The Cat Test

Daisy Valera

Salvador Valdes Mesa, the head of Cuba's only trade union, has said that the salaries will not be increased in the near future.

HAVANA TIMES — Salvador Valdes Mesa, leader of Cuba’s only trade union, has already stated that wages won’t increase for a good while and that our ration cards — will disappear little by little.

A while back they eliminated cigarettes and cigars from them, then came the personal hygiene products, so it’s clear that in the future rice and sugar will be next in line.

What’s on the horizon then is little money and less food. And here, sometimes there’s not even food available for buying. Not a good thing.

So what remains of the “historic conquests” (free health care and education!) enjoyed by workers on this island?

But people already know that when they go to a doctor, they better take a snack for the professional, preferably items purchased in hard currency CUCs. The same thing goes for when you’re looking for a private tutor for your child.

I can’t criticize the attitudes of these professionals, their wages are ridiculous and they can’t even decide on the color of the walls in their offices.

A few other things were put in place for the nation’s proletariat to make life easier: Child day care centers and workers’ cafeterias.

But now many parents are unable to take their children to those daycare centers, and what can I say about the fate of those cafeterias.

You see, in those dining rooms, workers and professionals have no choice but to turn to the “cat test.”

What they do is give a small portion of their food to some cat, a test to see if the animal can eat it without throwing up or ending up with food poisoning.

In 2008, I thought these services were coming to an end. That’s when there began the official media campaign against those former “conquest” as by then having become “expenses that the government’s budget cannot possible cover.”

But that didn’t happen. Here we are in 2012 and a considerable number of workplace kitchens continue to operate.

First, the government decided to pay workers 15 extra pesos a day to make up for the virtually free lunches that were eliminated (imagine the joy of such a substantial wage increase).

But the illusion didn’t last long; apparently the planners didn’t do their math.

Work cafeterias continue serving the most horrendous food – typically five teaspoons of rice, hard and watery peas, and sour meatballs for vegetal protein.

A lot of the food ends up in the trash, with even the cats doing a 180 when they smell it.

The food is disgusting. Many workers have begun to bring a little snack from home, and I’m starting to wonder if the government hasn’t begun seeing this as a strategy/solution.

The elimination of workers cafeterias will turn out to be a windfall, one in which the government will probably hide behind the excuse of budgetary shortfalls.


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.

6 thoughts on “The Cat Test

  • Hi Michael, sorry not to have replied to your comments sooner. Thanks for the good press. My proposals however are not at all as utopian as those of St. Simon and Fourier. Marx and Engels actually smuggled the “immediate communal property” principle of the Utopians into the socialist movement, under the unsubstantiated bluster of being scientific. The only difference between their core concept of socialism and that of the Utopians was that, per Marxism, the state would become the owner of everything productive, thereby abolishing private productive property rights overnight (instead of abolishing them through a long process of development to a far-in-the-future classless and stateless society).

    My proposals are based on over two-hundred years of successful cooperative experiences, and are merely a means of applying private property rights and worker-owned cooperative structures on the Mondragon model, under socialist state power. May I recommend that you go to my website at grdpublishing. com and order my latest book, Hope for the Future. It may blow your mind, but in a good way. Cheers.

  • Dear Landis, Grady’s proposal would be extremely welcome by Cubans as I wrote in last Campos’ post recently. Actually any change will be welcome by Cubans in order to finish 53 years of destruction and incompetence….. even that system that you present as “utopia” would be desperately accepted just because it seems to work extremely well compared by castro “system” and also because in last instance you have the choice to make a change every 4 years or when the people decides like in Spain or Greece recently or Bolivia or Ecuador , countries that have world records changing governments……. without democracy peoples can’t explore new options……. that’s democracy benefits, that’s what makes democracy better than tyrannies……. what I don’t understand is why there is people that can come and tell Cubans to keep trying with castro regime after 5 decades of failure!!!!!!

  • Do you mean just like “democracy” is solving our problems, Freud?! Seems like democracy remains as much a utopian vision as, err, communism. Our founding fathers little invisioned how their dreams would be totally corrupted by money and power (though Washington warned about the dangers of “faction” ((i.e. political parties)), and Jefferson warned about the dangers of a central government having too much power–and also of the banks and industry having too much power ((to the detriment of the farmers and small tradesmen)) ). Although our founding fathers were well aware of what happened to earlier experiments in the Greek city-states, and Roman Republic, nevertheless, despite their checks-and-balances precautions, their system is now at an end, and we’re heading towards–if we haven’t already arrived at–all out oligarchy. In the end, I feel that Grady’s poposals have the most merit; however, given the current lopsidedness of money and power, they are as utopian as those of Fourier or St. Simon in the 19th Century. Sill, we are hurtling towards disaster. It will be interesting to see what comes afterwards.

  • Neither cooperatives nor dollars will solve Cuba’s problem……. democracy is the only thing that can solve Cuba’s problems….. No castros, No problems.

  • Grady, what does Cuba really need right now? Money. Hard currency. Fula. Where does one who needs money go to get it? From someone who has it. Poor people can sing halleluha ’till the cows come home but until the rich guy shows up to buy something or give it away, they will stay poor. Even if Cuba fully adopted your “plan” tomorrow, unless they produced something that someone outside of Cuba wants to buy, the buildings are going to keep falling down. Milk will still costs more than rum and prostitutes will still earn more money than brain surgeons. So you see, in the end it still comes down to selling it for more than it costs you to make.

  • Great article! By now, it should be clear to every person on planet Earth that the Marxian principle of full state ownership of all productive enterprise is incapable of building the socialist bridge to a far-in-the-future stateless and classless society.

    The absurdities you describe above–as shown be all countries that have tried to apply the state monopoly principle as “real” socialism–were the natural result of an erroneous strategic program of social transformation.

    What continues to mystify me, Daisy, is why a certain leading comrade in Cuba continues to attribute the Marxian principle of state monopoly to Joseph Stalin, when it comes directly from the Communist Manifesto.

    Workable socialism must be built around the concept of a socialist cooperative republic, based on the principle of private productive property, owned primarily by the cooperative workers and the small business class.

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