The Exodus from Cuba as a Response to the “Reform Process”

The Solutions and Demands of Democratic Socialism

ilustracion-yasser01
illustration by Yasser Castellanos

By Pedro Campos

HAVANA TIMES — It is no secret to anyone that, in the past year, the number of Cubans leaving the country (and especially to the United States) has increased considerably. These migrants try to reach the USA through all imaginable routes, including, unfortunately, the most dangerous: crossing the Strait of Florida on makeshift vessels or traveling across Central America and Mexico to reach the border.

The alternative and international press have tackled the issue for some time now. In Cuba, however, not a word is said about it.

The fact of the matter – and we have to acknowledge this loud and clear – is that Raul Castro’s “reform process”, which offered people hope and announced that better times were on the horizon, is not yielding the economic, political and social results that many Cubans initially anticipated.

This is the main reason behind the exodus, which threatens to become massive.

Raul Castro’s government itself, without explicitly saying it, recognized the problem when it announced an economic growth figure of merely 0.6 % and the measures decreed at the last meeting of the Council of Ministers.

Cuban economists, including some who adhere to the official line, have publicly expressed their dissatisfaction with the limitations and obstacles curtailing the “updating” measures.

It is not a question of attacking or blaming anyone in particular. But any government in any part of the world is responsible for implementing the measures needed to guarantee the wellbeing and satisfaction of the people.

This silent exodus forces all who are interested in the wellbeing of the Cuban people to come up with solutions, to put aside all prejudice, mottos or slogans (like the one used to describe the reforms, “slowly but surely”), in order to find and apply prompt, practical and effective solutions.

The Cuban government is once again blaming the imperialist blockade of all the country’s ills, but doing nothing to support the anti-embargo campaign spearheaded by The New York Times.

The measures it applies at a practical level are not freeing the country’s productive forces, something Raul Castro himself has asked for, and restrictions of every kind continue to be imposed on the self-employed, checking the growth of small companies and particularly autonomous cooperatives, without which a post-capitalist society – socialism – is a mere dream.

This silent exodus forces all who are interested in the wellbeing of the Cuban people to come up with solutions, to put aside all prejudice, mottos or slogans (like the one used to describe the reforms, “slowly but surely”), in order to find and apply prompt, practical and effective solutions.

Through different bureaucratic mechanisms, the State continues to monopolize domestic trade and increasingly restricts what little possibilities citizens have to make small-scale imports of supplies (which the State-military monopoly maintained by Cuba’s hard-currency store chains is unable to offer).

The repression of dissenting thought and political activism has not ceased, despite the peaceful and harmless nature.

The Internet continues to be inaccessible to the vast majority of the population, in disregard of its importance and significance to the broad development of individual and collective potential, commerce among different sectors and areas of production, culture and scientific and technological development.

The creation of the Higher Company Management Organization (OSDE) has made a mirage of the supposed decentralization of State companies and acts as an intermediary subordinate to the country’s ministries, neutralizing the announced autonomy of companies and extending rather than reducing bureaucracy.

There isn’t a single mechanism within the reform process that points towards the direct participation of workers in the ownership, administration, management and distribution of profits in the companies that the State considers the most important and productive. All the while, the government authorizes so-called “cooperatives” at food stands and State workshops offering unprofitable services and facing crises, under a series of conditions and provisos that appear to be designed to demonstrate the unviability of “cooperativism” rather than find socialist solutions to the crisis.

What has been the result of this? The enterprising, the young experts and professionals who expected to see some positive results come out of the “reform process”, see no real change in the bureaucratic and centralized course of the economy and, having simply grown tired of this, have decided to set off in the adventure of leaving the country.

Raul Castro said that the country’s mentality had to change, and this is absolutely true. But it is also true that a real reform process cannot be expected to be carried out by the same people who have been working and living with the mentality that needs to change for more than fifty years.

We see this mentality still operating every day in the Party press, which continues to publish the declarations of high officials who blame the workers and lower levels of the bureaucracy for the serious problems faced by the country and its low productivity.

Raul Castro said that the country’s mentality had to change, and this is absolutely true. But it is also true that a real reform process cannot be expected to be carried out by the same people who have been working and living with the mentality that needs to change for more than fifty years.

We all know that the only thing responsible for this is the centralized and bureaucratic State model that should be changed but which continues to operate in essentially the same manner.

If Raul Castro does not wish to go down in history as someone who attempted to continue with Cuba’s long-standing policies and fail, he will have to change his own mentality, accept the new times, forget about obsolete “Marxist-Leninist” theories about the Party as the sole guide of the dictatorship of the proletariat. He will also have to forego centralized planning, “State socialist companies” as the backbone of the economy and undemocratic centralism and implement true changes, aimed at the democratization and socialization of politics and the economy.

On my own behalf and on behalf of several of my closest comrades, I want to say that we are not demanding this from Miami, from within the ranks of those who have historically opposed socialist ideas, from any organization financed by the “enemy” or from any full table.

We are doing so from home, from the bottom of the pyramid, among the dispossessed, with barely a loaf of bread on the table, on the basis of the right granted us for having sacrificed and given the best years of our lives to a revolutionary process on which the vast majorities laid their hopes.

We are that generation of people aged 60 to 70, who have to eke out a living, because our miserable pensions don’t last us a week. We are the generation that did not hesitate to step forward during the Bay of Pigs invasion, the struggle against counterrevolutionaries in the Escambray Mountains, the literacy campaign and popular militias; the generation that was asked for unconditional support through thousands of hours of volunteer work at sugarcane, coffee and tobacco plantations.

We do so on the basis of the right granted us by having taken part in internationalist missions, where many lost their lives – not occasionally, but on a daily basis – for years and in enemy terrains.

How are we to overcome our predicament?

Democratic socialists from Cuba and around the world have written a lot about how to get past the “State socialist” model that conceals a form of State monopoly capitalism. The Party/Government has never been willing to listen to us, and our proposals have been applied in distorted or irregular fashion, even though we have always been open to exchange. Some lowly bureaucrats have gone as far as labeling us imperialist agents.

We, who are old and in many cases ill, the veterans of untold battles, ask nothing for ourselves. We do, however, ask with all of the strength left in us after so many years and so much intolerance, that practical and effective measures be applied to get the Cuban people out of this situation, so that our children and grandchildren do not continue to risk their lives in the seas of the Caribbean or crossing borders in Central America, and so that we need not repent in our deathbeds of having served causes that were ultimately ignoble.

We also know there is still time to mend our ways and that the future, not the past, holds the key to the present.


5 thoughts on “The Exodus from Cuba as a Response to the “Reform Process”

  • November 6, 2014 at 8:42 am
    Permalink

    I sympathize with the sentiment, but calling on the ruling oligarchy to make political changes that would bring about the end of their monopoly of power is a waste of breath. Better to call on the Cuban people to rise and and demand the changes, to make the changes they want and to push aside those who resist the necessary change.

  • November 5, 2014 at 9:21 am
    Permalink

    A grandfather’s desperate cry from the heart pleading for a nation’s children. What a difference between this poignant appeal and the insipid fulminations of Fidel on the pages of Granma!

  • November 5, 2014 at 6:40 am
    Permalink

    Agreed.

  • November 4, 2014 at 10:44 pm
    Permalink

    Moving and powerful text.

  • November 4, 2014 at 4:15 pm
    Permalink

    Where I am from we call it ‘voting with your feet’. For all the bluster and blubber that Castro sycophants, including those who comment here at HT about the successes of the Castro regime, real Cubans who have to live under Castro-style socialism are leaving in record numbers. Pedro Campos is tilting at windmills. The Castros have no interest in real reform. The only changes they have made and will make are those changes that serve to preserve the status quo. Nothing that hints at democracy and free speech is of any interest to this dictatorship.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *