Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cuba and Our Task

Published Sep 22, 2010 9:22 PM

How should those in the United States who support Cuba in its struggle to remain free of imperialist domination react to the news that the Cuban government has made a painful decision to cut hundreds of thousands of state jobs?

Workers World says this should be a spur to greater solidarity with the revolution and stronger efforts to end U.S. imperialism’s destructive economic blockade of the island.

The Cuban Revolution has produced the Western Hemisphere’s most enlightened and humane social policies.

There is no homelessness in Cuba. Under the 1960 Urban Reform law, 85 percent of Cubans own their own homes and pay no property taxes or interest on their mortgages. Mortgage payments can’t exceed 10 percent of the combined household income.

No one goes hungry in Cuba. The population is guaranteed a subsidized basic diet that provides 2,000 calories a day.

Literacy is universal — 99.8 percent among adults, higher than in the U.S. Education is free, from pre-school to college and graduate school.

The infant mortality rate is 4.7 per 1,000 live births, again better than the U.S. rate of 6.0 infant deaths.

Imagine if someone in the U.S. political establishment were to propose subsidized food and housing and free universal health care and education here. What a howl both capitalist parties would put up! Their first words would be, “Who will pay for all this?”

Is it costly? Yes it is. Yet even a poor country, straining to develop its economy, has done it. Furthermore, Cuba has made huge material contributions to countries that are even poorer, sending medical brigades and disaster aid teams to those in dire need around the world. Cuban troops shed their blood in the struggle to end the racist apartheid system and liberate the countries of southern Africa.

Yet at the same time the Cuban people have also had to fight the damaging effects of nearly 50 years of an economic embargo — really a blockade — that not only bars U.S. goods from reaching the island but even penalizes other countries that trade with Cuba. Every year almost every country in the world votes in the U.N. General Assembly to end the U.S. embargo. Polls show that a majority here in the United States are for ending it. Yet just recently the Obama administration not only reaffirmed the blockade but even strengthened some of its provisions.

Because of this, Cuba lacks many needed imports as well as markets in which to sell its exports. Food in Cuba, while adequate to keep the population healthy, is of limited variety. The housing belongs to the people, but it is very difficult to get lumber, paint, furnishings and appliances. The medical system is top notch, but Cuba can’t get drugs or medical equipment from the U.S. or countries that obey the blockade.

The Cuban government estimates that the blockade has cost its economy $751 billion over the last 50 years. This vindictive persecution of the revolutionary island by the imperialist superpower is because Cuba has been trying to build a socialist society in which the state owns and controls the means of production so the needs of the people can be put first, instead of profits for a few.

Cuba is a small island in a hostile, imperialist-dominated world. Its position was made even more precarious by the downfall of the Soviet Union, which had been Cuba’s main trading partner. The USSR had exchanged its oil and other commodities for Cuban sugar and nickel on terms much more favorable than Cuba could get on the world capitalist market.

In the “special period” after the fall of the USSR, the Cuban economy virtually imploded for several years. However, because everyone in the country shared the suffering, including the most powerful officials, there was no lack of confidence in the government or a political crisis. Imagine the situation for the government here if economic output were to be cut in half! But Cuba painfully struggled back, showing modest growth each year and eventually boosted by help from Venezuela in the form of energy.

Nevertheless, the capitalist crisis of the last three years has stunted economic development all over the world and Cuba is not immune, despite its socialist system.

The goal of socialism is clear: to eradicate class divisions in society by eliminating private ownership of the means of production for profit. Socialism has become a realizable goal for the world working class because of the tremendous development of technology and the means of production under capitalism. But where, under capitalism, new technology and greater productivity mean layoffs, pay cuts and eventually a crisis of the system, under socialism they mean a lightening of the workload in production so more people can get employment in services, culture and other social needs. The gains go to society as a whole, not to billionaire owners.

But what happens when a country trying to build socialism is prevented from getting access to the new technologies? When the world transition to a socialist system is still in its early stages and the countries that have had revolutions are coming out of severe underdevelopment caused by colonialism and imperialism? Cuba, Vietnam and even China are all still trying to “catch up” to the capitalist countries that have amassed wealth for centuries — much of it plundered from them. They have been forced to put on hold some of the goals of socialism just to be able to survive.

Once this is understood, the responsibility of progressives and revolutionaries in the imperialist countries should be clear. We do not diminish our own struggle for socialism by one iota when we say, “Now is the time to redouble our solidarity with Cuba. For Cuba to achieve its socialist goal, we must build unity in the multinational working class here and fight the rapacious capitalist bosses wherever they seek to impose their domination.”
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