The Ordering Task* and the Law of Gravity

Alejandro Gil Fernández, Cuba’s deputy minister and minister of Economy and Planning, before the National Assembly of the People’s Power of Cuba. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 12 December 2022 — In February 1970, while doing my work as a journalist (still a student) to cover the sugar harvest in the municipality of Florida, I attended an important meeting chaired by Armando Hart Dávalos, the member of the Political Bureau assigned to guarantee the goal corresponding to the province of Camagüey to produce 10 million tons of sugar that year.

The central point of the meeting was to examine the fullfilment of the commitments of the different sectors of the municipality to complete the number of macheteros [cane cutters] that would be part of the Jesús Suárez Gayol brigade.

One by one, the committed local bosses explained the causes of their non-compliance. The dairy company’s boss argued that if he lost one more man from the dairy farms it would not be possible to satisfy the supply of milk to the population; the head of the trade sector explained that not one more store could be closed; that of the railway workshops alleged that without mechanics the trains could not be moved, and the head of Forestry justified himself by invoking the inability to protect the forests with the few personnel at his disposal.

Armando Hart did not flinch. As if he had not paid attention to the arguments, he said that he was not there to hear excuses but to convey to them the news that the initial commitments had been insufficient and that now there were higher goals. After reading the new figures assigned to each sector, he said: “I hope you know how to fulfil this new task of the Revolution.”

One by one, each local boss promised to send more men to the cane fields.

I, who had not yet turned 23, published in a municipal tabloid named Al Machete my first critical journalistic text, where I questioned the honesty of the local officials. “At what time were they lying: when they said they could not meet the goal or when they promised to meet a higher one?” I wondered then. Still without questioning the honesty of the national leader, who thought he had looked good by demanding something impossible.

Two days later, one of those little bosses attacked me for that text, and I still keep my promise to keep him anonymous. “Look, young man,” he told me as he took off his hat, “If in the name of the Revolution a leader tells you to jump into the void from a great height, you can jump or fake that you are going to make the leap; what you can’t do is mention the law of gravity.” He paused and finished: “Or are you going to tell him that he’s stupid?”

That unforgettable lesson of wisdom and survival — not honesty — came to my mind when I read the justifications that were intended to explain, in the last plenary session of the Central Committee of the Party, why the measures taken by the Government to face the crisis have not had the expected result.

As is known, the 10 million tons of sugar were not produced in 1970. Surely Armando Hart knew it in advance along with everyone who knew something about the harvest, but no one dared to reveal the stupidity of the purpose.

How is it possible that those who plan the economy today do not take reality into account? How can you make a plan and then blame the “blockade” for your non-compliance? Did the planners assume that the restrictive measures imposed by the United States were going to be lifted, that there would be no administrative corruption, that no cyclones or accidents would occur?

Did they forget the law of gravity?

 *Translator’s note: The “Ordering Task” is a collection of measures that include eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and a broad range of other measures targeted to different elements of the Cuban economy. 

Translated by Regina Anavy


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