Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The reform of the Cuban economy proceeds. After an announcement in August by the Labour Central that 500 thousand jobs would be shed, a New Economic Policy Discussion Paper has been published.

The French paper Le Monde Diplomatique published a fine discussion of the paper, (behind its subscription firewall).

An excerpt:

"The ruling group, partisan of liberal reform, has been rejuvenated by Raul Castro. Many of its positions are held by managers who came from the military, and for them "egalitarianism" and "paternalism" (understood to mean excessive social welfare provisions and not the seizure of power) are the root of all evil. Now they seem to have the de facto support of Fidel Castro. They do not analyse the causes of Cuba's low productivity and systemic inefficiency but blame a lack of worker motivation. When Raul Castro said that "Cuba cannot be the only country in the world where you can live without working", he made people profoundly unhappy, since absenteeism is often due to workers engaging in illegal activities vital for their survival. Military men who are also company directors say Cuba has no choice and, "like Vietnam or China", must adapt to globalisation, yet remain distinctive."

Since Cuban workers average a wage of $20.00 per month, it takes gall for the leadership to talk about "a lack of worker motivation." It takes even more gall to pretend that Cuba's military leaders--who double as factory managers--are doing anything progressive here.

Those who have unthinkingly supported Cuba over decades must now wish they had insisted on real democracy in Cuba, not the patently authoritarian system now in place. If they had, the workers of Cuba might have some avenues to object to what is happening to them.

As it is, two "pillars of the revolution", guaranteed employment and guaranteed food by rationing card, are being removed, and replaced with nothing. Cuba's workers are exposed as never before, while the regime's reforms are directed at saving its own privileges, not the working class.