo Fariñas, a dissident journalist. Expressions of support came from artists and intellectuals from other countries who condemn the U.S. embargo and are in solidarity with the Cuban people 3. Cuban singer Pablo Milanes dared to say that “we must condemn Fidel Castro, from the human point of view that is, if the dissident Fariñas dies while on hunger strike,” and called the elections that took place in April a “farce”. Moreover, the writer Lucía Portela, a member of the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba, raised her lone, critical voice in solidarity and issue a statement: “Enough is enough … Whatever happens ”.
Social unrest is on the rise not only because of the lack of political freedom but because of the increasingly low standards of living. However, state repression stifles any expression of protest. But in October 2009, student protests took place at the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana as a result of bad quality food and poor hygiene in schools. Prior to that, there had been complaints about the lack of rights to travel freely abroad. And more and more, expressions of youthful rebellion are happening largely underground with bands such as that led by rocker Gorki Aguila, rappers Los Aldeanos [The Villagers], Escuadrón Patriota [Patriot Squad], among others. Their songs rally against the regime, the bureaucracy and extol social protest and freedom. People reproduce and circulate thousands and thousands of copies of pirate CDs in the underground. There is also a slightly greater access to the Internet (Cubans were not too long ago allowed to surf the web in hotels; it is very expensive for the people, though). This liberalization helps the dissemination of information and complaints that people have. That is how Yoani Sanchez, a famous blogger who critically commented on daily difficulties and the bureaucracy while keeping a certain distance from the gusaneria [right wing Miami based Cubans] emerged.
This is the context in which the government accepted the mediation of both the Catholic Church and the Spanish Foreign Minister to begin the release of 52 political prisoners several of whom have traveled to Spain. The release of prisoners is an important achievement in the field of human rights. But it is important to remember that the Spanish government and others that ask for freedom in Cuba are the representatives of multinational corporations that are conducting lavish business deals with the current dictatorship that, interestingly, has achieved the goal of making millions of people to work almost for free.
Thus, before and after the Parliament’s announcements, almost all commentators, including those in the U.S. have pointed out that the new economic measures are steps towards strengthening capital investment in the island. Additionally, we can add that these measures are part of the grand goal of the Cuban government: to strengthen its political control of the situation which is becoming complicated by accumulated economic and social difficulties.
Next step: A new socialist revolution in Cuba
Cuban rappers Los Aldeanos sing in one of their songs, “Viva Cuba Libre” (Long live free Cuba), “I stand firm with Ernesto Che Guevara, commander of truth.” Appeals to Guevara have never been timelier and necessary to remember the battle against bureaucracy and privilege that characterized his role in the early years of the government. Again, it has never been timelier to remember his criticism of the increasing subordination of Cuba and the Castro regime to the bureaucracy of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and to evoke his now infamous phase: “socialist revolution or a caricature of revolution.” since Fidel, on both practice and words, began to negate such revolution. Let’s recall, for example, when he advised the Sandinistas leadership in 1979 to not turn Nicaragua into another Cuba; his advice to the Sandinistas encompassed the idea that they should not break with the bourgeoisie and that they should not move forward towards the socialist revolution. At the end, Fidel negated the revolution when he began to direct Cuba on the path of capitalist restoration in the 1990s.
Thus, it is not enough to reject the U.S. trade embargo and express the essential solidarity with the Cuban people. What this state of affairs calls for is a twofold solution: the fight for a socialist revolution to reverse the economic and social changes towards capitalism imposed by the Castros along with a political struggle, a revolution against the dictatorial regime to win political freedoms for the people.
We encourage labor, popular, student and peasant mobilizations to demand a living wage and end the current salary rate of $ 10 or $ 15 dollars. Others demands include: a minimum wage of 250 or 300 CUCS by abolishing the perverse system of dual currency; abolish separate markets for the rich and for the poor and oppose special wages and privileges for the ruling bureaucracy; more investment in health and education and reject capitalist firms whether they are mixed or completely private; enact a plan that re-nationalizes enterprises under workers control and management in the context of a single centralized plan and full democratic rights for workers, peasants and students so they can mobilize and organization independently from the state; allow the right to dissent, protest and strike and total independence of unions from the state and the government; in support of workers’ democracy, to make their complaints and elect their leaders, and form new unions; in support of total freedom for the Cuban people, none for the Miami right wing “worms”; free all political prisoners and in opposition of the one-party regime while supporting the formation of new political parties. In support of total freedom for all Cubans so they can leave and enter the country; in support of uncensored use of the Internet, we say no to the censorship of music, art and information and support freedom for young people so they can have the right to organize freely and organize in their schools to voice their complaints.
A national economic plan is needed; to begin to regain monopoly of foreign trade, abolish the current dual currency system and provide immediate and substantial increase in wages. Additionally, a new economic plan with workers’ democracy, attacking social differentiation, the corruption of those at the top, reverse the restoration of capitalism and recover working class health and education gains won in the early years of the revolution. The government of the Castros and the CP must be replaced through mobilization to form a workers ‘government in order to achieve real socialism with workers’ democracy since it does not serve the people. To reach this goal, we encourage the construction of a new revolutionary leadership, that is, a new socialist party that can uphold the banner of Che and the early socialist revolution.
1. For further data, see Correspondencia internacional,No. 27, June-September. 2009: “Is is the end of the blockade?” at www.uit-ci.org
2. Omar Everleny Perez Everleny et al: Perspectives on the Cuban economy. Edit. Caminos, La Habana, 2009.
3. See statement by the International Workers Unity (UIT-CI, for its Spanish initials) in El Socialista, No. 163 at www.izquierdasocialista.org.ar 4/7/2010
1. Joint business ventures in Cuba
Both Spanish and Canadian multinationals have been at the forefront of conducting business deals in Cuba. At the same time, American businessmen have been relegated to a secondary role due to the economic blockade. In the last decade, Venezuela along with China has also played an important role.
• In the area of nickel and cobalt extraction–Cuba ranks first and second in world reserves–one of the main companies is Sherritt, a multinational that is behind the Cuban-Canadian Metallurgica de Moa and which includes operations of nickel mining and processing, the refinery in Alberta (Canada) and marketing in the Bahamas. This began in 1992 when ore was no longer been refined in the former Soviet Union and now produces over 40% of total exports of nickel.
• One of the most dynamic and growing sectors of the economy has been tourism since it was restructured by foreign companies in the nineties. Among some of the most important companies in this sector are large corporations such as Cubanacan and Gaviota which have Cuban capital holdings, both the private and state sector with the Cuban army (FAR) as one of the investors as well as the Gran Caribe and Horizon hotel chains. In fact, 48% of the approximately 42,000 rooms are managed by foreign companies. Among some of the most important Spanish companies are Sol-Meliá and the Barceló group. Meanwhile, Cuban private entrepreneurs supply 68% of essential supplies to the tourist facilities. There is great expectation in the tourist sector toward the opening up to American tourism. In February 2010, American businessmen met in Cancun with the Cuban Minister of Tourism, Manuel Marrero, to share a contingency plan in case of a future change in U.S-Cuba relations. According to Marrero, an American Kirby Jones, Alamar company president, said: “There is no limitation for foreign hotel chains, including those from the United States, to manage a hotel in Cuba,” (www.adn.es, March 2010).
• In oil exploration: Cuba opened its 112,000 km2 zone in the Gulf of Mexico for foreign companies in 1999. Several multinationals took part in this sector of the economy: Repsol-YPF, Petrobras, Ocean Rig (Norway), Petrobras with Sherritt Gordon, a Canadian company which invests mainly in oil, and plays an important role in gas production; and Energas (Cuban-Canadian) which produces electricity from gas wells in the area north of Havana. Additionally, there are companies from France, UK, Spain and China.
• In the telecommunications sector, the first joint venture began in 1994 with the Mexican company CITEL. Afterwards, the Italian STET invested in the country making it the main foreign partner with 28% investment. And in 1997 Sherritt invested in telecommunications.
• Cuba’s tobacco and cigar production is headed by Habanos SA, founded in 1994. It is a joint venture divided in equal parts between the state-owned Cubatabaco and Altadis, a Spanish company owned in turn by Imperial Tobacco Group, an English conglomerate. Imperial Tobacco Group is a multinational that controls 80% of the global cigar market. It has a presence in 5 continents and 150 countries (according to data from the company website.)
• In the construction sector, Israeli capital plays a central role for example, in the joint venture business between the Cuban Cubalse SA and the Israeli GM Group. Moreover, since 1992, the Israeli company Waknine y Beresousky controls 68% the Cuban citrus industry trade.
• Pérez Villanueva provides fairly accurate data on Cuban private entrepreneurs. Let’s look at two cases. 1993 saw the establishment of the Corporation Cuba Ron SA, for the production, marketing and export of Havana Club, a traditional rum. This company was made up of Cuban entrepreneurs and Pernod Ricard , of Chivas Regal whiskey fame, a French company. Today, Havana Club reaches 100 countries and the company is among the 20 best-selling in the business world.
Furthermore, Corals, Food Corporation SA, in association with the Canadian Cerbuco owns Bucanero, the most popular beer. This enterprise is part of the Cuban meat industry with Porvalca of Valencia, Spain. Meanwhile, Coralsa, in partnership with Nestle, the Swiss multinational, oversees the production and marketing of major soft drinks and mineral waters. Besides supplying the local market and the tourist industry, Coralsa is exporting to the Caribbean and Mercosur member countries.
2. More golf courses and businesses
The British group Esencia Hotels & Resorts, with the Cuban Palmares SA company, will expand its golf courses. Esencia Hotels & Resorts is part of Havana Holdings, which controls Floridita brand –one of the symbols of the Havana bar scene which serves the daiquiri–throughout Europe. On 1 August, the Cuban state announced negotiations for the construction of 16 new golf courses and selling luxury homes to foreigners in the adjacent areas. So far there are four golf courses that are in advanced state and are located in the following areas: two between Havana and Varadero (140 kilometers away), on the northwest coast, one in Pinar del Rio (West) and one in Holguín (east). In 2008, Esencia Hotels & Resorts has already announced its project Carbonera Country Club Resort near Varadero with an investment of 400 billion to build 730 homes around a marina and a golf course with 18 holes.
Among some of projects that are public knowledge are those of the British-Spanish joint corporation in Bahia Honda (Pinar del Rio), a Canadian company in Jibacoa (near Havana) as well as Vietnamese private company in an area near the capital. The people behind this luxurious tourist industry have great expectations about the U.S. market.
3. The agricultural crisis
Eighty percent of food consumed in Cuba is imported (almost half from the U.S.). The introduction of capitalism in the field began in 1994 with the delivery of land to cooperatives and individuals. As expected, it did not reverse the low or almost no agricultural production under the bureaucratic and subsidized economy from the years of “real socialism” which allowed the Cuban government supply to itself with relatively cheap food.
Over the years, the crisis in the countryside was deepening and the vulnerability of external sector was becoming more acute. Since 2008, Raul Castro tried to repel this with a campaign to increase agricultural productivity by pushing for the use of land to private owners to make profit, individually or as cooperatives (a process which had begun in 1994-5). In two years, one million hectares of idle land was given from a fund of 1,763,000 selected for cultivation, which is approximately half of the unused land. The results have been minimal and the ministry threatened to roll back the concessions for those who did not meet these goals. But there were farmers who complained that they lack the necessary support to obtain machines and basic inputs such as fertilizers and seeds. That is, they are describing the vicious cycle that capitalism creates to drown the peasant. Of course, the minister Olivera described the measures as “revolutionary” opposed to any “capitalist opening” (Clarín, 06/27/1910). To justify the crisis of agricultural productivity, Raul Castro and his economic analysts, talk about “vagrancy” and people being accustomed to “gratuities.” In fact, there is no productivity in Cuba because workers have never participated in the production plans; they have faced bureaucracy and the lack of freedom and have never democratically discussed their working conditions, neither in the city nor in the field. Now, in addition to this, there is capitalist exploitation, starvation wages, lack of support and incentives. The low productivity, theft and black market activities are forms of mass resistance.
4. The restoration step by step
The Cuban government constantly repeats that “socialism is irrevocable.” This is the official lie that tries to cover the capitalist overexploitation of the Cuban people. There is an enormous social inequality that emerged from that since the ’90s which the Castro brothers put forward towards the restoration.
Since the ’70s there were elements of capitalist restoration in socialist Cuba, following in the footsteps of the Soviet leadership. The dissolution of the former USSR and the capitalist restoration in Russia and throughout Eastern Europe in the early nineties led the CP to embark on the same path .
Cuba suffered the “special period” which were basically the enormous hardships experienced by the Cuban people following the end of generous subsidies and trade benefits that they had received for nearly three decades by the Soviet bureaucracy. During this period, the major changes towards restoration were beginning to be introduced. The foundations of a socialist economy that had been pushed for 30 years starting from the expropriation of the bourgeoisie, when the country was what we call “a bureaucratic workers’ state”, was being dismantled while keeping the prevailing monolithic and repressive features of the Stalinist regime. Cuba also began a return to capitalism, which share common features with the process of China and Vietnam.
5. Let’s review the three basic steps that led to this restoration
1. In 1991, the Fourth Congress of the Cuban PC decided to abandon the monopoly of foreign trade. It was ratified in the constitutional reform of 1992. State enterprises began to import and export directly and individually, and private or mixed companies were authorized to do so as well. The official economist Omar Everleny Perez Villanueva wrote: “The elimination of the monopoly of foreign trade management together with the opening to foreign investment was the main premise of the gradual decentralization of foreign trade management” .
2. This “decentralization” was the liquidation of economic planning established by the 1992 Constitution, which replaced the “single economic development plan” with “a plan that guarantees the programmed development of the country.” With both measures, the market began to be the main operating mechanism of economic exchange.
3. Private ownership of the means of production was restored, the fundamental basis of capitalism. The 1992 Constitution abolished the “irreversible character” that the “the socialist state property” had. The 1995 foreign investment Law No. 77 guaranteed that the state will no use expropriation; the free transfer of earnings and other measures that energized or opened capitalist penetration in key areas such as tourism, nickel, oil and gas, telecommunications, food and construction. The state monopoly on health, education and military defense were left out. The denationalization of the land began in 1994 through the Basic Unit of Cooperative Ownership (UBPC, for its Spanish initials).
Since then, with comings and goings, and with the direct support of European imperialism, mainly Spain and Canada, and rising expectations from U.S. bourgeois sectors, capitalism in Cuba has been reconstructed. This has meant a huge change in the country. Those from either the right or left argue that the “same economic model” and “real socialism” inaugurated by the Revolution continues with less or more reforms and changes are wrong. In the current capitalist Cuba, what has not changed is the one-party dictatorship.
1. An excellent survey of the Cuban process is De Marti a Fidel – La Revolución Cubana y America Latina, Luiz Alberto Moniz Bandeira, Norma, 2008.
2. Refleciones sobre la economia cubana. Edit. Social Sciences, Havana, 2006.
6.”Everything is state owned”
Strangely, though that is not the case, the most diverse sectors in Cuba believe that “everything is state owned.” For Castro and his government, this is part of the logic of everyday lies that “socialism is irrevocable” and that there are no “openings” or capitalist reforms. Pro- Castro / Chavez Intellectuals and academics repeat it or spread this belief.
From the right and also from those sectors of the CP which are critical call for an explicitly social democratic option. In their case, they call for reforms that are functional to their plan so that private property moves forward and joint ventures are given more space to private Cuban companies or multinationals.
This is another colossal lie. The only thing that currently comes close to “all state ownership” is the use of Cuban workers. We have already described the role of absolute state employer for the benefit of capitalist entrepreneurs. But this lie has dire consequences for workers. As they live in the flesh their miserable state salaries, but work through the luxuries of tourism in Varadero, state ownership is being withdrawn ,and is creating growing expectations concerning more entrepreneurs and private owners of all kind on the island. The growing social inequality that exists everywhere is attributed by many Cubans to the alleged pervasiveness of “state” and fall into the deadly trap of harboring hopes on privatization. Thus, the official lie that Cubans live under “socialism” plants the seeds in the same direction. Of course, bureaucrats and businessmen all are grateful for this.
The Castro regime’s betrayal of revolution
“Did” statism “or” egalitarian utopia fail?
The critical economic and political situation facing the Cuban people have reopened old debates on what was and what is Castrism. Current defenders of the Cuban government have move closer to right wing and Social Democrats versions that argue that, in Cuba as in the former USSR, what failed was”statism.”Among this camp are the Castro-Chavistas. Those are the same people who are abandoning the key element of the 1959-60 victory in Cuba: the expropriation of the bourgeoisie. Additionally, those are the same people who continue to support the Castro brothers’ Stalinist dictatorship and who rely on subterfuge to hide the capitalist transformation imposed on Cuba. In Venezuela, for example, they defend capitalism with a mixed economy tie to multinationals who President Chavez proclaimed with his fake “XXI Century Socialism.”
Meanwhile, there are some liberal former Castroists who give a different version of events. Interestingly, half a century ago these liberals used to be hardcore followers of Fidel and would even accuse anyone who sought to point out any criticism from the left –like those of us in the Morenoist current —of being “counter-revolutionaries. Eventually, they discovered that Cuba had no democratic freedoms, everything there was monolithic and that in fact, there social problems existed in the island. However, it was too late when they realized this. Some of them even recognize that what exists in Cuba is a Stalinist dictatorship but still, they prefer to re-write history to falsify it.  Moreover, they recognize that there was a long period of social progress in the revolutionary period and that there were great improvements of living conditions for workers (this is a fact that no one could deny and even Mother Teresa of Calcutta acknowledged this). But they paint a “egalitarian utopia” that was doomed to fail because it contained a fatal centralization linked to statism, and in their view, that was an element that predisposed the revolution to be repressive. But when they were Castroist they did not detect the existence of a dictatorship that controlled the state in a monolithic manner.
The real story is that socialist Cuba was never “equal” because it was born with the party-army apparatus, a totalitarian bureaucracy which gave birth to the CP and the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces led by the Castro brothers. They were privileged bureaucrats in the Stalinist-style with the only difference that they led a revolution and that they had much less resources to even fulfill personal and social privileges. Nevertheless, they always had higher wages, access to special markets and they never had to use food ration books.
These former Castroists –involved in political campaigns in many countries– are saying that the state should not control the economy, expropriate capitalist firms and thus, everything needs to be privatized. When it comes to today’s Cuba, they do not question the return to capitalism. On the contrary, they want to liberalize all the way towards a “new democratic socialism” that would be achieved if the Miami gusanos [Miami-based right wing Cubans] are incorporated in a “dialogue to transition”. As followers of Castro in the 60s, they were wrong. And when they criticize Cuba’s capitalist direction led by the Castro brothers from the right, they are still wrong.
The Cuban revolution’s move toward breaking with the bourgeoisie and imperialism in the midst of mobilizations by the workers and the people was the great aspect of the revolution. It was that revolution that pushed the Castro brothers to enact a more radical agrarian reform, freeze taxes and rents, expropriate the distilleries, sugar mills and banks and to break with U.S. imperialism. That “centralization” was a historic achievement: that is, the implementation of a national economic plan based on state ownership that controlled foreign trade monopoly and conducted a nationalization plan. And that is how workers won that health and education systems that placed Socialist Cuba in the number one position of countries in Latin America.
And despite the fact that there was a privileged bureaucracy and repressive bureaucracy, those gains were achieved. The best evidence of what we are saying is represented by Che Guevara who always fought the bureaucracy and with its visceral and genuine egalitarianism, publicly denounced it.
The Castros were subordinated to one the biggest bureaucracies, the enormous apparatus of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Under their command, the Cuban state moved away from Che and out of the revolutionary and internationalist milieu set early on by the revolutionary process.
Afterwards, they never pushed for new socialist victories in Latin America while supporting the former Soviet Union’s “peaceful coexistence” policy and the Russian bureaucrat’s pact with imperialism.
Additionally, the Castro brothers supported the crushing of the revolution of the Czech workers in 1968 and they joined in the reactionary and suicidal “peaceful road to socialism” of the communist and socialist parties in Chile which paved the way for Pinochet in 1972. In 1979, Castro called on the Sandinistas not to turn Nicaragua into a new Cuba. In 1981, the Castro brothers supported Jaruselsky‘s coup against Polish workers.
Cuba and Latin America would be much different if all the prestige and power of the Castro regime had been used to build new socialist countries in the region by putting the wealth and resources of Latin America at the service of their people not at the service of the multinationals and U.S. imperialism. And in Cuba, there would be no monolithic and one-party state with democracy and freedoms for the masses in the struggle to organize, discuss, rectify mistakes and strengthen past successes.
Even so, with all the blows and attacks on Cuba, the morality and conscience of the people could have made further progress while building a revolutionary socialist alternative. All throughout, there were many lost opportunities. For all this, our socialist current defended socialist Cuba unconditionally and at the same time, denounced Fidel Castro’s betrayals.
These days in Cuba there is a growing anger and disillusionment among the people. And there is the danger of reproducing the same backwardness in the consciousness of the people that occurred in the former USSR and Eastern Europe, where capitalist’s restoration by the bureaucracy did nothing more than to create illusions about capitalism among the masses. That is why the big challenge in Cuba is to fight for a socialist revolution.
Translator’s note: Note 1 from the original article became note 2.
. The Morenoist current takes its name from Nahuel Moreno, an Argentinean Trotskyite who founded several parties in Latin America. For more on Moreno’s life and writings visit these pages: http://www.nahuelmoreno.org/ http://www.marxists.org/archive/moreno/index.htm
. See for example the essay by former Castroist turned “left” radical , Claudia Hilb: La izquierda democrática frente al régimen de la Revolución [The democratic left on the Cuban Revolution]. Edhasa, Buenos Aires, 2010.