Once upon a time, a «Cheerful Carter was passing by»…
(«Proletarian»;Nr. 9; Winter 2012-2013)
With this title we evoke Cuban music (1), but above all the image of the island of sugar, tobacco and coffee, which during the epoch of the COMECON (economic organization associating countries of the Soviet bloc) was less subject than today to global market pressures. Awakened from the dream (or the nightmare) of «socialism in one country», the island of music and the sun, of seaside vistas, palm trees and beaches of sparkling white sand, has realized that its enviable tropical exuberance only served to conceal the weakness and material insecurity of which «Cuban socialism» had never been able to rid itself; and if the current situation does not guarantee the maintenance of social peace or economic stability, it is high time that the proletariat awakes from its somnolence and begins to take the path of struggle ...
Before the crisis in Russia and its satellites, the Cuban worker, through the ration libreta (book) of basic commodities and subsidized products, had access to a guaranteed minimum consumption. An European newspaper (2) reported the opinion of Cuban workers on these subsidies, «at least with them, we avoid our youths being transformed into living torches», alluding to the self-immolations that were at the origin of the «Arab spring».
But since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the USSR and with it the COMECON (representing 80% of the Cuban trade balance), these subsidies have been shrinking and are in danger of disappearing. This also applies to the products listed in the libreta. In 1993, with the loss of the $5 billion in various types of aid which had been provided by the USSR, the crisis was exacerbated, rationing became more stringent at the same time as shortages spread: the island was on its knees. The consequences were felt almost immediately: one year after, a violent social confrontation erupted, which was quickly and effectively extinguished, but which provoked a strong emigration to the United States on makeshift boats.
Faced with the disappearance of the meager Soviet «welfare state», Cuban authorities decided to carry out a series of overtures to the traditional Western markets. This was the era of the so-called «Special Period» whose main result was the creation of an enormous mass of living labor susceptible to exploitation to enable the economic growth which Cuba urgently needs: it is through this living labor force that Capital grows!
Progressing gradually, despite various setbacks and suspensions of measures, the authorities have come up with the current plan whose essential measure is to drastically reduce the number of functionaries. However this measure (500,000 jobs to be eliminated from a total of 4 - 5 million) announced by Raul Castro in 2010, has been softened and the number of jobs to be cut was reduced, evidently out of fear of consequences like those experienced after the Soviet collapse (3). It should be added that many of the remaining employees, because of their miserable wages are driven to try to find other employment (given that: «just as the state pretends to pay us, so we pretend to work» ). The extent of the reduction in the number of civil servants has already reached more than 300,000 people (130,000 in 2011 and 112,000 in 2012) who were encouraged to become «self-employed», a status which allows them to purchase labor power. The government provides licenses and other permits for the «free» operation of about 200 «small trades» that will provide a variety of household services, alimentation, and rental of street locations for ice cream parlors etc....
There is no doubt that many of the «independent workers» are destined to be absorbed by the tourism sector which is one of the most important sources of income for Cuba. To the authorities, this is not in contradiction with the communist principles they claim to follow«they do not believe that here [in Cuba] there is exploitation of man by man», according to a member of the Praesidium of the Commission for Political and Ideological Work it «denies that it is in violation of the article in the Constitution which prohibits the exploitation of man by man in the case of workers who provide their labor for wages by another person with self-employed status»(4). Because wage labor is the basis of capitalist exploitation, we do not know in the name of which principles the Cuban authorities are speaking!
A LIMITED PRODUCTIVE APPARATUS
According to an official statement of the Sixth Congress of the Cuban CP (April 2011): «The economic crisis that began in 2008 was one cause for the modest reforms towards the market introduced in recent years (...). Cuba is facing a severe crisis, although not as severe as that of 1993-1994 due to the collapse of the USSR. In 2010 the economy grew by 2%, a third of the regional average (...). Gross capital formation declined for the second consecutive year by 10% (...). Monetary liquidity has increased by 42%, twice as much as in 1989. Although the balance of payments is somewhat improved the terms of trade deteriorated for the third consecutive year (due to the increase in oil and food prices, external debt amounted to $14.3 billion, three times more than in 1989) and Cuba’s dependence vis-à-vis Venezuela has increased. Housing construction has decreased to half the rate per thousand reached in 1989. Open unemployment stood at 1.6% but in reality it was 11.6% due to the surplus of State manpower « (5). In Cuba only the statistics are red...
It should be noted that the improvement of the balance of payments is due mainly to the export of services and people to other countries. There are tens of thousands of Cubans who work outside of the country as doctors, sports trainers and agricultural technicians, either in Latin America or in some African countries. This cannot hide the deep imbalance which marks the external trade of the country, between the products sold and those purchased
All these data can be explained in large part by the debility of the productive resources and in general of the Cuban economy, «Nickel, Medical Services (70,000 Cuban doctors working in Venezuela and Angola), biotechnology, tourism, and finally remittances by 2 million Cuban emigrants « (6). On this basis it is easier to plan cuts than to achieve social planning!
Agricultural production is no less calamitous. It had never been very successful even at the time of Comecon and it was never a priority for the Russian state to help Cuba to get out of its situation of mono-production, dependence and industrial backwardness. In addition it should be noted that 80% of the Cuban population lives in cities, as a result of the rural exodus due to the failure of agrarian reform. All this has hastened the decline of the production of staple foods, depressed the scarce few existing industries such as sugar (with ever lower harvests) and livestock ( the theft of which reached record numbers last year) forcing the government to allocate 1.4 million hectares to 150 000 peasant farm workers ready to become small tenant farmers. Apart from a metaphysical appeal to «revolutionary duty» what other stimulus to a production that fails to take off, could the state invent?
The Sixth Congress, which this time «was not focused on the damage caused by the blockade [American - Ed] but on the internal causes that prevent the growth» (7) has essentially stressed the need to accelerate reforms which allow a more consequential accumulation of capital, hence «the authorization of the buying and selling sale as well as the right to exchange, houses and apartments» which is part of a larger overture to the expansion of capitalist private property, a faster process of expropriation and dispossession to turn the Cuban worker into a pure proletarian like in the rest of the West. What other motive could be behind these reforms?
CAPITALISM HAS NEVER DEPARTED FROM CUBA
Just because individual capitalists have fled the island doesn’t mean that capitalism has disappeared from Cuba, what happened is that the State has acted as collective or public capitalist, without the need to resort to private capital. That is why we categorically deny that there has been a modification or interruption in Cuba of the mechanism of expropriation and exploitation that characterizes the capitalist system.
The supplementary impoverishment and exploitation manifested today by the gradual disappearance of the libreta, by dumping onto the street hundreds of thousands of employees who had previously enjoyed a guaranteed job, the buying and selling of houses and cars between individuals, incentives to businesses of all types, fiscal control, all this leads to the appearance of undesirable and inevitable realities like the ever deeper submission of the Cuban worker to the laws of value and wage-labor; all this paves the way for Cuba to enter into the private capitalist economy. Marx explained: «The basis of the capitalist system is the radical separation of the producer from the means of production. This separation reproduces itself on a progressive scale as soon as thecapitalist system is established, but as it then forms the basis of this, it can not be established without it» (8).
This is not because this is a phenomenon that is found at the origins of capitalism but has ceased to exist thereafter. On the contrary, its function is reinforced and is today one of its pillars; the State, the biggest employer, concentrates an enormous amount of labor power, which in a situation of economic crisis such as the one that is sweeping the island, is forced to sever a part of it: in the name of capitalism and its crises it must radically separate the workers from the means which prevent them from becoming pure proletarians, it must throw them onto the street!
WHY DID THE POPE COME TO CUBA?
TO BLESS THE FUTURE VICTIMS OF GLOBAL CAPITALIST EXPLOITATION!
By the skill with which the Cuban authorities have so far avoided the trauma that such reforms could provoke in the population, and which signify a solemn abandonment of the pretensions to the existence of socialism (9), Cuba has ensured itself the expressed satisfaction of the so-called «international community». The Pope went there to carry this message; in other words, Mr Ratzinger came to the island to bless the economic turn of the Cuban Government. As always the papal visit had a highly political meaning within the framework of world imperialist policy. It was an open support to the policy of the Government, who in gratitude, promised to facilitate the practice of religion: the «opium of the people» always accompanies exploitation...
Whatever the claims by the authorities according to which the reforms will not turn into policy, given that these reforms are announced as «strategic» and «irreversible», the declarations of Marion Murillo, vice-president of the Council of Ministers about the Pope’s visit, are in fact very clear. According to him, the government is merely «updating the Cuban economic model to make socialism viable (!). There will not be political reforms in Cuba», adding that « this time the changes are strategic « and there will be no turning back (10). And to think that Marxists believe that politics is concentrated economics!
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, the voice of the United States in Latin America, too, expressed support for the current position of the Cuban government, which has nothing to do with politics, of course!
In the same wave of enthusiasm, the current loosening of the US embargo, has the same significance. A Cuban capitalist exiled in the United States, the animator of a catholic lobby group became a supporter of the Government of Cuba since the latter has undertaken its measures of economic openness hailed by global capitalism (10).
ECONOMIC BLOCKADE, MYTH AND REALITY
How could Havana think it was sufficient to declare that the international law of value, the dollar and gold, comply with existing Cuban labor productivity? Or was the United States forced to sell to Cuba, to support its self-proclaimed «socialism», outside the laws of the market? Was the COMECON not there to compensate for the absence of the United States? Cuba has in fact bypassed the United States embargo by trading with the countries of the Soviet bloc and today with the European countries, China, Russia, Iran or Venezuela which since the 1970s have not ceased to have economic relations with the island. Despite everything that was said about the embargo, economic relations with Washington were never actually completely cut off, and they grew vigorously after the fall of the Soviet Union. Even in the depths of the Cold War American companies avoided the blockade of trade with Cuba through their subsidiaries in Canada! Needless to say that economic sanctions, skirmishes and commercial victimization among countries and regions, have always existed and not against Cuba only. What a colossal waste of time, if there was no alternative to «defeat the blockade» than to have recourse to private capitalism!
Until now Stalinism flavored with Castro salsa has managed to intoxicate and prostrate the Cuban proletariat by giving a revolutionary value to the current economic and social context: the revolution requires sacrifices! But reality is beginning to undermine this situation by questioning the minimum «social contract» established after the overthrow of the dictatorship of Baptista.
It is only a matter of time before the infamous flags of national-communism are torn down to give rise anew in Cuba to the flag of anticapitalist class struggle!.
[Excerpted from: Venezuela Supplement to No. 49 of El Programa Comunista]
(1) «El Carretero» (the Carter) is a very famous Cuban song of Guillermo Portabales dating from the forties. see www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0vUqMi3vj8
(2) See Le Monde, Geo Politics, 03/18-19/2012
(4) see Rogelio Diaz Moreno, laclase.info.
(5) See El Pais, 05/26/11
(6) See Le Monde, op. cit.
(8) See «Capital», First Book, c. XXVI. Ed Cartago, p. 690.
(9) Socialism has never existed in Cuba, that is to say a society without money, wage earners, market or businesses, but state capitalism in the Stalin mold powered and developed by the export of commodities, mainly sugar. Cuba has become a second world capitalism, such as Venezuela, mainly a mono-producer. What’s more, Cuba served as a «pawn» in the game of chess of Russian geopolitics. With the collapse of the USSR and the fall in sugar prices, Cuban capitalism has lost its ability to sustain hundreds of thousands of civil servants; so it has to develop private capitalism on the one hand and on the other to attract the capital of foreign capitalists by holding out the promise of being able to exploit at low cost a workforce «liberated» from permanent employment. Therefore at the same time as the USSR, a whole series of mystifications and caricatures with which Marxism has been made a travesty of for 70 years, has received a mortal blow.
(10) See Le Monde, op. cit.
(11) This businessman, Carlos Saladrigas, has announced that, with these government measures, Cuban capital from abroad, as foreign capital will «flock to Cuba in large amounts in search of competitive return»(see Univision.com, 05/31/11). He said about the reforms: «the big question is not whether there will be a step backwards, but how fast the way forward will be» reforms see www.havanatimes.org/sp/?p=62424
International Communist Party