Cuba’s CTC Union Chooses Its Side

Daisy Valera

HAVANA TIMES — “United for a Prosperous and Sustainable Socialism” is the motto under which the “Cuban Workers Federation” (Central de Trabajadores de Cuba, or CTC) will convene this coming May Day (surely it’s a more optimistic slogan than “Work Hard!”).

The official motto covered the front pages of several newspapers as the organization exhorted us to participate in the materialization of the guidelines of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC).

Could we expect any another position from the CTC? That would be naive.

In the past five decades, the Cuban Workers Union has added to its sad list of acts of disloyalty, a list that includes the prohibition of other unions, employment records used for blacklisting, denial of the right to strike, and its support of the 2008 Social Security Act (which added five years to the retirement age).

Then, in just over 13 months, the CTC has changed its line.

In 2012, with the wave of dismissals based on “demonstrated suitability” and supported by the union, it called on workers to participate in and discuss work plans and the budget (see Bohemia magazine, in Spanish).

At this time, possibly thanks to its passive attitude taken in the face of mass layoffs, the main union in the country chooses to keep its members disempowered rather than to promote their participation in workplace decision-making.

Carmen Rosa Lopez

This was corroborated by the new top union official Carmen Rosa Lopez, who said, “It’s clear that the workers don’t approve the plan, but they’ll contribute to fulfilling it with their labor” (see Trabajadores newspaper, in Spanish).

The statements by the new leader of the CTC didn’t stop there, as Lopez takes the opportunity to highlight the attitude of the organization’s leading administrators. She explained that the role of the trade union movement is to mobilize workers around the main tasks of the country.

This is a position that dispels any doubt about the possible participation and involvement of Cuban workers in the “updating of socialism.”

The wearing of masks has grown old. What’s becoming clearer is a more realistic picture of the only organization that can legally represent the island’s workforce. It can be seen as one that’s halfway between a dues collection box and a puppet theater where the management pulls all the strings.

So what can be done in the face of such visceral but forgotten problems as rising unemployment, underemployment and token wages? What can be done to prevent very likely exploitation of Cuban laborers – this time by multinational corporations, for which the government will open the doors?

The CTC is choosing its side, but the workers aren’t on it. Belonging to the union’s ranks only serves to give it credit at the international level.

What’s required now is the establishment of new mechanisms of information and communication between those who work for the government and between the self-employed.

What are needed are new unions capable of fighting for workers’ demands rather than bowing their heads, agreeing and obeying.


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.

Daisy Valera has 208 posts and counting. See all posts by Daisy Valera

19 thoughts on “Cuba’s CTC Union Chooses Its Side

  • More evidence.

    You invented that quote and didn’t read the interview. And even if you read you affirm that there *are* differences between revolutionary leftists. And you are inventing conspiracy theories out of thin air.

    I acknowledge very well the difference between a neoliberal and a neoconservative for example, why do you keep reducing the ideology opposed of yours into the same sack of potatoes other than propagandist/trolling purposes?

    Fool no one.

  • I enjoyed the interview with Celia Hart. It is interesting to learn that when she broke with doctrinaire “Fidelist” ideology and embraced Trotsky’s ideas, she was expelled from the Cuban Communist Party. Still it must have been reassuring to her when Fidel told her “Don’t worry, nobody will harm a hair on your pretty head”. How sweet of him.

    And then, quite surprisingly, she was killed in a car accident with a tree. Too bad nobody told the tree not to harm a hair on her head. Those darned Cuban trees, always jumping out and smashing into cars.

  • Let those two ‘think’ whatever they want, Cort. They are propagandists and thus, will never ever be interested on actually learning something or read anything that does not add to their provocative agenda. You see that ‘Griffin’ didn’t even bother to see those links you managed to gather, instead invoking his personal distorted ‘truth’ that the dispute between Stalin and Trotsky was nothing more than ‘petty, murderous bickering among narcissists’. It’s the equivalent of a child covering his ears and yelling ‘I’m not listening! I’m not listening!’

  • Petty, murderous bickering among narcissists to be precise. I thank you and Luis for so ably illustrating exactly what I am talking about.

  • Again, you prefer to label those differences as ‘arcane’ because you simply don’t understand them and would rather stick on your childish manicheanism.

  • Luis, you are focused on the differences between these looney leftist factions and apparently ignoring the much grander similarities. Both Stalinists and Trotskyites hate a free press. Both groups are atheists. Both groups, by force if necessary,control the productive resources of their society. Finally, and you taught me this: both groups don’t like engaging in reasoned debate, only personal attacks and name-calling.

  • I would not call assassinations, jailing and wrong theories derailing many revolutionary moments and letting fascism to enter the world stage because of Stalin, petty bickering.

    But many Cubans do know the difference and here are two note worthy brilliant people. Havana Times own Daisy Valera and the late great, Celia Hart.

    Trotsky, as Taught in Cuba – Cuba’s Havana 17, 2010 – Daisy Valera. Leon Trotsky. Photo: Lev Davidovich Bronstein —better known to the world as Leon Trotsky— died on August 21, …

    Daisy Valera: Leon Trotsky, Padura and Me | Repeating Islands…/daisy-valera-leon-trotsky-padura-and-…Jul 18, 2011 .

    Interview with Celia Hart: “How can you not be a Trotskyist in the Cuban Revolution!”

  • That again is my point: the petty bickering among the various actors of the Left was driven more by ambition than ideology. Yes, the had their arcane ideological disputes, the fierce prejudices of minor differences, but those disputes were essentially manifestations of their nasty narcissistic personalities.

    And as Mae West would say, “Goodness has nothing to do with it!”

  • Again more proof that you know crap about revolutionary leftist movements. The ideological differences between Stalin and Trotsky were so ‘small’ that the latter had to found a freaking 4th International for goodness’ sake.

  • Thank you, Daisy, for an excellent, provocative article.

    Trade unions are defensive organizations which try to better workers’ conditions under a wage and salary economic system. This was clear-cut under capitalism.

    The Marxian state-monopoly formula for socialism however imported the wage and salary system into the economies devised under 20th century socialist state power. Unions then became organizational tools of the one-big-owner/employer: the state bureaucracy.

    Workers, under socialist state power, need to own their instruments of production directly through Mondragon-type corporations. With such ownership, they would not need unions. They would self-manage their enterprises, and deal with matters democratically. This would lead to enormous productivity.

    Hoping that workers under state monopoly socialism will somehow be given the gift of workplace democracy is understandable, Daisy, but I’m afraid it will never be fulfilled.

  • The bit about beards was a joke, Luis. I’m sorry it went over your head.

    The point is the small ideological differences between a Stalinist and a Trotskyite are irrelevant to the greater fact that, like all Marxists, they support totalitarian dictatorships. The sundry schisms and disputes between the dozens of Leftist parties around the world are driven by the dysfunctional personalities of the people involved. Stalin had Trotsky killed because it was his preferred method of dealing with people who crossed him. Similarly, Mao bumped off most of his fellow Long March commanders for fear of rivals.

    It’s curious how Fidel’s rivals in the rebel movement were all gone within a few years of the revolution, isn’t it?

  • If you don’t see much difference ‘aside from the style of moustaches or beards’, then you make it clear the amount of knowledge you have on the subject – putting everything into the same bag is also a fallacy. Stalin certainly didn’t order someone to murder Trotsky because the latter had a goatee.

  • Batista was known for his tendencies as a “caudillo” and was not a left-winger.

    From the start he was corrupt and authoritarian repressing dissent.

    The CDC continued its alliance with Batista in the 1950’s.

    As far as the disdain of the Castro regime – and Che – for the workers: you are correct. You are also correct that the CTC always allied itself with Batista. So did the communist party which only joined the revolution against Batista in late 1958 (see: Pacto de Caracas).
    After the revolution against Batista was won Fidel Castro used the communists and their control of the trade unions to seize power. He then purged both to make them even more subservient.

    Info on Batista and the Communists.

  • “Stalinism is not socialism or communism”

    I would call that an example of the classic “no true Scotsman” form of false argument. Aside from the style of moustaches or beards, I don’t see much difference between a Stalinist, a Leninist, a Trotskite, a Maoist or a Fidelista.

  • I would not say the Cuban trade unions were like that from the very beginning, they had debates just like in the CCP on which way forward but have over time evolve to such with the degeneration of the Stalinist Soviet model.

    Now people have lost their jobs because of political repression ( I have many times in the States also) but no one has put in front of a firing squad for advocating workers control, proletarian internationalism and real socialism.

    And we all know the facts about the Stalinist CP before the revolution and who they supported, same can be said about countless countries from the first Chinese revolution in 1926, the British General Strike, the rise of fascism in Germany and the betrayal of the Spanish revolution by the Stalinist’s and their wrong theories such Popular Frontism and such.

    But Stalinism is not socialism or communism and in every country where Stalinism was put forth the roads led back to capitalism.

  • In 1940, Batista’s government was not a dictatorship. He had been elected in a freely contested election in 1940 and served as president until 1944. Certainly his government was corrupt and authoritarian, but not a dictatorship. Batista’s dictatorship began in 1952 when he returned to Cuba and seized power in a coup and suspended the constitution of 1940, and banned unions from the right to strike.

    Jump ahead to the Cuban revolution, and it was Che’s turn to clamp down on unions, declaring, “By no means can Cuban workers go on strike!”

    So it seems the unions were used by ruthless individuals to obtain power, but once in power, the new dictators crushed the independent unions.

  • An interesting historical fact is that the communists in Cuba also controlled the CTC for Batista in a similar unholy alliance with that dictatorship.

    “In November 1940, the communists supported Batista’s candidates in the elections to the Constituent Assembly. In return for their support, Batista allowed the communists to organize and control the government sponsored union, Cuban Confederation of Labor (CTC Confederacion de Trabajadores de Cuba) The first Secretary General of the CTC was Lazaro Pena–who, ironically, enough, held the same post in the Castro regime. In exchange for these favors the communists guaranteed Batista labor peace.”

    The Cuban trade union is just one of the various elements of the repressive control system of the Cuban dictatorship. Instead of defending workers rights it operates to ensure workers obedience. The author is 100% correct in that assessment.

    For those interested in the history of the Cuban trade Union I would recommend this video (in Spanish):
    “Memoria Sindical”
    Available at:

    Also see:
    Documental: Cuba Libertad y Sindicalismo

  • You missed the point that the Cuban trade union has been like that from the beginning of the revolution. This is not a recent change in position having to do with Raul’s recent economic reforms. The union has always been controlled by the regime through the Communist Party.

    To be sure, there were union members who thought like you do, that the union should represent the workers interests, not the bosses or the State. They quickly wound up in prison or in front of a firing squad.

    So be careful what you wish for, Cort. You might just get it!

  • Sounds like the mostly bosses unions we have here in the States, workers have to fight to win and organize for real socialism, workers control and proletarian internationalism and democracy not stand by as the Chinese capitalists( they are no better than the US) with the Cuban bureaucracy install the return of capitalism with their market reforms.

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