Cubans Struggling for Themselves

September 8, 2012 | Print Print |

Photo Feature by Elio Delgado Valdes

Area for self employed vendors.

HAVANA TIMES — More than 400,000 Cubans are now active in private economic activities on the island. Some were fired from government jobs and others had worked illegally but today have a license and pay taxes.

According to the government plan more than a million workers will be surplus in the coming years with the option to seek survival for themselves in one of the permitted private activities.

The non-state forms of making a living are mainly focused on food services, collective taxis and rental housing, in addition to farmers, whose number has increased with the delivery of idle land in usufruct.

The government is offering micro loans of less than US $300 on the average, but has not yet established wholesale markets to supply the businesses of self employed persons, leaving this role to the black market that includes theft from state-run businesses.

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What's your opinion?

  • Moses

    The dictatorship’s economic reforms are a poorly-conceived attempt to buy time for a regime whose time has run out. The economy is on its last legs and efforts to stimulate the economy through encouraging self-employment “cuentapropistas” and attracting foreign investment have sadly come up short. The shortfalls in the economy are not likely to be filled by ice cream street vendors, manicurists or taxi drivers. As mentioned in the post, the lack of a wholesale market and the recent increase in customs fees has exacerbated the difficulties Cuban private small businesses face in acquiring supplies. The crackdown on corruption has also put a chilling effect on the flow of goods into the black market. The growth and success of the private sector is directly impacted by this pincer effect. Finally, the worldwide and US economies continue to suffer through the worst recession since the Depression. This directly impacts Cuban tourism and the receipt of remittances received from Cuban family members abroad. Despite the increase in actual tourists who visit the island, a statistic often reported by state-run media, the actual dollars and Euros spent by these tourists in nominal terms has decreased. Likewise, remittances have increased but only to the extent that they have replaced lost incomes. For perspective,consider that the Cuban economy grew only 2.7 percent last year and 2.4 percent in 2010, behind the average rate of 3.7 percent for the region. The average annual foreign investment in the Island is of barely 13 percent of the GDP in recent years, in comparison with a 23 percent average in the remainder of Latin America and the Caribbean. Cuba’s neighbors, those who have managed to undertake a path of growth and improvement of their infrastructure and foment an increase in the living conditions of their populations, have enjoyed rates of investments of at least 30 percent of the GDP with notable supports of the direct foreign investment. A realistic analysis of the Cuban economy, beyond the jingoism of pro-revolutionary banter points up a sobering picture of failed economic policies and a less than optimistic future.

    • http://www.GRDPublishing.com Grady Ross Daugherty

      Thanks for the bad news, Moses. It’s easy to see that you are a professional at what you do, with high personal intelligence and enormous research sources behind you.

      The good news is that, now that sincere political leaders within the PCC–perhaps keeping their heads down for the present–can see that socialism must be a strategic alliance of the small entrepreneurial class, the intelligentsia and the proletariat, the way will be open at some point in the future to reform the Cuban model along cooperative, state co-ownership lines.

  • http://elnuevotopo.com Earl Gilman

    The “time has run out” for the U.S. economy as well. World capitalism is in crisis. According to the Wall Street Journal, the real unemployment rate in the U.S. is 19%, not 8% which is the official figure. It is sad that the Cuban government wants to emulate China, with its form of capitlalist “primitive accumulation” which has little to do with socialism.

    Socialism does not work without workers control over the things they produce and the democratic control of
    leaders. “Peoples power” should be real power and not just a slogan.

    • Griffin

      Much of the capitalist world in an economic crisis now, but the question is when and how they will solve the problems and return to healthy economies. Socialism failed utterly in the USSR, Eastern Europe, China and Vietnam. It limps on in peculiar forms in Cuba & North Korea, both of which are dying regimes.

      The Cuban government has ruled out any political reforms to accompany the limited economic reforms they are gradually introducing. Raul Castro has been travelling recently to China and Vietnam to discuss economic issues. It seems he intends to pursue the Chinese model of economic reform while maintaining Communist Party control of all political power, under a powerful military. This sounds much more like Fascism than socialism. It certainly is not democracy.

      • Lawrence W

        Socialism never existed in the USSR, Eastern Europe, China and Vietnam. It was Communism. The difference is clear if you care to discuss it. Somehow I doubt it.

        Much of the capitalist world is in economic crisis as you admit so capitalism obviously “limps on” along with Cuba and North Korea. We will have to wait and see which are the “dying regimes” in the end. My bet certainly is not on a system based on selfishness and greed. Not in the long run, which is less long than it ever has been.

        • Griffin

          You got your Marxist theory backwards, Lawrence.

          According to Marxism, first comes socialism under the dictatorship of the proletariat. Then as the “new socialist man” is born, the state is supposed to wither away and an era of utopia know as Communism blooms.

          The governments of the USSR, Eastern Europe, China and Vietnam all called their system Socialist, specifically, the Marxist version, not the social-democratic version espoused by various Western political parties.

          You can look it up in your trusty wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marxism

          The fact that this transition never happens as laid out by Marx and his disciples is evidence his crack-pot theories are nonsense.

  • Lawrence W

    Hello ‘Grady’,

    I certainly agree with your observation that the ‘Moses Franchise’ is made up of ‘professionals”, at propaganda that is. I don’t see much intelligence, however. It seems to me to be the same thing posted over and over.

  • http://www.GRDPublishing.com Grady Ross Daugherty

    The productive small bourgeoisie and the industrial and commercial proletariat are natural allies. But if the socialist leadership misunderstands this, and insults the small bourgeoisie and attacks or disallows their property, the alliance is impossible, and the small bourgeoisie is handed over to the monopoly bourgeoisie and imperialism on a platter.

    The task now in Cuba is to repair the damaged done by state monopoly cretinism.

    • Moses

      Grady, in order for Cuba to make the necessary adjustments to reflect the style of socialism that you promote, the leadership would have to decentralize decision-making. That translates to sharing power. Under the best of circumstances it would be difficult to share what has been yours and yours alone for 53 years. Add tons of paranoia (justified or not) and crotchety old age to the mix and I just don’t see any sharing taking place. As long as Cuba fears more open (you will likely say vulnerable) and democratic politics, your socialist utopia is out of reach.

      • http://www.GRDPublishing.com Grady Ross Daugherty

        How is it possible to exchange with someone like you who only sees Fidel and the Cuban revolutionaries as grasping thugs? You project yourself and the rotten gang of capitalist rats you identify with into the socialist revolutionaries, and don’t really know a thing about the world socialist movement.

        We are going to transform the world for the better, whether you and your ilk like it, or know it. I may not live to see it, but I assure you, Moses. You are on the side of evil, and you will be remembered for what you are and do, and what you value.

        I believe that the Cuban revolution has an excellent chance to correct itself. They have the honor and the battle-hardened valor to overcome all obstacles, especially their own stupid mistakes. I am so glad that the future of humanity is in the hands of Fidel and people like him, and nothing you can say will dissuade me.

        My word to you is continue with what you think and do, and we will see how it all plays out.

        • Moses

          I see Fidel in a negative light because as recent as my last trip to Cuba in January, I was asked to deliver a DVD to my Cuban buddy’s mom who is dying of brain cancer. You see, he could not deliver it himself because he is not allowed to return to Cuba. He was a doctor who decided to emigrate to the US ten years ago. He did so after working 12 years in Cuba for never more than $20 per month. The DVD I delivered showed images of his American family including his young children who likewise have never seen their Cuban grandmother. Fidel’s government has precluded this family reunion. For what Grady? Is he a national security risk? Does his visiting his dying mother imperil Rail’s economic reforms? No, it is just about being mean. You can deify Fidel for all his internationalist ideals as you choose. I know one family who has suffered unnecessarily because of Fidel.

          • http://www.GRDPublishing.com Grady Ross Daugherty

            You blame everything on Fidel. Like a typical American, you are obsessed with celebrity–personalities. Shallow, shallow, shallow. I’ve spoken over and over about how the Marxian state monopoly program is an incorrect formula for socialist economy, and that it distorts all of society. All you can rant about is how Fidel hurt your Cuban friend, and such as that. Your are only interested in spewing venom about personalities. Shallow and silly.

            The reason the wages of workers in Cuba are so low is because state monopoly ownership extracts all surplus value produced by workers, and puts it directly into state coffers. This is utterly stupid and dysfunctional, because workers need to keep much of the surplus values they produce in order to feed it into the economy for all sorts of goods and services, thereby stoking the economy. That’s how it works under capitalism, and it could work the same way under authentic socialism, but you can’t help the Cuban comrades correct their system because you are mainly interested in character assassination and negative predictions.

            But, Moses, you can’t offer anything constructive because you are locked into a capitalistic mindset and ideology that judges everything on a shallow, self-projection plane. Your mind is wasted on crap, and you wallow in the intellectual slime of counter-revolution.

            Why the hell are you going to Cuba, anyway? What is your mission? Come on, tell me . . . tell me, Lawrence W. and everyone else. And where are you getting the money to make all those trips?

      • Lawrence W

        Absolutely correct ‘Moses’, it will no doubt be difficult for Cuba’s leadership to relinquish power it has had for 53 years so you can imagine how difficult it will be for US elites to the relinquish the power it has had for 237 years.

        Cuba’s leadership primarily fears what you represent and are doing – selling regime change – which causes legitimate paranoia which you admit may be justified. You should know of course. All revolutions require confidence there is no force trying to overthrow the revolution before they can relax.

        Look no further than your country for an example. Ever ask what the devil the War of 1812 was about? (disclaimer: I’m Canadian so am not a neutral player). More than 30 years after 1776, the Americans were still paranoid over Britain dealing with trade restrictions brought about by Britain, the impressment of American merchant sailors into the Royal Navy, British support of American Indian tribes against American expansion, outrage over insults to national honour after humiliations on the high seas, and a possible American desire to annex Canada. (Wikipedia)

        Once your country drops its embargo and folks like you stop calling for and promoting regime change, we will be able to assess better what form the Cuban government takes.