What’s Worth Saving from the Cuban Revolution?

By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

Timely communication. Photo: Constantin Eremichev

HAVANA TIMES — There is no doubt that this system really needs to undergo a reforms process. By now, virtually every Cuban has recognized the need for change, even the Cuban Communist Party and its highest leader, Raul Castro. Our differences lie in the kind of change each political bent wants.

It’s already a well-known fact that the historic leadership want to make a readjustment rather than any real change, a simple polish up which doesn’t change the essence of their model, and they want a great outcome that will never come out of this, as if by magic.

Oh well, we can’t expect much, because nothing important has been changed and thus, after 10 years of being in practice, Raul’s plan hasn’t worked. It’s nearly impossible for him to leave behind the legacy he wanted to after his retirement or death: a country in an economic boom.

The remaining agents of change are those of us who want and work for a better Cuba from outside the government, which needs to come from breaking down the actual system which exists today. Some want the new system to be founded on the grounds of eliminating the current one in its entirety, but others don’t want this change to be so drastic, because there are some things which should be saved because they are good or simply because it would be sensible to incorporate them into the New Cuba.

In my opinion, when the time for change comes, creating a Transition Government, which will last between 2 and 4 years to organize the country and then introduce democratic elections, would be the wise thing to do. As well as creating an all-inclusive process for a Constitution which will satisfy every Cuban’s needs, as much as it can.

Farewell to arms. Photo: Constantin Eremichev

I believe that the following are what we should save from today’s government, in their entirety or partially:

  • Universal and free health-care, without refusing private capital the opportunity to offer paid doctor services. For example, if doctors have graduated from the MINSAP without paying any money, they should work, at least, 25 years in the free system with decent wages (which will allow them to live a dignified life); to then leave for the private sector if they want to, which will pay much better I guess. Or immediately if they can cover the cost of their studies, taking as a reference of what a private university might cost to go to.
  • The same thing should happen in Education, but without demanding teachers and professors to teach in the public sector for a compulsory amount of time.
  • The unicameral Parliament. A bicameral Congress isn’t necessary, like it had been in the past, as it doesn’t fit in with a united Republic like ours. The number of members is the thing that needs to be changed, maybe cutting them down to a third. Likewise, the way it works need reform, because today it is simply a hearing and approval session. It need have real legislative power throughout the year. As well as having a multi-party system.
  • The basic structure of People’s Power in towns and neighborhoods, but with real power as well as elections by direct vote. The structure doesn’t need to be changed; they just need to be democratic and operative. The president of the People’s Council would be the equivalent of a city councilman and the president of the Municipal Assembly would be the counterpart of a mayor.
  • Keeping INDER (The Cuban Institute of Sport, Physical Education and Recreation), while also making changes which allow athletes to compete professionally, without cutting investment in amateur sports.
  • The concept of a “mixed economy”, but really opening it up to private capital and national and international individual investment.
  • Keeping strategic economic sectors within State control, at least, at 51%; without it being necessary for the State to manage them, only when they can prove their efficiency.
  • The Social Security system and how it is structured should also be kept, but should be made more viable with unconditional aid and in line with today’s economic reality.
  • Lastly: because I’m a socialist and I believe that real democracy should come from national institutions and from giving a certain measure of power to the working class so that they don’t feel void by the capitalist class, which is made up of very few people who have great economic power and therefore privileges too. I would like for government unions to be kept while giving people the freedom of association to form other unions. The CTC and its divisions towards the base could be transformed into an institutionalized Workers Power, democratic and electable via elections like for any other State position of power. With a voice and vote in every municipal and provincial Assembly and in Parliament too. I believe that democracy today needs something like this in order to create a social balance which is so desperately needed and is still pretty much inexistent in democratic models in countries which have democracies, because of many evils.
El Yunque, Baracoa. Photo: Constantin Eremichev

This last point is surely the most controversial one: Liberals will think that this is the end of the world because it will empower the lower class and they would prefer to leave the decision-making power in the hands of Capital’s “enlightened”.

Leftist extremists will think that this is the devil’s work because it will make the working class co-exist in a democracy and balance of power with the capitalist class and they hold steadfast onto a foolproof dogma, and an all-knowing God who wrote this inviolable guide half a century ago: destroy the bourgeoisie, because while even a shred of them or anything that identifies with them exists, social justice will be under threat. They would prefer that these “enlightened heroes” rule for life, even without freedoms, as a hypothetical guarantee.

To the more open-minded, who really want real change, not that of colors; those who believe that a better world is possible and necessary, will remain in doubt, weighing up whether this proposal will be viable or not. I would say to them: given the fact that we know that a proletarian dictatorship isn’t viable when it becomes a one-party dictatorship; knowing that a liberal-democratic system isn’t completely viable either which, although it looks “democratic” on the surface and is a thousand times better than what we have in Cuba, even a blind man can see that it isn’t anything else but a dictatorship covered up in capital, because money is the one who rules and its interest wins out at the expense of majority social classes.

I believe in democracy and in Capitalism’s modes of production. I also believe in the State’s role as a protector and leveler in all social spheres. I believe in sustainable social justice. In short, I believe in a better and more equal world. That’s why I don’t doubt that a lot of the things we have from the Revolution should be kept, although they need to be improved.

Note: I’ve only analyzed what should be kept in its entirety or partially in this post. I have left out the things which need to go under significant change or be eliminated, if we want to build a better Cuba.

2 thoughts on “What’s Worth Saving from the Cuban Revolution?

  • Osmel, I love your simplistic viewpoint that you levelled in your last paragraph. It’s wierd how in real life, the best intentions can get twisted out of form. Also, I see how people usually can see situations rightly, although from a different perspective, so I’ll try & add mine:
    1- Representitive government or better yet, technocratic government should be all that’s necessary. Political parties just use idiology to divide & conquer.
    2- Cuba has plenty of doctors, so problem there is mostly solved.
    3- I like the idea of autonomous co-ops which either the government can tax or hold a share. I live in a region where the government administers the monopoly sector for a far cheaper price than Capitalists & because I work for a local government, I think I can really appreciate the economics of scale that are fully in the monopolist’s grip.
    4- As has been shared so many times on this website, the government simply needs to tax profits of the commercial sector in order to fund the social system rather than regulate the economy into disfunction.

  • I think you have some VERY GOOD POINTS in this piece, however I would offer the following for consideration:

    Universal Health Care – If docs get a free education then require them to see a certain percentage of patience for free for 20 years or however long they will agree to. The larger the percentage required the shorter time they will do this. They need the incentive to make money, which will come from the private sector/cash patience. Also STARR Insurance is entering the Cuban market with life & health products, so insurance payments for health care will eventually be available.

    Education – You need an incentive for great and bright ppl to want to become educators as that is the CRUCIAL link to the future generations that will lead the country in business and government. Compensation is usually the incentive – Texas pays WAYYYY more than many states in the US and I have interviewed many teachers that have moved from their home states to teach in TX because they make 2X the money or more and the cost of living is not 2X more.

    Parliament – Whatever the formula there needs to be adequate representation. The benefit of the dual congress system permits (in the US) 2 per state (Senate) and then the others based upon population of the state (House of Reps). That in a way provides balance, the key is having the RIGHT ppl in office. Perhaps you don’t have too many at this time, I don’t even know the headcount in your parliament, but don’t discard the idea of the dual congress system too quickly as it does come with some level of benefit and equity.

    DEFINITELY return considerable power and authority to the local and state level…

    Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is the solution to MANY of your problems. However without adequate protective legislation and loosened regulation at the federal level this will remain unavailable (not to mention the embargo).

    The state needs to get out of business, they are not good at it. YES they need sovereign control of key sectors in some way, that I do not dispute. However the private sector is MUCH MORE EFFICIENT and better capitalized to execute at all levels of business (assuming DFI is permitted). Why the state is in the restaurant business is BAFFLING to me. They are terrible at it and the only successful places are the most popular Landmark establishments that are managed by Parlmares. They should lease the buildings of ALL OTHER non landmark F&B establishments to the private sector at market rates, including those representing DFI.

    Labor Unions – at the end of the day the business MUST be profitable or it will no longer be in business. Look at the auto industry in the US, manufacturing will be sent to cheaper markets. Why pay a Detroit based buy $40 per hour when it can be done cheaper somewhere offshore. I think PROFIT SHARING would be a possibility here, that way EVERYONE has a vested interest in the PROFITABILITY of the company. With this in place the unions are not so important and they often are quiet corrupt power brokers. This disincentives that and with straightforward labor laws on the books – 40 hours week = full time and overtime is paid above that at 1.5X normal rate or maybe 2X for holidays or other special times and make this an OPTION for employees so if they only want to work a certain number of hours then they can do so. If they don’t want to work 40 hours then they would be classified as part time for maybe anything below 30 hours and their benefits would be less perhaps.

    Total equality is located in Utopia and the map to there is LOST. There is no perfect system in existence. Vietnam should be the Socialist/Capitalist model that Cuba looks to for a model going forward. They have 20-25 years of practice and a lot can be learned from their successes and failures along the way. Thanks for taking the time to write this piece, it was enlightening to get your perspective.

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