(Eng) FREEDOM 27th Jan - EXTRACT (2)

neil birrell (neil@lds.co.uk)
Tue, 30 Jan 1996 00:39:17 +0100


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Sunset for The Carribean
- CUBA -

Aparently the first time Fidel Castro came to New York to speak to
the UN he delivered a mind-numbing 4 1/2 hour speech about the
evils of imperialism. The last time around they cut him down to five
minutes. One of the few lessons the UN seems to have learnt in fifty
years is that you don't listen to Fidel Castro. But Fidel had words for
other ears in New York where he was the guest of Mr David
Rockerfeller himself. Indeed, the US big boys are showing an interest
in Cuba. And Fidel is returning the compliment. Last October he
entertained some fifty representatives of companies like General
Motors, Hyall Hotels, Sears and Harley Davidson in Havana. We've
come a few years from Cuba S=ED, Yanqui no. Now it seems like the
new refrain is its inversion. Castro has seen the American light.
The 4th September 1995 saw Cuba pass legislation which has been
described as, 'the most liberal on the continent'. Cuba is following is
indeed following its own version of 'The China Syndrome'. It's the
usual: companies are allowed to be owned up to 100% by foreign
capital and Cuba's home version of the 'free economic zones' are on
the way. The law particularly tries to entice capital from the diaspora
(up until now not exactly Fidel's best friends) whilst still curbing
participation from the folks back home. The whole adds up to a
would be new alliance between political power and economic wealth
ie a State.
So why is Fidel going West and what does it mean for 'Cuba'? Fidel,
along with Tito and the rest, always liked to parade his neutrality
didn't he? But Fidel has never been a commited bachelor. He simply
tied his standard to the losing party. Cuba's dependency on the former
Soviet Union is legendary. Since the fall of the Empire there has been
an estimated drop of 85% in total external relations (including
foreign aid). Cuba was highly external dependent on the socialist
block for hir petrol, industrial equipment, agricultural inputs like
fertiliser and pesticides and indeed foodstuffs - possibly as much as
57% of total calories consumed. The reality was that Cuba was a
puppet regime like no other. And now hir seeming inability to stand
on hir own two feet has led the Cuban nomenklatura to look
elsewhere for support...
At first the effect of the collapse to the East and the embargo from
the North was to force the introduction of rationing. Between 1989
and 1993 it was estimated that food intake in Cuba may have dropped
by 30% taking hir out of the top five for average caloric and protein
intake and into the bottom five.=20
Castro has, as we have seen, been freeing up the economy a little.
Inequalities in Cuba are beginning to make themselves noticed.
Within the banking system 3% of account holders have 85% of the
deposits. Some hands have money in Cuba. In this atmosphere
rationing has all but gone but unless you're one of the few who are
lucky enough to have a bank account and one with a lot of money in it
then all you're going to get is window shopping in an economy where
a kilo of meat costs 35 pesos and the average monthly income is 180.
The Castro regime has started to recognise the difficulties. For the
first time they recognised the 'primary role played by alimentary
deficiency and imbalance' in the neuropathy epidemic in 1993 which
has led to an average birth weight of around 5 pounds (2.5 kilos). Yes
indeed Mr Castro has a problem.
Out of all of this two tendencies have appeared in Cuba to deal with
the situation. The communist regime ever looking to preserve its
position looks around for partners. The emerging middle class would
seemingly be the only hope of trying to get access to the foreign
capital necessary for participation in the international-exchange-
value-trading-economy. Fortunately the new(ish) owners of society
need Castro as well in order to provide a state machinery which will
do the infrastructural work necessary to building an economy geared
towards the export market.
But the irony is that up until now this has not been the kind of
expertise in which Cuba has supposedly excelled. What has happened
to that Third World model for education, health and a multi-racial
society? Fidel has chosen to turn his back on the teachers, doctors and
other would be use value traders. They are now going abroad and
those who remain are having to suffer what in Cuba is now refered to
as the 'pyramid economy'. It is indeed those inside the state welfare
system (as employees) who have seen one of the biggest drops in
living standdards. Castro has found a new bride and has filed for a
divorce.

A NEW PARTNERSHIP?

The problem for Cuba always was the State. Bureaucracy and the
prying eyes of the party stiffled the inventiveness and common sense
of the people. A state education system is of course no education
system. A state science is no science. An element of the public must
be present...
When Cuba lost the Soviet Union it was clear that with the embargo
s/he would have to feed hirself. As we have pointed out as an
economy so highly dependant on external trade Cuba was not facing
an easy problem. It is a problem long ago faced by Kropotkin in many
of his writings (amongst others Fields Factories and Workshops).
Kropotkin sought an autarchic solution based on the partnership
between the brain and the hand and a small scale enterprise based on
intensive labour coupled with the knowledge of the learned farmer in
food production. And he never looks to the state to provide the
education and the science. He looks instead to the people.
Cuba is another region where there are faint signs of this alternative
path being pursued even if only at a lowly scale. Food First in
America earlier this year released a paper about some developments in
Cuban agriculture which shows some elements of an approach which
could avoid some of the problems entailed by a Cuban again going
for an economy dependant on the ravages of external events. Mr
Castro should look around him for other examples of countries which
have tried to go along the 'free trade' route. Here we publish some
edited extracts from this paper.

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