Cuban leaders drinking at the worker’s trough

Touring workplaces and repeating the same old working class and populist discourse, Cuba’s Communist Party leaders expect to obtain different results.

Salvador Valdes with a worker in Santa Clara. Photo: Carolina Vilchez/
Salvador Valdés con una trabajadora en Santa Clara. Foto: Carolina Vilches/ – See more at:

Pedro Campos

HAVANA TIMES — According to an article published in Cuba’s Granma newspaper on August 29, during a tour of several Cuban manufacturing centers, Politburo member and former Secretary General of the Cuban Worker’s Federation (CTC) Salvador Valdes Mesa said that “it is crucial to listen workers in order to know their concerns and suggestions for overcoming many of the problems that affect them in their workplaces.”

This is an old strategy that “communist” leaders, encouraged by the Party leadership to “drink from worker sources”, have been employing since Stalin’s time.

Eighty years later, the methods used to “lead the working class towards socialist triumphs” continue to be the same, despite the failure of the Soviet Union and socialist bloc, China’s transformation into a world capitalist power and the disaster that Cuban society is mired in.

“We must change our work methods and style,” Raul Castro affirmed in one of the first addresses he pronounced after being appointed president. No few of us were excited by this and felt the time had come to move from “State socialism” to a more participative and democratic form of socialism.

We had hoped that, rather than continue “leading the working class, listening to or guiding it,” the Party and government would begin to take steps to give workers direct participation in the management of companies and their profits, and generally to make those decisions that concerned them – the ABC of Marxist socialism, which calls for the gradual elimination of wage labor and the progressive expansion of free associated or individual labor, as well as the broadest democratic participation of workers in all political matters.

We believed, and continue to believe, that real power – economic power – should be given the workers. In the same way the old slogan calls for ownership of the land by those who work it, we call for control over factories, industries and companies in general by those who make these productive.

Workers with red hard hats. Photo: Juan Suarez

But no. What all the high-sounding talk of change was about was already clear in the decrees issued prior to and following the approval of the Party Guidelines at the 6th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (April 2011), where the policy aimed at “updating” Cuba’s economic model was passed.

What the changes were really about was giving the bureaucracy more control over the economy, eliminating “subsidies”, increasing and concentrating the exploitation of labor power, laying off “superfluous” workers, securing foreign capital in order to exploit Cuban wage laborers more efficiently and giving the self-employed and cooperatives a bit of elbow room so they would absorb the “excess” workforce.

Raul Castro and his circle of military officers may continue to talk of “sustainable socialism” and wield any slogan they like. While the government continues to “listen to the workers” instead of allowing them to decide what ought to be done at their workplaces, its “socialism”, its “updated model” and its “guidelines” will continue to yield the same results.

As everyone knows, one can’t expect different results from doing the same thing over and over again. Ultimately, it makes no difference: revolutionary power continues to be in good hands!

9 thoughts on “Cuban leaders drinking at the worker’s trough

  • Who has been head of the military for fifty five years?
    Who appointed ALL the current officers?
    Who directed the military into commerce building the Gaviota financial empire?
    The answer in each case is Raul Castro Ruz.
    Although he has limited his period as President, he has not said that he intends to resign as head of the military and although he is an older man, his health is much better than that of his sibling at a similar age.
    Who is responsible to his father-in-law for managing Gaviota – General Rodriguez.
    Diaz-Canel will only be President. Don’t think that Espin and Rodriguez cannot control from a position of massive economic power. My point is that Raul Castro Ruz and the military are virtually synonymous.

  • Carlyle MacDuff…you missed my point entirely…but I’m not surprised. What I am saying is that Raul (good that you know his full name, but really not necessary) is, in reality, no longer truly in charge. He is merely the public face of the government and the revolution, which is in reality now headed by the Cuban military. Decisions are ultimately made for and with the military’s best interests in mind…they are the true ruling majority. Raul simply goes along with what the majority wants, and his son-in-law makes sure that Raul knows what the military wants. Do you really believe that only one man runs the entire country… and that his words from the pulpit are absolute gospel and without challenge? Those days are long gone. Raul needs the support of the military to stay in position as the figure head of the revolution. But of course he will always bow to his military’s ultimate authority and direction to control the country economically. Why do you think the military now has their hand in absolutely anything and everything that generates dinero? Are you trying to tell me that Raul (and Fidel) are the only ones to benefit from Gaviota’s economic monopoly and power? They are just two aging old men who help to publicly keep the dream of the revolution alive to subdue the Cuban people. When they die, nothing will change…the military will still be in charge. I take it you now get my point.

  • As promised, I will again post a piece from Paul Street that will explain why Cuba is not socialist or even state socialist but rather state CAPITALIST.
    “Does the misery and collapse of the Soviet Union/bloc really discredit Marxism or other forms of anti-capitalism ?”
    ‘One can debate the meaning of the term socialism’, Noam Chomsky noted in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union ‘ but if itmeans anything , it means control of production by the workers themselves , not owners and managers who rule them and control all decisions , whether in capitalist enterprises or an absolutist state .( like Cuba jg)
    Bearing that consideration (true to Marx) in mind and adding in the question of who controls the economic surplus, the U.S. Marxist economist , Richard Wolff reasonably describes the Soviet experiment as a form of STATE CAPITALISM (emphasis mine jg
    Under the Soviet ( Cuban, Chinese Korean etc) ) .hired workers produced surpluses that were appropriated and distributed by state officials who functioned as employers .
    Thus Soviet industry was actually an example of state capitalism in its class structure .
    By calling itself socialist —a description of “Marxist Russia” that U.S. Cold Warriors and business propagandists ( Moses et al) eagerly embraced for obvious reasons — the Soviet Union prompted the redefinition of socialism to mean state capitalism .”
    End excerpted quote.
    Now go back and read Pedro’s article and see just how convoluted and twisted and just plain dead wrong the definitions of Cuba’s “state socialism ” are both in the article and in the minds of those who admittedly have no clue as to what constitutes socialism and no interest at all in understanding what they don’t want to understand .
    The point to take away is that to be called socialist or communist , an economy must be worker controlled. Period. and Cuba’s is not, the Soviet Union’s was not , China’s was not .
    They were all STATE CAPITALIST ( run from the top down)
    Got it now ?
    I will not respond to replies .

  • WAKEY WAKEY Mr. Downey. The Cuban military has been headed by Raul Castro Ruz since 1959! Gaviota SA is headed by General Rodriguez son-in-law of Raul Castro Ruz. Raul doesn’t have to answer to the military – they answer to him!
    Do please try to address reality!

  • Raul and Fidel are now only figure heads in support of the revolution today. They don’t hold the real power in Cuba…that’s held by Gaviota. When Fidel and Raul are gone, Gaviota will still hold all the power…no matter who the new government figure head might be. In effect, the Cuban government is now a military dictatorship, with Raul answering to the military. He knows which side his bread is buttered…and so will the new so called “leader” of Cuba when the Castros are gone. I don’t foresee any major changes happening in current government policy unless change is enticed, negotiated, and supported from abroad. Gaviota will always want their bread buttered too. America has lots of butter available to help grease the wheels of change. The ball will always be in America’s court.

  • One cannot help a sort of first-impression association which was immediately triggered by the lead photo which accompanies this article. It reminds one of the “make me a hinge” scene from the movie Schindler’s List, albeit in a Socialistic Carribean style, with its deadly overtones being economic rather than actually life-threatening.

  • Absolutely correct. It is those forces within and yes, nothing will change until Raul and Fidel Castro Ruz have departed in three years time.

  • The Castros are in their final days, both politically and biologically. Every ‘reform’ they implement is from the pressure they are feeling from the forces within to change the system. The only real change will come after the Castros have died or left office. Until then, expect nothing to really change.

  • The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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