Daisy Valera

The Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) concluded a few months ago, but people still have ideas to contribute as well as suggestions and concerns that need to be continually shared, whether such individuals are in line at a bakery or at a bus stop.

The congress was not the balm that healed the economic wounds of the last couple decades. It was more like the same old pill demanding additional effort and sacrifice.

It’s only that now — without subsidized toiletries, with the ration book bidding us farewell, and growing numbers of the unemployed — that pill is going to be more difficult to swallow.

All bets are being placed on private initiatives, once viewed so judgmentally but now accepted as necessary and inevitable.

It’s in this context that the word “control” appears, plaguing conversations and the pages of newspapers.

I then noted that over these past 50 years of what has been called a “socialist” system, we Cubans have adopted various theories about control and how things should be controlled.

The leader’s role

One of the most widespread theories is that a leader (a member of the PCC in the overwhelming majority of cases) plays the fundamental role.

According to a not insignificant number of Cubans (from my point of view), control over workers should be the responsibility of those who manage.

This boss should be the one in charge of demanding punctuality, discipline, the fulfillment of objectives and more.

Conclusions: the job of managers consists of guaranteeing that wage earners work. To achieve this, they receive salaries above those of their employees and they enjoy better working conditions (air conditioning, a car and perhaps even trips abroad).

Sanctions and firings

It’s not unusual to hear that everything in this country would be solved if loafers were sanctioned or fired from their jobs.

It seems that some people have forgotten that transportation is terrible, making it difficult for workers to make it to their jobs on time. Plus, all stores and agro-markets are only open during working hours. Therefore not arriving to work on time or being forced to skip out of necessity turns you into poorly behaving, undisciplined worker – subjecting you to the mercy of your boss.

It also seems that some people have the gall to think that when someone “steals” from their job, they’re not doing it out of necessity or because of their low wages, but to get some cheap thrill or because they romanticize being a thief.

I think that when the workers “steal” from their workplaces, they’re only taking a part of the wage they’re not paid. It’s the only way possible for them to be compensated for their labor, the only commodity that workers possess.

An alternative

Everything indicates that some ideas (Marxists?) on this island have been tossed into the garbage despite the possibility of these being useful in addressing complaints about idlers, ultra-conservatives and bureaucrats.

Some of these could be:

– Workers electing their representatives at each workplace, with the ability for those same workers to revoke those elected at any moment to prevent the monopolizing of power and benefits.
– The rotation of workers in different activities of the workplace to prevent the alienation that is produced by work when it doesn’t include creative processes.
– The design of working plans by the collective instead of these being imposed by higher authorities.
– Control of intellectual and material production by the workers themselves.

We do not have to forever continue on with the methods of control handed down to us by capitalism and perfected under Stalinism. We Cuban workers must become our own bosses and work towards the objective of being less exploited every day.


Daisy Valera

Daisy Valera:Soil scientist and blogger. I write from Mexico City, where Havana sometimes becomes so small that it disappears. However in others, the Cuban capital is a city so past and present that it steals your breath.

16 thoughts on “Control Cuban Style

  • Daisy Valera risks being forgotten in all this excellent discussion. Thanks Daisy.

    Thanks too to John and Grady, not for answering all possible questions or even agreeing on everything, but for a substantive examination of some of our options. Don’t see this kind of good discussion often enough on the web.

    I want to add one thought or concern. The human element. Humans built both the bloody empires and the better societies. And yes we might invent dramatically useful technologies to be exploited for good or further evil, but be careful. In the Matrix (movie), the savior was not a progressive, but unfortunately a Christ figure, another “the one” savior. Watch out for saviors, they are usually experienced con-men.

    But John quotes Phil Ochs singing of “morning breaks” and quotes someone on “dawn” breaking! Hope is wonderful and inspires children to imagine and if they are lucky to create wonderful things. But we humans are still mostly products of our past, both socially and biologically, and while Phil while a talented and great human, he was flawed like us all. Sadly, his mental illness was too painful for him to continue. Back then, I was not then the therapist I have been for 30 years, but I knew him from the neighborhood and I quickly learned I couldn’t help him. Wish I could have. I point out his strengths and vulnerabilities because they are really ours also.

    After 76 years of trying to grow up and do what I can to lessen injustices, I am persuaded that we “progressives” of whatever flavor, all too often neglect the human and psychological when trying to change things. Can you imagine if Freud and Marx had collaborated? If they had to work together for some common project? Might have needed some therapy to get past their unconscious barriers, but then education of a better kind might just enable us to become those better men and women a more rational and human society needs. And I don’t just mean in making it work, but especially in the transition period when the opponents of progress use their most deadly ever-ready weapons.

    Thanks everyone.

  • Goodrich
    The achievement of the singularity if at all possible brings to the table consequences we can not foretell.
    It is not just a technological jump.
    Imaging a future where there is a blur between what is natural and what is actually human creation.
    Were we be like Gods.
    The question and this is a big question.

    We humans are no ready for so much power.
    Look at how much damage we have done to earth with the little power we have. Let alone with the singularity happening and all the immediate consequences.

  • Companero,

    Nice discussion.
    Time will tell where the planet will go.
    I hope we achieve the level of societal evolution we need to get to our mutual vision before we destroy ourselves.
    I suspect there will be a much darker night before our new and dazzling dawn but that we are fast approaching that sunrise and we’ll make this world the fine place it could be.

  • John, I’m not offended, but I am not a communist or a Marxist–not any longer. You are welcome to call me a fellow socialist, a transformationary and a companero. I believe sincerely in the post-capitalist, socialist bridge, but cannot predict the point that the institution of private productive property may evolve away. I can predict however that, if any revolutionary society mistakenly implements a statist mode of production, the socialist bridge will collapse and capitalism will re-emerge.

    We believe that classes will diminish during cooperative socialism through a merging process of the proletariat, intelligentsia and small business class. As this merging progresses and the evils inherited from capitalism are abolished, the coercive attributes should atrophy and vanish at some point.

    That far-in-the-future, ideal society, a society in which private property may have evolved away, is a theoretical possibility. It’s not something however that our movement guarantees as part of our program. All we can promise is a workable form of socialism in which the abolition of private productive property is not forced upon society prematurely by the Marx/Engels stipulation of the state owning everything in sight.

    You apparently do not understand the cooperative republic. The market and its mechanisms would work differently under socialist state power than under the present monopoly capitalist regime. If you impute a capitalistic market to a future planned socialist cooperative republic, you’ve made a fundamental error. Mondragon-type, associate-owned corporations would work differently under socialist state power with a constantly evolving, democratic, scientific National Plan, but it’s hard to explain in brief.

    Thanks for the very long response. It’s easier now to see from where you are coming. It’s been a pleasure discussing matters. Hasta la victoria siempre. -Grady

  • About the lighting bolts

    Phil Ochs wrote/sang:

    “Moments of magic will glow in the night
    All fears of the forest are gone
    For then the morning breaks
    They’re cast away by golden drops of dawn
    and changes”

    The 100,000 year night of the race was long and dark but the dawn will be breaking soon.

    Let’s all hang in there.
    Hasta la victoria siempre.

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