September 14, 2010

Some Things Change, Some Things Stay the Same

Stephen Von Sychowski,
Special to Rebel Youth

Cuba has been the subject of a barrage of media attention over the past few days. First, a media firestorm was sparked when a misinterpreted quote by comrade Fidel Castro found its way from an interview with US journalist Jeffery Goldman, to the capitalist mass media, in the form of a supposed admission of the failure of the Cuban socialist system.

Fidel was quick to correct the mistaken interpretation of his words, stating clearly that world capitalism, not Cuban socialism, is the failure. But the media unsurprisingly failed to give his correction the same kind of fanfare that the original story carried.

Next, the capitalist media, and the French government, attacked Fidel for his criticism of France’s racist attacks on Roma’s living within its borders. Fidel stated that the Roma were “victims of the cruelty of the extreme right wing in France," and that they were "victims of another kind of racial holocaust,” being perpetrated by the French government. French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero shot back, making highly dubious claims that Fidel was ignorant of history, and stating ironically "that Fidel Castro shows an interest in human rights is truly revolutionary.”

As usual, Fidel was absolved by history shortly thereafter when the European Union condemned France’s treatment of the Roma people and threatened possible legal action against the French government. "This is not a minor offence in a situation of this importance. After 11 years of experience in the Commission, I even go further: this is a disgrace," said EU Commissioner Viviane Reding.

Finally, a statement by the Cuban Workers Confederation, Cuba’s trade union centre, regarding reforms to the Cuban economy, was hailed by corporate media as the death of socialism in Cuba and proof that Fidel meant what he said he didn’t mean in his interview with Goldman.

The statement of the Confederation explained that 500,000 Cuban government workers would be “laid off” in the coming year. The media gleefully reported that these workers will be told to become self employed, or take up work in the private sector which some reports claimed would soon explode. It appears that other changes to compensation, unemployment assistance, and other aspects of Cuban working life may also be facing reforms. Some reports estimated that this was the death knell of socialism in Cuba and that capitalism and “democracy” would soon triumph. Other reports suggested instead that Cuba was now well on its way to Chinese-style “market socialism”.

The media’s jubilant anti-socialist proclamations with regards to Cuba’s reforms are undoubtedly aimed at striking a blow against the inspirational role, and moral authority, of the Cuban revolution which enjoys the solidarity and friendship of working and oppressed people the world over. While future analysis and clarification of these reforms will undoubtedly be fascinating and useful, a few points can be easily clarified.

First of all, it should be said that the reforms which have been announced came about after an extremely long and serious process of debate, discussion, and consultation between the Cuban government, the Cuban Workers Confederation, the Communist Party of Cuba, and other organizations. Unlike the uncertain, potentially perilous, fate faced by workers who become laid off in the capitalist world, Cuban workers who are undergoing transition will have the effects of such change mitigated substantially.

Some other workers will be encouraged to take up new employment in sectors of the economy which are set for significant expansion in the coming months such as construction, agriculture, oil, tourism, biotech, and pharmaceuticals. Some workers will become self employed. Cuba’s socialist system provides free education and re-training for workers who are required to change occupations for any reason.

Many small and midsized enterprises will become worker owned and run co-operatives. While this does appear to mark a shift towards some market based production and distribution, it is safe to say that the Cuban leadership has carefully studied the experiences of other countries and does not intend to dismantle the socialist economy but rather to explore new methods to boost, grow, and strengthen it. It is also interesting to note that one of the major economic building blocks of Venezuela’s “21st Century Socialism” is the co-operative sector, and that Cuba and Venezuela are currently exploring a possible economic union.

To the chagrin of free marketeers, there is no sign of the establishment of “free trade zones” or of unfettered private or foreign ownership. The socialist state, based on the power of the Cuban working class, remains intact as does the Cuban government, and Cuba’s highly democratic political system.

The coming days and weeks will be exceptionally interesting ones as more information on these changes comes to light, particularly from sources outside of the anti-Cuba corporate media. While change may be the word of the day in Cuba, corporate media attacks against Cuban socialism and its leaders remain as virulent as ever.

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