Cuba Needs Employment & Social Measures

Pedro Campos*

Flower vendor in Holguin, Cuba.  Photo: Caridad
Flower vendor - Holguin, Cuba. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, Dec. 21 – All seems to indicate that the leadership of the Cuban government/party has begun to understand the pernicious character of its paternalism.

As the natural consequence of its statist conception of socialism, this phenomenon has engendered “nestlings” (those who are accustomed to waiting for everything from “Papa State”).

This change is evidenced by the recent appearance of articles and commentaries in the official press that openly defend cooperativism and self-employment as socialist economic options.

These measures would clearly help work collectives, social communities and individuals who could -based on their own capacities- become self-sufficient in products and the mediums necessary to buy or exchange additional goods to satisfy their basic needs.

In addition to the long-awaited suspension by the state of all bureaucratic obstacles that restrain the free initiative of workers and individuals, it will be important to introduce ideas that offer all institutions the opportunity to somehow contribute to the development of their autonomy and to make them less dependent on state budgets and subsidies.

The bureaucratic apparatuses, interested in maintaining centralized control, will oppose the development of proposals for self-management, which would develop labor and social collectives to obtain their own resources.

However, this would run counter to the general strategic line of the country’s leadership, which -still with its contradictions- is beginning to lean toward the decentralization of the control of resources and decisions.

We need to help this along from “below.”

There are initiatives (some quite old) that can be generalized as the vegetable gardens for self-consumption at jobs and schools.  These include: the holding of “flea markets” between neighborhood residents to sell or exchange items unused by some but needed by others, cooperation between neighbors in the repair of housing and the improvement and cleaning of common areas; the direct sale of production by factories and companies and direct sale to the public of products and services outside the normal company plans, making use of scrap and discarded materials.

Many schools and research centers have enormous potential that is unexploited due to obstacles erected by the bureaucracy and centralization.  However, in the current circumstances, given the inability of the State to supply resources needed by these centers, these institutions could be put to work by the initiative of the workers themselves.

For example, universities and scientific centers could publicize their services internationally via the Internet, offering these and getting paid for them to the principal benefit of their own institutions.  This would be done while paying the State a minimum tax (in those present cases where this is permitted, these taxes are extremely high).

Scientific research and work produced by teachers and students could be offered to increase revenue for their centers.  Likewise, associations of graduates could be created to foster cooperation between them and their former institutions, even forming “councils” to promote the development of these and other entities of that type.

All of this would deploy initiative, exploit existing capacities, break ties of dependence and give free rein to the powerful autonomous forces possessed by the workforce.

*Pedro Campos articles can be read in Spanish in the SPD bulletin.