President Obama, let the heroes go!
| September 1, 2014 | 9:38 pm | About the CPUSA, Action, Cuban Five, International | No comments

 

By James Thompson

 

President John F. Kennedy wrote a landmark book called Profiles in Courage. He studied the lives of a number of political leaders in the United States who stood up to negative forces and did the right thing even though it may not have been in their best political interest.

 

President Obama is reportedly an admirer of John F. Kennedy. President Obama is also a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

 

It is puzzling to many why the president has not responded to the mass movement demanding the release of the Cuban 5 (a.k.a. Miami 5). The mass movement is very large and is international in scope. Many high-ranking celebrities and political leaders both in the United States and around the world have united with a single demand “Free the 5!”

 

The Cuban 5 are five heroes who came to the United States to gather information on right wing terrorists located in Miami who were plotting violence against Cuba. Indeed, they carried out many attacks on this sovereign nation and killed many people and destroyed much property. The Cuban 5 were successful in gathering crucial information which they supplied to the Cuban government so that they could prevent these violent attacks. These courageous men fought international terrorists toe to toe and saved many innocent lives.

 

On September 12, 1998, the Cuban 5 were arrested. They received a trial which many maintain was unfair and they received astronomical sentences compared with others convicted of similar charges. One of the 5 completed his sentence in 2011 and was released and returned to Cuba. Another completed his sentence and returned to Cuba in 2014. Three remain in prison and have been there since 1998.

 

A US government operative, Alan Gross, was apprehended by the Cuban authorities for attempting to incite Cubans to overthrow their government. He has been languishing in prison for many years now and has been ignored by the Obama administration. The Cubans appear eager to make a swap of the three remaining Cuban 5 for Alan Gross. However, the effort of the Cubans has fallen on deaf ears.

 

President John F. Kennedy was faced with a similar situation when he took office. A high-ranking leader of the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA), Henry Winston, had been apprehended during the McCarthy era and was imprisoned for a number of years before Kennedy took office. There was an international outcry at this injustice and there were demands to release Mr. Winston. On June 21, 1961, President Kennedy granted Winston executive clemency and he was released. This was at the height of the Cold War and there was great reactionary pressure to leave Mr. Winston in prison inzzz-cuban5 spite of his serious medical problems. President Kennedy demonstrated his courage and fairness in reversing this injustice even though it was not in his best political interest.

 

In a few days, we will reach the 16th anniversary of the arrest of the Cuban 5. This would be an excellent time for President Obama to demonstrate to the world that he has the courage that President Kennedy had by releasing the 5 and arranging for a swap for Alan Gross. The world could then see that President Obama is a Nobel Peace Prize winner not only in name but also in action. He could follow this courageous act by working with Congress to end the blockade of Cuba and lift travel restrictions so that US citizens could travel freely to one of our country’s closest neighbors. President Obama campaigned for office on themes of “Change” and “Progress.” Mr. Obama, show us some Change and Progress!

We’re moving again
| August 28, 2014 | 8:35 pm | About the CPUSA, Announcements, National | No comments

From the Marxism-Leninism Today Editors

Friday, August 22, 2014

Western Pennsylvania has a rich history of class struggle. The region has witnessed, for example, the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, the Homestead Steel Strike of 1892, the growth of the CIO in the 1930s and 1940s, and the fierce attacks on organized labor and the Left by McCarthyism in the 1950s.

Meeting in Pittsburgh on Saturday August 16, 2014, readers and supporters of the Marxism-Leninism Today (MLT) website — www.mltoday.com  — many of them former Communist Party leaders and activists, met to form a new Communist organization.

Those attending came from Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. Greetings were received from those in Texas and Indiana who could not attend. Ten former members of the National Committee of the CPUSA either attended the conference or helped to plan it. More than half of those attending were union activists or union officers.

The conference heard and discussed presentations by convenors from the MLT Collective who presented three resolutions which, after discussion, were amended and formally adopted unanimously.

The key conference decision was adoption of a resolution to create a pre-party formation, tentatively called the Network of Communist Clubs (NCC). It will be led by Temporary Coordinating Committee (TCC), composed of the MLT Collective and two additional members who were added at the meeting to ensure a more balanced leading committee.

TCC’s main task will be to undertake necessary actions to create conditions for the birth of a full-fledged Communist Party operating on Leninist principles. The TCC will guide and nurture a network of Communist clubs. To some extent, a network of such clubs already exists.

Two of the opening presentations focused on the ten-year period since the founding of the MLT website, what led to its founding, and how it has tried to uphold the traditions of struggle of the CPUSA. Also included was a more detailed report on the growth and development of the MLT website, which since 2004, has enjoyed a five-fold growth in readership, two-thirds of it in the US. It has a lengthening list of regular writers, and growing international contacts. Since 2010 it has made several attempts to take the next step, from a political web site to organization.

A labor historian offered the long-term view, describing the untidy process by which the first CP came into being in 1918-21. He compared the favorable and unfavorable factors influencing the birth of a new organization, then and now. He reviewed the party’s recurrent battles against opportunism, a political illness always resurgent when the fortunes of US imperialism were on the upswing. He enumerated Lenin’s key ideas on what kind of vanguard political party the working class movement needs. With all our limitations and shortcomings, he concluded, it is our responsibility to try to rebuild.

A four-member panel of the Pittsburgh Club reported how the club came together in 2010. They outlined the essence of what an ideal Communist club ought to be and gave a report on the Pittsburgh club’s attempts to turn the ideal into reality, with substantial success.

The timing of the Pittsburgh meeting was influenced by the 30th CPUSA Convention in June 2014, which formally wrote into the Party Constitution new language taking the Party even further away from Lenin’s ideas about revolutionary organization. About one year ago, MLT editors announced their aim of refounding a Communist party. In the last year they have visited activists in almost all parts of the country to test sentiment.

Speakers from the floor spoke of the worsening objective conditions in the country, against a backdrop of upheaval against racial injustice in Ferguson, Missouri and the US-led aggressions, old and new, under way in dozens of countries. Not a single people’s movement has remained unaffected by the absence of a CP in the United States. The US labor movement despite some signs of struggle, remains in decline and retreat, and mired in class collaborationism.

Participants at the meeting agreed that the stress will be on a bottom-up approach to the creation of functioning clubs involved in mass struggle. The TCC was charged in the coming period with involving people in mass work in such areas of political work as labor, peace & solidarity, equality, and independent political action. Many in attendance are already involved in such work.

The TCC will create and supervise a working committee to write an expanded statement of principles, looking toward a full Party program. It will look at ways to alter the nature of the ML Today web site to begin to serve NCC organizational needs. It will recruit volunteers and strive to put the organization on a more stable and sustainable basis. It will work toward obtaining a physical location and address as soon as possible.

The Pittsburgh meeting agreed to hold a follow-up meeting in three months at a site still to be determined.

Those interested in contacting the TCC for more information can reach it at <<tcc.ncc2014@gmail.com This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. >>.

Occupation 101
| August 18, 2014 | 7:54 pm | Action, Analysis, International | No comments

Check out this video:

Statement by the Chairman of the Communist Party Central Committee, G.A. Zyuganov
| August 18, 2014 | 7:18 pm | Action, Analysis, Announcements, International | No comments

piotr-simoneneko-pcu-300x171

The witch Hunt in the Verkhovnaya Rada of Ukraine has become the main purpose of the National Fascists who seized the power. Intoxicated with the blood of their fellow countrymen and political opponents the deputies obedient to the junta are pressing buttons in extremist ecstasy, voting for the most obscurantist laws. Today, they banned the activities of the Communist Party of Ukraine. In the McCarthyism tradition the campaign is being unwound aimed at banning of the Communist Party, which has consistently advocated for peace in the country, against the increase in prices and tariffs, for the right of everyone to freedom of conscience, speech, speak their native language, the right to control their destiny in their own country.

We reiterate that a tragedy of the peoples in Europe started with banning of the German Communist Party, the Reichstag fire. The then Nazis have found followers in today’s Ukraine.

In the hour of trial for the Communists of Ukraine, we declare support and solidarity with the Communist Party of Ukraine.

We appeal to all national-patriotic forces of our country, to foreign communist and leftist parties to raise their voices in defense of the Ukrainian comrades. Come out to the meetings; make protests in the country representative missions, your parliaments and governments. Call for human rights respect.

Fascism will not pass!

Chairman of the Communist Party Central Committee

G.A. Zyuganov

The rising danger of nuclear war
| August 6, 2014 | 8:23 pm | Analysis, International | 2 Comments

By Darrell Rankin
A comment for Hiroshima Day

“I think that a new, repugnant form of fascism is emerging with notable strength, at this time in human history when more than seven billion inhabitants are struggling for their survival.”
- Fidel Castro, August 5, 2014 in Granma

The encroachment of the NATO military alliance towards Russia since the setbacks to socialism 23 years ago has reached a new milestone with the West’s take-over of Ukraine. The West – which often calls itself the ‘international community’ – is imposing harsh sanctions on Russia.

NATO is sending troops, ships and warplanes to Eastern Europe. Canadian and other NATO planes will soon be patrolling the edge of Russian airspace, directly confronting Russia and its nuclear arsenal.

As a result, the threat of a nuclear war is looming more dangerously. Such a war could be triggered accidentally or because of the lowered thresholds allowing the use of these weapons in the military doctrines of both NATO and Russia. NATO military doctrine, for example, allows for a nuclear “first strike.”

On August 1, Russia’s Foreign Ministry charged that “Washington is systematically carrying out a plan to dismantle the global strategic stability system,” referring to the U.S.’s continued development of anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems, including space-based weapons.

“Americans started this process in 2001 by unilaterally withdrawing from the ABM treaty. Now it is aggravated by… elaboration of a provocative strategy of Prompt Global Strike and an excessive build-up of conventional weapons…”

Another reality of modern imperialism is the influence of ‘neo-con’ war theorists in imperialism’s capitols. Divorced from reality and truth, these neo-cons are responsible for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. They are behind the push for war with Syria and Russia.

The most reactionary and bellicose class forces of imperialism – finance capital, the military-industrial complex and the biggest oil monopolies – are the real power behind the neo-cons. These are powerful forces in modern capitalism.

The shift towards militarism and reaction in imperialism’s politics is not a question of personalities or subgroups within classes. Understanding it requires knowing the class forces involved in shaping history today.

We see non-imperialist countries like Russia and China defending their sovereignty. The world’s largest-ever protest and strike took place last year (Eqypt – 28 million; India – 100 million). In 2011, protests shook the entire Arab world. People in South America are leaning more towards socialism.

The common thread in all these struggles is the grassroots resistance of working people. The international working class is waking up to international imperialism’s dangerous effort to maintain world domination.

The response of imperialism to all this is war and reaction, combined with arrogance and deception. Neocon politics are the corrupted and dangerous logic of a system in crisis, of imperialism justifying by violent means the status quo of privilege and exploitation.

It is a common saying that war is the continuation of foreign policy by violent means, and that is the role of neocons today.

Traditional Western (nonMarxist) game theory required both ‘sides’ to be rational. Nuclear weapons would be used only if one side was going to lose a ‘conventional’ conflict.

The old ‘balance of terror’ created by game theory to cover up imperialism’s role in the Cold War simply no longer exists because neocons base their policies on unrealistic and arrogant views.

The ‘terror balance,’ if it ever existed, has been replaced by a high degree of uncertainty about what will trigger a nuclear war.

The rare voices of reason and disarmament in imperialism’s parliaments are rarer still. Modern militarist culture justifies crimes and re-writes history, even the Vietnam War. It promotes a thoroughly false aura of invulnerability and superiority, a fairy tale world of superb military leadership and soldiers who can duck bullets and defeat fat generals with ineffective armies.

People who live in imperialist countries today are not being told the truth about the horrors and hardships of a truly global war. The whole purpose of imperialism’s war culture and propaganda is to ‘educate’ people with the arrogance and strategic fantasies of imperialism’s leaders.

At what cost? Modern civilization – both capitalist and socialist – could easily and instantaneously perish in a full-scale nuclear war, along with most life on earth.

For socialists, the source of the war danger is the capitalist system. Our view is that humanity is moving from capitalism to socialism because our present social system is in a large, general crisis of its own making. Such is nature of our historical epoch.

Capitalism has no hope or ability to resolve its many problems such as poverty, environmental destruction, unemployment and a host of ‘democratic deficits.’ Growing militarism and reaction are imperialism’s main responses.

Russia is a country not completely under the sway of Western imperialism. Moreover, Russia has enormous energy resources. One of the aims of U.S. and Canada is to ‘cut off’ Europe from Russia’s resources.

Historically, we experienced something like this before during the world wars of the last century. War in Europe has always benefited capitalism in North America.

If war breaks out, North America would gain a great deal because Europe will lose access to Russia’s resources. Russia, also weakened, would become more of a target for U.S. and Canadian corporate take-over.

What we see in Ukraine is imperialism trying to spark a war or a very serious confrontation with Russia. This is far more dangerous than the war imperialism wanted with Syria last fall, a war the West tried to start by falsely blaming the Syrian government for using chemical weapons.

Denied a war in Syria because of Russian diplomacy, imperialism is lashing out at the main reason no war took place. Western imperialism carefully prepared for war and the coup in Ukraine.

We see Western imperialism using fascist forces to carry out a coup d’etat in Ukraine and to launch a genocidal war against Russian-speakers in the country’s Eastern provinces. There is strong information that the downing of the Malaysian airliner was another false flag operation.

The West’s furious attempts to deepen the conflict against Russia testify to the overall aim: to tilt world politics towards war and reaction, if not fascism itself. The danger of nuclear war is on the rise.

On this Hiroshima Day, we need a peace movement who mobilizes people against imperialist militarism, who educates people about the danger of imperialist militarism, who understands the threat posed by NATO and its relationship with the fascists in Kiev. War will create a worse situation for all who want to create a better society, and if history is a guide, in the first place socialists.

Is Cuba turning back to capitalism?
| July 28, 2014 | 9:38 pm | Analysis, International, Latin America | No comments

http://mltoday.com/is-cuba-turning-back-to-capitalism?utm

Is Cuba Turning Back to Capitalism?

July 2014

By Roger Keeran and Thomas Kenny

In 2011, Cuban authorities adopted bold new Guidelines (Lineamientos) to deal with Cuba’s economic problems. Modified by pubic debate and adopted by Cuba’s parliament, the Guidelines now have the force of law and are embodied in regulations. In May 2011, after a visit to Cuba, we published an article, “Whither Cuba?” in which we argued that in spite of certain similarities between the Cuban problems in 2011 and the Soviet problems in 1985 and in spite of certain similarities between the solutions pursued by Mikhail Gorbachev known as perestroika and the Cuban reforms (actualizacion, or update), the differences in the two situations and the two sets of reforms were much greater than the similarities. Therefore, little reason existed to suppose that Cuba was heading down the path that ultimately destroyed Soviet socialism.

In February 2014 we visited Cuba again. This time we interviewed or re-interviewed workers, journalists, union officials, intellectuals, and academics. These discussions along with an examination of written material have not caused us to change our conclusion, but they have deepened our appreciation of the problems Cuban faces and the challenges faced by the new reforms and the differences with Soviet history. In this essay, we will revisit the question of whether the reforms signal a return to capitalism in Cuba and add some new insights.

The Problems

By nationalizing virtually all productive property and regulating economic activity by centralized planning in place of the market, competition, exploitation, and the pursuit of profit, Cuban socialism has achieved monumental gains for working people, including economic growth, full employment, free health care and education, housing, nutrition, and a high cultural level. Socialism, however, does not automatically produce a utopia.

State ownership and centralized planning engendered their own problems. Without the fearsome discipline of the market, socialism faces problems of motivation, productivity, efficiency and the quality of goods and services. Providing all people with employment can lead to overstaffing and inefficiency. Administering a large state fairly according to rules can lead to bureaucracy, red tape and delays. Ensuring all people of the basics of a decent life can lead to rationing, lines, and limitations on the quality and variety of consumer goods. Rationing and shortages can lead to corruption and a black market. Centralized planning can lead to a lack of initiative and responsibility at the local level.

Though such problems may be inherent in the nature of socialism, they have been exacerbated by the conditions of its birth. Never has a socialist revolution had the privilege of developing freely on its own terms. No socialist country could avoid imperialist attempts to suffocate it by invasion, diplomatic isolation, economic warfare (sanctions, blockade, sabotage, and military pressure), émigré terrorism, assassination, psychological warfare, and more recently the encouragement of “democratic movements,” and the use of cyber warfare and social media. Socialist states have always had to maneuver in a hostile world, a world even more hostile after the disappearance of the socialist bloc in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe.

In dealing with its economic problems, Cuba has always faced two disadvantages that did not pertain to the Soviet Union or China.

First, aside from abundant arable land, beautiful beaches, forests and nickel ore, Cuba does not possess abundant natural resources. It has lacked gas, oil, coal, iron, tin, and most other resources. (Though recent discoveries of offshore oil reserves may address one of these deficiencies in the future.)

Secondly, it has had to endure the fifty year U.S. blockade that deprived Cuba of export and import markets and greatly added to cost of imported medicine, food , capital goods, and consumer goods. According to some estimates in half a century the blockade has cost Cuba $975 billion, and without the boycott the Cuban standard of living might well equal Western Europe.[1]

None of these problems offset the unmistakable advantages of socialism for the mass of people, and none of them doomed the socialist project. Nonetheless, they did and do require constant attention and creative solutions. Cuba has revised its socialist model several times in attempts to deal with its economic challenges. Sometimes, the new models have had to correct deficiencies engendered by earlier ones.

1. First Model, 1960-1970. In the first period of the revolution, Cuba nationalized the big foreign companies, distributed land to the landless, developed a planning system, and coped with the U.S. blockade by developing trade with socialist countries. In this period, Cuba emphasized moral incentives over material incentives and set ambitious goals for rapid industrialization to be financed by the intensive production and export of sugar.

2. A Model Like Eastern Europe, 1970-1985. In this period Cuba joined the CMEA (the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, an organization of European socialist states designed to coordinate economic activities and develop economic, technical and scientific cooperation. In this period, Cuba developed its first Five-Year Plan that stressed the production of sugar and that placed more emphasis on material incentives in the pattern of other Eastern European socialist countries.

3. Rectification, 1985-1990. In this period, Cuba attempted to rectify the mistakes of uncritically applying Soviet economic recipes to the Cuban situation. Cuba abandoned some market mechanisms it had tried and enhanced economic centralization. It also tried to diversify the economy away from sugar by developing biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, tourism and nickel production.

4. The Special Period, 1991-2010. The collapse of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe meant the sudden loss of over two-thirds of its exports and a drastic contraction of its whole economy. The economic crisis was exacerbated by the intensification of the U.S. blockade by means of the Torricelli Act (1992) and the Helms-Burton Act (1996). In response, Cuba devised a new model that enforced belt-tightening, conserved foreign exchange, turned state farms into co-ops, allowed limited private enterprise in the retail sector, allowed remittances from Cuban exiles, and stressed the rapid build-up of tourism. To ensure that the remittances and tourism would bring in desperately needed foreign exchange, Cuba instituted a dual currency system.

The Special Period proved to be a very resourceful way of countering the extremely grave crisis posed by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the intensification of the blockade. With the policies of the Special Period coupled with the help of loans from China and oil from Venezuela, Cuba managed to bring its economy and standard of living back to pre-crisis levels.

Meanwhile, however, several new economic problems emerged. First, the world economic recession of 2008 hammered Cuban export markets, and this remains a problem. Moreover, in 2007-2010, several hurricanes caused widespread destruction. On top of these problems, the Special Period policies resulted in some unintended and unwelcome consequences related to the dual currency system.

Because of the difference between the Cuban Universal Currency (CUC), (which was used by tourists and those sending remittances from abroad) and the Cuban peso was roughly 1 to 25, Cuba was able to take in much needed foreign exchange. This difference in value also made access to the CUCs extremely desirable and gave its recipients considerable advantages.

Consequently, work in restaurants, hotels, taxis, and other parts of the tourist industry with access to payment or tips in CUCs became in many cases more attractive and more lucrative than work in the professions for which people were freely educated. There was thus a demoralizing and inefficient “brain drain” from teaching and other professions to tourism.

It also contributed to inequality, the black market, and corruption. For example, since the preponderance of the two million Cuban-American living in the United States are Cubans of European or mixed-race background, the preponderance of the billions of dollars of remittances went and are going to their relatives of European or mixed-race backgrounds in Cuba. This has exacerbated racial economic differences.

The only way out of these difficulties required eliminating the dual currency. Without causing tremendous economic dislocation, the dual currency could only be eliminated gradually by increasing Cuban wages and reducing the need for foreign exchange. This in turn required increasing productivity and efficiency to make Cuban products more competitive and to reduce the need for imported energy and raw materials. It also required increasing self-sufficiency particularly in food, since Cuba spends about $1 billion annually to purchase food abroad. Similarly, recouping export markets lost in the 2008 downturn required increasing productivity and efficiency.

All of these considerations—addressing some the endemic problems of socialism and combating problems caused by the 2008 downturn as well as those generated by the Special Period—provided the impetus for the “update” reforms inaugurated in 2011. Another circumstance that makes the reforms pressing is the uncertainty of the international situation.

Because of China, the Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution, and progressive, social democratic governments in Brazil, Bolivia and elsewhere, Cuba now has more friends and support abroad than in the recent past, but none of these was guaranteed to last. China’s support for fraternal socialist lands has wavered before. The Bolivarian Revolution is not consolidated. And social democratic governments come and go.

Both Fidel Castro and Raul Castro have underscored the urgency of the reform. Fidel said, “the Cuban model doesn’t work for us anymore.”[2] In December 2010, Raul Castro said, “We either rectify things, or we run out of time to continue to skirt the abyss [and] we sink.”[3]

Understanding the nature and gravity of the problems faced by Cuba is an important component of making a political assessment of the Cuban reforms. The essence of opportunism as defined by Lenin is not in making compromises or concessions to the class enemy but in making unnecessary compromises and concessions.

In our view, the crux of the problem with Gorbachev’s perestroika and glasnost was that that they involved unnecessary concessions to American imperialism and compromises with capitalist ideology and practices. Gorbachev’s policies were less a requirement of the objective situation than of the class interests of a petty bourgeois sector that had developed in Soviet society rooted in years of growth of the second economy.

Though the Soviet system had problems that needed to be addressed. Gorbachev’s policies involved five unnecessary policies of opportunist retreat:

*The liquidation of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union,
*The handover of the media to anti-socialist forces,
*The unleashing of nationalist separatism, and
*The surrender to U.S. imperialism,
*The wholesale privatizing and marketizing of the socialist economy.

Though the first four of these processes is not going on in Cuba, a certain reduction of the state’s role and a certain augmentation of private economic activity and the market is occurring.

Though the Cuban reforms today may be cheered by those connected to the Cuban second economy and by those who desire to undermine socialism, they are a response to very real problems that if unaddressed threaten the future of Cuban socialism. To the extent that the reforms are compromises with the market and capitalist ideas, they are necessary compromises. The short term goal is to eliminate the balance of payments deficit, enhance flows of external income, substitute domestic produce for imports, and increase economic efficiency, work motivation, and income. The long -term goal is to achieve food and energy self-sufficiency, the efficient use of human resources, a greater competitiveness and new forms of production.[4]

The Policies of Actualizacion

Still, the question arises: even if the Cuban reforms today are more necessary than the Gorbachev reforms of the late 1980s, are not the Cuban moves themselves similar in many ways to Gorbachev’s and do they not pose the same danger to socialism as Gorbachev’s reforms?

Many of the guidelines do bear a resemblance to Gorbachev’s policies, and these have drawn the most attention. Unquestionably, many of the guidelines aim to increase the role of the market, private enterprise and local autonomy, and hence to reduce the role of state planning, state employment, and state subsidies.

A course that increases the size of petty bourgeois interests does pose dangers. Invariably, voices will arise that want to push things faster and further toward capitalism. In the prologue to the Spanish translation of our book, Socialismo Traicionado, Ramon Labanino, one of the imprisoned Cuban Five, speaks of the need at this moment to “be alert and vigilant in order to avoid errors and weaknesses that could bring us to failure.”

Many things about the handling of the updating so far, not the least that men like Labanino are aware of the Soviet history, give confidence that Cuba can avoid the pitfalls that doomed Soviet socialism.

Most importantly, in adopting the Cuban Communist Party Draft Economic and Social Policy Guidelines, the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) affirmed that the government’s commitment to socialism and to preserving the livelihood, security and standard of life of the Cuban people. In the PCC’s words, the government will “continue preserving the achievements of the Revolution, such as access to medical attention, education, culture, sports, recreation, retirement pensions and social security for those who need it.”

Also, of crucial importance, the formulation and implementation of the guidelines occurred and are occurring in a process that differed widely from what happened in the Soviet Union. The Cuban “updating” emerged from a highly democratic process and the mass participation rank and file Communists and workers.

In Cuba, the development of the guidelines in 2010 through their ongoing implementation in 2014 embraced popular consultation and discussion and the building of mass consensus. The process began in December 2010 through February 2011 with discussions by the people as a whole, followed by discussions by the party in every province, and then by discussions at the Sixth PCC Congress in April. In total 163,079 meetings occurred in which 8,913,838 people participated.

These discussion modified or incorporated 68 percent of the original 291 guidelines, modified 181 others, and created 36 new guidelines. Discussion of the guidelines also occurred in the letter pages of Granma, radio phone-ins, internet blogs, and the trade unions. One observer noted: “A key point here is that the drafting of new employment law involves a process of consultation with the CTC (the Central Confederation of Trade Unions) so detailed and extensive that unions have a de facto veto.”[5]

Because of this mass involvement, the Cuban people are united and confident about the direction of the updating. The question of whether Cuba is going back to capitalism is more prevalent outside Cuba than inside. No one with whom we spoke expressed the slightest fear that the updating would hurt the interests of workers or threaten the future of socialism.

The Cuban “updating” is a multifaceted and sweeping effort that involves 291 guidelines touching nearly every corner of economic life. In another difference from Gorbachev’s approach, the Cuban reforms are almost exclusively geared to economic changes, not changes in politics, ideology, the media, and foreign policy.

Moreover, many of the guidelines are geared to peculiar Cuban conditions and have no resemblance to Gorbachev’s perestroika. For instance, some of the guidelines have to do with encouraging the cultivation of currently unused land and developing rural areas by giving unused state farmland in usufruct to those who can produce food for national consumption. Some of the guidelines have to do with a return to the socialist principle of distribution — “from each according to his ability, to each according to his work,’’— that is to say, rewarding workers for their productivity, from which the Cubans had moved away during the Special Period.

To increase productivity and efficiency, the responsibility for various national enterprises will devolve to the provinces and municipalities. These lower levels will acquire control over their own revenues and are expected to operate on the basis of financial profitability. The sugar industry for example will reduce the number of personnel and each mill will become a separate enterprise.

Decentralization involves a departure from central planning, and this can cause complications for what centralized planning remains, and it can also introduce inequalities as some localities enjoy more favorable conditions than others. Still, decentralization does not necessitate tampering with the fundamentals of socialist ownership and the provision of social needs. All socialist countries have experimented with various mixes of centralization and decentralization.

The state plans to reduce other activity including as many as a million or more jobs. The state will also eliminate workers’ cafeterias with subsidized meals or will transform them into commercial eateries. The state will limit number of months of eligibility and the size of unemployment benefits. The state also plans to eliminate the subsidized ration book for those who can afford to buy food. The idea is to do these changes in a gradual and systematic way, so that those losing state jobs find employment in an invigorated private sector.

Though the reforms involve an expansion of private enterprise and thus capitalist relations of production, the expansion is highly regulated. According to one estimate, as of 2014, 450,000 Cubans work in the private sector in farms, cooperatives and small firms.[6] As of December 2013, 78 percent of the workforce was in the public sector and 22 percent in the private sector. The goal of the updating is sixty percent in the public sector and forty percent in the private sector.[7] The private and cooperative sector will embrace almost half of the workforce by 2015. In this process, the state will lease to private individuals such enterprises as in-home restaurants (paladares) , bakeries, barber shops, beauty salons, watch, bike and auto repair shops. The state is raising the number of permissible customers for in-home restaurants from 12 to 50 and suspending taxes for a year for those paladares that employ up to 5 persons.

Market relations are expanding. People with access to foreign exchange will be able to use the tourist facilities and purchase cell phones, telephones and computers. People will be able to buy and sell automobiles, houses and apartments and to build private homes and hire private building crews.

The guidelines attempt to handle such controversial aspects as privatization and foreign investment in ways that guarantee the living standards of workers and the future of socialism.

For example, the expansion of cuentapropistas (workers on own account or the self-employed) is being done not only to absorb those displaced from state employment but also to encourage workers in the illegal second economy to become part of the legal economy.

A trade union official told us about a relative who had worked as an illegal taxi driver, where he was often arrested, paid no taxes and had no social benefits. Now as a cuentapropista he drives a cab legally, pays taxes, and receives social benefits, including eventually a pension.[8] Moreover, all of the cuentapropistas are eligible to join trade unions. The unions are devising strategies to recruit them and to offset the petty bourgeois thinking that could arise with the expansion of self-employment.

The updating seeks to expand foreign investment, beyond what was allowed by a 1997 law. Already in the plans is a new Mariel container port financed by Brazil. At the same time, the updating seeks to minimize the potentially harmful consequences of foreign investment.

For example, the law creates incentives for joint ventures. It excludes investment from Cuban exiles. It requires joint ventures and other forms of enterprise to hire labor through the state-run Cuban agencies.

It requires foreign investors to follow the labor code in terms of environmental, health and safety protections and social security. With the exception of high-level management, companies must employ Cuban citizens and residents for all positions.

Though all of these changes are breathtaking in their sweep and aspirations, Raul Castro and the PCC are implementing them cautiously with an eye to thwarting unintended consequences. At the Sixth Congress of the CPP, Castro said, “The challenge is clear: higher output levels in material production, by volume and efficiency are essential; but have to be made in the context of socialist relations of social production, socialist property relations.”[9] On the licensing of cooperatives, Castro said, “We cannot hurry in the constant approval of these cooperatives. We shall go at a suitable pace.” In 2013, Castro issued a stern warning to entrepreneurs against rushing headlong in violation of the guidelines.[10]

In a similar vein, the party has warned people not to expect the updating to lead to privatizing the economy. In 2010 the PCC declared: “In the new forms of non-state management, the concentration of ownership in legal or natural entities shall not be permitted.”[11]

In July 2013, Marino Murillo, a top economics official in the Cuban government, reinforced this idea before the National Assembly of People’s Power: It is not correct to say that in Cuba today a transformation of property into private property is taking place. Do not mistake the transformation of property for the modernization of management. They are two different things….[12]

What is being transferred into private hands is not ownership but the management of socially owned property.[13]

Clearly, the path ahead is not without danger. Referring to the Paris Commune, Karl Marx said, “World history would indeed be very easy to make, if the struggle were taken up only on condition of infallibly favorable chances.”[14] So it is with the Cuban actualizacion. The Cubans are undertaking a course with certain risks and with no infallibly favorable chances, but they are doing so gradually and cautiously with their eyes wide open and with the entire population involved. It is a course that is contradictory, but necessary. They are doing so with the understanding that, as Raul Castro said, to do nothing risks falling into the abyss.

Those in the United States who are watching the Cuban developments with intense interest and boundless hope, could give concrete aid to the Cuban updating process by redoubling the effort to free all the Cuban Five and to end the criminal U.S. blockade.

——————————————————————————–
[1] Interview of Manuel Yepe, Havana, Cuba, February 18, 2014. Yepe is a former diplomat and now a journalist. As a young man he was an assistant to Che Guevara. See also: Cuba vs Bloqueo: Cuba’s Report on Resolution 65/6 of the United Nations General Assembly entitled “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba” (July 2011), 54.
[2] Quoted by Anton L. Allahar and Nelson P. Valdès://cuba-1blogspot.com/2014_05_01archive.html#6955777, 36.
[3]<> , March 24, 2012 .
[4] Allahar and Valdès, 41.
[5] Steve Ludlam, “Cuba’s Socialist Development Strategy,” Science & Society 76, no. 1 (January 2012), 2.
[6]The Economist, Feb. 15, 2014.
[7] Interview of Marta Nunez, Havana, Cuba, February 18, 2014.
[8] Interview of Lic. Anibal Melo Infante, Department of International Relations, Centro De Trabajadores de Cuba, (CTC) Feb.17, 2014.
[9] Raul Castro, at the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba.
[10] “Cuba: Raul Castro Issues Stern Warning to Entrepreneurs,” Associated Press (December 21, 2013).
[11] Quoted by Allahar and Valdès, 41.
[12] http://www.cubadebate.cu/especiales/2013/10/15/marino-murillo-el-modelo-cubano-es-socialista/ .
[13] Letter, Marce Cameron, Green Left Weekly, July 1, 2012. Marce Cameron has produced a useful blog, “Cuba’s Socialist Renewal.”
[14] Marx to L. Kugelmann, April 17, 1871 in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works in Two Volumes, Vol. II, (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962), 464

Tariq Ali Interviews Nicolas Maduro on the launch of teleSUR English
| July 24, 2014 | 9:22 pm | International, Latin America | No comments

TeleSUR

Published 24 July 2014

President Nicolas Maduro sat down with
Tariq Ali over 40 minutes, for an interview
which will be featured on the new teleSUR
English website.

The renowned scholar Tariq Ali conducted an interview today in Caracas with president Nicolas Maduro, as celebrations on the 231st birthday of Simon Bolivar mark the launch of teleSUR English.

During the interview, which took place in Bolivar’s birth home, Ali and Maduro spoke about the legacy of former president Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan opposition, the economy, and the most recent developments in the world.

Regarding the Venezuelan opposition’s stance against his government, Maduro underscored the importance of recognizing democratic rule.

“In 15 years of Revolution, we have won 18 out of 19 elections, we have built a solid majority based on our projects and on national and international values. The oligarchy, which has inherited anti-values, has a superiority complex and has not been able to respect this new majority that was built by Commander Hugo Chavez” he said.

President Maduro highlighted the importance of the recent changes in world affairs, assuring that the new mechanisms – such as the SUCRE monetary mechanism – and the new Development Bank and the Reserves Bank announced by the BRICS would reshape the world economy.

“We got new mechanisms that have been born…the power of these economies [BRICS] will eventually determine, inevitably, the new world system, and Latin America must spearhead this process”, said Maduro.

During the interview, the Venezuelan president also took the opportunity to call on the Arab leaders to stop the ongoing massacre in Gaza.

http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Tariq-Ali-Interviews-Nicolas-Maduro-on-the-launch-of-teleSUR-English-20140724-0066.html