Letters that Leave a Bad Taste

Alfredo Fernández Rodríguez

Do most Cubans really want the ration cards to disappear?  Photo: Caridad
Do most Cubans really want the ration cards to disappear? Photo: Caridad

My comment today originates from my horror over a slew of articles recently published in Granma (official newspaper of the Central Committee of Communist Party of Cuba.)

Every Friday its Letters to the Editor section is devoted to the publication of letters and emails “about how to further improve our society,” according to the editor of this section, who continues on by pointing out that the publication “may or may not” be in agreement with the opinions expressed therein.

This section, which only identifies the published authors by first initial and last name, presents letters ranging from public denouncements of difficulties in Cuba’s labor sector to petitioning for solutions to problems affecting the community or the person writing the letter.

During parts of August and September, several letters were published in which readers, in one way or another, advocated for the elimination of the ration book to aid the ailing national economy.  The ration book is a small 20-page booklet with which the Cuban people have been able to buy basic food staples at very low prices since the 1960s.

The opinions published were more or less like “we have passed the stage of needing the ration book in Cuba.”

It is true that the paper makes clear that these are “opinions, with which it may or may not agree.”  But still I wonder: What is the point of publishing letters from different people advocating the same thing for several Fridays?

Where did the letter writers get such extreme kindness that it allows them to worry about the national economy before their fellow countrymen’s welfare or their own?  What will the low-income families and many elderly people do if this measure is implemented under the current situation of food prices at the farmers markets?

It is well known by all that life in Cuba today is extremely expensive.  In front of a kiosk, a woman who five years ago ate lunch in a subsidized cafeteria, read one of the letters and exploded: “If there is one thing that has made this Revolution possible for fifty years it has been precisely this ration book!”

I don’t know, but that letters section of the paper rouses my doubts.  A little over a year ago, unsurprisingly, many readers wrote in advocating for the retirement age in Cuba to be raised by five years.  That measure was implemented a few months later without incident.

It is worth noting that the series in question ended with a very mature letter by historian Jorge Renato Ibarra, who stated that general insufficient productivity of the Cuban food industry and the still low wages of workers make approving this measure impossible for the moment.

Thus, we can only put our trust in God that what happened with the retirement age does not happen with this.

6 thoughts on “Letters that Leave a Bad Taste

  • There are two “core” economic mechanisms for running socialism. The 1st way is stipulated in the Communist Manifesto and is the “core idea” of Marxist economics. In this way the socialist state owns and controls all the means of production. The economy becomes a giant state corporation with one owner. All citizens are wage or salary employees of this corporation. This way of running socialism has been tested in the honest laboratory of history and the results are in.

    The 2nd way is where the state does not own and control all the means of production. It allows farming & small business families to own their concerns, and does not tax their profits. It helps employees to own most other industry–small, medium and larger–thru common (voting) corporate stocks. The state takes significant part ownership thru preferred (non-voting) stocks. Employees run enterprise according to market demand–with guidelines by the socialist state.

    Cuba will try this way or ???

  • Luis, Alberto & all,

    Thank both of you for conversing with me via HT. I hope you (and perhaps some others) will e-mail me and continue the conversation. I hope to stop commenting on HT articles and saying the same thing, or at least to greatly reduce my comments. I apologize for any annoyance. Please let me say one thing more.

    It’s academic as to whether Engels and Marx were provocateurs, and whether Marxism is covert, bourgeois-injected poison to the socialist movement. The relevant discussion is: What is the true functional economic mechanism of socialism?

    I’ve said that the state need not and should not own and manage “all” the means of production. I’ve said that farming and small biz families need to be included in the socialist project. I’ve said that workable socialism is worker/state co-ownership thru cooperative corporations. I’ve shown you access to two important films.

    The responsibility for reform of course is yours. Best of luck to you and to Cuba.

  • Yes, Luis, I do keep saying the same thing over and over, and for a specific reason. If Cuban socialism does not reform itself, the Revolution will be lost, just as it was lost in the Soviet Union. I don’t think any true socialist wants that.

    Yes, that one line in the Manifesto is just one line, but it is the core idea of Marxism for running a socialist economy. Can anyone deny it? It it is not, then what is? Can you or anyone answer this?

    Our movement is trying earnestly and I hope honorable to participate in the reform debate. It’s an international debate, b/c it affects the world revolution.

    To support our plea for the Cubans to at least consider worker/state co-ownership through cooperative corporations, we suggest that Cuban go to “video.google.com” and view two videos: The Mondragon Experiment (which shows the economic basis of workable socialism; and Democracy in the Workplace.

    Please review these films and get back to me.

  • Explanation: Leading up to the revolutions of 1848, the socialist movement was largely “cooperative,” not “statist.” P-J Proudhon for example was attempting to form a mutualist People’s Bank that did not charge interest on loans. In 1844 the workers at Rochdale in England had developed a workable cooperative retail business model that was growing rapidly and infecting workers with cooperative ideas. (Engels was in England helping run his daddy’s capitalist enterprise and did not support cooperatives at all.) French worker-owned coops were very strong in many areas, and German workers also were getting the cooperative bug. So, the capitalists and bankers of Europe were alarmed that workers were starting to look toward the cooperative take-over of their industries and markets. Engels and Marx came in and deflected cooperative socialism into statist communism and saved capitalism–to this day. Why . . . if not deliberately to destroy socialism from within? Cont . . .

  • Grady,

    While the discussion of the ‘best’ property system is valid, and I do agree with you on some things, your position here is on the bink of arrogance, because of the repetition of the same thing over and over again. Sounds like yourself is the one who’s ‘dictating’ what cubans should or shouldn’t do.

    Do you really think that one phrase of the Communist Manifesto was the ‘origin’ of all the wrong things within 20th century socialism? In another post you said the most amazing thing:

    “Cooperation was a direct attack on the old system, and the capitalists and big bankers were aware that their system was being threatened. What they needed was someone to go into the movement and deflect it away from cooperatives. Enter the capitalist Engels and his bourgeois intellectual “friend” Marx.”

    So Engels was part of a conspiracy, as an ‘insider’ from the bourgeoise to somehow ‘poison intelectually’ the socialist movement of the time?

    Please explain yourself…

  • Under a “workable” socialist system, there would be no need for general ration books. This infers of course that what you have in beautiful Cuba is not workable socialism. Yes, it is a “form” of socialism; but, no, it is not workable.

    For sincere Cubans to come up with a workable “Cuban” form of socialism, may I suggest that you good people go on-line to “video.google.com,” and place these two films into the “Search” box: (1) Democracy in the Workplace,” 27 minutes, about worker-owned cooperatives in the US San Francisco Bay area; and (2) “The Mondragon Experiment,” 51 minutes, an older BBC film that shows successful worker-owned cooperatives in and around Mondragon, Spain.

    Marx’s dictate that under socialism it is necessary “to centralize all the means of production in the hands of the state” is incorrect. It is destroying the Cuban Revolution. Please put forward a program of state-worker co-ownership thru cooperative corporations before it’s too late.

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