As millions of Cubans, both Communist Party members and non-members, gather in their workplaces and neighbourhoods to debate the Draft Economic and Social Policy Guidelines in preparation for the Communist Party's 6th Congress in April, Granma has begun publishing a special series of commentaries on the much-needed economic reforms foreshadowed in the draft guidelines.
Below is the first of these commentaries. It sets the tone for others that follow. Granma has also covered some of the grassroots debates taking place in workplaces and neighbourhoods throughout the island. I hope to translate a representative sample of these reports shortly.
By Rolando Perez Betancourt
Granma, December 2, 2010
Translation by Marce Cameron
What is important is the path and not the rest stop, as is known by those who forge ahead. The country prepares to take new economic paths without putting at risk the essence of what has sustained us for half a century.
Convictions of sovereignty and justice without any exchange value, because Cubans committed to their social project would not accept it. Precisely in the name of these convictions we must give impulse to the necessary changes.
In the economic sphere we have delayed, and the reasons are as diverse as the million windows of a house that draws praise and criticism in equal measure. Nevertheless, there remains the satisfaction that what has prevailed has been a struggle for the wellbeing of the country, and proof abounds of what has been achieved. As proof there are the pitfalls and deeds marked by inexperience that resulted in structural errors and idealism, the latter rooted in the conception that in the new social equilibrium everyone was equal, whether or not they contributed.
Any old journalist can testify to the fact that in Cuba, much has been said and written about planning, profitability, productivity, investments and saving. What cannot be exalted are the mechanisms applied in an effort to achieve the necessary efficiency and the negative impact of the lack of controls and this paternalism, unimaginable in any other economic system governed by the law of the hammer [an apparent reference to an economy that rewards social labour — translator's note]. A deficiency that nobody doubts must be shaken off once and for all, together with the ever-lurking bureaucracy.
Once again the Draft Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Party and the Revolution refer to planning, profitability, productivity, investments and savings, and the call that goes out to discuss these guidelines assumes a decisive importance for the Revolution. A decisive call to discussion because nothing puts to the test the solidity of the new ideas and economic measures better than collective analysis of their value, frailty or possibilities for improvement.
A discussion involving many, in which it would be naive to hope for an overwhelming unanimity but [we must strive for] a solid path to take us forward. I've always thought that it's very human to never be satisfied with ourselves, and that a society that is permanently in debate and striving for constant improvement is something that is socially revolutionary. Even before Marx and his predecessor, Hegel, the ancient Greeks spoke of the dialectic as a way to arrive at the truth via a critical analysis of concepts and hypotheses. Dialectics not as a bookish phrase, but applying it daily in theory and practice as an indispensable necessity to rectify what must be rectified without too much delay, because — without haste or lurching — time is of the essence in the flourishing of any economy.
He who works honourably has to see the economic results of his efforts, something which nobody should be afraid of. There is an unquestionable moral justice in the fact that one puts in one's pocket what one has sweated for. There will always be, of course, the one who dreams of becoming a millionaire with a silver bath with gold taps. He can be left to his ridiculous yearning if, and only if, he pays his taxes (including the water for the bathtub) towards the improvement of the social and economic conditions of the country.
We must not misconstrue the idea that Cubans have become accustomed to living without working. This would overlook the good workers, teachers, scientists, artists and intellectuals that even with the subversion of the dominant [revolutionary] values in recent years, have continued the struggle and supported the cause of our socialism. In any case, one would have to agree that due to our own inefficiencies, certain Cubans were allowed the luxury of living without working. Fortunately, the moment has arrived to correct this, hopefully forever.
Of course, the enemy, like a perennial shadow, has not stopped looming up on every front and trying to sink us. In the new economic times that are brewing, this enemy tries to continue to be an obstacle and, to this end, along with the blockade and other sophistries that cost the country millions, opens its pockets to pay double for opinions and campaigns of intrigue that for some time have clamoured for a perfect world — that doesn't even exist in the movies — and that appeal to disenchantment or advocate the exaltation of a sweet scepticism to "cope with the frustration" that, they assert, consumes us.
In reality, they don't know us, and they paint us as they would like to see us. As in any society, there are pessimists and optimists, but I would say there are many more of the latter — without denying that there are many difficulties. The days ahead of us, however, will have the last word concerning an old truth that affirms that the pessimist sees difficulties in all opportunities, while the optimist (and more so if they have a social base such as ours) sees opportunities in every difficulty.
Our journalism must not indulge in sensationalism, in the alarmism of the tabloids. In tune with our future economic interests and what must be defended, it must play a preponderant role in its analysis, criticisms and clarifications to be consistent with the ideology of the Revolution at this hour in which we all need the input of everyone.