Over the few weeks the bourgeois media tried — as if ready for some time,Â and yet with one voice, reminiscent of the "iron discipline," which in other cases would be derided — to "shed light" on the developments in Cuba.
Initially they presented a statement of the Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, in an interview to a US magazine, where he appeared to support the position that "the communist Cuban economic model no longer works." A few hours later Fidel himself refuted this statement underlining that the American journalists misinterpreted what he said while he meant exactly the opposite!
It goes without saying that the refutation of Fidel was not projected as much as the initial "statement" showing once again that bourgeois journalism breeds Goebbelism.
Then the same media focused on the changes that Cuba promotes in economy, by means of reducing civil servants and providing material incentives to those who wish to rent and cultivate farmland or open small businesses in the service sector.
What They Concealed
But let’s take a look at some aspects that the bourgeois media carefully concealed from their readers:
Â§ They concealed that Cuba has faced for decades imperialist encirclement, a regime of economic "suffocation", imposed arbitrarily by the US . Its losses since 1959 are estimated at 751,3 billion dollars, which is a huge amount for a country like Cuba given its size and its productive capabilities.
Â§ They concealed that in the last 50 years the US has organised more than 700 acts of aggression against Cuba leading to death of 3,500 and at the injury of 2,100 Cuban people just because the people of Cuba chose the socialist path of development which is contrary to capitalist profit.
Â§ They concealed that the EU participates in this anti-Cuban campaign, using the carrot and stick method aiming at the overthrow of the people’s and workers’ state power. Â§ They concealed that on September 12th the five Cuban patriots completed 12 years of unjust imprisonment because they had penetrated anti-revolutionary, anti-Cuban groups in Miami and revealed numerous plans for attacks against Cuba.
Â§ They concealed that despite the economic difficulties Cuba still has important achievements in the sectors of Healthcare, Education, Culture and Sports especially when compared to other countries of Latin America and in certain cases to the most developed capitalist countries. Despite the difficulties Cuba continues to provide free education and healthcare, it continues to have the lowest infant mortality rate in the region.
Â§ They concealed the important internationalist contribution of the people of Cuba and the Communist Party of Cuba in the past fifty years to the struggle against imperialism. We do not refer merely to the period when the Cuban revolutionaries defended with arms the revolutionary movements in Africa and Latin America . Besides, the very example of the people who resist and fight against imperialism constructing the only alternative path of development to the capitalist barbarity has an immense impact throughout the world and especially on the region of Latin America , as shown by the developments in the last years.
What is their goal?
The process of diffusing information about Cuba followed by the bourgeois media has a specific aim. They seek to present Cuba (hence every attempt at socialist construction) as an allegedly "anti-democratic" process, that amongst other things will inevitably lead the people to hardships, problems, pauperisation, hunger and misery. They seek to convince the people that there is no other option beyond capitalism and that Cuba will ultimately follow this path.
Thus, readers who are not suspicious may fall into this trap and end up having a fatalist stance towards their life and future, accepting passively that there is not any other alternative beyond a society with capitalist exploitation.
We will not fall into their trap!
On the Models and the Current Problems of Cuba
They claim that the "Cuban model collapsed". During the 90s they tried to convince us that the "Soviet model had collapsed". Obviously, these are underhand tricks hiding behind these positions. KKE stresses, that the question is not the rejection, the imitation and of course not the collapse of any model. The main issue is the choice of the path of development, a capitalist or socialist one, as well as the firm principles on which socialism must be constructed. The violation of these principles creates the conditions for the "deviation" from the socialist path of development.
The dissolution of the USSR in 1991 was not the result of socialism’s "collapse", but the result of its overthrow caused by many external and internal factors. The primary factors are the internal ones such as the opportunist erosion at the 20th Congress of the CPSU and the mistaken economic policy followed by the leadership of the USSR in 1958 in agriculture in 1965 in industry. This policy reintroduced under the conditions of socialist construction the rusty "tool" of profit in order to solve the problems that existed in that period.
After the implementation of this policy for twenty years there emerged new serious problems such as the reinforcement of the individual and group interest at the expense of the social interest (income differentiation among the workers in each enterprise, between the workers and the managerial apparatus, between different enterprises). These choices weakened the social character of ownership, strengthened narrow individual and group interests, created a feeling of alienation from social ownership, and eroded consciousness. To sum up, the result was the emergence of a "shadow economy" i.e. black economy, corruption in the ranks of the party and the state and the emergence of social forces that pursued the overthrow of socialism.
Nowadays, under the escalation of the imperialist aggressiveness against Cuba , the socialised sector, which is the main sector of the economy, prevails. At the same time, the leadership of the country declares that the changes it promotes aim at the overcoming of certain problems; that they do not change the socialist character of production relations; that they aim at the strengthening of the Cuban Revolution which is undermined in every possible way by the imperialists.
Communists throughout the world study carefully the changes, examine thoroughly and dialectically the developments and make critical comments for the strengthening of the workers’ and people’s power, of socialism, taking into account the negative experience from the USSR and the contemporary China, the tragic consequences of the capitalist restoration, of the prevalence of the capitalist relations of production.
Several Causes of the Current Problems
Are there any problems in Cuba ? No one could claim that a socialist society has no problems at all. However, these problems are not the same with the ones that working people face in capitalism e.g. unemployment, insecurity, class barriers in education, degradation of education, commercialisation of healthcare, exploitation of man by man. The socialist system guarantees the right to full and stable employment, while education and healthcare services are not determined by the workers’ income. Thus, Cuba does not face such problems as those that working people face in capitalism.
Moreover, the problems that appear as problems in the development of socialism, in the solution of new problems that arise, in the deepening of the socialist relations of production are different from the problems caused by the conditions under which socialism is constructed, namely by the imperialist encirclement and aggression.
The central planning of the economy and its realisation face serious problems due to a series of factors such as the large-scale dependency of the Cuban economy on the international prices of its basic export products as well as of the products imported (e.g. food) and the high costs paid for sea transportation as a result of the blockade.
Furthermore, in 2008 Cuba was struck by three destructive typhoons and the GDP was reduced by 20% in a year due to destructions. This development does not have to do with socialism but with the consequences of the natural disasters which have intensified over the last years due to the climate changes caused by the anarchic capitalist development. Yet Cuba managed to deal with these enormous natural disasters, to protect its population and stand on its feet (by the way, the overall comparison with the natural disaster in Pakistan is inevitable).
Another important element is the reduction of the revenues from tourism although the number of tourists visiting Cuba has increased. It is a result of the world capitalist crisis and the insecurity it causes since tourists spend less and as a consequence the revenues from tourism fall.
In addition, the revenues of the Cuban state were also affected by the fact that the international price of nickel, the ore mainly exported by Cuba , reduced by 40% in 2009.
Obviously the aforementioned developments which have had serious impacts on the economy of Cuba do not constitute "inherent" shortcomings of socialism as the capital’s journalists seek to convince us.
The Question of Self-sufficiency
The last example highlights a general issue namely that we should not forget that the socialist construction in Cuba started from material conditions marked by low maturity and by a high degree of unevenness. In the years of socialist construction Cuba was based on the immense assistance (political, military and economic) provided by the Soviet Union and the countries of the Council of Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA). Cuba imported machines, production tools, fuels and exported products such as coffee, tobacco and sugar that the other socialist countries could produce only in small quantitites.
Unfortunately, the view on the socialist division of labour that held sway in the CMEA led to an one-sided approach as regards the development of economy, preventing the development of the required self-sufficiency in the production of the means of production and other basic products. This view was based on the mistaken position that the socialist construction in the socialist countries was irreversible.
No one claims that a socialist country will manage to have self sufficiency in all sectors so as not to need any commercial relations with other countries (socialist or capitalist ones).
Nevertheless, the question is how it utilises these relations so as to guarantee a planned and self-sufficient "body" for the satisfaction of the people’s needs. This will make the people’s economy less vulnerable to the world capitalist market. The example of Cuba provides useful conclusions, both negative and positive, regarding the cooperation between the socialist countries in the framework of CMEA.
If a different policy had been followed, reinforcing the self-sufficient development of the socialist countries, including Cuba, Cuba would have been in a much better position in the period 1989-1991, when the capitalist restoration in the USSR was completed and Cuba lost its energy sources, experienced the lack of food and was forced to close industries, agricultural units that required the use of modern technology (after spare parts and fuels had been exhausted). The situation aggravated due to the aggressiveness of the US imperialism which has never compromised on the existence of a socialist state in a region that regards as its own "backyard.".In order to withstand difficulties, Cuba had to pass through a "special period", as the Cuban themselves characterised it. In this period it established two currencies trying to raise foreign exchange from tourism, from the cooperation with capitalist countries etc. These measures were actually concessions that the people’s state made consciously in order to survive in a difficult period. And as a matter of fact it did so!
Cuba proved wrong those who predicted its death in 1990-1991!
Cuba impressed the whole world with the high quality of education and healthcare it achieved. Moreover, in that period (and nowadays as well) it utilised these achievements, by means of exporting corresponding services that amount to 70% of its revenues from abroad.
It managed to increase the oil production of the country from 16% to 48% while it proceeded to a large-scale energy reform replacing the energy consuming devices thus saving electric energy.
However, it still has serious problems as it imports almost 80% of the food it needs and 50% of its energy needs. It still has unutilised farmlands which cannot be cultivated due to lack of fuels and machines.
Problems Caused by the Necessity of the "Special Period"
The double currency and tourism have intensified the problem of corruption which is tackled by the people’s power. A section of the population which has access to the double currency or to foreign exchange (e.g. tourist services, taxis, those who receive transit of funds from abroad) have a bigger income than other sections of working people, violating the socialist principle "to each according to his labour, while each one works according to his abilities". And the reason is that those who receive remittances (a considerable proportion of the population) can either not work or even if they do, they do not to work as they should and hence they do not to contribute to the society according to their abilities.
At the same time we should not forget that the new generation of Cubans, who were born and grew up in the past two decades, experienced difficulties and hardships due to the imperialist blockade and the capitalist restoration in the USSR . This section constitutes a special target-group of the imperialist propaganda that spends tens of millions of dollars each year in order to convince the Cubans that they should overthrow their government. The strong patriotic spirit of the Cuban people is definitely a bulwark against the imperialist efforts. Nevertheless, under these conditions the is a strong need to intensify the ideological-political work taking into account that 19 radio and TV stations broadcast against the Revolution on 30 frequencies for more than 2.000 hours per week .
In addition, several habits created during the "special period" under the pressure for survival caused a series of problems which were spotted by the Communist Party of Cuba e.g. relaxation in workers’ discipline, in the protection of the social ownership.
In December 1999 the Communist Party of Cuba , the revolutionary government, the Communist Youth declared the "battle of ideas" in order to deal with such problems. This battle embraces all aspects of social life and aims at the increase of the contribution of the Cuban people to the socialist construction as well as to the defence of the Revolution focusing on the education of the youth. The struggle of ideas, of course, the struggle for the consciousness is a constant struggle that never ends, irrespective of the successes it achieves.
The Measures of the Cuban Government
In order to assess the developments in Cuba one should take into account that central planning, which is a basic law and advantage of socialist society, the planned development of the means of production and particularly the distribution of the labour force is a crucial and complex process that requires systematic control, dealing with mistakes and omissions as well as correctional measures. Under these complicated conditions the Cuban leadership plans to proceed to changes in the structure of the employment of the labour force in the country. Its goal is to direct in the next few years one million workers, who are employed in redundant positions in public sector, to other sectors.
In our country the bourgeois media presented this reduction as "dismissals". In fact it is the effort of the Cuban state to distribute the labour force it has in other sectors where it faces the lack of labour force such as in agriculture, construction, as well as in small businesses in the service sector. Over the last years these measures have been discussed in assemblies in the workplaces and the trade unions and have the support of the workers.
The workers will be directed to three directions: 1. to other sectors of the public sector where there is a lack of manpower 2. to agricultural cooperatives 3. to the service sector which is planned to expand with self-employed.
As regards small businesses we should underline that in the past the Revolution, based on the assistance of the other socialist countries made immense progress socialising every form of services even those that had low concentration of production forces. Nowadays, it assesses that the socialist state has difficulties in the organisation of these daily services (barber shops, cafes, repairs). Thus, it will enable people to work in this sector employing a small number of employees.
At the same time the Cuban Revolution seeks to direct a part of the workers to the countryside to reinforce the production of agricultural products. The Cuban government has already given the land that was not cultivated to individuals, cooperatives and public enterprises seeking to increase the production of agricultural products. It is stated that these measures have to do with the land use -and not with the change in the form of ownership- by those who can cultivate land with low-level technology, namely with a few machines and fuels. Nowadays, there are 116.000 individuals who cultivate 54% of the land which has been unutilised till now, due to the fact that the state and the cooperatives could not cultivate it. This effort seeks to reduce the amount of 1,4 billion dollars that Cuba spends each year in order to import food (60% of its imports). The allocation of land will have a time limit and it will be renewed by the state that will examine the results. A part of the products will be bought by the state while another part will be sold on the market by the producers themselves.
"A Leopard Does Not Change Its Spots"
We have to understand that socialism in Cuba is not constructed under laboratory conditions and that the enemy intervenes in the developments, exerts huge economic, political and ideological pressure on the island of Revolution .
Nevertheless, the Communist Party of Cuba and the Cuban people resist; they defend socialism, tackle with the problems, the delays caused by the development level of the production forces, the pressure exerted by the economic blockade and the imperialist interventions.
The working people in our country should not fall into the trap of the bourgeois media that argue that "socialism lost the battle even in Cuba that resisted so far". Nothing is lost! It is a question of orientation and correlation of forces. We should support the communists and the Cuban people, who struggle to consolidate the socialist system, as much as we can.
Furthermore, we should expose the propaganda of the enemy that claims that the Cuban people are miserable because they have low earnings, low wages. They deliberately "forget" that in socialism only a part of the social product is distributed through wages, while another significant part is distributed for free or in very low prices. In practice this means that the working people do not pay for healthcare, education, culture, sports, for maternity welfare etc. as it happens in our country and in the whole capitalist world. Despite the aforementioned difficulties Cuba has not given up these irreplaceable gains of the working people.
The enemies of socialism cannot conceal its advantages. In spite of the difficulties caused by the overthrow of socialism in the USSR , in spite of the economic blockade by the US and the consequences of this situation the right to work is guaranteed for all those who are able to work. On the other hand, unemployment reaches 1,8% while the unemployed are mainly people who do not want to work as they have revenues from other sources (transit of funds).
So, the conscious workers should not be influenced by the multifaceted imperialist ideological campaign of the class enemy. On the contrary, they should always remember that "a leopard never changes its spots".
On the Basis of Our Assessments about Socialism
At the same time, we must (the overthrow of socialism in the USSR taught us to do so) study the developments, shape our own view and express worries and constructive reflection when necessary.
It is too early, of course, to proceed to an overall assessment of the measures that are being implemented in Cuba . What we know, however, is our experience from the reforms carried out in the USSR in 1960’s which promoted similar measures in the economy. In practice these measures led merely to a temporary increase in agricultural production. In succession they led to the increase of shortcomings, to the formation of a socialist product which was not controlled by the socialist state but by the cooperatives and the individuals. This situation in agriculture as well as the monetary incentives provided for the workers in industry led to the increase of the social differentiation and to the creation of the "shadow capital".
In the resolution of its 18th Congress KKE rejects the monetary form of the incentives. We believe though that incentives are required for the development of a vanguard communist attitude vis-a-vis the organisation and execution of labour, the overall increase in the efficacy of the collective in the production unit or social service. These incentives will aim at the decrease of purely unskilled and manual labours, at the decrease of labour time, in parallel with access to educational programmes, leisure and cultural services, participation in workers’ control.
Nowadays in the countries of Latin America emerge opportunist views about the so-called "socialism of the 21st century". According to these views, the ownership over the means of production will not play a significant role and the central planning of the economy will not be necessary. Communists should not only ignore such mistaken views that demolish the principle of socialist construction but also struggle against them.
In addition, it is very important that communists should not theorise the possible compromises and concessions. Lenin also made concessions through New Economic Policy (NEP) which was necessary due to the destruction of the productive forces after the World War I and the civil war that followed. However, Lenin had never presented NEP as "ideal" measures. Neither established it as "socialist market economy" as the leadership of China does, in order to conceal the dominance of the capitalist relations of production in the country which have tragic consequences for the working people.
A socialist country like Cuba should definitely utilise the economic relations with the capitalist economies in the region such as Venezuela , Brazil and other countries of Latin America . It should utilise contradictions and rivalries between the capitalist forces, between different alliances and procedures of capitalist integration in the region. Such tactical movements can help the socialist state power. Nevertheless, this does not entail that the alliances created of the basis of the capitalist relations of production can constitute a strategic way out for socialism or the peoples who struggle.
Communists throughout the world hope that the CP of Cuba will manage to maintain its revolutionary readiness and the deep bonds it has with the working class so as to isolate the forces that will seek the overthrow of socialism. Such forces emerge objectively due to the pressure of the economic blockade and the well-paid support of the imperialist aggressiveness. On this basis communists can draw conclusions on time and adapt their policy, since it is clear that the various measures taken necessarily will have negative aspects and consequences and undermine the endurance of the party and the working masses. It is no coincidence that the Communist Party of Cuba and the revolutionary power believe that a series of measures have a temporary character and that they will be abolished when the conditions allow it (e.g. double currency).
KKE will stand in solidarity with the struggle of the people and the Communist Party of Cuba. Our solidarity is not expressed merely through the solidarity brigades, the demonstrations, the international activities, the development of the anti-imperialist struggle, the struggle for socialism. It is also expressed by our worry, our vigilance, our critical remarks, by the study of the socialism we knew and the defense of the conclusions we drew in our 18th Congress that have to do with our perception on socialism.
The second aspect of our solidarity is equally important as the first one for the global question of the working class. Thus, we will thwart the plans of those who recently wished "Goodnight Fidel" (the newspaper "Ta NEA", and the former Minister of the social democrat PASOΚ N. Christodoulakis), while their real intention was to say "goodnight" to the Cuban Revolution which makes an immense contribution to the workers’ and peoples’ struggle in Latin America and allover the world. They shouldn’t be hasty; the peoples have inexhaustible powers and the Cuban people have proved that!
Elisseos Vagenas is a member of the CC of KKE and responsible for the International Section of the CC.
Article published in "Rizospastis" on September 26, 2010