By the way, this helps explain why I am a left-wing anti-Communist.
Communists all over the world forced us to choose between socialism and
freedom; in the end, we got neither socialism nor freedom.


On Thu, Sep 16, 2010 at 9:08 AM, Michael Balter <[log in to unmask]>wrote:

> Understanding what is happening in Cuba right now is important to
> understanding the tasks ahead for socialists, including those socialists who
> ultimately want to create a science for the people. I offer the below as a
> pretty good analysis of what it all means. Be sure to read the whole thing
> whether you agree or not.
> MB
> <> Cuba: Crash Landing<>
> <>
> As far back as ten years ago, an old pal of mine — much, much warmer to the
> Cuban regime than I — described* Cuba *as a sort of jet airliner,
> circling, circling and circling; a society up in the air and unsure where
> and how it was going to land.
> Looks now like the suspense is over. Time to buckle up your seat belts and
> put your head between knees and pray you survive.
> Just days after *Fidel Castro *said the Cuban economic model didn’t work
> and then said he didn’t say it, the Cuban state has announced it is laying
> off a million workers<>,
> 20% of the national work force.  So, I guess Fidel meant what he said he
> didn’t say.  The layoffs had been rumored for months and come as little
> surprise to most Cubans — though I think it fair to say that few predicted
> the shock would be quite of this scale.
> The Cuban trade unions of all people, in language similar to a *
> Thatcherite *cabinet minister has applauded the move and has re-assured
> its nervous members that nobody is really going to lose their job. Instead,
> they will be transitioned into an expanded private sector. Service workers,
> like barbers and taxi drivers, will be forced –for better or worse– to work
> for themselves and to pay a Steve Forbes-like 25% flat tax for social
> services. Others state employees will be “allowed” to form cooperatives.
> Details are sketchy but some factories might be semi-privatized. Some Cubans
> will be allowed to open, or re-open small businesses like restaurants and so
> on. In other words, a million or so Cubans (and their families) will be cut
> loose to thrive or fail in a capitalist marketplace.
> While the already wildly insufficient ration card will be maintained, state
> subsidies on some basic goods are already being cut.
> You can perfume this anyway you like but what we are seeing is a
> second-drawer emulation of the Chinese model: the formal introduction of  an
> expanded capitalist market(and all the class differences that come with it)
> unaccompanied by any democratization of the political system.  In other
> words, the worst of both worlds.
> (Standby, now,  for the hilarious rationalizations for the introduction of
> savage capitalism into the Cuban economy by “revolutionary” Castro
> apologists here and abroad. NONE of whom will be able to say they had
> previously called for or supported such a radical move bit now magically
> think it’s great).
> Make no mistake: This is is formal beginning of the post-Castro era and the
> definitive end to any lingering illusions that Cuba was able to create a
> new, more equal society.  It’s an oft-repeated joke, but one that is
> absolutely true when Cubans wryly comment that ‘The only victory won by the
> Cuban Revolution is the right not to work.”  True. True. True. It was meager
> and always not enough. But everything in Cuban was given. Basically free
> rent, free transportation, dirt cheap food staples and absolutely guaranteed
> employment whether you showed up or not or if you performed any work or
> not.”
> Those days are now over.
> Of course, the assurances that the laid off workers will all now be taken
> care of by the new, larger, private sector are patently absurd. I think
> readers of this blog, who actually live in a market society, know that*
>  nothing* is guaranteed in the market.  Ask the 250 million rural Chinese
> who have become permanent nomads how much they are guaranteed once the
> state-granted “iron rice bowl” was snatched by similar capitalist reforms.
> Don’t misunderstand me.  I think this sort of move has been inevitable for
> a long, long time. The Cuban state cannot afford to bankroll the lives of
> all its subjects. But the transition to as a civil as possible a market
> economy should have begun two or three decades ago when it was already
> evident that the Cuban system had failed. There might have been a much
> softer landing rather than a jarring social crash.
> And I do mean “system” because what exists in Cuba has never been and is
> not* socialism*. It is *a freakish state plantation capitalism*.  Not only
> are workers exploited directly by the all-powerful “people’s state” in which
> they have no voice — but for two decades now the same Cuban state has acted
> as a ruthless labor broker renting out portions of its oppressed and
> powerless work force to foreign private capitalists who have been allowed to
> set up shop in strategic sectors of the economy. The Cuban state charges the
> foreign firm a market rate in hard currency and pays the worker a meager
> Cuban wage while working for a Spanish, Dutch, Canadian or Mexican
> capitalist cartel.
> Dissident Havana-based writer Yoani Sanchez hits the mark when she writes<>
> :
> *One of the most frequent topics of discussions when talking about Cuba,
> is whether the reality in which we live can really be called “socialist.”
> For my generation, which grew up with books on Marxism, manuals on
> scientific communism, and volumes of the writings of Lenin, it is difficult
> to find the Cuban model in those works. When someone asks me about it I say
> that on this island we live under state capitalism, or, as one perhaps could
> call it, on the Party’s plantation… the family clan’s plantation…*
> *My theory derives from those ancient books I was forced to study, where
> there was one factor essential for characterizing a society as socialist:
> the methods of production were in the hands of the workers. But what I see
> around me is an “omni-proprietary” state, owner of the machines, the
> industries, the infrastructure of a nation and of all the decisions made
> about it. A master who pays the lowest possible wages and demands applause
> and unconditional ideological fealty from his workers.*
> *This miserly owner now warns that he cannot continue to employ more than
> one million of those working on the public payroll. “To advance the
> development and actualization of the economic model,” we are told payrolls
> must be drastically reduced, while  opportunities for self-employment<> will
> see only the smallest and most controlled expansion. Even the Cuban Workers
> Center — the only labor union allowed in the country — reports that the
> layoffs will come soon and we must accept them with discipline. A sad
> performance for those whose role it is to represent the rights of their
> members vis-a-vis the powers-that-be and not vice versa.*
> *What will the antiquated owner, who has possessed this Island for five
> decades, do when his unemployed of today become the dissatisfied of
> tomorrow? How will he react when the labor and economic autonomy of the
> self-employed turns into ideological autonomy? Then we will hear cursing and
> stigmatization of the prosperous, because any surplus — like the
> presidential chair — can only be his.*
> Well, you can agree or disagree with Yoani’s bitter attitude. But some
> realities she suggests are undeniable even to those knuckleheads who think
> this is just some or another “adjustment” in the ongoing work of the Cuban
> Revolution. When you introduce a private sector, you formalize class
> divisions.  Those divisions have long existed inside Cuban “socialism.”
> Those who work in the “dollar sector” — in foreign-owned hotels, other
> tourist sectors, and in some areas of foreign-owned enterprises, have been
> able to, legally or otherwise, siphon off streams of hard currency. The end
> result is that waiters, valets, maids and, of course, hookers, made upteen
> times per month than a doctor or teacher.
> Till now, this has been something that polite Cuban society just didn’t
> talk about.  The new Cuba will now have to tolerate, somehow, people who are
> getting openly wealthy while other less fortunate Cubans become their wage
> slaves (without a real union). I don’t want to go all Marxist on you and
> everything, but that new CLASS of self-employed and entrepreneurs are going
> to want political representation as they grow. And they will get it. They
> will either give rise to some sort of opposition, or much more likely, the
> actually existing Cuban state will make a shift and will represent them.
> Again, look at the Chinese model in which fabulously wealthy exploiters are
> more than happy to be represented by a reptilian Communist Party which
> serves to keep the workers nice and docile and ready to work 60 hours a
> week.
> Likewise, Cuba is not only going to have a lot more rich people, it’s also
> going to have a lot more poor people. All those people who are going to be
> at the bottom of the private sector pyramid. You know, like the unemployed
> and the homeless. I reckon that some of this might be mitigated for a short
> period. But, remember, the state is already bankrupt. That’s why it’s laying
> off one out of five of its workers.
> One final thought that might interest only those engaged in Marxist
> trivia.  But much of the economic catastrophe in Cuba is a result not only
> of the American embargo, but also because of* Fidel Castro’s* rather crude
> and incomplete understanding of the Marxism he contends to embody.  *Marx
> *saw “socialism” as an economic stage *superior* to capitalism.  He didn’t
> mean morally superior. Marx meant that socialism, a society of equality,
> could ONLY be built upon a fully developed and mature, indeed over-ripe,
> global capitalist system. The ideal of socialism was to more equally
> distribute wealth, not poverty. It wasn’t until* Stalin* himself
> bastardized and perverted Marxist economic theory that any serious Marxist
> –anywhere– believed  you could build socialism in one single country<>.
> Let alone an impoverished third world island.
> By now you have probably stopped reading so I might as well continue for
> another few paragraphs.  In this regard, in the economic sphere, Castro is
> one of the purest Stalinists in history.  There was no historical “law” nor
> any moral reason why he couldn’t have led the revolution he did and even
> proclaim his government “socialist.” But if he knew anything about Marxism
> or just basic economics, he would have known that he had to *create* some
> wealth, not just distribute the scarcity that he inherited.  To have
> nationalized what Marxists call the “commanding heights” of the Cuban
> economy in the early 1960′s — major industry, major services and major
> financial sectors might have made a lot of sense and might have helped
> accelerate Cuban economic development if done in the proper
> political-economic framework.  But by 1965, Castro had gone way, way off the
> rails as the state had literally expropriated one hundred per cent of all
> economic activity (well, not exactly all activity as some peasants were
> allowed to toil the land- but almost everything). That shoe shine boys and
> snow cone vendors were nationalized and became state employees (!) were
> merely comic relief.  The real tragedy resided in Castro eliminating all
> small business, all private services and allowing no space for private
> industrial or technological development, innovation and investment, even
> within the bounds of a more just, more equal society (the bitter irony, of
> course, is that a half century after the fact, he is forced to do so
> anyway). FAIL.
> For Castro a monopoly on political power was not enough, He demanded and
> created an undemocratic monopoly on every aspect of economic life as well.
> And I assure you, what Castro did in that regard, has NOTHING to do with a
> Marxist conception of a society moving*toward* socialism.
> OK. Enough of that. We can end this history lesson on a lighter note.`A
> couple of decades ago as The Wall was crumbling, there was yet another
> sardonic joke that became popular in Eastern Europe. It now, sadly, applies
> to Cuba as well.  It went something like this:
> Teacher: “Comrade Student Nikolai, what is the correct definition of the
> word Communism?”
> Student: (snapping to attention and beaming with self-satisfaction)”
> Comrade Teacher, that is an easy question. Communism is the historical phase
> between Capitalism and Capitalism.”
> --
> ******************************************
> Michael Balter
> Contributing Correspondent, Science
> Adjunct Professor of Journalism,
> New York University
> Email:  [log in to unmask]
> Web:
> NYU:
> ******************************************
> "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the
> poor have no food, they call me a Communist." -- Hélder Pessoa Câmara

Michael Balter
Contributing Correspondent, Science
Adjunct Professor of Journalism,
New York University

Email:  [log in to unmask]

"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor
have no food, they call me a Communist." -- Hélder Pessoa Câmara