It’s Not the “Blockade”: It’s Fear 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

Raul Castro gives his speech at the UN. (UN)
Raul Castro gives his speech at the UN. (UN)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 30 September 2015 – The Cuban leaders insist that the “blockade” is the main obstacle to economic development in Cuba. This was confirmed by general-president Raul Castro at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.

Up until today, after the fall of the socialist bloc and the USSR, the United States blockade-embargo* remains the Cuban government’s main justification for the whole economic and social disaster caused by the Statist wage model imposed in Cuba in the name of socialism, in truth a kind of State monopoly capitalism.

The Cuban economy declined to the extent that the State concentrated ownership of land, which came to be 90%, as well as of industry and services, which reached 100%, and state monopolies controlled foreign and domestic trade.

All this was spiced with price controls, voluntarist* policies and plans, total control by the economic elite of the country of state investments and expenditures (“central planning”), the elimination the relationship between goods and money, elimination of individual and collective initiative, a war on private capitalism and cooperatives, now skewed with a thousand obstacles. Simply stated: it was increasingly constraining the initiative of society.

It has not been the “blockade,” as the Government says, nor this “socialism,” as argued by those who believed there was such a thing, that have been causes of the disaster, but rather the Statist wage model imposed by those who capitalized on the 1959 triumph of the Revolution. Instead of restoring the 1940 Constitution and the democratic institutions which for which all the democratic political movements and all social sectors had fought for, the State assumed control of all large, medium and small enterprises, all private or associated property, domestic or foreign, and they continued to exploit wage-labor.

In the name of a democratic and popular revolution the government imposed a persona, authoritarian, anti-democratic dictatorship which they called “of the proletariat” where the proletarians continued to be proletarians (i.e. workers), deciding nothing and, what’s worse, being exploited.

In the name of a nonexistent socialism they also appropriated the Cuban labor force for half a century, of the humble and dispossessed in the name of whom they erected this economic and government system. And unbearably, they called this thing socialism!

If from the former owners of land, factories, businesses and real estate they took away their material property, from four generations of revolutionaries of all stripes they took away their lives, which were placed at the service of the state in the Armed Forces, the State Security services, diplomatic work, international missions, guards and demonstrations. There was a need to defend the state from so many arbitrarily generated enemies.

But this is not the time for blame. If I mention blame it is because it is incriminating that the main cause was an effect, albeit one that has also done so much damage to us, above all because it has served to justify such nonsense.

It is time now for solutions. How to resolve the problem? Many of us have raised this and even Raul Castro knows it and says so, but he is in no hurry: the productive forces need to be freed.

How? By democratizing the political and economic life of the country. It is necessary to destroy the obstacles, laws and regulations that prevent people from deploying their initiative; to eliminate every restriction that stands in the way of the private labor of doctors, nurses, dentists, lawyers, architects and other professionals. The restrictions on free cooperativism need to be eliminated. Dismantle the state business monopolies and the price controls on agricultural and industrial products. Allow Cubans to import whatever they wish, establish stores and factories, with simple import and sales taxes.

Involve workers in the direction, management and profits of state enterprises, allow autonomous companies to invest, buy and sell. Allow the broad development of SMEs of all types, be they of private or associated capital, supported by private or state capital. Allow Cubans living abroad to invest in the island, supporting their families and friends. Change the tax laws to stimulate production and services.

To change the Foreign Investment Law for a simple investment law for everyone, where you can engage in all the forms of production that reality demands, with freedom for unions and guarantees for the fair wages for the workers. To reduce the size of the state and its spending. To expand and free the internet allowing free trade and horizontal exchange of information of all kinds. The free market makes possible the development of free labor, whether individual or associated. Without these changes there is no socialism, sustainability nor prosperity.

And can these changes in the economy be made by an authoritarian elite that aspires to perpetuate itself in power and maintain political and economic control over society?

So far it has been proven that they can not. First – or in parallel – there must be a process of democratization of the political life, which in a climate of trust will allow other sectors, groups or visions to perform with a focus on democratizing the society. This implies freedom of expression, association and free elections so that all political and economic trends manifest themselves and interact democratically to work towards a new constitution and a new electoral law.

A genuine democracy must establish participatory budgets locally, so that taxes and budgets are controlled more by communities to strengthen their capacities and sustainable development and to ensure that all relevant laws are widely and horizontally discussed and that all of the are subject to referendum.

And without an internal “blockade,” even if the other persists, so that as Cubans we can see what we are capable of.

If the blockade-embargo were lifted and these obstacles continued, the State would swallow all the loans and only support unproductive state enterprises of interest to the elites to paternalistically continue to govern health and education at a low cost, a pittance for food on the ration book, and precarious levels of wages, pensions, housing support and transportation the majority.

But the bureaucracy does not want socialization nor democratization: they do not want to risk their power and privileges. The fear of losing power is the ultimate cause that prevents these changes. Please, do not frighten them even more. No one needs to be done away with. Do not forget “with all and for the good of all.”

Whoever helps empower the people, whoever helps improve the living conditions of the people, whoever helps people to be more free and able to decide their destinies, to let them be happy and prosperous, whoever would do more for the welfare of the people, would win the greatest popular support.

If we have the United States to thank for all this and the lifting of its “blockade”… you get the idea, reader.

Translator’s notes:
*The Cuban regime insists on calling the US embargo against Cuba “the blockade.”
**In this context “voluntarism” is relying on volunteer labor for major economic activities.