Celebration or Condemnation? / Luis Felipe Rojas

Photo taken from the internet

One can already hear the beating drum of the proletariat. Just a few work days away from the International Day of the Worker, the red machine of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) has spent various weeks moving around its chains.

This time, the confirmation came from the voice and presence of Salvador Valdes Mesa, as the czar of the one and only official Union. The first vice president — Estaban Lazo — has accompanied him in his adventures through factories and institutions. But, who and what will they celebrate?

The indication of this year is that the State recruits and those who have wandered into the private sector will march “in a tight and uniformed block”. The support that the latter will give to the economic model of the island confirms that the wave of lay-offs, which the State decided to interrupt at the last minute, was worth it. In the blocks, we will see the unemployed, those who are nearly at that point, and those who see them like a mirror of what their lives could be in just a few months if the sacred economic guidelines go through.

The leading elite and the followers which will be in charge of carrying the country on their shoulders have received high level reprimands, under accusations of sparking re-unionism, idleness, and administrative corruption as an ill that is worse than even that of “counterrevolution”. At the same time, they are blamed for the economic inefficiency which Cuba suffers from, they are accused of not being at the high level of the working people. And that’s to everyone: victims and offenders. The slipping of the frontiers between the culprits has been and continues being the axis of revolutionary rhetoric — saying a lot without saying anything.

Ever since Monday, April 23rd, when the convocation occurred, the same actors as always have popped up throughout Cuban television screens: secretaries from the nucleus of the single Party in the national corporations, undaunted unionists, exemplary workers, and the general public which indestructibly supports the massive parade in unconditional solidarity with the Marxist-Leninst postulates.

What has been left out of this performance act — pronouncements and promotions aside — has been the authors of the thousands of complaints which are being sent every single week to newspapers, radio stations, and other public spaces. It is difficult to believe (a show, after all) that Cuban workers march “in solidarity with millions of workers and citizens of countless countries who also march today demanding their fundamental rights to life and work with dignity”, without even blinking before the violations committed against them.

What is true is that no-one is awaiting spontaneous reactions against the rulers, but the operation of the restructuring of the labor force, the expulsions of those who have been deemed ‘non-suitable’, and the hundreds of workers from the tourism sector who have seen their months of labor being reduced due to the international economic crisis, among others, without a doubt conforms a good breeding ground.

Popular non-conformity towards the high taxes on the self-employment sector, the disorder of clients amid the elevated prices of agricultural products and other fundamental services, as well as the complaints of the incessant bustle of inspectors and bureaucrats in search of commissions or with absurd refusals amid any single process are all significant evaluators that May 1st will be a sincere and cynical act consisting of parts that are still unknown.

If, in reality, the thousands of unionists from the non-state sector, convoked now by the State, march in support of those who have closed the doors on them during half a century, they would be forging a new elite similar to that which sustains the Nomenklatura and it would be yet another act of apartheid against the attempts of independent unions — that black hole when it comes to citizen participation in contemporary Cuba.

Translated by Raul G.

30 April 2012