[OPE] An excellent response to another attack on Cuba

From: paul bullock (paulbullock@ebms-ltd.co.uk)
Date: Sat Jun 21 2008 - 11:53:30 EDT

Some of you use 'The Guardian' (London) newspaper's  Website... a paper that 
has very mixed contributions despite its 'progressive' reputation. Well here 
is an excellence reply in its readers response column, Published yesterday 
Friday 20 June, to the characteristically gratuitiously anti Cuban article 
by the Guardians ill informed 'correspondent' in the region Rory Carroll.
The link, for readers comments as well, is

Cuba's wage changes have nothing to do with a return to capitalism
Far from 'moribund', the island's economy is thriving and has much to teach 
the west, says Helen Yaffe

All comments (7)
  a.. Dr Helen Yaffe
  b.. The Guardian,
  c.. Friday June 20, 2008
  d.. Article history
Your article claimed that "Cuba has abandoned its egalitarian wage system to 
try to salvage its moribund economy, marking another step away from Fidel 
Castro's socialist dream" (Cuban workers to get bonuses for extra effort, 
June 13).

In reality, there has never been an "egalitarian wage system" (ie one where 
every worker was paid the same): Che Guevara himself devised a new salary 
scale, introduced in 1964, with 24 different basic wage levels, plus a 15% 
bonus for over-completion. This scale - which I studied during my research 
in Cuba on Che's work as minister of industries - linked wages to 
qualifications, creating an incentive to training, which was vital given the 
exodus of professionals and low educational level of Cuba's workers.

Like Marx himself, Che recognised the socialist principle: "From each 
according to his ability, to each according to his work" - which your 
article associates exclusively with Raul. Cuba has never claimed to be 
communist and therefore has never embraced the principle "from each 
according to his ability, to each according to his need", which expresses 
the attainment of communist society.

Your description of the Cuban economy as "moribund" is bizarre, given that 
it has grown between 7 and 12% annually since 2005. Pensions and salaries 
have been raised several times since 2004, with big investments made in 
social infrastructure, transport and communication. Electrical goods in 
every Cuban home have been replaced by new energy-efficient equipment.

You say that "the island is impoverished", but how can you dismiss Cuba's 
first-world standard, free, universal education and healthcare services - 
luxuries gradually being withdrawn in our own country? The Human Development 
Report now lists Cuba in the high human development category.

The new pay regulations were introduced to standardise salary policy across 
the economy as part of the general implementation of the economic management 
system operating in army enterprises since 1987. Capped or not, bonus 
payments in Cuba are awarded for outperforming the national plan in the 
production of physical goods or services. Your article did not mention the 
fact that these payments remain capped at 30% of salary for various 
bureaucrats, technicians and economists - a measure to prevent the emergence 
of a technocratic elite.

The new salary incentives - to increase internal production and 
productivity, particularly in agriculture and exports - reflect Cuba's push 
to reduce vulnerability to the global food price crisis, rather than a 
return to capitalism.

Your report equates productivity with capitalism - but how efficient is this 
economic system which leaves millions unemployed because their work is not 
"profitable", while millions of under-5s die every year of malnutrition and 
diarrhoea. For 50 years, Cuba commentators have predicted the collapse of 
the socialist revolution. Your article repeats the same mistake.

 Dr Helen Yaffe is a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for the Study of 
the Americas, and author of Ernesto Che Guevara: The Economics of 
Revolution, to be published by Palgrave MacMillan helen.yaffe@sas.ac.uk

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