Cuba and our task
Published Sep 22, 2010 9:22 PM
How should those in the United States who support Cuba in its struggle to remain
free of imperialist domination react to the news that the Cuban government has
made a painful decision to cut hundreds of thousands of state jobs?
Workers World says this should be a spur to greater solidarity with the
revolution and stronger efforts to end U.S. imperialism’s destructive
economic blockade of the island.
The Cuban Revolution has produced the Western Hemisphere’s most
enlightened and humane social policies.
There is no homelessness in Cuba. Under the 1960 Urban Reform law, 85 percent
of Cubans own their own homes and pay no property taxes or interest on their
mortgages. Mortgage payments can’t exceed 10 percent of the combined
No one goes hungry in Cuba. The population is guaranteed a subsidized basic
diet that provides 2,000 calories a day.
Literacy is universal — 99.8 percent among adults, higher than in the
U.S. Education is free, from pre-school to college and graduate school.
The infant mortality rate is 4.7 per 1,000 live births, again better than the
U.S. rate of 6.0 infant deaths.
Imagine if someone in the U.S. political establishment were to propose
subsidized food and housing and free universal health care and education here.
What a howl both capitalist parties would put up! Their first words would be,
“Who will pay for all this?”
Is it costly? Yes it is. Yet even a poor country, straining to develop its
economy, has done it. Furthermore, Cuba has made huge material contributions to
countries that are even poorer, sending medical brigades and disaster aid teams
to those in dire need around the world. Cuban troops shed their blood in the
struggle to end the racist apartheid system and liberate the countries of
Yet at the same time the Cuban people have also had to fight the damaging
effects of nearly 50 years of an economic embargo — really a blockade
— that not only bars U.S. goods from reaching the island but even
penalizes other countries that trade with Cuba. Every year almost every country
in the world votes in the U.N. General Assembly to end the U.S. embargo. Polls
show that a majority here in the United States are for ending it. Yet just
recently the Obama administration not only reaffirmed the blockade but even
strengthened some of its provisions.
Because of this, Cuba lacks many needed imports as well as markets in which to
sell its exports. Food in Cuba, while adequate to keep the population healthy,
is of limited variety. The housing belongs to the people, but it is very
difficult to get lumber, paint, furnishings and appliances. The medical system
is top notch, but Cuba can’t get drugs or medical equipment from the U.S.
or countries that obey the blockade.
The Cuban government estimates that the blockade has cost its economy $751
billion over the last 50 years. This vindictive persecution of the
revolutionary island by the imperialist superpower is because Cuba has been
trying to build a socialist society in which the state owns and controls the
means of production so the needs of the people can be put first, instead of
profits for a few.
Cuba is a small island in a hostile, imperialist-dominated world. Its position
was made even more precarious by the downfall of the Soviet Union, which had
been Cuba’s main trading partner. The USSR had exchanged its oil and
other commodities for Cuban sugar and nickel on terms much more favorable than
Cuba could get on the world capitalist market.
In the “special period” after the fall of the USSR, the Cuban
economy virtually imploded for several years. However, because everyone in the
country shared the suffering, including the most powerful officials, there was
no lack of confidence in the government or a political crisis. Imagine the
situation for the government here if economic output were to be cut in half!
But Cuba painfully struggled back, showing modest growth each year and
eventually boosted by help from Venezuela in the form of energy.
Nevertheless, the capitalist crisis of the last three years has stunted
economic development all over the world and Cuba is not immune, despite its
The goal of socialism is clear: to eradicate class divisions in society by
eliminating private ownership of the means of production for profit. Socialism
has become a realizable goal for the world working class because of the
tremendous development of technology and the means of production under
capitalism. But where, under capitalism, new technology and greater
productivity mean layoffs, pay cuts and eventually a crisis of the system,
under socialism they mean a lightening of the workload in production so more
people can get employment in services, culture and other social needs. The
gains go to society as a whole, not to billionaire owners.
But what happens when a country trying to build socialism is prevented from
getting access to the new technologies? When the world transition to a
socialist system is still in its early stages and the countries that have had
revolutions are coming out of severe underdevelopment caused by colonialism and
imperialism? Cuba, Vietnam and even China are all still trying to “catch
up” to the capitalist countries that have amassed wealth for centuries
— much of it plundered from them. They have been forced to put on hold
some of the goals of socialism just to be able to survive.
Once this is understood, the responsibility of progressives and revolutionaries
in the imperialist countries should be clear. We do not diminish our own
struggle for socialism by one iota when we say, “Now is the time to
redouble our solidarity with Cuba. For Cuba to achieve its socialist goal, we
must build unity in the multinational working class here and fight the
rapacious capitalist bosses wherever they seek to impose their
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