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Cuba after the Castros-Lal Khan

Posted by admin On April - 23 - 2018

Since the Cuban revolution of 1959, the Castro brothers Fidel and Raúl were presidents of the socialist republic. Raúl had taken over as the president from his ailing brother Fidel in 2006. Last Wednesday however, the Cuban National Assembly and its 605 members elected Miguel Díaz-Canel as the country’s new president. In the swearing-in speech, Díaz pledged to uphold the values of the country’s socialist revolution. He added, “there would be no capitalist restoration, but there will the modernisation of our social and economic model… Socialism or Death! We will triumph”. Meanwhile, Raúl Castro is expected to remain a powerful influence in the Cuban state even after he steps down.

Díaz was born in April 1960, a year after Fidel Castro became the revolutionary government’s prime minister. Díaz began his political career in his early 20s as a member of the Young Communist League in Santa Clara. He started his professional career as a teacher at the city’s engineering university. Díaz became the secretary of Cuba’s Young Communist League at the age of 33, and rose to the post of Cuba’s vice president in 2013. Raúl Castro had praised Díaz for his ‘ideological firmness’.

Inspite of the pressures and economic crises it faces, Cuba still maintains a planned (socialist) economy. Most industries are owned and operated by the government, and most of the labour force is employed by the state. After the fall of the Soviet Union a severe crisis hit Cuba. It’s GDP declined by 33 percent between 1990 and 1993, partially due to the loss of Soviet subsidies and a crash of sugar prices in the early 1990s. The Communist Party encouraged the formation of worker co-operatives and self-employment. After Raúl Castro took over the presidency in 2006, attempts were made to open up more sections of the economy to the private sector. The social democratic faction of the Communist party were advising Raúl Castro to establish a Cuban version of the Sino-Vietnamese model, which maintains a one-party state while opening the economy to private enterprise and the markets for foreign monopolies. But soon the spectre of rich capitalists and the curse of huge inequality forced the regime to reverse most of these counter-reforms.

In the year 2000, public sector employment amounted to 76 percent and private sector employment — mainly composed of the self-employed — was 23 percent as compared to the 1981 ratio of 91 percent to 8 percent. However, investment is restricted and requires approval by the government. The government sets most prices and rations goods to citizens. Housing and transportation costs are low. Cubans receive government subsidised education, healthcare and food subsidies.

The Cuban revolution proved that a planned economy in a small state can benefit the oppressed masses, and provide health and education

The country achieved a more even distribution of income since the Cuban Revolution, despite an economic embargo imposed by the US imperialists. Despite the shrinkage of Soviet grants and economic crises, Cuba retains high levels of healthcare and education. Today, Cuba has the highest per capita ratio of doctors in the world, second only to Italy.

Before the revolution Cuba had a one-crop economy (sugar cane) whose domestic market was constricted. Its population was characterised by chronic unemployment and deep poverty. United States monopolies plundered Cuba. They dominated the country’s entire financial system, all electric power production and the majority of industry. US monopolies owned 25 percent of the best land in Cuba. Sugar and livestock-raising landowners owned more than 80 percent of the country’s farmland.

In the 1950s, most Cuban children were not in school. A vast majority of households had no electricity. Only 15 percent of rural homes had running water. Nearly half the population was illiterate. More than 40 percent of the Cuban workforce in 1958 was either underemployed or unemployed. The planned economy introduced after the revolution brought enormous improvements in the living conditions of ordinary Cubans.

The present economic crisis again threatens the planned economy that made these collective gains possible. Diaz faces daunting challenges. Although he still believes in the continuation of the planned economy, it would be hard for him to sustain it in the present milieu. This situation is explained by Marxist theory, which rejects the possibility of socialism occurring in one country, particularly when that country is economically underdeveloped and exists in a capitalist world currently unthreatened by immediate socialist revolutions. The bureaucratic character of the regime and isolation of the Cuban revolution are also obstructions in building a socialist society. The current low productivity rates are due to a bureaucratic system that systematically creates disorganisation and chaos and does not provide workers with political incentives — allowing them to have a say and control over what they do — to motivate them.

Today the Cuban revolution is at the crossroads. Although it has succeeded over the last 59 years in maintaining its non-capitalist course, even if that took place at the price of developing a certain deprivation. The Cuban regime also established international relations with leftist governments emerging from the struggles against imperialism and its neo-liberal globalisation, in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. Cuban aid has been of great importance for the advances made by the ‘Bolivarian revolution’ in Venezuela. However, with these left wing governments in crisis, their resources to support the Cuban economy have diminished.

This creates more problems for President Díaz-Canel. Absence of a framework of workers’ democratic control and the re-establishment of even partial market relations pervades social discontent and cynicism among the population and weakens the legitimacy of the Cuban system. Donald Trump’s reinforcement of the embargoes and his belligerence is also a crude attempt to force Cubans into capitulation to capitalism.

Despite all these setbacks, the Cuban revolution — inspite of its bureaucratic domination and isolation — has proved to the peoples of the world that a planned economy in a small island nation can enormously benefit the oppressed masses and provide health and education with a quality even better than some advanced countries. The Cuban revolution deserves to safeguard the best of its socialist economic system as an alternative paradigm to the present merciless and exploitative globalisation. It must break with the worst of itself. A renewed struggle of the Cuban workers and youth for Marxist internationalism for spreading revolutions combined with the creation of a democratic control of the economy, society and the state is crucial for the revolution’s survival.

The writer is the editor of Asian Marxist Review and International Secretary of Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign. E-mail ptudc@hotmail.com

Published in Daily Times, April 23rd 2018.

Note: This article is for educational purposes. Its reproduction, in any form, can be had with the permission of the author/publisher whose original link ,from where it is reprodced, is given above.

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