Friday, September 17, 2010

Cuba's mass layoffs: The dead-end of Castroism

Cuba's mass layoffs: The dead-end of Castroism
17 September 2010

This week's announcement that over half a million Cuban workers are to
be thrown out of their jobs in the next six months has laid bare the
class character of the Castro regime.

The brutal measure was made public by the Central de Trabajadores Cuba
(CTC), the government-controlled trade union body, which represents not
Cuban workers but rather the ruling layers within the state apparatus.

The CTC announcement began with a ritualistic invocation of 52 years of
the Cuban revolution and an affirmation of the "will and determination
in the leadership of our nation and our people to continue building

The empty words of these state bureaucrats masquerading as workers'
representatives cannot hide the fact that the Castro regime is carrying
out, in a particularly brutal and undemocratic form, the same kind of
drastic austerity program that is being pursued by capitalist
governments all over the world. In Cuba, as in Greece, Spain, Britain,
the United States and elsewhere, the aim of this program is to impose
the full burden of the world capitalist crisis on the working class.

With virtually no notice, workers are going to be deprived of their jobs
in the state sector, virtually the only employer in Cuba, and told to
sink or swim.

This has been further spelled out in a document that surfaced in the
wake of the announcement entitled "Information on the Reordering of the
Work Force," a power-point style presentation that was apparently
drafted for use in preparing the implementation of the Cuban jobs massacre.

Repeatedly, the document stresses the need to eliminate "paternalistic
treatment" of Cuban workers. By this it does not mean the overbearing
intervention of the Castro brothers into every area of economic and
social life, but rather the limited social benefits and guarantees that
have made it possible for workers to survive on a monthly salary that
averages the equivalent of $20 a month.

Among the first "paternalistic" policies slated for the chopping
block—for obvious reasons—is the payment of unemployment benefits. The
document states that workers with less than 20 years seniority will be
paid 60 percent of their basic salary for only one month before being
cut off altogether.

The document states that among the self-employment opportunities to
which workers will be directed are cutting hair, making bricks, driving
taxis, selling candy and dried fruit and raising rabbits! The document
states candidly in relation to these new "businesses" that "many of them
could fail within a year" because of workers' lack of experience and
access to raw materials, credit and other forms support for such
ventures. No indication is given that the state has any plans to assist
those who suffer such failures.

Envisioned here is the fostering in Cuba of what is known by technocrats
throughout the rest of Latin America as an "informal economy," a sector
that encompasses up to half the population, made up of urban poor whose
ranks have been swelled by waves of privatization and structural
adjustment programs throughout the continent.

Other attacks on "paternalism" in Cuba include the elimination of
workplace cafeterias, where workers received free lunch; the slashing of
ration cards; and a health care "reform" aimed at reducing services.

All of this is being carried out with unconcealed hostility by the
ruling elite toward the Cuban working class. This was summed up by Cuban
President Raúl Castro, who declared his determination to "erase forever
the notion that Cuba is the only country in the world where one can live
without working."

This is a libel. Cuban workers are as industrious as those of any other
country, and are barely paid for their work. But they do not control
production, much less the state that rules them, which is dominated by a
layer of privileged and corrupt bureaucrats.

This layer has forged ever closer ties to foreign capitalism, opening up
the country to exploitation by Spanish and other European
multinationals, as well as firms from China, Brazil, Russia and
elsewhere. This foreign capital increasingly dominates key areas of the

The endless corruption scandals that have engulfed one leading minister
after another are symptomatic of a ruling elite that wants its own piece
of the action from these deals and is engaged in the ever-more open
accumulation of personal wealth, even as it demands savage austerity
measures against the workers.

For half a century, petty-bourgeois nationalists in Latin America and
their "left" counterparts in much of the rest of the world have claimed
that the 1959 Cuban Revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power was
"socialist," and that the regime that issued from it constituted a
"workers state."

In reality, the Castro regime was the product not of a workers'
revolution, but of a guerrilla movement based in the Cuban
petty-bourgeoisie. The Cuban state was not created by the workers, but
imposed upon them, right down to the sham union federation that defends
the interests of the state and foreign capitalists.

The Cuban state was one of the most left variants of a large number of
bourgeois nationalist regimes that came to power in the oppressed
countries in the decades following the Second World War, often
proclaiming themselves "anti-imperialist" and "socialist" and carrying
out policies of economic nationalization.

For three decades, the Cuban economy rested heavily on subsidies from
the Soviet Union provided as part of a Faustian bargain in which Castro
defended the counterrevolutionary policies of the Moscow Stalinist
bureaucracy on the world stage. The bureaucracy's dissolution of the
USSR in 1991 threw the Castro regime into an intractable crisis, to
which it responded with a turn to foreign capital and a reduction in the
living standards of Cuban workers.

The myth that Castroism represented some new road to socialism was
promoted most vociferously by the revisionist Pabloite tendency that
attacked the Fourth International. It embraced the Cuban Revolution as a
means of abandoning the struggle of the Trotskyist movement to forge the
political independence and develop the socialist consciousness of the
working class against the domination of the Stalinist and reformist
bureaucracies and bourgeois nationalism.

The promotion of illusions in Castroism and guerrillaism had the most
catastrophic consequences in Latin America, where a generation of
radicalized youth was separated from the working class and thrown into
suicidal "armed struggles" that were drowned in blood by a succession of
military dictatorships.

The liquidation of Trotskyist cadre into these guerrilla movements
ensured the continued domination of Stalinist and Peronist bureaucracies
and their ability to suffocate and betray the wave of revolutionary
struggles that swept the continent.

Today, the worst crisis of world capitalism in 70 years is creating the
conditions for a new eruption of social revolution in Latin America and
internationally. It is vital to draw the strategic lessons of the last
period of revolutionary upsurge, above all the necessity of building
independent revolutionary parties of the working class, based on the
program of socialist internationalism.

The International Committee of the Fourth International is confident
that this program will attract the most advanced sections of workers
throughout Latin America and provide a revolutionary orientation for the
bitter social struggles that will inevitably erupt in Cuba itself.

Bill Van Auken

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