Sunday, February 6, 2011

Translation: Port workers debate Guidelines

In Australia, port workers are known as "wharfies". In the US they are known as "longshoremen", while elsewhere in the English-speaking world they are "stevedores", "dockworkers" or "dockers". Such are the difficulties of translation for a multinational audience. 

At the other end of the lexical labyrinth are the peculiarities of Cuban Spanish. I once made the innocent mistake of asking for a "papaya" in a Havana fruit market, not realising that in certain parts of Cuba — unlike in the rest of the Latin America — "papaya" is a colloquial term for vagina. My request drew howls of laughter from the youths working the fruit stall.

Here is another report of a grassroots debate on the Draft Guidelines.

Port workers in the economic debate  

By Lourdes Perez Navarro

Granma, January 31, 2011

Translation: Marce Cameron

Achieving an elementary understanding of economics among leaders as well as workers was a recurring theme during the debate on the Draft Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Party and the Revolution that took place in the Haiphong Base Enterprise Unit, belonging to the Havana Port Services Enterprise of the ASPORT Enterprise Group [of socialist state enterprises].

Commenting on Chapter 1 that deals with the economic management model, Dionisio Zayas pointed out that the preparation of leaders from the enterprise point of view is very precarious. "The ABC of the [enterprise] director is the economy, having an understanding of accounting and finances; they don't have to be a specialist, as General Raul Castro said [in the National Assembly in December], but they have to know the elementary principles".                 

We come across enterprises, he added, where the technical economic plan is not discussed with the workers, despite the obligation to do so. "The plan has to be discussed first with the workers, not discussed in an office and then the order comes down to comply with this or that."

He concluded: "If everyone contributes what they're supposed to in an optimal way, we're going to leave behind the economic potholes that we have today."

Individual responsibility in the economic context also surfaced in the discussion. It's essential that we workers master fundamental aspects of the economy, said Hugo Pons.

Participation in the planning process, he said, is precisely one of the cardinal elements to ensure that the workers assume the role that corresponds to us if we truly are [co-]owners of the means of production.               

After reading an excerpt from Guideline No. 4 — that imposes a training process on all the institutions that would facilitate the structural, functional, organisational and economic changes in the enterprise system — Pons insisted on the need to "achieve ever greater mastery over every little thing we do, independently of the fact that, certainly, the management of the enterprise must be sound to begin with, but it won't be sound enough if its workers are not."

Dionisio Zayas intervened in the analysis of Chapter 5 on Science, Technology and Innovation Policy, and proposed a new Guideline: "Ensure the implementation of Law 38 on Innovations and Rationalisations".

Commenting on the chapter referring to transport policy, Gustavo Monteagudo expressed support for the idea of creating cooperatives in the public transport system for passengers, which would stimulate discipline, good service and care for the means of transport.   

In Guideline No. 264, which talks about "organising and prioritising attention to and the quality of technical services for the maintenance and technical readiness of the means of transport...", Juan Vasquez thought it would hit the nail on the head if rather than saying "attention to", it said "the assurance of technical equipment".

If we are not assured a supply of spare parts to make the changes when needed according to the maintenance cycle, the time will come when, at the end of the warranty period, the equipment is out of service, he said.   

Alicia Lean said that in Guideline No. 273, where it says that the work of maintaining and conserving the housing stock must receive priority attention, it should be added: "and reduce the paperwork for these efforts". They are so cumbersome, she said, that the people tire of them, stop going through the formalities and resort to illegalities.

One of the workers directed a question to the chair of the meeting: "Aren't we going to take a vote on whether or not we approve of the interventions of the compaƱeros? The response was a clear expression of socialist democracy: "Everyone is free to propose whatever they like; all the proposals will be recorded and compiled, and will enrich the debates of the 6th Party Congress."

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