Written by Marcos Margarido – PSTU
Monday, 27 July 2015 03:33
“In Cuba there is poverty, but it’s not like in Brazil. There are slums there; not here. Nor do we have beggars sleeping on the streets … it’s different.” This statement by a Cuban resident of Havana, the country’s capital, was shown in a documentary broadcast by the biggest Brazilian TV network, Rede Globo.
In it, the reporters say that Cuba has a education system that surpasses the Brazilian one, because all Cubans study in public schools and students demonstrate a higher cultural level. They also praised the public health, famous worldwide for the preventive medicine system and for sending Cuban doctors to many countries.
However, the documentary says, Cuba is the victim of a US economic embargo that has lasted for 53 years that prevents the further development of the island, located about 300 km from the coast of Florida. So many compliments have one goal: to defend the reopening of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba held by President Obama, and the end of the economic embargo.
The most important step in this direction was the reopening of the US embassy in Cuba and the reopening of the Cuban embassy in the United States. Something that was unthinkable for some people even a few years ago.
At first glance, it seems that the Rede Globo, famous for attacking the Brazilian workers and their achievements, is sensitized by the Cuban socialism and wants to help it. Is that it? Or just another one of the “global” traps?
A revolution that shook Latin America
First of all, the claims of the Havana residents and the comments of the TV documentary must be agreed with. Poverty in Cuba is different, health and education are public and high-standard and the food and housing are subsidized by the state. In these and other aspects, a small country like Cuba has overcome the most developed in Latin America, such as Mexico, Brazil and Argentina.
But these achievements did not occur because Cubans voted for good government, which sought the best for the country. They happened because of a social revolution in 1959 that overthrew by force of arms the dictator Fulgencio Batista, a puppet of the United States.
Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Camilo Cienfuegos and other revolutionaries organized guerrilla groups on the mountains that combining with the popular uprising in the cities. They took power and after a few years what was a colony of the United States turned out to be a workers’ state, where the employers were expropriated – that is, lost all their property and wealth – and foreign companies were nationalized. In addition, the economy was planned according to the needs of the population, foreign trade was controlled by the state and the land was nationalized.
All this allowed the raising of people’s standard of living, the end of poverty and of prostitution, jobs for all workers and the aforementioned achievements, which endure to this day, even after so many years of economic embargo.
The Cuban revolution encouraged the revolutionary struggle, and the dream of a socialist Latin America rose the hopes of revolutionary groups in all countries. Unfortunately, most of them copied the Cuban model of guerrilla warfare in the countryside, even in industrialized countries such as Brazil and Argentina, and moved away from the working class. It was easier for capitalist governments to defeat the guerrillas and prevent new revolutions on the continent. The United States, in turn, after failed attempts to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro, as in 1961, established the economic embargo on the country.
However, nothing is perfect or lasts forever …
A workers’ state under a leadership of bureaucrats
Many unions have bureaucratic leaders. These end up with democracy, prevent the discussions on the rank and file, make meetings without a wide call, do not promote the organization in workplaces and make agreements with the bosses without the approval of the workers.
But no worker thinks of abandoning their union because of that. Instead, they organize opposition slates to topple the bureaucratic leader and take the union back to the rank and file.
The same thing happened in Cuba after the socialist revolution. Despite the expulsion of the bosses and the state organization to serve the interests of workers, the new leaders of the country eventually curtailed democracy, established the one-party system, prevented the free organization of workers in their unions and ruled with an iron fist.
Just as the scabs of the unions, the bureaucracy of the Cuban State used their posts to secure privileges for themselves and become richer by the administration of state owned enterprises, farms and plants.
A devastating economic crisis and the country’s opening to foreign capital
This occurred from the revolution to 1994, when there were major changes in the structure of the Cuban State. Since the late 80s, Cuba lived an economic crisis that paralyzed the country. The Soviet Union ceased to exist, it was divided into several countries and the so-called “real socialism” ended up existing. That is, factories, banks, the land returned to private property, back into the hands of employers. It was the capitalist restoration in the country that made the first victorious social revolution in the world. Thus, trade with Cuba, which sent agricultural products in exchange for oil and manufactured products, ceased to exist and brought the country to a very difficult situation.
The Cuban government, in a typical attitude of union bureaucrats, asked for help to capitalist countries instead of discussing with the Cuban workers options what to do to get out of that situation.
They instituted new laws in 1995 that opened the country to foreign capital inflows, allowed the export and import of products without the control of the state and the free remittance of profits abroad.
The entry of foreign capital occurred in virtually all sectors of production at a fast pace. Joint ventures (between the state and foreign capital) dominate 100% of oil exploitation, iron ore, production of lubricants, telephone services, the production of soap, toiletries and export of rum; 70% of agribusinesses and citrus and 50% of nickel production, cement and tourism industry.
Who else took advantage of it was the European capitalism, because the US companies are prohibited from investing in Cuba due to the economic blockade. But now, President Barack Obama wants to reverse this handicap and allow the capitalists of their country make up for the lost time.
In 2013 it was approved a new Act on foreign investment, which further facilitated the entry of private companies in Cuba. Aside from health, education and communication, all the others can receive foreign investments, tax exemption for 8 years and the assurance that the government will not nationalize these companies. In addition, it no longer requires the association with the State in joint ventures; they can be completely private.
In a nutshell, the country has now an economy subject to international capitalist system. Market laws, where what counts is profit-making, prevails over economic planning to meet the interests of workers. In other words, capitalism in Cuba, as in Russia, was also restored.
The workers are the most affected
Many workers may think this is not bad. After all, private companies entry can offer new jobs and may even raise wages due to increased competition between them. Many Cuban workers think so at present and defend the changes made by the government. But they always say: our system is socialist and must go on!
However, this is not true. To give an idea, in 2010 the Cuban government approved the dismissal of 1 million of state enterprises workers. So far, about 360 thousand have been laid off and the damages to workers begin to be felt. The official unemployment rate is 3.8%, but the actual rate could reach 18.5%, as many say they are not looking for work and are not counted in the statistics.
The average wage of workers is 20 dollars, and even if private companies pay more than that, the government, which plays the role of a “jobs agency”, gets the surplus value. In addition, in 2013 it passed a new labor law for private companies. This establishes a journey of 44 hours per week, one day of rest per week and paid vacation of 7 days per year.
This is a very backward legislation. In Brazil, for example, the labor law provides 30-day vacation with a bonus of 1/3 of the actual wage. In addition, it does not establish any compensation for dismissals, because the workers are employed under term-limited contracts. As it turns out, there is nothing advantageous for workers in these changes.
If we add to this the fact that there is no freedom of union association or the right to strike, Cuba becomes a haven for the exploitation of workers by the bosses.
Cuba needs a new socialist revolution
That is why President Obama has decided to reinstate diplomatic relations with Cuba and asks the US Congress to pass the end of the economic embargo. Opportunities for US companies are huge, but for now only the European companies, Canada and even Brazil are taking advantage of it. The Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, charged with corruption in Brazil, is building the port of Mariel, which aims to be the gateway for a Free Trade Zone.
The bosses of the greatest capitalist nation in the world can’t be left out of this true assault on the country, supported by the own Cuban government.
It is clear that workers around the world should advocate the establishment of diplomatic relations between these nations and the end of the economic embargo by a stronger nation against a weaker one. But it is our duty to warn that these actions are made by an agreement between the governments of the United States and the Cuban to increase the exploitation of Cuban workers and to transform Cuba into a US colony. The only beneficiaries are the bosses and members of the Cuban government, which are becoming a new bourgeois class.
It is necessary that the Cuban working class organize independently of the government, expel the union bureaucracy and build a revolutionary party to overthrow the current government of Raul Castro (brother of Fidel Castro) and conduct a new socialist revolution in Cuba. This time with democracy for all workers.