Cuba’s Draft Labor Bill and Me

Dmitri Prieto

HAVANA TIMES — Workplace debates surrounding Cuba’s draft labor bill officially came to an end this past October 15th. Now, we are left with the question of what comes next.

The National Assembly of the People’s Power has a scheduled session (in Cuba, the parliament convenes for only a handful of days) for December. Then, we will finally get to see what comes out of this bill.

I would like to share some of my experiences debating this legislative proposal, having had the opportunity to participate in a number of very different discussions on this issue.

I have also been told by friends and through emails that very serious proposals have been made in this connection, as is the case of the workers of Havana’s Empresa de la Goma (rubber factory) and those advanced by activists from Socialismo Participativo y Democratico (“Participative and Democratic Socialism), Articulacion Regional de Afrodescendientes (“Regional Afro-Descendants Group”) and Alianza Unidad Racial (“Racial Unity Alliance”).

All of these debates and proposals add up to a highly interesting dynamic. In some places, one gets a sense of apathy bordering on feelings of powerlessness, indifference and cynicism in connection with “what’s coming”; in others, one catches sight of a sincere commitment towards the future of the Cuban people.

What I see is that a number of chapters in the draft labor bill pave the road towards a transition from a bureaucratic State-command economy to a form of private-enterprise capitalism where, to make matters worse, the employing class is furnished with more rights and opportunities than those who work for them.

Those of us who consider ourselves defenders of the rights that the workers have secured for themselves in the course of history have to ask ourselves what is to be done now. Specifically, we must develop a good strategy to involve the people in political and legal discussions so as to ensure these rights prevail.

Before addressing that, I would like to comment on a number of specific moments of the debate surrounding the bill, now that this stage of the process is coming to an end and a balance can be made.

The most recent information at my disposal regarding the formal procedures to be undertaken by official Cuban government institutions in connection with the draft bill is an interview with Ulises Guilarte, chair of the organizing commission of the 20th Congress of the Cuban Workers’ Association (CTC), published by Cuba’s Granma newspaper on the 18th of October.

The government official said that, as of November 12, following a new revision by experts, the legislative proposal will be passed on to regional deputies for review. After this, it will be submitted to parliament.

This affords us a new margin for intervention, where it ought to be possible for citizens to have some influence on what their respective regional deputies do. It is by no means an easy task, but I feel it is feasible to a certain extent.

The recent parliamentary elections renewed two thirds of the National Assembly’s composition.

Dimitri Prieto-Samsonov

Dmitri Prieto-Samsonov: I define myself as being either Cuban-Russian or Russian-Cuban, indiscriminately. I was born in Moscow in 1972 of a Russian mother and a Cuban father. I lived in the USSR until I was 13, although I was already familiar with Cuba-- where we would take our vacation almost every year. I currently live on the fifth floor of an apartment building in Santa Cruz del Norte, near the sea. I’ve studied biochemistry and law in Havana and anthropology in London. I’ve written about molecular biology, philosophy and anarchism, although I enjoy reading more than writing. I am currently teaching in the Agrarian University of Havana. I believe in God and in the possibility of a free society. Together with other people, that’s what we’re into: breaking down walls and routines.

One thought on “Cuba’s Draft Labor Bill and Me

  • There is very little new here, other than these “debates” are happening in Cuba. But, at the end, a top down “solution” will emerge and it will be ratified unanimously as it is usual and customary in Cuba.
    The top-down solutions always come from the “private” consultations with the Chinese and other subject matter experts from Mexico, Brazil, Spain among others. The fact is that very few people in the Island have a clue of what real market economics are about, and the ossified bureaucracy del Partido are not included in that group. The chances that they can come up with a coherent, modern, flexible and relevant piece of legislation; that can react to the business environment in the 21st century, are near zero. This has been tried before, by the Chinese since the 80’s and by the former Eastern Block countries in the 90’s. It has taken three decades for Mao’s disciples to fine tune their approach. The Easter Europeans are still stumbling badly. Do not hold your breath.

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