In Cuba : Poverty, Demonstrations and Repression
(«Proletarian»; Nr. 20; Autumn-Winter 2023)
During the last week of September, according to various web pages and social media accounts by some Cuban journalists, several protest movements took place in Cuba, led by the poorest sectors in cities such as Los Palacios, Nuevitas and, above all, Havana, where demonstrators organized road and rail blockades, and clashed directly with the repressive regime forces.
Since July and August, in these same cities, a series of protests had already taken place due to the cost of living: the living conditions, already normally precarious for the great majority of the Cuban proletariat, suffered from the increasingly harsh economic measures of the Díaz Canel government, making the situation even worse.
This situation has become even more difficult due to two events. The first was the passage of Hurricane Ian, which caused severe damage in several parts of the country and highlighted the inability of the self-proclaimed socialist regime to guarantee the supply of materials for the reconstruction of the affected houses, forcing families to pay for the necessary repairs to be able to sleep under a roof. The second was the series of power outages that affected the main cities of the Caribbean island. These blackouts were caused by the poor state of the country’s electrical network and the problems that the production of electricity faces due to its lamentable maintenance.
The news that reaches us are scarce and difficult to interpret ; but it seems that the combination of these three factors (the increasing difficulty of daily survival, the management of the Hurricane Ian crisis, and the situation created by the recurrent power cuts) are causing a situation that is, if not the same, then at least similar to that of summer last year, when thousands of Cuban proletarians took to the streets to demonstrate and ended up clashing with the police and armed forces as they demanded better living conditions.
The protests of 2021 and those of a few weeks ago are set against the backdrop of the new economic measures imposed at the beginning of last year by the government of Miguel Díaz Canel with the aim of cleaning up the island’s economic and financial situation. These reforms, aimed at partially liberalizing the domestic market, seek to strengthen the position of a small national bourgeoisie created through the tourist trade, foreign currency savings, etc., and which is interested in the regularization of «cuentapropismo» (self-employment) allowing them to open their own businesses. By relying on this petty bourgeoisie and on other sectors, such as tourism, which it intends to liberalize, the government wants to create the basis for a «modernization» of the island, inspired by the Chinese model of the last 30 years, which will make it possible to maintain the political, economic and social domination of the army (the main owner of businesses in Cuba) and of the conglomerate of the bourgeoisie and foreign merchants who have made their fortunes within the framework of the economic embargo imposed by the US.
For Cuban proletarians, the conequences of these economic adjustment plans are terrible. Because of the budget cuts, the public companies that survived thanks to the capital injected directly by the State, now suffer from financing the deficit, which is immediately reflected in the wages of their employees. On the other hand, these salaries have a lower and lower value, because Díaz Canel’s monetary policy, which eliminated the dual currency system, has caused an immediate increase in the price of basic products that are no longer fully subsidized.
As a result of this situation, thousands of Cubans have emigrated from the island since 2021. According to the Spanish press, the number of Cubans who have arrived in the United States during this period has been nearly 200,000, a number that is significantly higher than that of the so-called «balseros crisis» (1) of the 1980s and 1990s. As a result of this situation, thousands of Cubans were forced to demonstrate in the streets, build barricades, clash with the police and the army... According to media reports, even President Diaz-Canel had to flee under escort of his Praetorian Guard when he tried to address the demonstrators in Havana to calm their spirits, as his predecessor Fidel Castro had done on a few occasions.
Despite their weakness, despite the fact that they do not go beyond the level of the most immediate spontaneity, this type of direct response to the cost of living, to the redoubled pressure of the State and to its inability to guarantee acceptable living conditions, have a profound value, because they show that Cuba is a country like any other: capitalist, with an exploited class and an exploiting one, with wage conflicts, with struggles for the conditions of survival... in short, with everything that characterizes a capitalist country
The myth of Cuban socialism, a direct descendant of the myth of Russian socialism, built on the basis of the falsification of the terms of Cuban reality and the very nature of socialism, is beaten back year after year by this type of mobilization, which shows that Cuban proletarians suffer conditions that are perfectly similar to those of proletarians in other countries, especially in Latin America.
Beyond the importance that this type of mobilization may have as an example, the reality for the Cuban proletarian class is awful and devastating. It is deprived of the slightest defense organization, both in the immediate field of survival and economic struggle and in the broader and more general field of political struggle, and it will only be able to rise above the level of spontaneous protest with great difficulty.
In this respect, there is no room for illusions: the work of disorganization and enslavement carried out by the so-called «Communist» Cuban Party, the People’s Army and the myths of national socialism embodied in the sacrifice demanded of the whole population, the anti-imperialist nationalist mobilization, act as objective and very powerful delaying factors for the political maturation of the Cuban proletariat. Let’s remember that Cuba is one of the points from which the myth of national socialism of the Stalinist type has radiated, a myth that has precisely played the role of a dead weight on the body of the world proletariat, both in the «first» and in the «third» world. If this was the case, if the example of the Cuban Revolution and its false road to socialism constituted a reinforcement of the counter-revolutionary and anti-communist tendencies that existed in the rest of the world..., how could they not still be powerful in Cuba today? From Cuba onwards, nationalist tendencies, interclassist anti-imperialism, confidence in frontism and collaboration between classes were strengthened in those countries where the proletarian class was indomitable and against which the indigenous opportunist forces had to be fully employed, as in the case of Venezuela, Chile and Argentina.
For sixty years, with even greater power, these same forces have subjugated the Cuban proletarian class, the only one in Latin America and the Caribbean able of making a decisive contribution to a national-revolutionary movement - which was also its objective limit in the absence of the leadership of a Marxist and therefore class revolutionary communist party -, the only one that lived and grew stronger trough the experience of direct armed struggle against the pro-Yankee ruling class and against the very interests of the United States. The Cuban proletarian class of today finds itself having to resume the struggle on the basic economic terrain against increasingly harsh living conditions. Compared to the rest of the countries in the region, it has an objective advantage: the conditions created by the 1959 revolution, the agrarian reform, the nationalization of practically all economic activity, etc., have obviously neither created nor moved the economy toward socialism, but have given rise to a very large proletarian class, not very intertwined with the petty-bourgeois and popular sectors as in the rest of Latin America. This fact represents an objective strength for the Cuban proletarians: their demands have a distinct class character, which differentiates them from the demands that arise in the periodic «popular» uprisings that take place in the countries of their immediate environment, where the pressure of the middle, petty-bourgeois and popular classes continues to exert a very strong social influence on the proletariat.
Subjected to living conditions that continue to deteriorate like those of the proletariat in the rest of the world, without its so-called «socialism» changing anything, the Cuban proletariat must take the path of open class struggle. And while we cannot expect this to happen tomorrow, the growing tendency to do so shows that the containment force represented by Stalinist and post-Stalinist opportunism, both nationally and internationally, is cracking more and more.
From Havana to California and from Santiago de Chile to Montreal, it will be the strength of the proletarian class that will erase from the face of America both the criminal bourgeoisie that feeds on the blood and sweat of the proletariat and oppressed masses of the continent, and the forces of opportunism that collaborate in the effort to prolong bourgeois class rule.
And the American revolution, no longer popular but proletarian, will consolidate the strength of the revolution in Europe, Asia and America, which sooner or later will return to its appointment with history.(1) The «balsa» was a makeshift boat with which Cuban migrants (precisely called «balseros») crossed the sea to reach the coast of Florida.
October, 6th 2022
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