A New Year for Cuba with the Old Style

By Pedro Campos

 Artemisa. Foto: Otoniel Márquez/granma
First VP Miguel Diaz Canel (r), supposedly in line to be Cuba’s next president, visited a tobacco farm in Artemisa province. Photo: Otoniel Márquez/granma

HAVANA TIMES — Granma had these headlines on January 4 and 6, 2017: “Diaz Canel confirms progress in the tobacco campaign” in Artemisa. “Ramiro Valdes assesses investment program in Santiago de Cuba”. “Valdes Mesa goes to institutions in Mayabeque.”

According to the Communist Party’s official media, the First Vice-President “confirms progress in this province’s tobacco campaign, visiting the Lazaro Pena Storing and Processing Company, he learned about their prospects for development and its current situation and he showed an interest in employee working conditions which make the company’s purpose attainable, and their wages.

Meanwhile, another Vice-President, Ramiro Valdes during his visit “assessed the housing construction, the Water Resources system works, the running of the new sea terminal and other important investments which have occurred in the province and he pointed out the fact that the new year demands greater control in the rational use of resources destined to this important issue and a greater building quality.”

Similarly, the also Vice-President, Valdes Mesa on his tour, “called for efficiency parameters to be followed closely, to make the absolute most of raw materials, to produce quality goods to replace imports… the important thing is to use energy sources properly, complying with consumption rates as well as using science and technology in every agricultural task… We can’t improvise, we have to plan, control and save the resources we can get a hold of.”

So we see that the old work style has been taken up again in the new year, the heir of the Stalinist era in Soviet Russia, characterized by “leadership” visits to workplaces, housing estates and social works under construction, etc., to make sure that plans drawn up by those at the top are being met and to make clear that “the Revolution’s work is there to benefit the people.”

Ramiro Valdés at the water treatment plant at Caney. Photo: Eduardo Palomares/granma

Normally accompanied by an entourage of government reporters, photographers, drivers, servants, bodyguards, local leaders and friends on their “tour”, the “high-ranking” leaders follow a script, as you can make out from the paragraphs above, where they confirm that plans are making headway, show concern for workers and give the same general, superficial and arbitrary guidelines they always do: “you have to demand, quality needs to be increased, save, manage resources properly.”

This “work-style”, typical of state-ownership has as key objectives showing the leaders’ concern for central government programs and investments being met, their populist interest in employee working conditions and to encourage them “with their presence”.

Stemming from the bureaucratic philosophy which states that whether plans are met lies in the hands of the political cadre, controls and demand for worker efficiency and not in the relation between work and its fair compensation. And until this isn’t applied, because they don’t understand it or because it isn’t fitting in a bureaucracy, there won’t be any way out of this current disaster we find ourselves in.

According to them, workers don’t work as much as they should, nor how they should, they divert valuable resources away from the state because they are thieves and all of this happens because middle managers don’t control them enough, don’t ask much of them, don’t save. Everybody should work because of their love for the Revolution, for its leaders, for a future that they’ve been promised for almost 60 years now, when we already know that there isn’t a future if there isn’t a present today.

These upper echelons of the bureaucracy, rooted firmly in power, believe that its up to those down below to notify those at the top, to hold account for what they do, when it should be precisely the opposite: those who were chosen to executive management positions should be the ones to tell the people, the press and the popular control organizations about the way that tasks given out are being handled, on what money from taxes has been spent on, why budgets haven’t been met, etc.

Salvador Valdes Mesa at the blonde tobacco drying plant where he was informed on the state of the production process. Photo: Carlos Cánovas/ganma

Of course this would require an extreme change in how we understand society, which continues to have a group of self-designated leaders, without taking popular opinion into account, without holding free and democratic elections, and without changing the state’s property framework and centralized control of the economy and politics.

Therefore the most interesting thing in this early offensive on “the vice-presidents control and help” is to repeat that after the death of the leader, the government continues to hold on fast to their old methods and understanding of control, centralized planning from above, voluntary work and traditional populism from so-called State socialism which has proven its total failure wherever it has been put into practice, especially in Cuba. In effect, “nothing has happened here and we will continue on with more of the same.”

Oh well, it appears there is NO need to change anything that needs to be changed, completely violating Fidel’s concept of Revolution, signed after his death, they say, by six million Cubans.

12 thoughts on “A New Year for Cuba with the Old Style

  • January 24, 2017 at 11:37 am

    The Cubans learned it from the Soviets.

  • January 24, 2017 at 10:58 am

    No, I disagree that there is anything uniquely soviet-style about this. It’s ubiquitous everywhere, whether it be soy in Brazil, rice in India, tobacco in NC or any new or interesting crop that shows innovation or economic growth. Politicians like to use Ag for these kinds of photos and stories. I’m not speaking to any wider debate here, but one cannot state as fact that the photo is somehow uniquely soviet-esque. It is Cuban more than anything, and not unlike what everyone else in the neighborhood (region) does.

  • January 23, 2017 at 10:04 am

    So we agree?

  • January 23, 2017 at 7:58 am

    Photo ops are indeed universal. I’m a dual citizen of US/Bahamas and have spent lots of time in Cuba, all over the provinces mad with a great deal of contact with ministries and NGO’s.

    Being a farmer, Moses, I’ve been at more gee-haw photo ops than you ever will, right here in the rural US. Same in the Bahamas. Agriculture is a universal interest piece, with food security being at the top of any social agenda. You have an obvious bias that makes your contributions, well, distracting.

    Look in our own streets, at our opiate epidemic, our education crisis, our poverty. You can’t look at all that is great in our country and compare that to the shortcomings of another country. Cuba has many issues to tackle, yet many successes. The resilience and drive of the Cuban people is enough to make the average American seem soft and slow, yet me are clearly the glimmering city on the hill, where all the poor people of the world dream of coming. Sure we drive innovation and have become the worlds superpower, but this hardly means we have it figured out. Wait and see how much stupid $hit is about to happen now, with a Trump admin, and once the years and decades have passed and we’re able to accurately assess…..

  • January 15, 2017 at 7:22 am

    Sugar cane photo ops happen all the time in Cuba. And yes, I have a clue.

  • January 15, 2017 at 3:57 am

    You haven’t got a clue have you?
    In your haste to put down completely normal politician photo op activity that goes on all over the world you manage to suggest that a high ranking official is commenting on sugar cane production.
    This is something you are inventing.
    The article doesn’t even mention sugar cane does it?
    Do you do a lot of inventing?
    Or would you prefer to call it total bullsh*t?
    The menace of ‘fake news’ is spreading like wildfire and is even reaching the comments section of Havana Times huh?

  • January 14, 2017 at 6:29 pm

    The decorative photo ops are nostalgic. The pretension that utopia is just around the corner is over. The Fidel magic died long befor his body gave out. The regime has been running on it’s well constructed security operation. In time it won’t be enough. They need reforms to raise living standards.

  • January 14, 2017 at 6:53 am

    Photo ops in general are indeed universal. But sending a high ranking government official to inspect and comment on sugar cane production is Soviet-style. Even more so when the inspection and commentary is total bullsh*t, as it is in Cuba.

  • January 13, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    It’s hilarious how you try and get mileage out of the most banal subject matter.
    These photo ops are not ‘soviet style’.
    Politicians all over the world indulge in these type of photo ops.
    In my country, your country, just about every other country and yes, in Cuba too.
    I know they do this everywhere.
    You know they do this everywhere.
    Everyone knows they do this everywhere.
    It’s what politicians do.
    Get real.

  • January 13, 2017 at 7:23 am

    These Soviet-style photo ops are a crack up. No one believes them. The questions that the political leaders ask the local managers are scripted and the answers are always huge lies which end with this phrase….thanks to Fidel and Raul.

  • January 13, 2017 at 7:13 am

    It is not the same in the US.

  • January 13, 2017 at 1:25 am

    Status quo, we have the same problem here in the U.S. with the corrupt political elites running Washington. Maybe there will change in both countries with Trump coming into office, since he is an outsider. We’ll have to wait and see.

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