The letters can be grouped into two broad categories: specific complaints about corruption, incompetence, poor service etc, and specific proposals, such as the need to crack down on the illegal capture and sale of wild birds or the suggestion by several readers to institute an annual day recognising the contribution of Cuba's internationalist volunteers; and more general criticisms and reflections that contribute to the national debate on the renewal of Cuba's socialist project.
Granma receives far more letters that it has the space to publish, so what is published is only a selection. It seems that a genuine effort is made to make this selection representative, judging by the inclusion of letters that express concern or disagreement with policy changes that are being discussed or implemented. One example is the debate over the elimination of the ration book system of subsidised distribution of a quota of basic goods. While most letters are supportive, some are opposed.
There are, of course, limits to what is considered fit for publication in Granma: criticism must be constructive, not simply whining, and you cannot express hostility towards the Revolution or its leadership and hope to have your letter published. Within these limitations a wide-ranging and in-depth discussion and debate has evolved, with readers bouncing ideas off each other and introducing new and often controversial topics.
The creative, non-dogmatic application of the Marxist method is a striking feature of many contributions. As I wrote in Cuba's Socialist Renewal (p.28), "In these commentaries the capacity for critical thinking of the average Cuban citizen — the fruit of the Revolution’s efforts over several generations to forge a new human being capable of contributing to the building of a socialist society — shines through and illuminates the difficult path ahead."
The Granma letters below relate to the theme of youth and their participation in the renovation process. The first is a letter from a young Havana University student arguing for the creation of small private businesses to resolve long-standing problems of inefficiency, poor service and low worker motivation in many small-scale service entities. This, together with the conversion of some small-scale production and service entities into cooperatively managed enterprises, is foreshadowed in the Draft Economic and Social Policy Guidelines. Two of the translations are slightly abridged.
Granma letters: youth and revolution
April 23, 2010
Translation: Marce Cameron
Change everything that must be changed
Many of our cafeterias are located in surroundings that reflect poorly on them and, in general, their own reputation leaves a lot to be desired. Our state cannot occupy itself with everything. In its intense work of owner and manager it should, in an effort to make things work better, draw on small-scale private management to further its own interests. We need workers who are loyal to their enterprise, that improve the value of the service they offer the client, who feel and act as the owners of their business.