Archive for June 9th, 2013

TRANSITIONAL STEPS TO A SOCIALIST FUTURE: PART 2, THE CUBAN CASE

June 9, 2013

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Harry Targ

The Cuban Case
Spanish colonialism came to the Western Hemisphere in the fifteenth century. Indigenous people were killed or enslaved. Africans were brought to the occupied land to produce sugar, tobacco, coffee, dyes, and other commodities that would find their way to Europe and processing for sale in the new global market place. The era of primitive accumulation, as Marx called it, marked the “happy dawn” of a new era.

Cuba became part of this new imperial system. Indigenous people were destroyed. Sugar plantations were established. And Cuba became an administrative center of Spanish colonialism in the “new world.” Some of Havana’s landmark buildings were constructed in the fifteenth century to house Spanish administrators.

Resistance and the passion for national autonomy were embedded in Cuban culture. Slave revolts and revolutionary campaigns occurred throughout the nineteenth century. The so-called “Spanish American War” constituted the culmination of Cuba’s anti-colonial struggle and the imposition of United States neo-colonialism on the island.

From 1898 until 1959, U.S. investors controlled the plantations, businesses, tourist enterprises, and public utilities while American tourists enjoyed Cuban beaches and culture. When the Fidelistas marched joyfully into Havana in early January, 1959 after Fulgencio Batista’s armies were defeated, a new era of hostile Cuban/U.S. relations was born. From 1959 to the present, the Cuban regime has experienced non-recognition, an economic blockade, a nuclear crisis, sabotage, efforts to cut off Cuban relations with neighboring governments as well as those in Europe, and sustained campaigns to undermine and overthrow the Cuban revolution. Despite enormous pain and suffering and extensive internal debates about the direction the revolution should take, the Cuban revolution survives until this day.

Socialist Paths: Material vs. Moral Incentives, the Socialist Command Economy, Rectification, the Special Period, to 313 Guidelines

The United States project from 1959 on was to stifle, dismantle, and destroy the Cuban Revolution. The Cuban revolutionaries had two main projects in mind: national self-determination and achievement of the basic social and economic rights referred to in Fidel Castro’s “History Will Absolve Me” speech. In this speech Castro proclaimed that the Cuban people wanted to secure basic social and economic justice within a framework of national independence.

Over the next sixty years, Cuban society has been an experimental laboratory for testing and evaluating the effectiveness of economic and political policies designed to achieve the goals of the revolution. During the 1960s, leaders of the revolution debated whether the Cuban people were ready to embrace fully an economic system of moral incentives modeled after altruism and self-sacrifice or whether, given the neo-colonial capitalist system out of which the revolution occurred, a period of continuing material incentives was needed to encourage production for revolutionary change. The system of moral incentives was put to the ultimate test during the campaign of the late 1960s to produce 10 million tons of sugar. It failed.

After the disastrous sugar campaign, Cuba joined the Eastern European common market (COMECON) and shifted more in the direction of Soviet bloc command economies. Despite economic growth over the 15 years of command economy experience, the Cubans, in 1986 committed themselves to a campaign of “rectification” or reintroducing incentives and exhortations to rebuild revolutionary enthusiasm which they believed had been stifled by the Soviet state socialist model. From the point of view of the Cuban leadership, bureaucratization and centralization of control had reduced ties between the revolution and the popular classes.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union and COMECON, the Cuban regime, because of deep economic crisis, shifted away from socialist command economy policies and revolutionary enthusiasm to policies, referred to as the special period, designed to save the revolution from collapse. The Cuban economy was opened to foreign investment, tourism was reinstituted as a core foreign exchange earner, some shift to small scale markets was allowed to resume, and state farms were shifted to cooperatives. The result was, despite the predictions of U.S. “experts” on Cuba, some economic recovery and growth from the depths of depression in the mid-1990s until 2006.

For a variety of reasons, including the retirement of Fidel Castro, rising generations of post-revolutionary youth, reduced growth in tourism due to global recession, and severe natural disasters, the Cuban economy’s growth rates were modest after its remarkable recovery from the special period. Economic inequality and inadequate absorption of a highly skilled work force added to a growing malaise. Leaders of the Cuban Communist Party, economists, and social movement activists began to argue that substantial changes needed to be made to better satisfy the twenty-first century needs and wants of the Cuban people and to sustain economic growth in a world still dominated by global capitalism. The state-dominated economy led to excessive bureaucratization, corruption, too many state employees, and insufficient innovation and competition.

Raul Castro, who replaced his brother in 2006, initiated a public discussion of Cuba’s economic future. Literally 2.3 million proposals for policy changes were introduced in various assemblies over a three year period. These were concretized and publicized as 291 “Economic and Social Policy Guidelines for the Party and the Revolution.” In April, 2011 after extensive debate a new document with 313 guidelines was presented and adopted by the 6th Party Congress of the Cuban Communist Party.

These guidelines have become the basis of a model of 21st century socialism that incorporates a strong but rationalized state sector, expanding markets, and the encouragement of workers to form various cooperatives in urban as well as rural areas. Also the guidelines allowed the expansion of private enterprises in small business, service, production, and agricultural sectors. Almost two million state workers overtime would be shifted to the non-state sector of the economy, private enterprises and cooperatives.

While the guidelines have begun to be translated into policy, Camila Pineiro Harnecker suggests debates continue between those Cubans who believe that the regime should continue to maximize the role of the state, those who argue that markets should become primary, and those who see economic democracy and workers’ cooperatives as central to Cuba’s future development of twenty-first century socialism. Interestingly, all three positions are represented in the guidelines; a better organized state sector, broadening of markets, and a growing sector based on workers’ control of production and distribution.

Among the central features of the guidelines are the following:

-socialist planning will continue more efficiently and will open spaces for other forms of management, production, and distribution of goods and services in the economy. A significant shift in employment from the state sector to the marketplace and cooperatives will proceed over a modest time period.
-along with state enterprises, the guidelines allow capitalist enterprises including foreign investment, the leasing of state-owned farmland, the leasing of state owned premises, self-employment, and the encouragement of urban and rural workers’ cooperatives.
-Expansion of categories of self-employment.
-Economic entities of all kinds will be required to maintain themselves financially, without subsidies for losses.
-Wages and incomes in state, private, and cooperative sectors will be determined by real earnings.
-Self-sustaining cooperatives will be encouraged that will decide on the income of workers and the distribution of profits after taxes.

The guidelines, while incomplete and still being developed, represent an effort to move beyond the dilemmas of a poor, but developing country historically committed to improving the quality of life of its people as to education, health care, culture, and economic security.
Vietnam, Cuba, and 21st Century Socialism: A Work in Progress

Vietnam and Cuba share many experiences in common. They both are historic products of years of colonial and/or neo-colonial domination and patterns of national resistance. Twentieth century nationhood was formed during the period of emerging global industrial and finance capitalism. Both Vietnam and Cuba resisted imperialism and won revolutionary wars against it only to be forced to survive in an era of harsh neoliberal globalization and political/military subversion. Concretely both experienced economic blockades from the United States at their most vulnerable time of economic reconstruction. And both as allies of the Soviet Union were forced to embark on the path of transitioning to socialism at a time when the socialist bloc was collapsing.

The generation of revolutionaries who fought the U.S. marines in the countryside and creatively withstood horrific bombing in Vietnam and fought against U.S. puppet armies in the mountains of Cuba, brought to victory a hardened vision of constructing a radically new society based on state socialism. With the collapse of state socialism as a world force and the shift virtually everywhere to neoliberal economic policies, Vietnamese and Cubans came to the realization that transitioning to 21st century socialism would require the construction of a more complicated economic model that continued to support a renovated state sector, allowed a regulated marketplace, and encouraged local socialist forms, such as workers cooperatives.

Presently advocacy of workers’ cooperatives seems stronger in Cuba than Vietnam. As the Cuban guidelines suggest, workers cooperatives are advocated to continue the socialist vision by more effectively institutionalizing worker participation in decisions that affect their lives. Decisions about management, distribution of profits, commitments to the communities in which they work all would be determined largely by those in the cooperative units. Given the broad array of grassroots mobilizations that dot the map from the Middle East, Asia, Latin America, Europe, and North America, some creative combination of workers’ states and workers’ cooperatives might constitute the centerpiece of a 21st century socialism.

Sources

The discussion of Cuba draws upon Cliff DuRand, “Renovation of Cuban Socialism,” March, 2013, (and insightful editorial comments on a draft of this paper from that author) and Camila Pineiro Harnecker, “Visions of Socialism Guiding the Current Changes in Cuba,” translated by Emily Myers, Center for Global Justice, both available from Cuba@globaljusticecenter.org ; Roger Burbach, “A Cuba Spring?” NACLA Reports, Spring, 2013; Raul Castro, “Report to the 6th Communist Party Congress,” http://lchjirino.wordpress.com/2011.04/16/raul-castro-report-to-the-6-communist-party-congress-full-text/; Olga Fernandez Rios, “The Socialist Transition in Cuba: Economic Adjustments and Socio-Political Challenges, Institute of Philosophy, University of Havana, translated by Emily Myers, Center for Global Justice, 2012; Pedro Campos, “New Cooperative Policy Big for Socialism,” Havana Times, April 9, 2012, http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=66858

Part 2 of a presentation prepared for The Labor and Working-Class Studies Project, Working Class Studies Association, Madison College, Madison Wisconsin, June 12-15, 2013. To access Part 1 see http://www.heartlandradical.blogspot.com,

Daily Sues U.S. for Denying Information on the Case of the Five

June 9, 2013

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The legal challenge to the State Department is being made under the right to information and seeks the delivery of relevant data on how the government paid various reporters from Miami to create a hostile climate against the Five.

WASHINGTON, June 7. – The U.S. newspaper Liberation is suing the Department of State for prohibiting access to the information necessary to address the case of the Cuban Five convicted and imprisoned in the U.S., said the attorney Mara Verheyden-Hilliard.

The lawyer, executive director of the Fund for the Civil Justice Association, said at a press conference that the legal remedy is filed under right to the delivery of information and seeks relevant data on how the government paid various reporters from Miami to create a climate hostile to those men, reported Prensa Latina.

Between 1998 and 2001, the population of the city in the state of Florida received through the press, radio and television a flow of negative propaganda to persuade the jury and interfere in the legal process of Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labañino, Fernando Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero and René González.

“They have refused to release the documents before November 1999, arguing that up to that date Radio and Television Martí belonged to the United States Information Agency,” said Verheyden-Hilliard, stipulating that they had not authorized records of other dates.

The lawyer gave a press conference as part of a global event of Solidarity with the Five, which was held in Washington from May 30 to June 5.

That event brought together, in the U.S. capital, parliamentarians, intellectuals and activists from Argentina, Barbados, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Greece, Haiti, Italy, Mexico, Spain, Sweden and Venezuela, among other countries.

Its program included lectures, a peaceful protest in front of the White House, an ecumenical service, book presentations and a show of 15 watercolour paintings by Antonio Guerrero.

Translated by ESTI for JuventudRebelde

Fight to free Cuban 5 pressed at week of activities in Washington

June 9, 2013

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(Militant/Seth Galinsky – White House rally June 1 demands freedom for Cuban Five. “We need to reach the American people,” said René González from Cuba during week of activity in Washington, D.C.)

BY SETH GALINSKY
WASHINGTON — A week of activities here to advance the international campaign to free five Cuban revolutionaries held in U.S. prisons drew hundreds of participants from the United States, Canada and several countries in Europe and Latin America. In addition to a June 1 rally of 250 in front of the White House, the “Five Days for the Cuban Five” included panel discussions, workshops, cultural events and lobbying.

“We need to reach the American people, and that is the importance of these events,” René González told an opening press conference May 30. González, one of the Five, spoke via Internet from Havana. Having won his battle to return to Cuba in May, he continues to fight to free his four comrades, who are serving sentences from 17 years and nine months to a double life term plus 15 years. (See “Who Are The Cuban Five?” below.)

“The American people have been denied knowledge” about the trial and frame-up, González noted. He emphasized the need to win broad support — a “jury of millions” — in the political fight to free the Cuban revolutionaries.

Despite the U.S. government’s efforts to isolate and break them over the past 15 years, González said, the long stints of solitary confinement and other abuses meted out to the Five in federal prison have “made us stronger.” And “the political nature of the case helped us with the general prison population,” he said. They have “a lot of respect for us.”

The press conference was chaired by Alicia Jrapko, coordinator of the International Committee to Free the Cuban Five. Also making remarks were journalist Ignacio Ramonet, former editor of Le Monde Diplomatique; Wayne Smith, head of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana during the James Carter administration; and Dolores Huerta, a founder of the United Farm Workers.

Cuban Five in Angola
That evening more than 100 people participated in a panel discussion on the “Role of Cuba in Africa and the Cuban Five in Angola,” held at the Howard University Hospital auditorium.

Three of the Five — René González, Fernando González and Gerardo Hernández — were among 375,000 Cuban volunteer combatants who between 1975 and 1991 helped the newly independent nation of Angola defeat invasions by the white-supremacist regime in South Africa, with U.S. backing. That internationalist mission was key in forging the generations of Cuban revolutionaries the Five are part of.

The event was opened by Howard University students Daina Lawes, speaking on behalf of students and faculty in the Political Science department, and Nishaun Battle from Students Against Mass Incarceration. Eugene Puryear, a leader of the ANSWER coalition and 2008 vice presidential candidate of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, gave brief remarks and introduced the panel. The featured speakers were Alberto do Carmo Bento Ribeiro, Angola’s ambassador to the U.S; José Ramón Cabañas, chief of the Cuban Interests Section; Glen Ford, executive editor of Black Agenda Report; and Mary-Alice Waters, a leader of the Socialist Workers Party and president of Pathfinder Press.

Ford noted Cuba’s record of internationalist aid to Africa, from the column of Cuban fighters led by Ernesto Che Guevara that joined the liberation struggle in the Congo in 1965 to the tens of thousands of Cuban doctors, teachers and other volunteers working throughout Africa today. The shared historical and cultural legacy of Cubans and Africans, he said, was underscored by the name the Cuban government gave the Angola mission — “Operation Carlota,” after a Cuban slave who was executed for leading a rebellion in 1843.

Angolan Ambassador Bento Ribeiro said Cuba’s support was decisive to preserving Angola’s independence. It also led to the independence of Namibia, he said, and gave impetus to the mass struggle that won Nelson Mandela’s release from prison and overturned apartheid in South Africa.

“We had powerful enemies,” Bento Ribeiro said. In 1975 forces backed by Zairean President Sese Seko Mobutu, “a puppet of the Americans and an instrument of its policies,” invaded Angola from the north, while South African forces moved in from the south. Their aim was to block the government led by the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola from declaring independence.

“The myth of the invincibility of the apartheid regime was definitively defeated” in the victory of Cuban and Angolan forces over South Africa’s army at the battle of Cuito Cuanavale in 1988, the Angolan ambassador said. Expressing gratitude for Cuba’s aid he said, “My small contribution is to be here to help liberate the Cuban Five.”

The nearly 16-year internationalist mission had a deep impact in Cuba itself, said Mary-Alice Waters, noting remarks by Raúl Castro, then head of Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces, at a 1991 ceremony welcoming home the final volunteers.

“Without Angola we would not be as strong as we are today,” Castro told the Cuban people.

“That is the most important understanding we can take from this meeting,” Waters said. “Those not willing to fight for the freedom of others will never be able to fight for their own,” she said, quoting Fidel Castro, the longtime central leader of the Cuban Revolution.

None of the volunteers “thought we did anything special,” said Cabañas, who was himself a combatant in Angola in 1987-89. The experience René, Fernando and Gerardo had there “helped them face what they’ve been facing in jail these 15 years,” he said.

“Usually when people talk about the mission, they mention the men, but don’t forget the women,” Cabañas, added, to applause. “There were a lot of women who fought in Angola.”

During the discussion after the presentations, Waters responded to a comment from the audience about the disproportionate numbers of Blacks in U.S. prisons today. “What the Cuban Five faced through the entire ordeal,” she said, “is what millions of working people in the U.S. face — the 2.5 million who are today incarcerated, the 5 million living under one or another form of supervised release, as René was.

“There is hardly a working-class person, especially among African-Americans, who haven’t themselves been in jail, or have a family member, close friend, or coworker who has experienced the reality of the U.S. courts and prisons,” Waters said.

“When they learn the facts and see how the Five conduct themselves, they identify with them and gain respect for their integrity, steadfastness and principles,” she said. “These ordinary working people, men and women ‘from nowhere,’ whose capacities are so discounted by the powers that be — they are the ones we can count on as part of the ‘jury of millions.’”

The next evening the Cuban Interests Section hosted a reception. Among participants were parliamentarians, attorneys, artists, political activists, and others, a number of them from other countries, including Canada, Brazil, Ecuador, Cuba, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, United Kingdom, Belgium, France and Greece.

Protest at White House
Joining the June 1 action outside the White House were two busloads from New York and dozens of demonstrators from other cities, including vanloads from Montreal and Chicago.

Speaking at the rally, Andrés Gómez, president of the Antonio Maceo Brigade, said a contingent of 38 Cuban-Americans organized by the Alianza Martiana had come from Miami to participate in the activities to free the Cuban Five.

Other speakers included Alison Bodine from Vancouver Communities in Solidarity With Cuba; Santos Crespo, president of Local 372 of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in New York; Denis Lemelin, president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers; Omari Musa of the Socialist Workers Party; Gloria La Riva from the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five; Meches Rosales from the May 1 Immigrant Rights Coalition; Gilberto Villa from Casa de las Américas in New York; and Gail Walker, co-executive director of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO)/Pastors for Peace.

“More people have to be made aware of the injustice,” Belinda Banks, who came on a union-sponsored bus, told the Militant. “The same government that keeps the Cuban Five in jail puts hardships on families.” Banks works for the New York City school board and is a member of AFSCME Local 372.

“I wasn’t surprised our government would do a frame-up job,” said Michael De Barra, an unemployed worker from Chicago attending his first such demonstration. “I’m learning about the Five and the Cuban Revolution at the same time.”

“I went to Cuba in 2009 on vacation and there were billboards about the Five everywhere,” said Myriam Marceau, a university student from Montreal. “That’s how I first found out about them.” Marceau was active in student protests against tuition hikes in Quebec earlier this year.

The fight to free Oscar López Rivera, a fighter for Puerto Rican independence jailed in the U.S. for 32 years, “is the same as the fight for the Five,” said longtime independence supporter Rita Rodríguez.

Later that evening, nearly 300 people crowded into Saint Stephen’s Church for an event that included several religious figures and featured Angela Davis, who in the 1970s was framed up and jailed by the U.S. government when she was a leader of the Communist Party USA.

Also joining events during the Five Days for the Cuban Five were a number of participants in the annual congress of the Latin American Studies Association, held here May 29-June 1. An information booth on the defense campaign was staffed throughout the congress. Among the 4,000 people at the gathering was a delegation of more than 70 from Cuba; 12 Cubans were denied visas by the U.S. government.

Next week’s Militant will carry further coverage on the week of activities for the Cuban Five.

Related articles:
Actions in Puerto Rico, Cuba, US demand ‘Free Oscar López’
Puerto Rican political prisoner in US jails for 32 years
Raising literacy, culture of Cuba’s toilers began in Rebel Army
Who are the Cuban Five?
Chicago meeting concludes ‘32 days for 32 years’ events

The Militant Vol. 77/No. 23 – June 17, 2013


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