Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Granma letters: Youth and revolution

In early 2008, Granma, published by the central committee of the Cuban Communist Party and one of two daily newspapers in Cuba, began publishing letters from readers. Since then the Friday edition, which has 16 pages rather than the usual eight, dedicates two pages to letters and responses from institutions. The Granma letters pages are one of the new institutional spaces that have been created for ongoing discussion and debate. 

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

Our services must satisfy the expectations of the customers. We must ensure that everyone receives the fruits of their efforts. I'm a student at Havana University and I'm writing in the name of a large group of compañeros that daily add our efforts to the debate about the reality of our economic situation.

I am one of those who believes it is necessary to create small private businesses among some economic sectors in Cuban society, primarily services. As Marx said, “The private property of the worker over his means of production is the basis of small-scale industry and is a necessary condition for the development of social production and of the free individuality of the worker himself.”

One of the main problems of our services is the lack of consistency:  we begin to offer a good service and later, via the profit motive of those who use various devices for their own personal enrichment, the service loses all of its initial excellence and all of its credibility. Our staff, on no few occasions, lack the affable and flexible attitudes needed to deal with the customer; lack the sense of belonging, of empathy, of good service attitudes, and receive the same pay at the end of the month whether they provide a good or a bad service.  

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.

Competition and privatisation, which so many criticise and fear, are a driving force of good quality services: if my own service isn't good, I simply have no clients, I sell nothing and because of this, I don't receive the necessary income to sustain my business, and at the end of the month nobody gives me anything, rather I have to give. Therefore, I have to guarantee an excellent, consistent, appropriate and flexible service; my workers must have a positive, open and dynamic attitude towards the client, improve the public image of my business and, fundamentally, ensure a satisfactory service for the client [...]    

Perhaps I lack the experience needed to know precisely what to do, but experience may not be everything, we must combine experience with the new ideas of the youth who aspire to a better economic model. We must eliminate egalitarianism, we must ensure that everyone has what they deserve as a result of their efforts. We must, always without deviating from the socialist path, change everything that must be changed in our economic reality.

J.R. Cepero Donates

*  *  *
We can count on the youth

On Sunday, Cuba will once again go to the polls, a process which distinguishes us for its transparency and popular participation. Among those nominated to be elected delegates to the Municipal Assemblies of Peoples Power there are many youth, a resounding proof of the fact that the Cuba youth are revolutionary and conscious of the historical importance of saving our socialism.

While some compañeros of mine, all more than 50 years old, do not want so see much of value in our youth, I say to them that they must analyse this generation in the light of the new times, the current context and the circumstances in which they have been growing up.

Clearly they cannot be like us. We would be negating the laws of dialectics, we would not be advancing [were we to think like this]. They are different, they have their own peculiarities, but in essence, they defend this revolution because they know its value. 

It's true that there also exist different levels of commitment to our socialism. Because of this I believe is is important that so many youth have been nominated to be community leaders, those who act as a conduit for work at the base level. And I would be very proud if a majority of these youth were to elected delegates.

I am one who thinks that the youth have to be assuming an ever more active role in the leadership, above all in the municipalities and the provinces. In this section of the paper I have read opinions about this matter. Many of our youth have an excellent political and ideological preparation, with a broad culture, they know how to listen, to converse, to convince, take decisions in a rapid and timely manner, with the support of everyone. [...] 

Those with grey hair admire these youth, formed in the middle of the Special Period, committed to work and to the Revolution.

P. Gutierrez Amador

*  *  *  
We will have more socialism, updated, tempered

[...] I admire the honesty with which youth such as J. Glez. Fernandez said on August 1 that many people continue to cling to the past for fear of change, fear to which I would say: our revolution is stronger than ever, the international context is very different, now we are no longer an isolated island, alone, we are part of a continent in eruption, with progressive governments; we are part of a block of very strong countries, ALBA; we belong to the Rio Group of countries, we are the lighthouse and the guide for many peoples and governments all over the world, an example of solidarity and altruism. Capitalism is in crisis, and is now an example for nobody. We must never be careless, but yes, we must change everything that must be changed, as our Commander in Chief [Fidel Castro] has said.

A. J. Fernandez Alonso

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