The Cuban System: “It Doesn’t Work and Never Will”

Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

Osmel Ramirez and one of his tobacco leaves.
Osmel Ramirez and one of his tobacco leaves.

HAVANA TIMES — In some of my past articles, I’ve commented on the fact that out of the need to survive I’ve turned to agricultural work, more specifically, to tobacco farming. I decided to do this when my first wife was pregnant, about to give birth to my eldest princess, Ana Claudia, seven years ago. I’m going to tell you a little bit about my experiences as a farmer, to show you just how badly things in this country work.

I used to work at the Provincial Center of Medical Genetics in Holguin as a specialist in cytogenetic studies and I earned just over the equivalent of $20 dollars per month. In any normal country, it would be absolutely stupid to leave a stable job just as you’re about to become a father; however, here, carrying on working would have been a great act of irresponsibility, unless of course I didn’t have any other choice.

The most humble layettes and a crib cost me like 4,000 regular pesos (around $160 USD) back then, 8 times my entire salary. As a responsible father, I took my leave and created a little business renting out CDs; thinking about growing tobacco on a small plot of land that my father had given me, in the middle term.

“Getting into” tobacco farming took me four years because it’s not enough to just want to do it. There is only one state monopoly company called Cubatabaco and you can only legally sow this precious plant through them. The Mayari valley is classified as one of the best-suited lands for this kind of farming and my suburban neighborhood, Guayabo, has a tradition that goes back hundreds of years. Out of the entire region, it’s where there are the most experienced farmers and people come from all over searching to employ this extremely valuable workforce.

In the tobacco curing hourse Osmel built.
In the tobacco curing house Osmel built.

Ironically, the Cubatobaco company didn’t start by growing here, but in another place where workers are few, nobody knows anything about tobacco and plots of land were handed out in usufruct to people who had no experience in growing tobacco. All of the resources were directed to a place where they had the least amount of opportunities to be efficient and effective. The result was catastrophic and it was only five or six years later, with some readjustments, and debts that continue to drag into the future, that the situation began to change.

In my community, the struggle to grow was done without improved conditions, without access to irrigation which runs underneath and benefits the rest of the valley, without irrigation systems, without priority investment programs, but the results were better than the rest. It wasn’t to help out the State or its inefficient company, but out of necessity, in order to access the best prices of this important product. Out of the ten tapaderos (where the layers for exporting are produced), there are only three here in Guayabo and it was these three that had satisfactory results, the rest became indebted.

Up until last year, investments still hadn’t begun to be made; however I managed to get on the list a year beforehand with a subterfuge. I built my tobacco curing house the best I could on my own, with my stress levels through the roof because of its insecurity over legalities. In the end, In three days I received all of the resources that I’d asked for over three months and which they refused to give me. The TV came to report my story and incredibly enough I was further ahead than those who had been a priority and they chose me. Then everything came about naturally.

Before this, in order for them to sell me a small quantity of nails needed for the contruction, I had to wait in a line for four hours and beg the person responsible for authorizing them, who told me I had to come another day with a scowl. Then I had to wait out the same line, and another one to do my invoice and then find a storekeeper who distributed them. That was in the happy chance scenario that they authorized them, because they almost nearly always say that you can’t. With all of the fuss on TV, a manager came to my house and asked me what I needed. He sent a car out to get the nails and got the invoice clerk to sign my piece of paper straight away.

The contracts included clauses that said that they should provide us with supplies, but then they tell you that they arrived incomplete and that’s that. In Cuba, a contract is just a mere formality, it isn’t worth anything, and filing a complaint is a waste of time. For example, the company is responsible for handing out seedlings on time and correctly, of the best quality. They’ve never managed to do this. That’s the reason why the last harvest, which should have ended on January 31st, reached this date with 50% less planted and had to be extended until March. This affected the production and there were problems with quality because of environmental stains on the leaves and a lot of tobacco was affected because it had to be cured during the Spring rains.

Cubatabaco finally met its goals without problems and they got just as much money out of affected tobacco as they did the good tobacco, because they converted it into cigarettes and this multiplies their value 50 or 60 times over. However, we farmers lost around 40% of the price and even though we complained, it was useless: instead of getting compensation, we were labeled “troublemakers”.

Another example: since July 3rd, I’ve been asking for them to plow my land and by August 15th, they still hadn’t come. I had to have it done privately which costs 2.5 times more than it does to do it with the government, but they came quickly. I kept on insisting for the second plowing but they still haven’t done it. This week, I will hire someone privately because I aim to sow my tobacco in October and I’m running out of time, however, I will keep on insisting as an experiment to see if they come after the harvest has ended.

These are just some examples to illustrate just how badly things work here in Cuba, even in a prioritized sector such as that of tobacco, one of the country’s leading exports. While it is true that they pay better than they do for other agricultural produce, they don’t let the majority of the growers enjoy real solvency either. The State is the one who earns more and we farmers don’t have access to the financial data. They’re secret.

This system is tedious and inefficient and I’m sure that it kills many of us with stress. It’s a shame that we don’t have the financial information!  And there are still people who ask why this doesn’t work; I assure you this way of operating is of no use, it doesn’t work and it never will.

54 thoughts on “The Cuban System: “It Doesn’t Work and Never Will”

  • Presumably it is Jeremy Corbyn who places value upon you?

  • If I go to the States they will call me “White” and then I will be compromised. Britain is not the States, at least here I am valued.

  • It is obvious that you know few if any Cubans. I, and certainly any other Cuban I know, abhore communism. If I had to grade it on a curve, I would say it goes from hot love of the capitalist system to cold indifference. Certainly there is no obvious support that I have ever Sean towards Communism. Indeed, if that is any measure, you’ll have yourself a long wait before Cubans show any interest in Communism.

    The resources that I, and other Cubans send to their families are of necessity, certainly it does not lend itself to the development of Cuba. And that this, and your odd critique of Cubase educational system for not “preparing” Cubans for the reality of work within the USA is a huge indictment of the Cuban communist system.

    You did say one thing I agree with, Cubans are indeed entranced with the “freedomes” they find here. You are 100% correct about that. My wife’s nephew made a similar comment a few months ago. I My father said the same thing. An ineffable quality is freedom. But when you have it….boy or boy!!! That feeling is something you’ll never know.

  • …it is the path the Castro’s have chosen. Certainly the Cuban people have not chosen it. In almost 60 years the Cuban people have not even been able to have a referendum on it!

  • Amen brother. George, just go live there. Come to Camaguey, you wouldn’t last an hour.

  • What hogwash. All anyone one under the age of thirty wants in Cuba is to get out. Over thirty they want their kids to get out. Why, because they have nothing, nada. You talk of ideas and structures, politics and economics, try living there a while and see what it is really like, for people, not stupid ideas.

  • George, I am not detracting from Britain’s Health Service which was introduced by the Labour Party in 1948 with Aneurin Bevan as Minister of Health and yes it was interesting that their was displayed pride in the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics – under a Conservative government.
    One of the displayed advantages of a multi-party democratic system is the ability to recognize good ideas introduced by other parties. When in opposition, such parties may oppose the introductions, but in due course adopt them when subsequently elected. Prime examples in Canada include the negotiations between the Progressive Conservative Government of Brian Mulroney and the Republican Government of George H W Bush for NAFTA (for those who query, it was Carla Hills who negotiated for Bush, but Bill Clinton who signed NAFTA into US law) and the introduction of GST (Goods and Services Tax0. Both were vehemently opposed by the Liberal Party in opposition with their then leader one Jean Chretian declaring: “When I am Prime Minister there will be no more GST, signed J. Chretian.” and “When I am Prime Minister there will be no more GST.”. But when elected he and his Party adopted both with alacrity.
    You claim that “Zimbabwe has a capitalist economy,” To that and to avoid wasting time, I can only respond: Bunkum!
    Regarding Cuba, you and I can argue and debate about whether the people of Cuba should have a capitalist or socialist (communist) system. The difference is that I believe that the people themselves should have opportunity to decide their own path and future, an option that is denied by “socialismo” and the Castro dictatorship. In taking that view, I look at the history of people having the opportunity to have open elections following the collapse of communism – not one country having such opportunity elected a communist government. The fact is George that humanity has a liking for freedom.

  • The first sentence of your contribution George reads:
    “The Cuban system was not designed with profit in mind.”
    That obviously George is correct, as it has proven to be an economic failure. That failure has ensured that the people of Cuba live in penury with their natural resources ignored. There is absolutely no chance of Cuba becoming self-sufficient whilst under the heel of the Castro family dictatorship which has a proven record of managerial and economic incompetence. But despite the obvious failure, the Castro family and their cohorts go blindly on confident that through oppression they can continue their power and control over a subjected people.

  • The freedom to run a small business is so important even if 1 third of the profits are taxed by the government. I have seen this in other countries not just Cuba.

  • Socialism in rich countries works very well, in Britain for example, the NHS (universal health care) provides amongst the best health care in the world and dearly loved, it was no surprise the London Olympics opening ceremony featured a whole section devoted to telling the world what a success it is. The point I am trying to make is not about socialism, it is about imperialism, you have to analyse why rich countries are rich, the historical-political reasons that these countries continue to have access to and control the wealth. It has nothing to do with capitalism or socialism or whatever. It has to do with military might. You can argue as to whether capitalism or socialism is better for the Cuban people, but the real issue is sovereignty. In my opinion, if capitalism returned to Cuba, the first thing that would change is that the resources would be bought out by the imperialists. You see Zimbabwe has a capitalist economy, leftists in Zimbabwe are persecuted. But Mugabe has insisted on majority ownership of all resources by native Zimbabweans. And look at how imperialism punishes them.

  • Just for kicks Carlyle, last time I was in Cuba all the Cubans thought I was completely crazy for walking everywhere, I admit the heat was pretty hard going.

  • This is better from you IC. In fact I am all for Cubans moving to the U.S. to make as good a go of it as possible, provided they don’t become blind to reality and compromised in their patriotism. Cubans in the U.S. have an important role to play in sending back resources and experience to help Cuba develop. They also can help to speed the U.S. on its path to communism. As I said, Marx believed the most advanced capitalist countries (e.g. the U.S.) will reach true communism first. Cubans valuable experiences of what works and what doesn’t combined with excellent understanding of reality are invaluable to the process. The problem is that some Cubans who go there are so entranced by the riches and freedoms that they immediately forget all their education and assume that they have been lied to. This is a fault of the Cuban education system which doesn’t do enough to prepare them for work in the U.S.

  • Carlyle, I’m going to reply to your comment just for kicks and against my better judgement, have you any idea how ridiculous you sound?!!! Of course giving references to back up your ideas shows a lack of ability to think for yourself. That’s why capitalist education and even journalism insists upon it because it seeks to turn us all into unquestioning sheep.

  • Hi IC, I apologise, the blog is indeed from the left, but I included it because it was reporting on the statement by an important leading mainstream (and non-Marxist) economist, Nouriel Roubini, that Marx’s analysis of capitalism is correct. Perhaps I should have linked to Roubini’s actual paper…

    As to your choice of quotes, if you re-read my original comment you will see that I agree with you. What I said was that Marx’s analysis of how capitalism works is widely regarded as correct by economists across the political spectrum. The question of what to do about it is where the disagreements start. The point I am trying to make is that you have to separate Marx into two parts, Marx the scientist and Marx the activist. Marx’s scientific analysis of economics is used even by the capitalist elites and should not be ignored by anyone. The political manifesto and activism of Marx on the other hand is subjective and as such up to personal reality. I should point out that Marx believed that communism would come to the most developed capitalist countries first. Thus he may well have disapproved of Cuba trying to develop communism before it had reached the zenith of capitalist production, who knows, his activism suggests that he was in favour of trying to hasten the arrival of communism which is the path Cuba has chosen.

  • On this occasion I believe you George. I have only visited seven African countries and have witnessed the UN food supplies being the only way to ward off starvation. You George should get out into the un-gated communities of Cuba – when in Havana, get out and take a good look at La Lisa and Marianoa, even better, travel to Guane, Santa Lucia, Candaleria and Pinar del Rio. That should at least give you some concept of reality. I am sure that you like me, deplore the incompetence and neglect by the Castro regime which has led to all those hundreds of thousands of acres of good agricultural land – for much of which irrigation could be available – to be permitted to revert to bush in a world where people are starving.
    Yes, for countries like Cuba, a capitalist economy would vastly improve the deplorable standard of living which has been imposed by communism.
    Time George to get out of the taxi and like Cubans – walk!

  • The reason that George has to quote other sources reflects an inability to think for himself.

  • I absolutely know I am better off than most Cubans, no question. I also am way better off than most Central Americans, but I don’t know what that proves. Cubans are much better off than the average Latin American, most of whom live under “capitalist” governments that have done nothing but enrich those elites at the top in power and are complicit with the multinational corporate owners of a majority of the hemisphere’s resources. How has their “democratically-elected” capitalist governments made their lives better as they sit in greater squalor than the average Cuban who at least enjoys a greater level of education and healthcare and some social program support? Again, what system would be better for the lives of Cubans? Should they emulate that of Mexico, or Brazil, or the US? Should they hope to create a system in which they have as great a life as the millions of US citizens who don’t have enough to eat, any healthcare, or are homeless? Sure, “allow the people of Cuba to elect a government of their choosing” is a great slogan, but what system do you think could they create for Cuba that is better for the people? What would it look like? Or have you no idea beyond those words? Let the capitalists have at it and recreate the disparity of our own “3rd world country inside the US” is unsatisfactory for all but affluent capitalist theoreticians. You have a strong opinion of how bad it is- what is your idea how it would be better? I honestly would like to know what “better” would look like that doesn’t put them back to their prior sh**hole-for-most Cubans “playground for rich Americans.” Tear it down and let’s see what happens is a terrible idea for most if it’s going to be left up to those who have the most money. We see what kind of government that brings us- one of, by and for the oligarchs, with a few crumbs thrown down to stave off revolution of the masses.

  • I’m not sure what you are responding to. Carlyle is simply talking about the hardships in Cuba, not world poverty or African poverty for that matter! By contrast, Cuba’s poverty can be laid at the feet of the Castro dictatorship. It is not “Capitalism” that allows vast tracks of arable land in Cuba to lie fallow. It is not “Capitalism” that has tomatoes rot in the sun for lack of transportation. It’s not “Capitalism” that denies Cubans access to outside news and information. This, and much, much more, can be laid at the feet of inefficient, Marxist central planning. That, when combined with a dictatorship that allows no dissent or ideas outside it’s orthodoxy, keep Cuba in a feudal state!

  • Introducing a couple of straw men does not help with whatever point you’re trying to make. You ascribe motivations to Cuban actions that are not there. And I’m confused as to who said “You say Cuban’s have not chosen to take on this burden of finding the solution to the world’s economic problems”, as I certainly did not. Cuba can’t even solve their own problems, much less take on the “burden” you mention.

    Well you are correct in that Cuban’s don’t want to submit to “exploitation” from the USA ….as increased immigration figures show, they would simply prefer to move here.

  • How is Michael Roberts blog, “blogging from a Marxist economist” not left wing, exactly?

    Other than that, I think you had best re-read the links you posted, becasue all you’re doing is picking and choosing. I can do that from those articles as well.

    “….It is striking that today’s militant critics of globalization, whether declared Marxists or otherwise, proceed in much the same way. They present no worked-out alternative to the present economic order. Instead, they invoke a Utopia free of environmental stress, social injustice and branded sportswear, harking back to a pre-industrial golden age that did not actually exist. Never is this alternative future given clear shape or offered up for examination.”

    “…Of course business is not philanthropy, securing profit is a legitimate (if not a morally supreme) motivation for people”

  • Of course the fact that nearly one in nine people on the planet do not have enough to eat in order to survive despite the world producing enough to feed them one and a half times over is “academic”. It is a “theoretical matter”. Have you seen these people? I haven’t. They probably don’t really exist. Certainly they are not worth caring about. The fact is my life is good and when I go to Cuba I see that life is not so good. I’ve never been to the top thirty poorest countries in the world, all of which are African, by the way. I don’t really believe they know how to run a capitalist economy so I wouldn’t blame capitalism for their poverty. I’ve been to Brazil and it was fabulous. They said it was dangerous, but we got a taxi everywhere and stayed in a gated community. I’d really like to see Cuba more like that. Then I wouldn’t feel so bad every time I visited there.

  • Some mainstream (non-leftist) articles about how Marx’s analysis of capitalism was correct:

  • I have heard the term “Socialism, with Chinese characteristics” to describe the current phase of the Chinese Revolution. I also remember hearing one of the leaders of the Chinese Government explain that It doesn’t matter if a cat is white or black. What matters is “Can and does the cat catch mice”. I think this was said following the death of Mao Tse Dung when a new direction of the economy and social policy was being formulated. I think that as long as the Chinese Communist Party is in charge the inevitable march toward a fully established and functioning Communist System as described by Marx & Engels and up dated by Lenin will continue. As George as so rightly pointed out China must go through a capitalist stage first. This will take many years. I also think that as long as the Cuban Communist Party is the Government of Cuba and they continue to establish economic and social policy for the country they too will find their way forward and maintain “Socialism, with Cuban characteristics” for a period of time. Vietnam is on a similar path. Other countries will follow upon the eventual collapse of Capitalism and Imperialism. The main task is to avoid war and maintain peace.

  • “Marx’s analysis of capitalism is widely recognised as correct by the majority of scholars from all sides of the political spectrum” ….utter nonsense! Just saying something doesn’t make it true George

  • I would like to hear a plan that would allow Cubans to choose for themselves.

  • The wage gap is not as wide as it looks. At no time will Cuba go ahead until the small farmers and self employed have the freedom to operate to make things better. No smart foreign investor is happy with the current conditions to operate in. In Canada I can hitchhike across the county sleep in ATM machines or in homeless shelters but I am still better off than a doctor in Cuba today. I can get truck parts on a Sunday if needed. If I wait for Monday or any other day I can get at least 4 prices within one hour. In Cuba I might have to wait a week for the part and pay twice as much.

  • George, by writing that “the majority of Cuban choose to strive for a better world” you yet again display abysmal ignorance of the average way of life for Cubans. Firstly, the average Cuban daily strives to exist and to meet the needs for the family tomorrow hence ‘resolver’. Secondly the average Cuban has no way of openly expressing their view without the ever present threat of imprisonment. Thirdly, the average Cuban is exploited by a totalitarian communist system controlled by the imposed Castro family dictatorship.
    George you obviously live in a world of imagination rivalling Alice in Wonderland and your supposedly academic dissertations about the merits of communism which has repeatedly proven to be a failure are fatuous.
    The plight of the people of Cuba is not a theoretical matter George, it is there for anyone to behold. Cubans have to exist day-by-day in a real world where their political masters do not have to answer for their incompetence and folly.
    Why not spend some time examining the reality of life for the average Cuban, to enable you to make practical comment rather than tedious irrelevant views?
    You speak of “exploitation of the empire”, well the last one imploded in 1989/90 – the USSR! Similarly, the Castro regime does not seek a better way of life for its subjugated people, its concentration is upon retention of power and control over them.

  • IC, please believe me that if it were possible for everyone to live as they do in the First World, I would be the first to support such a system. The problem is that it is not. First World lifestyles depend on the exploitation of the rest of the world. This condemnation of most of the world to poverty in order to provide First World lifestyles to the few is the reason I support Cuba in trying to find a better way. If only my own country would be as brave and self-sacrificing. You say Cuban’s have not chosen to take on this burden of finding the solution to the world’s economic problems. That is partly true, Cuba has been forced by virtue of history and political-geography to either take on the burden or suffer the humiliation of neo-colonialism. If Cubans had the choice to live as imperialists, who knows, perhaps they would not be so noble. However I am convinced that the majority of Cubans choose to strive for a better world, rather than submit to exploitation by the empire, the fact that such a path involves so much hardship makes them even more admirable.

  • Thanks Eden, my reply to you was tongue in cheek, I thought you’d get it 🙂

  • I did address it, or at least that one item that jumped right out at me. To address everything else he wrote, for the umpteenth time, is just a waste of energy.

    I lived there reality of this in Cuba. I don’t wish it on anyone.

  • Ryan, capitalism, in its truest form, no longer exists. I wouldn’t call taxing high income New Yorkers a total 45% tax rate as capitalism nor the infusion of trillions to rescue the US economy.
    I happen to be a capitalist and to the extreme but recognize that Cuba had a revolution and it should be up to the people of said country to either continue to accept so called socialism or change the paradigm. That’s not happening and there falls the problem. I haven’t any answers but will accept the fact that those who remained in Cuba should make that decision. I also feel that those who fled should also be included but that’s not my decision. I’m a fervent advocate of info from the internet and enjoy diverse opinions so in my opinion that will add fervor for the necessary change to make Cuba a great country. Conclusion, socialism, see Venezuela, doesn’t work.

  • Well written Eden!

  • Open your eyes and read what Informed Consent wrote! George has swallowed the Marx/Lenin 19th century theories which when ever pursued have resulted in dictatorship. Informed Consent’s comments about Cuban citizens being systematically deprived of their fundamental rights are correct and even George or anyone silly enough to agree with him, has to agree with that. But to do so they need to live in Cuba for a period, not just base views upon a couple of weeks as a casual tourist.

  • If you believe what you write George then you only reflect the view of Dr. Ernesto Guevara de Serna Lynch that:
    “To think as an individual is criminal.”

  • Put briefly, the required plan is to allow the people of Cuba to elect a government of their choosing and to replace the totalitarian dictatorship of the Castro regime which has succeeded in establishing a national level of poverty for all.
    As you are probably yet another US citizen critical of your own freedoms and lusting for a life style equivalent to that of the average Cuban, you may care to reflect upon the average household income of US citizens being some $73,000.00 per annum, compared with that of the average Cuban household being some $320 per annum.
    One understands your frustration if earning less than the average in your own country, but before supporting the retention of the Castro communist regime for the suffering people of Cuba, consider whether despite your personal difficulties, you are more fortunate than Cubans. Prior to continuing to support the Castros, visit Cuba for a couple of months and get to know the reality.

  • I would like to hear a plan from those who wish to tear down the current government to create a system in Cuba that works for everyone and does not produce the kind of tremendous wealth inequality that capitalist countries now “enjoy.” Capitalism, as we know it today, works very well for the few at the top, while everyone else tries to get by on the trickled-down crumbs; and it only continues to get more and more unequal without governmental controls and interventions.

  • You say, “There’s so much wrong with your comments…” but you don’t address any of them. I would like to learn from your counterarguments, if you can give them. Thanks.

  • George, what planet are you living on and why do you continuously try to put words in other people’s mouths?

    1.) “… Hi Eden, as much as it heartens me to see that you agree Cuba should be more like North Korea (the most self-sufficient country in the world)…”

    I never said that. This is you (as always) making stuff up.

    I have been to North Korea twice and on some levels it’s the single most screwed up place I’ve ever been on this earth.

    2.) “… The truth is Cuba lacks resources…”

    As do most countries, yet they still succeed by producing goods for trade so it all evens out. Unfortunately Cuba has lost its ability to produce anything of value, thus resulting in the horrible state they’re in right now.

    Perhaps the best example is how their agriculture has
    imploded. It’s a huge tropical island with rich soil and and an unlimited growing season yet they can’t come even remotely close to feeding themselves. They import the vast majority of their food. It’s unfathomable that their agricultural industry has been been allowed to decline into complete failure.

    3.) “… As such, countries more rich in resources should show solidarity and internationalism and subsidise Cuba as much as is necessary…”

    That’s ridiculous. Cuba has everything it requires to be self sufficient. It doesn’t need to be treated like it’s retarded. It doesn’t need to be treated as an entity that is too stupid to take care of itself. It doesn’t need to be treated like a loser nation that has to exist on handouts and charity.

    You should be ashamed to view Cuba as a basket case, completely unable to take care if itself thus needing subsidizing. How condescending you are.

  • Marx would not have approved the steps that China has taken to introduce capitalism both by the State and by private companies. The prime aim of the Communist Party of China remains to retain power and control and to confine corruption to themselves. With regard to Cuba, as you will recall, Fidel Castro was horrified by the adoption of capitalism by both China and Vietnam. Little brother Raul is stuck upon the horns of a dilemma for to make any improvement whatsoever in the Cuban economy it is necessary to act in a fashion similar to that demonstrated by China and Vietnam, but that would bring howls of anguish from Big Brother Fidel.
    The difficulty with the type of cooperatives you propose is that when under communism, the Boards are formed by ‘yes men’ and political lackeys, rather than by people who actually understand business, the marketplace, marketing and the necessity of returning a profit.
    Also as you know, China now has more billionaires than the US. The backbone of the rural economy is the hard work of the peasant farmers, who despite endeavours from the time of Mao Ze Dong onwards have avoided being compelled to becoming controlled by collectives. In short, the peasants remain supporters of private enterprise.

  • I pray that you are correct and agree that for a communist regime change of any sort is anathema.

  • More countries should show solidarity with Cuba to make life more like North Korea? Ha, ha, ha, ha!!! I think Cubans feel quite differently!! North Korean self sufficiency is not something to aspire to. You should take a look at a satellite image of the Korean Peninsula at night. That makes a more powerful statement than anything I could ever say!

  • Hi Eden, as much as it heartens me to see that you agree Cuba should be more like North Korea (the most self-sufficient country in the world), I’m going to back track and say that being self-sufficient is only one of the potential paths that Cuba should be pursuing. The truth is Cuba lacks resources, and life in North Korea, which also lacks resources, is something only for the bravest individuals. As such, countries more rich in resources should show solidarity and internationalism and subsidise Cuba as much as is necessary. What do you think?

  • Marx’s analysis of capitalism is widely recognised as correct by the majority of scholars from all sides of the political spectrum. On the other hand, his proposals as to how to address the internal contradictions he discovered are scant and subject of much debate with even many on the left rejecting them. In my opinion the Communist Manifesto was a manifesto of its time. It led to the development of many countries in the world, with both positive and negative consequences that we are still negotiating today. In the 1950s the Soviet Union experienced the greatest levels of economic growth the world had ever seen and it looked like their approach would come to dominate. However the transition to the next stage was sabotaged by the bureaucratic structures that had been erected. Whilst the socialist block did not possess information technology that was technically more advanced than the West, their plans for application and scope were far ahead of the capitalist countries, indeed it is arguable that they were the first to conceive of the possibility of an internet for information sharing. In the 1960s, they invested heavily in exploring at least theoretically the idea that cybernetics could be used to take the country into the next phase of development. The Western elite were extremely worried by this, seeing that it had the potential to make the Soviet Union a far more advanced society than the capitalist countries could compete with. Talk of a “cybernetic gap” filled the discourse of military and political analysis. In short, Western analysts believed that through the use of cybernetics, the Soviets could make communism work better than capitalism, not only in heavy industry but in meeting the material needs and desires of the population. Unfortunately, the bureaucratic class that had emerged did not want to surrender their privileges over to cybernetic networks and in the 1970s, without having been tested, they acted to pull the plug on all the up till then theoretical work that had been invested in. This was the single most costly act of sabotage that the bureaucratic class achieved prior to the coup in 1991. What the West feared would lead to the eclipse of capitalism was never put into practice and the Soviet Union suffered because of this. It remains to be seen whether Cuba can succeed where the Soviets failed and implement these ideas without them being sabotaged by those who wish to maintain their privileges.

  • China did not recognise that “communism just doesn’t work” as you put it. Rather they followed Marx to the letter in recognising that a country has to go through the stages of development in order to reach communism. Following Marx, the Chinese Communist Party reasoned that a country cannot leap from feudalism to communism without going through a capitalist stage first. Thus the aim remains communism. Nor did they give in to capitalism carte blanche, but rather have tried to manage it. A large proportion of the economy remains in state hands, including the twelve biggest companies in China, whilst co-operatives form the backbone of rural production. In my opinion the mistake China made was not to make all private enterprises mandatory co-operatives, as this would have mitigated much of the conflict of interests that now exists with many billionaires sitting in the Chinese parliament. This conflict of interest is perhaps the biggest challenge facing China as it struggles to move beyond the period of industrial revolution it has been going through for the past twenty five years.

  • “… Cuba has to become self-sufficient…”

    Agree 100%, George.

    The Castro business model has been tried for half a century and it has failed miserably on every single level.

    It’s time for Cuba – and you – to finally move on and stop beating a horse that died decades ago.

  • For average Cuban’s it is true that things are not eassier. Very little of the change I see is getting to the street. The key change is mindset shift with need for Cuba to support itself. Living off Soviets and latter Venezuela generousity is yesterday. No one except Cuba will feed Cuba in the future. Only a fair wage for a fair days labor will make that happen. The old guard is resisting the change, but it is al ready too late for them. They are right to fear change. The wave of change that is comming will wash them away with the rest of histories failed experiments.

  • I wish that I could see the changes to which you refer N.J. You may recall what Barack Obama wrote in the Visitor Book at the Memorial to your distinguished namesake Jose Marti:
    “It is a great honor to pay tribute to Jose Marti, who gave his life for independence of his homeland. His passion for liberty, freedom, and self-determination lives on in the Cuban people today.”
    Living in Cuba, I see no change in the lives of Cubans, indeed conditions are continuing to deteriorate. Pitiful incomes are static and living costs are increasing. I agree with Obama saying that Cubans of today wish for liberty and freedom – but there is no opportunity for determining their own future.

  • George is entrenched in the morass of 19th century Marxist delusion. In his endeavours to support the continuance of the failed system of socialismo, he bleats that:
    “Cuba has to become self-sufficient.”
    For almost fifty eight years, the Castro regime has been dependent upon the support of others. But Informed Consent, George has his pipe dream that such an evidently incompetent regime can reverse gear and somehow right all the evident wrongs it has achieved.

  • Osmel, the system has been broken for decades and sadly folks with a brain, like you, suffered greatly. Amazing how these revolutionaries, who became total subhumans, are still around. Information age is upon Cuba and that could change the whole paradigm.

  • The Cuban system never worked. That is the reason it has been changing. Reality will keep it changing into something plausible.

  • Put bluntly George your excuses for the in-born incompetence of the communist system are so much nonsense. Admirers of communism (socialismo in Cuba) are like you always trying to transfer responsibility for its successive failures on to the shoulders of others. After almost fifty eight years, you are now suggesting that all would be well in Cuba if only the regime would proceed by “ridding itself of its bureaucratic class once and for all” – perhaps by bringing back use of the wall at La Cabana?
    It just not wash to endeavour to hold others responsible for the failure of the socialismo system introduced and promoted by the Castro dictatorship. Communism just doesn’t work, as recognized in China which has adopted capitalism. What the people of Cuba need and deserve is freedom, to be released from the bondage of the Castro family regime dictatorship and to be able to utilize their personal talents and abilities.

  • You are mistaken in your belief that the failure of socialism can be avoided by improvements in informations systems. Marxist economics is nonsensical, it ignores reality and is contrary to human nature. It failed everywhere it has been tried, from the USSR to Venezuela.

    Read the paragraph above about the insane process Osmel had to go through to buy a few nails! That’s the Cuban system in a nutshell. In Canada, I can go to anyone of a hundred hardware stores in my city and buy all the nails I want, anytime I want. I don’t need a letter of permission from the government. And it won’t cost me a month’s salary either.

    By the way: the socialist bloc was never ahead of the West in information technology.

  • There’s so much wrong with your comments that I don’t know where to begin. What especially stuck in my craw was your statement that the Cuban revolution was designed for the “…development of the Cubans as human beings”. Really!!??
    Cuban citizens have been systematically deprived of their fundamental rights to free expression, privacy, association, assembly, travel, and due process of law. Tactics for enforcing political conformity have included police warnings, surveillance, detentions, house arrests, travel restrictions, criminal prosecutions, and politically motivated dismissals from employment. I can only wonder at your motivations.

  • The Cuban system was not designed with a profit motive in mind. If it was it would be a capitalist system pure an simple. The Cuban system was designed to promote education, health, the arts, sport, science, and self development of the Cubans as human beings. This worked fine whilst there were enough material goods, during the Soviet Era. I have been criticised by Cuban friends of having a 70s mentality, when, with the aid of the Soviet Union, the Cuban system was achieving its aims. The problem is, with the start of the Special Period, Cuba has not had enough resources to guarantee full material comfort, let alone the material waste of the First World. Thus the imperative to make profit has returned, which as I said, the Cuban system was not designed for. This is the source of much of the confusion in the minds of the people, let alone the leadership. Cuba has to become self-sufficient. I have stated on many occasions that First World material waste is not sustainable nor possible outside of the few imperialist countries which exploit the rest of the world. However, this does not mean that Cuba should not strive to provide the levels of material security that the people desire. There is much potential for the use of information technology to optimise production and distribution, cutting out the bureaucrats and efficiently directing the economy. This will require investment. Such ideas are not new. The Soviets began exploring them seriously in the 1960s. However the bureaucratic class, unwilling to surrender their authority to algorithms and new technology, deliberately prevented the use of communications technology in the economy, sowing the seeds for the Soviet Unions eventual self-destruction. Indeed it was these same bureaucrats who eventually destroyed the Soviet Union, greedy to become capitalist oligarchs. In the 70s, the use of information technology to make socialist economy work was trialled in Allende’s Chile with resoundingly successful preliminary results, only to be dismantled within a year by Pinochet. Those were the years when the socialist block was actually ahead of the West with regards to information technology, so much so that the Imperialist countries viewed it as a strategic issue of priority. It remains to be seen if the bureaucratic class in Cuba will follow its Soviet counterpart in scuttling the appropriate and much needed use of information technology to optimise the economy or whether the leadership can successfully implement it, ridding Cuba of its bureaucratic class once and for all. To do so they will need the support of the people. Thank you.

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