Louis P., Tim W. and Socialist Utopia

Louis N Proyect lnp3 at columbia.edu
Tue Jul 11 07:15:48 MDT 1995

On Sun, 9 Jul 1995 TimW333521 at aol.com wrote:

> the people in the Cuba I visited ten years ago.  But, unlike other left
> visitors, I did not ignore the stultifying uniformity of published material
> in the place, the lack of consumer goods,  and the decay of central Havana.

Louis Proyect:
How can you speak about the "lack of consumer goods" in Cuba
without reference to the economic blockade the United States has
maintained for over 30 years?

What follows is some findings on changes in Cuba since the revolution.
This may not be inspiring to you, but it would certainly inspire the
people of Chiapas, the Phillipines and other citizens of the the third
world (ie., the overwhelming majority of the world's population.)


I. Gains in Cuban Well-Being after the revolution:

Availability of Basic Goods and Services per Capita--Cuba
1958-1978 (1958 = 100)

        Food &
      Beverages   Clothing   Housing   Education   Health

1958     100         100        100       100        100
1962      99          52        107       173        105
1968     102          52        107       173        105
1972     110          90        103       224        120
1974     120          95        103       275        151
1976     123         100        103       363        175
1978     125         100        104       446        202

(from Claes Brundenius, "Growth With Equity: The Cuban
Experience (1959-1980)", World Development Vol. 9, No.
11/12(1981) pp. 1083-96


1. Decline in clothing figures can be explained by the fact
that a lot of raw material for the textile industry was
imported from the US and needed to be replaced by local
inputs, a structural transformation that was long and

2. Lack of growth in housing is because priority for the
construction industry was given to building infrastructure,
schools and industrial plants.

3. Gains in health took place despite the fact that 1 out of
3 doctors left Cuba in the first 3 years of the revolution.
The infant mortality rate in Cuba, up until the recent
economic crisis, was one of the lowest in the developing

4. The illiteracy rate in Cuba went from 23.6 percent to 3.9
percent in less than one year. This was corroborated by
UNESCO and described as a feat unequaled in the history of
education. In 1979 compulsory schooling embraced 92 percent
of all children between 6-16 years old, and more than 1/3 of
the total population was attending some form of school.

II. Confronting racism
Private Schools in Cuba were abolished in 1961. Before 1961,
roughly 15 percent of grade school students and 30 percent
of high school students attended private schools which were
primarily white. This had led to a 2 tier system in which
under-financed public schools were attended by blacks and
poorer whites, while the private schools were confined to
the privileged elite. This is the state of affairs, of
course, that is emerging in the United States.

After the abolition of private schools, the bulk of Cuban
students started attending fully integrated schools where
blacks and whites received equal treatment.

The Cuban revolution also attacked racism in housing. It
instituted an immediate 50 percent reduction in rent and
eventually ownership of the houses was granted to the former
tenants. Thus, more blacks as a percentage of the population
own their homes in Cuba than in any country in the world
according to Lourdes Casal ("The Position of Blacks in
Brazilian and Cuba Society", Minority Rights Group Report
No. 7, pp. 11-27)

III. Gains for Women
Getting women out of the home to join men as equal partners
in the work-force has been a real challenge to the woman's
movement historically. How has the Cuban revolution fared?

Before 1953 and 1974, there was a 14.1 percent increase in
the number of salaried women in the national work force.
Even more significant were the changes in the kind of work
women did. In 1953 domestic work represented 25 percent of
the total female work force, but by 1970 this occupational
category had disappeared.

Another change involved the elimination of underage women in
the work-force. In 1953, women ten to fourteen years old
represented 10.9 percent of the work-force, but by 1970
nearly no women workers could be found in this age category.

Finally, certain sectors of industry, which had been
traditionally closed to women before the revolution now saw
the highest percentage of female employment, including
textiles, beverages, tobacco, chemicals, food and graphic
arts. So reports Max Azicri in "International Journal of
Women's Studies", Vol. 2, No. 1 (1981).

IV. Conclusion
Behind these stark statistics is the living reality of
positive change in the lives of poor Cubans after the
revolution. It explains their defeat of the gusano army and
their US backers at the Bay of Pigs. It also explains their
willingness to put up with the difficulties of life under
embargo and economic crisis.

Behind these changes also is the fierce will of the Cuban
revolutionaries who didn't wait until "civil society" had
matured before they took gun in hand and overthrew Batista.
No other country in Latin America or the Caribbean made as
much social and economic progress in as short a time as Cuba
did in the early and middle years of the revolution.

This progress was made at the expense of the rich and many
middle-class Cubans. The Cuban revolution followed, in other
words, the opposite trajectory of the "trickle-down"
policies of recent US administrations such as Reagan, Bush
and Clinton. Resources in Cuba were diverted from the cities
into the impoverished countryside. The Cubans who did not
want to make a sacrifice in the name of social justice fled
to Miami.

Cuba's experiment in socialism may or may not survive the US
embargo, the end of Soviet support, or the current economic
crisis, which affects not only Cuba but every developing,
agriculture-based country. But whatever the eventual fate,
the model that has existed will continue to inspire Latin
Americas for generations to come.

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