|Written by IWL-FI|
|Wednesday, 06 April 2011 02:50|
|Faced with wages of $18 a month, massive layoffs, deterioration of public health and education service and of the danger of brutal repression.
Cuban workers, youth and toiling masses – who were the protagonists of the first and only victorious socialist revolution on the American continent – are now going through a distressing situation. The toiling masses suffer famine, because they cannot make ends meet on $18 a month. On the other hand, this situation tends to become qualitatively worse as the government has already announced new attacks on the living standards to take place in the forthcoming months, such as the layoff for 1 300 000 civil servants.
Some Cuban workers manage to survive because they receive aid from a relative from abroad. Most of them however, have no such relief and that is why they have to humble themselves to tourists (2 million and a half by 2010) and harass them to buy the famous stolen Havana cigars or harass them requesting tips for services, real or invented, or beg for a bar of soap, shampoo or simply a sweet. At the same time, two curses that had vanished after the revolution: begging and prostitution accrue.
So far, there have not yet been great demonstrations against the government, similar to those that were put up against communist parties in Eastern Europe, who were restoring capitalism. The prestige of the Cuban leadership who had been in the past the leaders of the revolution against capitalism and imperialism was what prevented the masses from moving against the Communist Part. But Cubans’ patience is running out. The displeasure with the Castro bothers administration is generalized at present and we cannot discard that sooner rather than later an explosion similar to what happened in the 80s in European East, or are taking place right now in the Arab countries.
The Cuban government and their Communist Party are perfectly aware of this danger and that is why they do not allow for any information about the massive actions in the Arab countries to leak through TV or radio: both controlled by the government. On the other hand we must remember that Cubans have no access to Internet and that there are no newspapers or magazines in Cuba except for those of the Communist Party.
Seeing all that exploitation and humiliation, however, it is very unlikely for the government to be able to stop the Cubans from rebelling against this situation, and as soon as this happens, a new and great jeopardy, repression, will be awaiting them. That is why we are as from now calling out for “solidarity with Cuban toiling masses.”
Tell the truth no matter how hard it may be
There a thousands and thousands of workers, peasants and students in the whole world who regard Cuba and its leadership, especially Fidel Castro, as the reference for all those who fight for socialism. There are also many among those who are critical of the Cuban leadership and yet they and yet, they believe that, unlike what has happened in the USSR, China and European East, capitalism has not yet been restored.
For all those comrades, concluding that capitalism has been restored in Cuba would be very demoralizing. But we are duty-bound to tell these workers, peasants, students and intellectuals from all over the world the truth regardless of how offensive it may sound. That is so that only the truth is revolutionary and there are two great truths that everybody must know and that explain the tragedy they are going through. The first one is that famine, unemployment, poor wages, begging and prostitution are but mere consequence of something that has already happened in our dear Cuba: the return to capitalism. The second truth is that it is impossible conceal that the despised capitalism has not been restored by the loathed by the worms or by an American invasion.
In Cuba, the same as in the USSR or in China, capitalism was restored in the name of socialism, by the government and the leadership of the Communist Party. In 1959, in Cuba, guerrillas commanded by Fidel Castro, Camilo Cienfuegos and the Che Guevara defeated the forces of the dictator Batista. Soon after that, the Cuban Revolution challenged all the capitalists whether national or foreign, and placed the economic resources in the service of the development of the country. In order to do so, three important measures were taken within the economic scope: expropriation and nationalization of all the means of production (factories, lands, trade, banks, etc.) and the monopoly of foreign trade central planning of economy. It was due to these measures that workers achieved a number of improvements, most of which did not exist in the remaining countries on the continent (including the USA) they are not yet there: full employment, housing for all, free high quality medicine (also for all), the end of illiteracy, the end of prostitution, high rated of school education (up to 50% of Cuban workers have been through 12 years of schooling, but not any less important was the pride of being the people who have been able to prove for all the workers of the continent to see that capitalism and imperialism can be challenged and beaten.
However, all these measures (nationalisation of the means of production, monopoly of foreign trade and central planning of economy) were eliminated in the early 90s by the government and by the Communist Party), so much so that even the very constitution of the country was modified so as to allow private property of the means of production. In this way the “rights” of the capital – that had been eliminated by the revolution – were now re-established and as capitalism cam back, the old curses of the Batista days reappeared. Defenders of the Cuban government say that capitalism has not yet been restored: only the activity of foreign companies was allowed, but respecting Cuban laws and that most of the companies were still state-owned, and the state was still “socialist”.
Not everything is just as simple as that. It is true that foreign firms are compelled to respect Cuban laws. But it is also true that new laws have been passed, among them the Law of Foreign Investments, to make it possible for foreign companies to have many more rights in Cuba than they would have in any other country in the world. Furthermore, all the companies that exist in the country, whether state-owned, joint venture, whether Cuban or foreign – do not work for socialist economy (for a central economic plan) but for the national and international market. It is also necessary to make quite clear that Cubans who work for international enterprises do not get any protection from the “socialist” national state. The contrary is true: a Cuban worker does not earn the same wages that the same companies pay elsewhere. Cubans earn only those miserable $18 a month even though most of these firms are joint venture (associated with State). What is, then, the role of the Cuban State? It is not only to ensure the rights of the international capital to exploit cruelly Cuban workers but also to be partners in this exploitation, which is qualitatively higher to what is being done in most of the Latin American countries and the world.
Cuba, the country of the unevenness
Cubans live in the worst of the countries. They work, the same as their brothers in the remaining countries do, for a market economy, but because of the wages they earn, they have practically no access to that very market.
Perhaps the saddest scene a visitor to the island will see is that of the beautiful Cuban children without any toys. Not just few toys: no toys. Toys are prohibitive for parents who earn $18 a month. Compared to the wages of workers from other parts of the world, have always been, but as an outcome of economic measures taken after the revolution, the social salary was very high. People used to spend very little on food because workers ate free in the workplaces and children ate at schools and the basic food products (as well as those for cleanliness) were distributed by the government at symbolic prices by means of a supplies booklet. Reality is very different today. When market economy was restored salaries became even smaller than before and a great part of the social salary has either disappeared already or is vanishing fast. In most of the work places eateries have been closed down, the government is about to put an end to the double shift at schools and most of the products on the supplies booklets have been eliminated, while even the end of the booklet has already been announced.
As an outcome of the revolution, a deep urban reform was introduced by means of which, all Cubans could ensure their own housing in consideration of a small sum of money. As from that moment on, it was the government who was liable for maintaining the outer part of the buildings and the inhabitants were liable for the upkeep of the inside.
However, at present (and at least for the past 20 years) neither does the government do any maintenance to the outside of the building nor can the inhabitants of the house in working class neighbourhoods, with their $18 a month, afford to maintain the inside. The result is that there are entire neighbourhoods where houses are full of broken glass, leaking roofs, wall and floors are half-destroyed, electric fittings exposed and in terrible conditions, wholes where doors and windows used to be and even some of the oldest houses are about to crumble down for lack of maintenance. In this way, the living conditions of the Cuban working class families are very similar or even worse than those of Argentine or Brazilian families living in shanty towns.
But not everything is poverty in Cuba. There are neighbourhoods where very well maintained old mansions are to be found and where all the new bourgeois live, the bureaucrats from the government and the representatives of the foreign firms. There are also the military terraced houses which are so well maintained that even if quite old, they look like brand new. There are millions of foreign tourists filling the hotels and restaurants in Havana and other Cuban cities, where the Cuban toiling masses cannot accede except to offer sexual services or their beautiful music only to end up by going from table to table in order to request a tip so as to be able to eat, because artists, who cannot live on art alone, receive no pay for their performance.
After the revolution, Cuba became the most egalitarian country in America, but today, it is precisely the opposite. Social unevenness is so shocking that revolutionaries who visit feel surprised, shocked and even uneasy. It is sad to hear may people in this admired nation say, “we can choose: either eat or get dressed”. Or “We, the Cubans are like clowns. We look merry but inside we weep.”
Those who defend Castro regime from abroad (it is hard to find anyone in Cuba to do so) argue that the government had no choice but to open the gates for the international capital, because Cuba was isolated after the fall of the USSR and there was no other alternative. This is a double falsehood. First of all it is not true that Cuban government applied to capitalism to defend socialism. They applied to international capitalism to restore capitalism. It was not to defend socialism that there was an end imposed on the state ownership of means of production, the state monopoly of foreign trade was eliminated and central planning of economy was erased. It is not a socialist measure to lay off over a million workers, or to leave social chemist’s shop unsupplied and so drive workers to buy necessary medicines in international hotel.
Secondly, it would be wise to ask oneself why is it that Cuba was isolated when it was still a workers’ state. Was it because workers and peoples in the remaining parts of the continent did not fight and make revolutions? No. That was not the reason. It was because Cuban leadership carried out the same policy as the leaders of the USSR, China, Eastern Germany, and so on: peaceful coexistence with imperialism instead of making Latin American and world revolution. There is the case of the Sandinist Revolution in Nicaragua. After defeating the Somoza army and seizing power, Sandinist leadership went to interview Fidel Castro, and he advised them as follows, “Do not turn Nicaragua into a new Cuba”. That means, do not expropriate either the national bourgeoisie or imperialism. And here are the results. Nicaragua is at present ruled by the former guerrilla commander and current multimillionaire, Daniel Ortega, is not only a capitalist state but also one of the countries in the world where the greatest unevenness is rampant.
It was precisely this policy of peaceful coexistence with imperialism in a world where imperialism prevails that led the economies of all the workers’ states into crisis and, in the late 1980s, drove all the ruling bureaucracies of the former workers states to seek support from imperialist powers to get out of the crisis. And it was not simply under the disguise of credits, the way they used to do in the past, but with the restoration of all the right of the capital to super-exploit workers of those countries. Because Cuba was led by a bureaucracy, whose interests were very different from those of the workers of that country, was not and could not be an exception to the rule
“Democracy” in Cuba
Defenders from abroad of the Cuban government say that there is democracy in that country, that actually there is no democracy for the worms, but there is democracy for the toiling masses. In Cuba nobody would say that for in the best of the cases they would receive a horse laugh as a reply. Those who say there is democracy for workers in Cuba should say what proletarian organisms vote the $18-worth wages; what organism voted that a 1 300 000 workers were to be left out in the street; which one voted that Cubans can read no periodicals except the official paper of the Communist Party; Which one voted that Cuban toiling masses cannot accede to Internet?
But as for this issue of proletarian democracy, it is also necessary to say all the truth, no matter how hard it may be. And the truth is that there has been no democracy for the workers, not even in the golden years of revolution, when they were expropriating capitalists and imperialism and that is what explains a lot of what is happening now.
Cuba used to be a workers’ state because ever since the expropriation of the bourgeoisie, the right of the capital to exploit workers, but it has never been the workers who – through their organisms – controlled the destiny of their country. What has been there and still is there is a regime identical to the one that existed in the former USSR and that still exists in China: a regime based on a sole party, the Communist Party, supported by the armed forces. But is would actually be wrong to say that the Communist Party leads or has ever led Cuba for, in order for the Communist Party to lead, it would have to have some kind de internal democracy, and this is something that is simply not there. There are practically no congresses of the Cuban Communist Party. IN the forthcoming month of April, they will hold one, after 16 years, but actually this “congress” will be just a gathering of bureaucrats, for representatives – according to Granma – will be elected by a plenary meeting of general secretaries.
Restoration of capitalism on the Island, combined with total lack of democracy has spawned a dictatorship that is very similar to the worst and most bloodthirsty dictatorship in the world.
Actually, in some aspects, it is a much worse dictatorship than some of them. For example, during the Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt, there were some legal bourgeois opposition parties, there were several newspapers, subject to censorship, but still there; the was full access to Internet and there were a few independent trade unions. All this is what Cuba is in dire need of.
You might argue against us that in those dictatorships of Mubarak in Egypt, Pinochet in Chile or Videla in Argentina, there were thousands of political prisoners, kidnapped and tortured and murdered and that this does not exist in Cuba. This is true, but what is going to happen in Cuba as soon as the first strikes cop up together with demonstrations, guerrilla groups and confrontations against police, the way it happened in those countries? What will the Cuban dictators do? Will they willingly give up the fabulous privileges accumulated with the restoration of capitalism? Or will they repress the activity of the toiling masses that will be questioning such privileges? In order to have a glimpse at what may happen, let us have a look at what is happening in Libya, where, the same as in all the remaining Arab countries, the toiling masses started by demonstrating against poverty and against the dictator, colonel Gadafi. Faced with this reality, Gadafi who in the past used to do what the Cuban dictatorship did: had serious confrontations with imperialism (now he is their partner) but today is drowning those mobilisations in blood so badly that he has actually caused a civil war. On whose side did Fidel Castro stand in this war? On the side of the genocide Kadafi.
This is not the first time Fidel takes such a posture. When in 1967, soviet tanks annihilated the Czechoslovakian revolution against the bureaucracy – which finally led the country to the restoration of capitalism – Fidel Castro stood on the side of the soviet tanks against the Czechoslovakian toiling masses. But now, in the case of the civil war in Libya this is not a repetition of a mistake. It is a threat for the future and unavoidable mobilisation of the Cuban toiling masses.
Fidel has said that it is not the Libyan people who are out for Gadafi’s defeat, but imperialism. And he uses the NATO and American bomb raids as an argument and concealing the fact that what imperialism is really out to get is the control of the country (oil), something that has been challenged not by Kadafi but by re rebellious masses that rose against him. When he picked side by Kadafi, Fidel is not only announcing that he is willing to do the same when the toiling masses challenge his power, but he is also forwarding the arguments he will use to justify the repression against workers and youth. He will say that all this is the work of the CIA.
Has there not been another way, is there not any now?
It is not true that Cuba has never had another alternative but to run into the arms of world capitalism. The impressive resources provided by the tourist industry, the production and the reserves of nickel, the production of sugar and tobacco – I once more placed in the hands of the state, and if that state once more functioned according to planned economy, that would be enough for the Cubans to have – to say the least of it – access to food and medicines.
Of course, even if the new bourgeoisie and the imperialist corporations were all expropriated it would still be impossible for isolated Cuba to be able to overcome the capitalist countries of the region and let alone the great imperialist powers. But why should Cuba, if once more expropriating capitalism, stay isolated if dozens of revolutions against capitalism started cropping up? What would happen if the Cuban leadership supported these revolutions? Cuba would no longer be isolated. For example, in Libya, the toiling masses are carrying out an armed revolution against dictator Kadafi, very similar to the one that the Cubans fought against Batista in the 50s. What would happen if the Cuban leadership supported this revolution? The likelihood of victory would accrue and, at the same time Cuba’s isolation would dwindle. But unfortunately, Cuban leadership has long ago given up wanting new Cubas. That is why they were against the expropriation of the bourgeoisie in Nicaragua and in Salvador and now they are against the expropriation of the fabulous wealth of Colonel Kadafi. It is now even worse than that. Now they are in favour of the genocide.
It is not true that Cuba had no other way out except for embracing capitalism. It was the Cuban leadership who has no other way out because right from the very beginning they failed to defend the path towards the international revolution and moved along that of the coexistence with imperialism.
Surround Cuban toiling masses with solidarity
We appeal to the workers, to the peasants and to the students and the intellectuals of Latin America and the World: show your solidarity with the Cuban people for they suffer famine, supporting a brutal dictatorship and are running the risk of being massacred as soon as the start moving against their exploiters and oppressors.
This solidarity must stem out of learning and spreading the information about what is really happening in Cuba. This knowledge will be an important barrier to prevent future Cuban fighters from being accused of being CIA agents and with this excuse, being beaten, jailed and shot the way that this friend of the Castro brothers, colonel Kadafi, is doing in Libya. We make this summons extensive to all the leaders of left, including those who at present defend the regime. We do so for we believe that these organisation, accomplices of the brutal exploitation to which Cuban workers are submitted, have not yet stained their hands with the blood of those workers.
We make a very special summons for the thousands of activists all over the world, who quite oblivious of the reality of Cuba, believe Cuba to be the stronghold of socialism. Perhaps, they do not believe us because, even though we have always stood by the Cuban revolution, we never trusted the Castro brothers’ regime. Just the same we appeal to them: get acquainted with Cuban reality using your own means; if possible, travel to Cuba to see how they live and so draw their own conclusions as to whether what we are saying in this statement is true or not. After that we simply beg you to tell your workmates of classmates the whole truth.
The Cuban regime is polluting the glorious banners of socialism. Probably the most evil thing of all those that are happening now in Cuba is the fact that the government is trying to justify their counterrevolutionary project (restoration of capitalism by using a terrible dictatorship) in the name of socialism, for in this way they are playing havoc in the awareness of the masses, and in the awareness of the Cuban toiling masses.
Very little, next to nothing of the Cuban revolution remains in Cuba. Revolution can only be found in museums and its symbols: portraits of the Che, of Fidel and Camilo Cienfuegos have turned into souvenirs, but only for tourists, because no matter how hard you may seek you will be very lucky if you find a young Cuban with a Che Guevara T-shirt, a Cuban banner and let alone portraits of Fidel.
Apart from what they say always and everywhere, apart from the clothes they wear, this is just another way to say they wish to have nothing to do with the fatal policy of the government and the Communist Party and that they drift away not only from the government but also from socialism, for inevitably, unfortunately, there are many who will say, “If this is socialism, I am not a socialist any more” or even worse than that, “if this is socialism, I am all for capitalism”.
And yet we have no right to be pessimistic. Revolutions that toppled the dictatorships of communist parties in the European East, the massive mobilisations and the Arab revolutions do not entitle us to any sort of pessimism. And the same goes for Cuba, for – even though it is true that the ’59 revolution can only be found in the museums, it is also true that a new and powerful revolution against this current dictatorial and restoring regime is being spawned. So far it has only been expressed as this dissatisfaction with the dictatorship, but before long this displeasure which at times turns into hatred, it will turn into action, and when this occurs, then it will be more understandable why Cubans are so proud of their people and their country, in spite of the everyday humiliations they have to put up with.
International Executive Committee of the International Workers’ League – Fourth International (IWL-FI)
São Paulo, March 19th 2011