By Guillermo Almeyra
August 8, 2009
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
The Cuban Revolution is going through its hardest period ever, mainly because of an international situation marked by capitalism’s current crisis, which is bound to last for at least two more years. Even a slight recovery will still mean that imported goods such as food and oil will go up in price, and hopefully the latter won’t go so high as to prevent Venezuela’s aid from increasing. At the same time, global warming has reached such levels that the whole Caribbean region is doomed to suffer the devastating effects of hurricanes and droughts on a regular basis.
Throw in the fact that the way U.S. policy on Latin America has evolved –suffice it to mention the role played by the State Department and the Pentagon in the coup d’état in Honduras, the threat posed by the IV Fleet hanging over the region like the sword of Damocles, and the seven military bases in Colombia that constitute a direct threat to Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador and Brazil, just to mention a few examples– reveals that Obama’s intentions and views carry a lot less weight with the Establishment than the big business and the U.S. government’s imperialist nature. Therefore, Cuba must keep improving its preparedness, so much so now that it has fewer resources than ever to provide for people’s needs and well-being.
There’s also the fact that youth, especially in the cities, have known nothing but crises and special periods, and what’s worse, they have witnessed the sharp contrast between their austere and difficult life and the frenzied consumerism of foreign tourists. Unacquainted with pre-Revolution Cuba, they are fully aware that it was a terrible mistake to model their system on a Soviet bureaucracy they believed eternal and reliable, only to be left stranded in the end with no aim or sense or purpose. The Cuban Government is thus relying on a negative consensus, that is, the decision made by the vast majority of Cubans, whether or not they agree with the official policy, that Cuba will be neither another Puerto Rico nor a new addition to the Stars and Stripes. Not exactly small potatoes, but more is needed to lift their spirits and boost their confidence enough for them to undertake a project that will only bear fruit in the medium or long term and demand therefore their courage, patience and creativeness while they live their life without consumer items.
Truth is, Cuba can be dependent on the brain drain no more than it can rely totally on oil imports, especially at a time that its Venezuelan friends are in Washington’s sights. It must work hard instead to produce a variety of quality foods and share them out effectively in the short term, even for reasons of internal political security, which the Cuban Government knows only too well. Now, an effective agricultural production calls for skilled, non-improvised labor and incentives to make up for the first rough encounter with rundown land overrun by thorny shrubs, essential tools and consumables –since hoes and machetes are not enough– seeds and water. In other words, investments, a system of extensive agriculture and even the shock experience of an agreement with China, for instance, to set up model farming camps in some regions of Cuba to be manned by landless Chinese and Cubans.
Yet, producing is not enough: there must be an effective, affordable system in place to distribute the most urgently needed foodstuffs, some of which –say, meat and dairy products– must be sufficiently profitable for the producers who invested their time and money in the project. Lenin saved his country with a new economic policy, that is, a market policy implemented in agriculture and trade together with plans to manufacture clothes, machinery and equipment for the new farmers’ market. How much does the island pay for a tourist industry bound to bring less and less hard currency in the coming years as it turns to cheaper destinations with less demanding moral and legal standards? Instead of funding great hotel chains empowered to buy expensive goods and foods, wouldn’t it be better to skim some money off that stock and use it to prod domestic production and design a more fair and equitable plan to distribute foods and services?
Why not consult the population about their needs and ideas to meet them? Why leave everything in the hands of a state apparatus made up of bureaucrats and technocrats who mean well but whose perception differs from John Q. Public’s and tend to solve things through managerial channels, using military labor rather than the working class’s energy and ingenuity? Why not hold people’s assemblies for production and self-improvement where the citizens can directly discuss, propose and resolve things? If the Party Congress has been put off –which further confirms that it neither has a life of itself nor does it control the State, but rather depends on a bunch of government leaders– why not turn this extraordinary conference into a forum for open, free, on-the-job debate where workers can make proposals? The techno-bureaucratic option is a fake option. Socialism cannot be built without the conscious involvement of the Cuban people. Cuba is in a state of emergency it can only overcome through the participation and will of all its workers and intellectuals.