Books: Bulwark against neo-liberalism
Barry Camfield, T&G Assistant General Secretary, reviews a new book on the Cuban revolution written by a Cuban trade unionist especially for trade unionists
Cuba: beyond our dreams
by Silvia Martínez Puentes
Editorial José Martí
Available from Cuba Solidarity for £9.30pp inc PP
416 pp (English)
Across most of the world, the neo-liberal counter-revolution is in full swing with either the external imposition or wilful adoption by governments of economic policies that include deregulation, privatisation and labour market flexibility.
Yet, as this book shows, against all the odds, including particularly the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba acts as a beacon for others in the global south, showing that there is an alternative - an alternative based on socialism, and very participatory socialism at that.
Ranged against Cuba has been for forty plus years the might of the strongest imperial power in the world. Since the demise of the USSR, American Administrations have even more eagerly anticipated counter-revolution in Cuba, which has consistently been denied to them.
This book explains how there was major economic dislocation from the late 1980s, how the declaration of the Special Period in 1992 has re-orientated the economy and how GDP and Cuban living standards have once again risen from the mid 1990s.
Puentes, a journalist with the Cuban trade union centre, CTC, points out: “To confront the economic situation and the changes that led to an economic reform in Cuba, almost three million workers participated in discussions on these measures. Instead, in the majority of the countries facing similar economic situations, adjustment plans, shock therapies and measures imposed by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, have been applied without holding discussions neither with the workers nor even in national parliaments ...”
When workers in Columbia are facing the full brunt of the neo-liberal agenda with armed gangs acting as enforcers and in Venezuela the popularly elected Chavez government is being undermined by the forces of reaction, this book is a heady reminder of what the Cubans have achieved and how they have achieved it.
Every aspect of Cuban economic and political life is discussed in detail in the book. American intervention from the Bay of Pigs to Torricelli and Helms Burton, the social security system, the women’s movement, education, trade unionism and industrial relations, medicine and health care, political participation and, of course, the plight of the Miami Five.
The discussion on the development of Cuban science and technology is perhaps indicative of how Cuba represents a real alternative to the prevailing economic norms.
Puentes makes the point that: “Cuban sciences ... [have] demonstrated that the transference of technology can be done among poor countries. Cuba has demonstrated that there can be a South-South transference, even a South-North one, and has broken the capitalist North-North or North-South transference by which the less developed nations always get the worst part in a very unequal trade.”
The book concludes with a discussion of US expansionism throughout the American continent via the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas. The FTAA will bind 34 American counties (excluding Cuba) in an economic union that will open to the market all sectors of national economies such as health, education and telecommunications.
If the FTAA comes into being, it is clear that it will become increasingly important to deepen our solidarity work with Cuba, to work against political, economic and cultural isolation.
Along with the 343 pages of text discussing all of the issues mentioned in this review are over 50 pages of pictures and tables illustrating the points made in greater detail.
For all the hard facts and figures you could ever want about Cuba, located in a very friendly political context, this is the book for you!