Semi-Daily Journal Archive

The Blogspot archive of the weblog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics and Chair of the PEIS major at U.C. Berkeley, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Modes of Production: Cuba

Modes of production. Back in 1848, Karl Marx wondered why market capitalism could not deliver a level of real wages that gave workers a truly human standard of living given the extraordinary productive potential offered by modern science and technology.

Today we wonder why the few remaining political parties that claim to draw their inspiration from Karl Marx rule countries that do not deliver a level of real wages that gave workers a truly human standard of living given the extraordinary productive potential offered by modern science and technology:

Daily Life in Cuba: by Raul Rivero (Published by Le Monde, Paris, France, on January 2, 1999): In Cuba, with the exception of some owners of small twelve seat restaurants and of minimal coffee, pizza and candy stores, the only employer is the State. Now, it is said, only half-jokingly, that when a Cuban gets offered a job, he does not ask how much is the salary, but how much he can steal.

Society has been taken over by the Robin Hood syndrome: the rogues who steal something from their workplace every day, those who resuelven, are seen with sympathy. Their crime, their sin, their actions, are not perceived by the community as a fault, but rather as a form of struggling for survival. This is why such people are known in all of Cuba as "luchadores", rogues in the most orthodox Spanish tradition. Simple and good people who have been forced to enter the shady side of life "because of the American blockade", according to government sympathizers. "Because of the Government's blockade, the draconian penal code, the eagerness to control everything, even the adjacent seas and the air we breathe", says Felix Velázquez, a 50 year old, unemployed, human rights activist, who lives "from my family's charity". In a scene full of misery and anguish, many forms of stealing, of crime in general, are accepted....

[T]he conquests of real socialism have dissolved in the inefficiency of the system. Meager production, an agriculture incapable of working, and the government's refusal to allow the people to take off the yoke of the state, have not allowed the start of a process of individual sovereignty

Education is free, but with a clear hue of indoctrination. A grade-school manual, distributed in the 1998 academic year, asks "Who builds the círculos infantiles (nurseries), schools and hospitals?" Carlos M. 32, government employee, asks: "What happened in Cuba before 1958? I am not religious, but I do not want my children to be educated under any dogmatic beliefs. In this day and age, that is a crime. Give them education, pure education, and let them choose their political color later. No more Lenin, Marx or any other imposed idea. Children must go to school to prepare for a profession, not to serve anyone or any ideology."...

[O]ne must add the fact that most of the population lives without information. "Granma", a little daily paper published by the Communist party, sets editorial guidelines for the two television stations which start to broadcast at 6:00 PM, and for the radio network. Cubans who do not have access to a shortwave radio have a partial, "amputated" version of world events; every incident receives the appropriate ideological treatment in the laboratories of the Department of Revolutionary Orientation (DOR).

Since the State, as has been said here, owns everything, in Cuba one lives in what has been called "double morality". This means that you think one thing and say another or nothing at all, because a clash of opinions may, for common people, result in difficulties at work, problems with the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CFR) and the loss of the mediocre tranquillity in your life.. "I do things my way. I don't get involved in politics. I have enough problems trying to get food. I am quiet, at home, seeing everything, but silent". Pedro Aguirre, guard at a warehouse, 29....

Forty years are but a brief and diffuse time in the history of a nation. More than three generations of Cubans have been born in this time. From the dreams of human redemption sung by the bearded victors of 1959 and which- if they did not shake the whole world, at least were transmitted to millions of humans- nothing, not even ashes or dust, remains.

Trapped in their contradictions, in a limitless Utopia, delirious and mindless, the largest of the Antilles arrives at the end of the Millennium shoeless, homeless, dressed in rags and with a bellyful of great hunger. Little is left of the real socialism which, only ten years ago, still boasted about development, the future, quality of life and other such rhetorical concepts.

What is left is the daily nightmare of children, women, men and senior citizens, all trapped, with no link to an universe which is more and more unreachable for all of us who live in this Island. All ways seem to be closed. And the skies of our motherland are not brightened by the dose of rationality and sanity which could be expected from a ruling team who knows, better than anyone, the terrifying crisis they face and in which they are sinking, and dragging with them the Island, from one end to the other.

Forty years after, Cuba- fragmented, broken, lonely and going from one nightmare to another- can only wait for a miracle....

Distribution of food and other products under the Rationing Card {libreta de racionamiento} in Havana: Monthly, per person:

6 pounds of rice
3 pounds of brown sugar
3 pounds of refined sugar
20 ounces of beans (green peas or lentils)
12 ounces of coffee
Half a liter of oil (every two or three months)
10 ounces of salt
One quarter pound of ground beef/soy mixture
Half a pound of mortadella (every two months)
1 pound of fish
6 eggs
1 bar of laundry soap (every two months)
1 bar of bath soap (every two months)
1, 80-gram, loaf of soft bread, (daily)
1 tube of toothpaste (every two months for three people)

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